At the conclusion of our safari adventure, we hopped a charter flight from the airstrip outside of our lodge to the other airport in Kruger National Park — Nelspruit. From there, we caught a direct flight to Livingstone, the airport closest to Victoria Falls on the Zambian side.
The airports in Nelspruit and Livingstone were larger than the one-room Hoedspruit airport and actually had gates and baggage claim, but shared the same laid back approach to not checking liquids, not removing shoes, deplaning on the tarmack and having everyone walk out together to board.
We arrived at the Royal Livingstone Hotel, one of 2 hotels within walking distance to the Falls and located within a small National Park. The park doesn’t have any predators, but there were lots of impalas, zebras and monkeys wandering around the hotel. They were even less phased than the animals on safari and you could walk within a foot or two of them. Lots more animal selfies ensued.
The first night we took a sunset cruise on the Zambezi river and saw lots of hippos and a big croc.
The next day, Thursday July 17, 2014 we had a packed day planned as it was our only full day in Zambia. We started with a walking tour of Victoria Falls where you could stand at the top and touch the water. There are no barriers erected of any kind! The Falls themselves run along the Zambia and Zimbabwe border on the Zambezi river. The Falls are called Mosi-Oa-Tunya — the smoke that thunders — in the local language Tonga. And from Wikipedia: “While it is neither the highest nor the widest waterfall in the world, it is classified as the largest, based on its width of 1,708 metres (5,604 ft)and height of 108 metres (354 ft), resulting in the world’s largest sheet of falling water. Victoria Falls is roughly twice the height of North America’s Niagara Falls and well over twice the width of its Horseshoe Falls. In height and width Victoria Falls is rivalled only by Argentina and Brazil’s Iguazu Falls”.
But unlike Niagra Falls, the water falls into a gorge about 300 ft across so you cannot boat up to it or go to the bottom of it most of the year. You can stand across from it (and get soaked) and walk to the border of Zimbabwe.
After the walking tour, we took a tour by helicopter to see the full scope of the Falls which you couldn’t really see on foot because you were too close. That was the best part of the day for me and it was pretty amazing. We could also see hippos and elephants playing in the Zambezi River upstream. In one of the photos, you can see little white houses along the river bank. That’s our hotel.
Our final stop of the day was at the Lion Encounter, which could be a really cool thing depending on when you go. They ‘walk’ lion cubs age 3 months up to 18 months. We arrived a few days after they retired the 18-month-old cubs and introduced a new set of 3-month-old cubs. They were cute and cuddly, but not what we had expected. It was more like a taking a walk and having some house cats playing off in the distance 🙂 You can see pics of the bigger lions they have and what the program is all about on their website.
We ended the day with sundowners on the deck of the hotel that overlooked the river. The sunsets throughout my entire 5 weeks in Africa have all been amazing.
We left Zambia at 10:30 am local time on Friday … flew to Joburg … flew to Atlanta … flew to Dayton … picked up the kids … and drove to Hudson …. arriving home nearly 38 hours later at 6 pm Saturday local time. My African adventure is officially over!