WHEELING ABROAD – Victoria Falls

Victoria Falls, one of the Seven Natural Wonders is definitely a place to see and the surrounding area and activities are unique. We were there for 3 days and only managed to see a fraction of what’s available. The locals are very friendly and I felt safe at all times, you can really appreciate the difference in culture. If you keep an open mind and take it all in you will be better for the experience.

Part 7 – Victoria Falls

Our leisurely start to the day suddenly ended as our driver, obviously a Formula fan, hit the road at a top speed. It felt like the 45km to the Airport took all of 10 minutes.

So, after calming down we checked our bags, boarded the plane and headed for Victoria Falls. It was about an hour flight and as we were about 15 minutes out you could see what looked like a huge cloud on the ground.

This was our 1st view of the falls, this cloud was huge and extended up at least a km into the air. There was a serious amount of water from the Zambezi River falling into a 2km wide Gorge, even from this distance it was impressive.

After landing and clearing customs we headed to the Kingdom Hotel, this is a fantastic place with loads of character, including signs warning you of Crocodiles in the pools outside the rooms and Baboons roaming around the balconies helping themselves to anything left outside.

It has all the facilities of a 4-5 star Hotel and is only 1km from the falls. There is a constant roar leaving no doubt there was a massive waterfall very close.

Not wanting to waste any time, we headed out in bright sunshine for the walk to the National Park. Once inside the gate, everyone around us had Raincoats on and were drenched, we were soon to find out why. We started following the track to the falls but got distracted by a Warthog crossing in front of us. This place continues to surprise you all the time.

The roar of the water just kept getting louder and suddenly through the jungle we saw the edge of the water. This was only the very 1st edge and the amount of water going over was stunning. We were both Lucky and Unlucky, as there had been significant rain in the previous months with about 10,000m3 p/s of water going over the falls. There was so much water and so much mist that I couldn’t see much, as the wind shifted you could see more, but not the whole thing.

We kept walking and soon found the main section; here we were in torrential rain and within seconds, drenched. We had raincoats on but that didn’t make any difference. The rain was coming from the bottom of the falls and the sky at the same time. Unfortunately for Vic, one of his cameras got drenched and didn’t work anymore, but he did get some great shots. We continued on and were rewarded with more incredible views.

On the way back to the hotel, we decided to book a Helicopter flight to get a true perspective of this place that you simply can’t get from the ground. The next morning we headed to the Helipad and got a Birdseye view of the Falls, Gorges and the surrounding area. There is a huge lake at the top of the falls that backs up for hundreds of kilometres. We could see Hippos, Elephants, Giraffes and Zebras. Our Pilot was fantastic and circled very low so we could get a great view.

From the air you can really appreciate the true size; it was worth every dollar.

After Lunch, we headed out for my absolute highlight of the trip, the chance to go walking with Lions. It’s really difficult to describe my experience; they’re such majestic animals, such grace, power and presence. On arrival, we were given a briefing and told to approach the Lions from behind and if they turned around and looked at you, you needed to back away – quickly. These are wild animals, and although they are very familiar with humans, safety is paramount. This is why there were four handlers with us at all times, including a fellow named Rambo who had a very large Rifle. I’m not sure who he was protecting?

We left the briefing and walked into the bush. Suddenly two lions appeared and I couldn’t stop smiling. This was brilliant, the Lions were lying down and I had the chance to get close. They were only young lions, around 18 months old and weighing about 100kg. I had my hand on them both, talk about an adrenalin rush!

We had about 3 hours walking with these Lions through the bush. They take the lead and wander where they want. There was a moment when they heard baboons nearby and their relaxed manor changed – instantly alert, leaving no doubt who was in charge.

These walks are run by a Conservation group called Lion Encounter who does a great job in working to get these Lions back into the wild. Unfortunately there has been an 80 – 90% decline in Lion numbers over the past 30 yrs.

All too soon our time was up, it was definitely one of the highlights of my life and I would go back to Africa just to be able to do this again.

The final activity for the night was a Cruise on the Zambezi River.

You could say it’s just like any other river cruise, but then when you look closer; what appears to be a small tree sticking out of the water is an Elephant swimming across the river. There are different sets of eyes looking at you, a huge head of a Hippo appears, then twenty more nearby. Around the next corner on an Island, are two more Elephants.

To top that off, the Sunset was stunning and dinner was very good as well.

So, after an amazing journey in Namibia, on Safari for 18 days and Victoria Falls for 3 days, Vic and I headed for the Airport on a Long hall flight via Johannesburg to Sydney and finally home.

This has been an amazing experience, all the better as it was an unexpected trip. Thanks to Vic Widman from Great Divide Tours and Self Drive Safari’s for the invitation, Cooper Tires Australia and South Africa for the opportunity to test tyres in a very different environment and Avis Safari Rentals for the vehicles that were our home for most of the trip.

As a final note, Africa is a very special place, with countless experiences. Travelling here will change your perspective on a whole range of ideas, challenging your comfort zone, along with surprises along the way to inspire you. Seeing Animals in their natural environment is a real privilege, as well helping the local school who calls a table under a tree a classroom, humbling. The people are brilliant; despite having very little, they give everything. If you ever get the opportunity, just grab it.

Thanks for reading.

Ian Sheppard

Great Divide Tours

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