Ep14 Victoria Falls, The Smoke That Thunders
Welcome to episode 14. 17-October Thursday to 18-October Friday (flight home to Canada).
Our day started as we congregated at the resort foyer to visit the famous Victoria Falls. The beautiful Victoria Falls is located within the Victoria Falls National Park (on the Zimbabwe side), and the Mosi-Oa-Tunya National Park (on the Zambia side). This means that for one to see the entire length of the largest waterfall in the world, one will need to enter via two gates in two different countries. However, people generally choose one Victoria Falls entrance based on the country they are staying, and/or the time of the year they are visiting.
Victoria Falls spans almost 1.7 km and split between Zimbabwe and Zambia. The mighty Victoria Falls can be seen from both sides of the Zambezi River and has two entrance gates.
For our group, we visited the Victoria Falls from the Zimbabwe side.
Victoria Falls National Park
Our tour operator dropped us off at the entrance to the Victoria Falls National Park, Zimbabwe. Once inside the park, we saw an information center with maps and information on the Zambezi River, Victoria Falls, and its formation.
Our guide explained that to the left, there was an interesting clear cobblestone walkway with the rain forest with the Livingstone statue at the endpoint. Since we all came to see the mighty Victoria Falls, we followed our guide to the right.
The best time to visit the Falls is in the morning. During the morning, the rainbows are excellent over the Devils Cataract. We were lucky to witness the rainbow walking back along the Victoria Falls.
Victoria Falls (Lozi: Mosi-oa-Tunya, “The Smoke That Thunders”; Tonga: Shungu Namutitima, “Boiling Water”) is a waterfall on the Zambezi River in southern Africa, which provides habitat for several unique species of plants and animals. It is located on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe and is considered to be one of the world’s largest waterfalls due to its width of 1,708 meters (5,604 ft).
Victoria Falls, Zambezi River, southern Africa, is designated a World Heritage site in 1989.
David Livingstone, the Scottish missionary and explorer, is believed to have been the first European to view Victoria Falls on 16 November 1855. The Zambezi river, upstream from the falls, experiences a rainy season from late November to early April, and a dry season the rest of the year. The river’s annual flood season is February to May with a peak in April. The spray from the falls typically rises to a height of over 400 meters (1,300 ft), and sometimes even twice as high, and is visible from up to 48 km (30 mi) away.
Walking along the Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, we could feel the mist and spray from the falls. It felt quite refreshing. For those of us who wore glasses, we had to keep wiping them to see where we were going.
There was a gorge that was dry from the drought and dry season. For those of us who were less afraid of height, they moved near to the edge to take a glimpse down to the bottom. For the rest of us who were afraid of height, we did not dare to go too close to the edge and imagined that the bottom of the gorge was dry.
Which is bigger Victoria Falls or Niagara?
For those of us who are Canadians and have visited the Niagara Falls, we could relate in size by comparing to Niagara Falls, which also shares its borders with Ontario, Canada, and New York State, USA.
Just as a comparison: Victoria Falls is approximately twice as wide and twice as deep as Niagara Falls. The waterfall spans the entire breadth of the Zambezi River at one of its widest points (more than 5,500 feet or 1,700 metres). At the falls, the river plunges over a sheer precipice to a maximum drop of 355 feet or 108 metres. The falls’ mean flow is almost 33,000 cubic feet (935 cubic metres) per second.
The Rain forest Walk
After the Victoria Falls, we took a quick walk to look at the Livingstone statue. Along the way, we saw souvenir sellers, lining the walkway.
On the way back from Victoria Falls, our tour operator took us to see a large baobab tree. If you like trees, seeing the Big Baobab Tree, one of the best-known trees in the world was worth the stop. The African baobab trees are odd-looking trees and quite remarkable in shape. They survive in very dry parts of Africa. An interesting fact is that the tree can store over 100,000 liters of water in their thick fibrous trunks, using it to get through times of poor rainfall and times of drought. It was a very picturesque stop, and educational too. Several souvenir sellers were trying to sell more souvenirs to tourists.
Lunch @ Elephant Hills Resort
After an interesting morning visiting the Victoria Falls, we returned to the Elephant Hills Resort for lunch. It was a delicious lunch since many of us had worked up an appetite walking around the Falls. The range of cuisine extended from traditional African cuisine to western dishes. We enjoyed lunch and since it was a very hot afternoon, some chose to enjoy an afternoon dip in the pool while the rest retreated to an afternoon nap in our air-conditioned rooms.
We soon realized that between 12 noon to 4 pm, there is usually not much that goes on as it gets too hot and the heat is quite unbearable. Most activities happen in the early mornings and late evenings.
The Boma Dinner and Drum Show
As the evening brought cooler temperatures, we got ready for an evening experience at The Boma Dinner and Drum Show. We arrived at The Boma at around 6.30 pm. The Boma Dinner and Drum show is a non-stop entertainment from the moment we arrived at the entrance.
We loved the Boma. They dressed us in a native African dress and painted our faces. The atmosphere was very inviting, welcoming, and festive, such that it encouraged you to join in the fun. They had great dancing and singing, with many in the audience participating by playing the drums. Many diners were invited to get up and join the floor in dance. There was a “witch doctor” that could tell your fortune. And of course, the food was a new experience, eating warthog, impala, crocodile, worms, bugs and who knows what else. It sounds gross, but you did not have to try anything you did not want to try. There was lots of food that were normal to North American taste buds. We had a great time and would definitely recommend anyone wanting a true African Boma experience to try it.
We were ceremoniously dressed in our “chitenge” (sarong) before taken to our seats.
The Dancing and Drum Experience
Here is a video of the dance. How colorful and lively their dance moves were. We thoroughly enjoyed their music and fantastic drum beat.
The Dining Experience
The four-course feast begins with a shared starter platter followed by soup from the campfire, a selection of salads and vegetarian dishes, a braai (barbecue) buffet featuring game meats and stews, and an array of desserts.
Eat a Mopane Worm Experience (A Traditional African Cuisine)
For those brave with strong stomachs, we were invited to try the Mopane Worm. Gonimbrasia Belina is a species of emperor moth which is native to the warmer parts of southern Africa. Its large edible caterpillar, known as the madora or mopane worm or amacimbi,masontja, feeds primarily but not exclusively on mopane tree leaves. Mopane worms are an important source of protein for millions in the region. For those daring stomachs, you’ll get a certificate for eating the worm.
Hair Braiding, Face Painting, Fortune Teller and Curio shop Experiences
For the girls (and women) with longer hair, there was the hair braiding experience. There was face painting for children who wanted to join in the fun. And for the adults who wanted to see into the future, there was the fortune teller who went around inviting you to see into the future. For those who wanted Zimbabwe souvenirs, they had curios sellers that would delight your pockets.
The End of the Boma Experience
At the end of a most interesting Boma experience, we returned to our Elephant Hills Resort, delighted to have enjoyed a most enjoyable dinner and show experience. We were happy that our entire South Africa, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe experience ended on such a high note. We rested in our hotel with happy memories and had packed our bags earlier as we would depart Zimbabwe early the next morning.
Summary of the Day
Zimbabwe is a beautiful country. Victoria Falls is a must-see for any tourist. Many tourists enjoy Victoria Falls which is a highly attractive tourist destination, but we got a glimpse into the country’s struggles as a country.
Robert Mugabe, who led the country’s liberation movement, was in power from independence in 1980 until he was ousted in November 2017 at the age of 93. Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe resigned after almost four decades in power. Now, the country is ruled by Emmerson Mnangagwa. Zimbabwe’s economy has struggled since a controversial land reform program was introduced in 2000. The country’s political and economic crises have resulted in high poverty rates. The hard years between 2000 and 2008 saw poverty rates increase to more than 72%, according to the World Bank. It also left a fifth of the population in extreme poverty.
In conclusion, we as tourists only saw the landscape and animal beauty. There are much deeper political and economic issues to the country and we only scratched the surface. To truly begin understanding the country and her people, one would have to stay much longer and be an integrated part of the society there. The land during drought season can also be a harsh land to survive. We did not travel to other parts of Zimbabwe other than Victoria Falls. It would be most interesting to see the rest of Zimbabwe but one would need to be careful with one’s safety due to the high crime and unemployment rates.
We enjoyed a farewell breakfast and prepared for our journey homewards. We were transported from Elephant Hills Resort to Victoria Falls International Airport to depart for Addis Adiba and connect to our onward flight back home to Canada.
After being away from home from 04-October-2019 to 18-October-2019 (14 days), many of us were now longing for the comfort of our homes and some simple home cooking. Looking back, we have enjoyed our entire South Africa, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe adventures. It has been jam-packed and the miles that we have traveled have been worth it. We have seen and learned a lot. We enjoyed the company of our fellow travelers and together, we have learned so much from our journey. We have developed a bond and now knew each other on a first-name basis. Throughout the journey, we have laughed and taken care of each other. We believe that the friendships and bonds that one forms from such a big group are wonderful.
Although this has been a tiring trip, jam-packed with so many activities, we have thoroughly enjoyed the entire trip. Africa is a very huge continent and grateful for this experience, we would love to see much more of Africa and it’s beauty.
A couple of pieces of advice to interested senior travelers to Africa. We would say to travel on an organized tour, especially if this is your first time to Africa. There are many different cultures, languages, and customs. It would be safer to travel in numbers and you know when and where you are going. The second piece of advice is to have all your immunization shots and seek the advice of a travel clinic before traveling as each country has different travel requirements. We are not experts in Africa travel but if you have any specific questions regarding the places we visited, we encourage you to reach out to us and we will try our best to answer, provide some suggestions or direct you to someone else who may be able to help you. If you do go, we wish you happy travels.
We hope you enjoyed the ride and learned something old, new, or something that gave you the ah-ha moment. Thank you for following along on the entire 14 episodes on South Africa, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe.