Victoria Falls - Zimbabwe
We left Maputo Mozambique early on April 16th via South African Airways flying to Johannesburg to catch our connecting flight to Victoria Falls Airport. We noticed on the JoBerg to VicFalls flight that their were a lot of seniors and Mike and I were the only blacks we saw on the flight. The VicFalls airport itself is very new, high tech and picture perfect. It really looks like a Hollywood movie set inside and out. No crowds, clutter or noise. Sparkling clean rest rooms. Outside, more peace and quiet. No jumble of cabs and vendors. Just a group of costumed singers/dancers there to welcome tourists as they begin the land portion of their journey in Zimbabwe. Pretty much all the tourists were met by tour guides as were we. I noticed the beautiful, expansive sky as soon as I stepped out of the airport. You could see for miles through clear, clear air - blue sky, cotton candy clouds....
The drive from the airport to the hotel lasted about 30 minutes. The entire route is within a game preserve. The driver/guide gave us the warnings - do not feed the animals, keep your distance from them, stay on lit paths at night or better yet stay inside. Elephants, despite their size, make little noise and you won't see one at night until its a meter from you - which is way too late!
The Victoria Falls Hotel is a grand old five-star hotel built by the British in 1904 to support crews building the Cape-to-Cairo railway. It was updated in 2013 and is still grand and very British. The staff is extremely quick, professional and friendly. The Falls kick up a plume of mist and water vapor that morphs and shifts with the winds. It was fascinating to watch the ever changing vista from the hotel.
We booked a Zambezi River sunset cruise for the first evening. We opted for the luxury cruise with included top shelf libations, food and a reduced passenger load. It was the right choice for a few extra bucks. The Zambezi was at flood stage due to a late, heavy rainy season. The river is not always as wide as it appears in these images. Turn down service was a welcome sight when we returned to the room - including mosquito netting which we were getting used to.
We started the next day, April 17th 2017, with a tour of Mosi-oa-Tunya which in Tokaleya Tonga means - "The Smoke That Thunders" which is more widely known as - Victoria Falls. I borrowed the image below from the good people of the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Authority to help explain the Falls and the the tour.
To see VicFalls, you walk along the lip of the Victoria Falls Rainforest Reserve and stop at 16 overlooks along the way. The path is nicely paved and marked and fairly flat. It's also at the about the same elevation as the Zambezi River before the Falls. Visitors see the Zambezi River plummet into the narrow gorge. The massive volumes of water cascading into the narrow space creates powerful air currents that rise vertically carrying water, mist and vapor with it. The resulting plume can rise 1,300 ft and be seen up to 30 miles away. The plume also creates a microclimate that sustains its own rainforest. We took a guided tour but you can self-guide. Our guide, Lucky was very knowledgeable about the Falls and an excellent ambassador for his country. We put on rain gear before entering the park but we got drenched anyway. No rain. Just mist.
We walked over the iconic Victoria Falls Bridge after touring the Falls. The bridge spans one of the gorges over the Zambezi and links Zimbabwe and Zambia. We didn't cross into Zambia on this trip. The bridge is really interesting from an engineering standpoint. Measurements were taken in the gorge. The bridge was designed and built in England. It was then dismantled, shipped to Mozambique and then traveled by train to Victoria Falls. The bridge was then reconstructed on site and open for traffic in about 14 months, opening in 1905. It still supports a major international border crossing but only a single large truck may cross the bridge at a time. It's also a busy bungie jumping and bungie swing destination. You also get a nice view of the Victoria Falls Hotel from the bridge.
We took a lunch break at Lookout Cafe, which is perched on a cliff overlooking the Zambezi after the falls.
A family of warthogs was roaming the hotel grounds when we returned. Warthogs became one of Mike's favorites during the trip.