Travel: Riviera Travel; South African Airways
Accommodation: Avani Victoria Falls Hotel, Livingstone
Hello, I’m back again after a brief hiatus! Why the hiatus, you ask? I’ve been doing what I love to do the most. Yes, I have just returned from an amazing fortnight travelling around Southern Africa! Get ready for a lot of animal photos.
This trip was a little bit different for me, because for the first time I went with an escorted tour company. As loyal readers will know, I love organising my own trips generally (fungendas are like crack to me). However, with Southern Africa I felt that it was a better idea in terms of safety and transport to go with a guide. In hindsight, I can now look back and analyse that while there were massive benefits to travelling in this way, there were also downsides. All will be discussed as we go on!
However you chose to travel, I hope you can take away some information and inspiration about the things to do when visiting this stunning part of the world.
THINGS TO PACK FOR ZAMBIA
- A rain coat or poncho, depending on which season you’re travelling in
- A good camera with at least 60x zoom (if you’re into getting great photos)
- Malaria tablets
- Mosquito repellent spray
Day One & Two
- Left London Heathrow for Johannesburg (11.5 hour flight)
- Flight from Johannesburg to Zambia (1.25 hours)
Upon arriving in Livingstone, Zambia we met our guide – Colleen Webster. Colleen works for a number of travel companies, but on this occasion we were travelling through a company called Riviera Travel. I will be honest and say that the main demographic of Riviera Travels seems to be retired couples which was a bit of a turn off for me initially, but most of them were very nice people and the interaction was pretty much restricted to coach journeys etc.
On the drive to the hotel we were told that the grounds were part of Mosi-Oa-Tunya national park. This meant that there would be zebras, giraffes, monkeys and impala all over the joint! At one stage they did have big cats in this national park, but these were relocated to larger parks because they were not only eating all of the animals, but going into the towns at night and snacking on humans.
I was obviously very excited by all of this and had already begun forming plans of creeping through the sandy terrain in order to track animals. Unfortunately the reality of the situation is that I’m more Dora the Explorer than David Attenborough, but it was still fun to imagine.
That evening, we made our way towards the Zambezi River where we boarded the African Queen for a sunset cruise. The Zambezi is the fourth longest river in Africa, coming in after the Nile, the Congo and the River Niger.
This cruise lasted for 2.5 hours and during this time we saw an abundance of fantastic wildlife, from freshwater crocodiles, to hippos, elephants, warthogs and baboons.
After a lovely breakfast at our hotel, we made the short walk over to one of the seven natural wonders of the world – Victoria Falls. Our guide for the morning was the charismatic Kadi, who told us all about the history and cultural significance of the falls.
This majestic waterfall was originally named Mosi-Oa-Tunya, but in 1855 David Livingstone changed the name to Victoria Falls, in respect of the Queen. David Livingstone is thought to be the first European to discover the falls and he was so awestruck by their majesty that he spent the rest of his life in Zambia, eventually having the city of Livingstone named after him. It is said that David brought the three C’s to Zambia:
- Civilisation; and
When he died, his ardent followers removed his heart from his body to be buried in Africa. They then embalmed his body and carried it 2000km to Tanzania so that it could be taken back to Britain.
Mosi-Oa-Tunya translates as “the smoke that thunders”. This name came from the incredible noise and spray sent up by the waterfall during its peak season.
Now, just so you don’t go with the same expectations that I did I need to lay some water science (?) on your sweet ass. Between the months of February and May, Victoria Falls is in full flow and you will truly experience “the smoke that thunders”. In fact, you better bring some spare shoes and a raincoat because you’re about to get soaked! And you can forget photographs because the spray will probably mess your camera up. I visited the falls in September, where the water was at nothing more than a trickle. However, the advantage of this lack of water was the fact that I got the most incredible views and photographs. Victoria Falls stretches between Zambia and Zimbabwe. The Zimbabwean side of Victoria Falls is always flowing, and the reason for this is the fact that the slope on the rock is lower.
Another point about the Zimbabwean side is the fact that there are absolutely no railings to protect visitors from plummeting to their deaths. Where there is water, there is going to be algae and Kadi told us that at least 2 tourists a year die on a part of the Zimbabwean falls called ‘Danger Point’.
Fun fact: all of Zambia’s electricity is supplied through hydropower, which means that the waterfall is their main source of power!
The walking tour of Victoria Falls lasted 2.5 hours, as Kadi led us from the lowest to the highest point for views. During this walk we experienced some of the boisterous natural wildlife; the baboons. These little terrors were running about, wrestling one another, leaping over our heads and stealing water bottles out of peoples’ backpacks. Mainly hilarious, but also a tiny bit terrifying when you notice how big their teeth are.
After the tour was over, there was also an opportunity to visit the nearby ‘Curio Market’ selling a range of exotic and interesting carvings, masks, clothes, hats and the like. The rest of the day was spent hanging out in Mosi-Oa-Tunya national park and around the grounds of the hotel, before making our way to our next destination – Botswana!
So, going back to the question of pros and cons of a tour vs. travelling alone –
|No worries about getting to the hotel from the airport, we were grouped together, our bags were collected for us, a coach was waiting and we were sped through immigration!||Did not get to spend as much time as I wanted to in Zambia as we were bound by a schedule|
|We got an amazing guided tour through Victoria Falls||You had to keep with the group and couldn’t move at your own pace through the Falls|
|Lots of helpful tips regarding tipping , cultural customs and safety|
|Our guides were always there to negotiate issues and answer questions about anything|
|Tips on how to approach animals safely|
Finally, I would just like to say that despite all of the concerned looks I received before leaving for Zambia, I could not have felt more welcome or safe in this lovely country. I people I met and had the chance to interact with were funny, friendly and kind and they truly made the experience a pleasure!
Thanks for reading,