Stage 2 of our southern Zambian safari

We are already well into February of 2023, high time for me to continue writing about our family trip through the southern parts of this country, during December. If you’ve missed the first part, you can still read that, and enjoy the pictures, here.

But for now, I will assume that you can remember our visit to Mukalya Lodge, and I’ll take you towards Livingstone and the Victoria Falls.

Somewhere in or near Mazabuka, on the long road to Monze, Choma, Kalomo and eventually Livingstone. This bit of road doesn’t look too bad. It’s not typical. (Photo by Ron Smit, December 2022)

From Mukalya, we headed back to the main road in the direction of Lusaka, but then took the turnoff towards the southwest, towards Livingstone. Just outside Mazabuka, we had our almost obligatory coffee stop at Coffeeberry. Not pictured here, but I’ve shown it in other stories. If you are really interested, have a look at them online: Coffeeberry Cafe.

Suitably refreshed and nourished, aware that there was still a long way to go, we hit the road again and our next stop was the Lay-by in Choma.

The default place in Choma for a quick pitstop: Toilet visit, snacks from the shop, etc. Even a coffee if you need help to stay awake. (Photo by Ron Smit, December 2022)

Fortunately, we completed our journey without incident and arrived at our next destination, the Victoria Falls Waterfront, in good time. That rooftop tent on the Prado looks like quick a big box, but it would have been a challenge for all five of us to sleep in it. So we had reserved “Adventure Village Rooms” at the Waterfront. These are not particularly adventurous, but quite comfortable. Good beds, hot showers, etc. And near to the pool and the restaurant overlooking the river. Over the years, we have spent quite a few evenings here, and we hope to do that many more times!

Together, with the sunset over the Zambezi river behind us (and Mosi beers on the way) there’s enough to smile about. (Photo by Tessa Reijndorp, used with permission.)

We’d chosen the Victoria Falls Waterfront as the place to spend the days on and around Christmas, which was a good decision. It’s one of our favourite places in Livingstone, even though we may want to try other places, like the newly-refurbished Maramba River Lodge, the next time. Both have excellent camping facilities, too.

There is a covered boma near the campsite and the braai area. It’s used for pre-rafting and other pre-excursion meetings, as all the branding on the benches indicates. But we used it to celebrate our family Christmas. Which was fantastic. We unwrapped presents and generally just enjoyed being together. It would have been even more perfect if we’d had the other kids here too…

We did not bring a Christmas tree on the trip, so Tessa had to (briefly) act like one for our celebration. In my view, very colourful, but not very tree-like :). (Photo by Ron Smit, December 2022)

The next day we went to visit the Victoria Falls themselves. Although the rainy season in Zambia had started, the water level was still quite low, and so there were equal amounts of rock and water to see. Not the overpowering, thick curtain of water that will be there in a few months’ time, but nevertheless impressive.

Our little group posing in front of a small part of the extensive width of the waterfall. If we tried that picture during April, it would be impossible – it would be like standing inside a cloud. (Photograph by Tessa Reijndorp, or at least by her phone, used with permission.)

Once you’ve walked around and seen the waterfalls from a few different angles, gone over the “knife edge” bridge, looked down from the “Danger Point” (which is only dangerous if you are really stupid) then the last thing to do, is to clamber down the trail towards the “Boiling Pot”. Sometimes accompanied by baboons who are mostly interested in any snacks or drinks that you may be carrying. It’s a climb down into the gorge, immediately downstream of the Falls. Here all of the water that has come over the waterfall is squeezed into a narrow space. It’s easy to see why this whirlpool is called the “Boiling Pot”.

Once you are down there, it’s nice to dip your feet into the little stream that hurtles down into the river, and to generally enjoy the shade. And then, you start thinking about the steep hike back up…

Quintin and I cooling down near the “Boiling Pot”, and resting before we climb up to the top of the gorge again. In case of doubt, I am the more mature-looking specimen on the right. (Photo by Tessa Reijndorp, used with permission.)

As any of you who’ve been here will know, one of the highlights of this area is definitely to experience the sunset (or hopefully more than one) over the Zambezi river. I really like sunset pictures, so here is one of my favourites:

Here’s the sun, licking the metallic-looking Zambezi with a tongue of fire. (Photo by Ron Smit, December 2022.)

And now for some action… The long string of rapids below the Victoria Falls provide some of the world’s most exciting rafting. Marina and I have done it twice, in different conditions, and some of you readers have been there with us. This year, Quintin and Marcel were also keen to do it, and so this had been arranged through Bundu Rafting, whom we had also used before. The boys did have a memorable experience, as the next photo will try to show.

Heading into the next rapid, with everybody getting ready to hold on for dear life. Apologies for the quality of the image, it’s a screenshot from the video taken by Bundu. (Used with permission.)

While the boys were enjoying the adrenaline rush (and getting sunburnt…) Marina and Tessa and I drove around to visit a few different lodges, had a coffee here, a lunch there, and so on. One of these was the Taita Falcon Lodge, from where it’s possible to look onto the river where the rafting teams had gone through, earlier in the day. From that great height and distance, the rapids look totally unexciting, in stark contrast to the way they were experienced by the guys in the rafts!

Looking down from the Taita Falcon Lodge. Note the horizontal layers formed in the canyon walls by different lava flows. Also note how low the river was, which actually makes some of the rapids more dangerous. (Photo by Ron Smit, December 2022.)

During our last day in the Livingstone area, we had a great lunch at the Maramba River Lodge, and a quick dip in their pool. We’d camped at this place some years ago, but it’s now under new management. Although it’s located on the Maramba river, a small tributary to the much greater Zambezi, we might go and camp there, the next time we visit this area.

It seemed fitting to end our time in Livingstone with a sunset cruise on the Zambezi. There are a number of large boats cruising up and down the river, serving drinks and snacks, sometimes accompanied by music. But we opted for a smaller boat, that took us from Maramba, and onto the Zambezi, with more privacy.

Enjoying (and sheltering from) the sunshine on the Zambezi River. (Photo by Tessa Reijndorp, used with permission.)

Being in a much smaller boat, enabled us to get closer to wildlife and even to alight onto an island at one point, for a short ablutionary walk. Our guide told us about the people that used to live on the island, but to be fair, we were more interested in making sure that we would not unexpectedly meet some large animal when going behind a tree!

This hippo reminded us with a show of pretty impressive teeth, that we were on its terrain, not the other way around. Best to stay at a safe distance, especially in relatively shallow water. (Photo by Quintin Smit, used with permission.)
Nile Crocodile, just chillin’ on the river bank. In reality, as a cold-blooded creature, it was probably warming up in the sun. Look at that smile, I’m sure it was having pleasant dreams. (Photo by Quintin Smit, used with permission.)

And then, having seen some wildlife, after enjoying the obligatory sundowners, it was time for the sun to actually go down. Which it does majestically, in this part of the world:

Looks like the sun’s furnace is pouring molten copper onto the river. (Photo by Quintin Smit, used with permission.)

And so we concluded the second stage of our trip through southern Zambia, certainly one of the highlights. But there were more adventures on the agenda. Look out for my next post, when I will describe our trip towards Lake Itezhi-tezhi and the Kafue National Park.

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