Above the falls …

On our last morning at Victoria Falls we were up early and headed out to explore the Zambesi river bank above the falls. A couple of hundred metres from the hotel we were reminded of Africa’s perils when we encountered a large herd of Cape Buffalo beside the road. Along with a cyclist and a couple of other pedestrians we opted to make a detour and give them a wide berth.

We skirted the enclosed area at the falls and took Zambesi Drive following the outside of the fence. This led us to the river. The bush is fairly open except along the bank. We made note of some very fresh elephant dung and proceeded with caution. At the river edge we caught sight of a guy who apparently was sleeping rough there. His first response was to duck out of sight but after a brief pause he came out and warned us of the presence of the elephant and urged us to be careful.

The target species was Rock Pratincole and we soon had some fairly distant views, to get closer we would have to swim with the Hippos and Crocodiles. We passed on that idea and made do with a photograph of an African Openbill instead …

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Then, not wishing to be surprised at close quarters, we circled back through the more open country away from the river passing a number of White-fronted Bee-eaters and racking up a good list of birds …

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and back to Ilala Lodge for breakfast. Joseph was waiting outside he may have wondered where we spent the night. He was sad to hear we would be leaving and was still keen to come with us. We shook hands and gave him a small present. A nice kid obliged to live off his wits.

After our cereal and fruit juice it was check out time. A drive across the border into Zambia and the airport at Livingstone. Soon the Congo.

Victoria Falls 2 …

The Zambesi thunders over the falls and makes a sharp left turn through a deep gorge. A cloud of spray ascends high into the air. Opposite the Devils Cataract and the Main Falls there is an area of luxuriant forest bathed in a steady light rain. Once you get away from this the surrounding countryside is quite arid.

The birding and botanising are quite rich in this small patch. The appropriately named Fireballs Heamanthus sp.

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Eastern Bearded Scrub Robin …

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Black-eyed Bulbul …

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White-browed Robin Chat …

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and the spectacular Trumpeter Hornbill …

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There is an excellent cafe where you can enjoy a local beer and watch the staff deal with unwelcome guests …

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe encountered Bushbuck, Warthog, Chacma Baboon and Vervet Monkeys, like this little guy waiting for his lunch, inside the fence. It was well worth spending the whole day there which gave us the best of the light for our photography, early and late.

Joseph, of course, was waiting at the gate …

 

 

Mosi-oa-Tunya …

Or in English, the smoke that thunders, otherwise Victoria Falls. It’s huge.

So big that, like Iguazu, you can’t take it all in at once. On the ground you have to move from view-point to view-point and add it all up in your head. The only way to photograph the whole thing is from the air.

Visiting in November the falls were at their minimum flow, virtually nothing was going over the eastern end. The western half remains spectacular. It may not be the worst time to visit however, in April, peak flow, the spectacle is obscured by the spray rising out of the gorge, hiding the foot of the falls and soaking visitors and their cameras. Even in November the spray rising above the falls can be seen from kilometres away.

Mark and I left Ilala lodge bright and early. A short distance down the hill there is a broad footpath sweeping away to the right. There is no signage on it but it is the most direct route to the falls. Joseph and a cabal of carving sellers were waiting for us there. They were only able to accompany us as far as the gate because you have to pay to go in. It’s $30 US for foreigners, somewhat less for locals.

It’s probably best to make your way to the west end first. Here you will find Livingstone’s Statue. A Scot, he went to Africa in 1841 as a medical missionary with the London Missionary Society. In 1855 he was supposedly the first white fellah to see the falls which he named after his queen. He spent most of his adult life in Africa and it was a life far more beneficial than say the King of the Belgians or the present führer of Zimbabwe.

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Not far from the statue you can stand above the western end of the falls. From here the far end of the falls is 1,708 metres away. The water drops 108 metres in the centre. The first chute is called the Devils Cataract. It is separated from the next broad expanse, the Main Falls, by Boaruka Island. Then comes Livingstone Island, from where the good doctor first saw the falls, then  Rainbow Falls (the highest) and the Eastern Cataract.

The waters of the Zambesi pour into a gorge which sweeps around a number of horse shoe bends before heading off towards the Indian Ocean. When the water level is low you can get down into the gorge but not to a position that will give you a great view. Your $30 gives you a number of splendid views from above. The Devils Cataract …

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The Main Falls, looking west …

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Rainbow Falls looking from the east, a small party on the Zambian side are getting ready to swim in the Devil’s Pool. Only a tiny minority are swept to their death.

 

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You could spend the day there, and we did …