June 2, 2001
We have spent the last few days visiting the town of Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. Of course the main attraction here is the huge waterfall. At 1,708 meters wide, these falls are billed as the greatest curtain of falling water in the world.
Running west to east, the falls are comprised of the Devil's Cataract, Cataract Island, the Main Falls, Livingstone Island, Horseshoe Falls, Rainbow Falls, Armchair Falls and the Eastern Cataract. Whew! Check out the photos!
The falls occur where the earth has been split by tectonic activity and the Zambezi river falls 250 meters into the Zambezi gorges. Every March to May the volume of water falling into the gorges is over 100 million liters per minute. This year the water level is the highest it has been in over 7 years. The water level is so high that all raft trips have been canceled.
The Zambezi river is 2,700km long and the falls occur 1,000km from its source. It is the third largest river in Africa after the Nile and the Congo rivers.
The river forms the boundary with Zambia and the falls can be viewed from either side. The border for the countries is actually the middle of the bridge spanning the Batoka Gorge. The National Park on the Zimbabwe side is comprised of the rain forest that has resulted from the mist from the falls, and has trails to view the falls from across the abyss.
On our walk through the park, we had to bring a change of clothes and make sure everything in our day sack was in enclosed in plastic (including and especially our cameras). The "mist" from the falls is created by the pounding force of the water going over the falls and is really more like rain. We wore water sandals and shorts and tried our best to cover the rest of us with our raincoats. We were only marginally successful. Anything below the edge of our raincoats got soaked through! As were the fronts of our shirts (for reasons we still haven't figured out!)
But it was all worth it as the views were simply unbelievable. At times we could see only a white curtain of water but when the mist parted we were treated to absolutely stunningly clear views of the magnificent falls from directly across from them.
After spending about an hour oohing and awing and getting soaked to the skin, we found a place to change into the dry clothes we had brought and looking through the interesting museum in the park.
The next day we crossed the Zambezi bridge to the Zambia side of the falls to check out that view. On the way we stopped to watch the bungee jumpers. We were treated to seeing two brave souls soar off the bridge with giant rubber bands attached to their ankles. An activity not for these travelers! We'll be posting a video of a jump as soon as we can.
The view from the Zambian side of the falls was equally as dramatic and in one regard even more so because we could get very close to the edge of the falls before it plunged over the edge. One misstep and...
The town of Victoria Falls itself has an interesting history. It began on the Zambia side in 1865 after David Livingstone's writings began to attract traders. Later the town was moved to the present location of Livingstone when malaria began to take a toll. The gorge was originally bridged for the railway in 1902 and the present Victoria Falls Hotel was built in 1914. The hotel overlooks the second Zambezi gorge and the bridge and the view is spectacular. The influx of tourists grew and the resulting town was given status in 1972.
Yesterday we took a day trip into Botswana and visited Chobe National Park. We started our day with a 3 hour boat ride during which we were treated to seeing hippo mamas and babies, hippo pods and hippos basking on the shore. Hippos everywhere! We also saw monitor lizards and crocodiles. But best of all we saw a group of young male elephants crossing the river right in front of us. There were 10 or 12 of them and they were very impressive.
After a very nice lunch "in the bush" near a herd of impala, we went on a game drive in search of some lions that had been spotted. On the way we passed a large herd of giraffe attempting to drink from a waterhole. Because their legs are so long they have to really contort themselves to drink. Their awkward position makes them very vulnerable to attack from predators like lions so they often drink in pairs so one of them can act as a lookout.
After crossing a deep stream in our safari vehicle and scouting through the brush, we came across 3 lionesses and 3 cubs. Two of the adults and the cubs were resting in the shade and the third adult was scouting the area for game. Less than five minutes after we stopped, the other two lionesses fanned out and began the hunt for food. The cubs followed shortly. While we were unable to follow the hunt to its completion, it was very interesting to watch its beginning.
Our game drive continued and we saw large herds of African buffalo and more elephants. At one point one of the elephants was startled by our vehicle and and snorted and threw back her head and scuffed dirt at us. Our guide said she was only trying to scare us and it worked!
On our way out of the park were treated to seeing a python. It had just eaten and was resting in the water so we couldn't see its full size but it looked like it was about 1-1/2 feet around and at least 6 feet long.
Our day ended with a trip back across the border and Zimbabwe and a very nice BBQ (called a braai here) of crocodile and ostrich.