Unexpectedly, one of my favorite memories of Victoria Falls is my stop at the Lookout Cafe to see the Botoka Gorge! The Botoka Gorge is a sizeable gorge just beyond Victoria Falls, and it is absolutely stunning! We were so lucky to have stumbled across the Lookout Café!
The Lookout Cafe is a small outpost/bar right of the walking path between the Victoria Falls Hotel and Victoria Falls. This walkway is open to the public and there are signs for the Lookout Cafe halfway down the path. Dan and I decided to stop on a whim, thinking that it would just be a fun place to grab a drink! Wrong! But it was a fun place to grab a drink!
Livingstone, Zambia is a walkable town with a number of restaurants that seem tourist-friendly. On our first night, we ended up walking just down the street from our hotel to Cafe Zambezi, an Africa/Caribbean restaurant located in a strip mall! Odd mix!
While its in a strip mall, the restaurant is quite large. The front is all enclosed like a normal pub, but the back opens up to include outdoor seating! The crowd was a mix of locals and tourists, both international and African, and one could certainly meet fellow travelers here. All of the staff spoke English and were quite accommodating!
On our final afternoon visiting Victoria Falls, Dan and I decided to go all out and take a helicopter ride over Victoria Falls! As this was right after our Livingstone Island/Angel’s Armchair tour, this day was reallllly crazy!
Helicopter tours are offered from both the Zimbabwe and Zambia sides of the Falls. We signed up at our hotel the morning of the tour. The helicopter tours are quite expensive, running approximately $160 a person for a 12-15 minute ride! While expensive, the views were stunning and we really enjoyed our 15 minutes!
The tour started with a transfer to the take-off site, followed by a short safety lesson. After that, it was off to the chopper (as Dan said!). Here is our trusty ride:
Note – the helicopter seats four guests, one in the front and three in the back. On our trip, it was only Dan and I and one other person, so we all got a window seat! However, if there are four people, someone will have to sit in the middle. Here is Dan in the front and me in the back!
The tour started with a fly over Victoria Falls. The pilot pointed out the relevant sites, such as Livingstone Island, and gave a bit of history. Everyone wore a headset, so questions were welcomed! Again, the views were absolutely stunning!!
After staying in the upscale and traditional Victoria Falls Hotel, Dan and I crossed the border to Livingstone, Zambia and spent two nights there! Why did we change? Well, I really wanted to see both sides of Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe and Zambia!), and I really couldn’t resist the chance to see another country…Plus I had to try their local beer…Mosi Lager. Not great, not great. Zambezi from Zimbabwe was much better!
Livingstone was a much different experience than Victoria Falls. Livingstone is an actual town, where people work, shop and live. It’s not just a tourist destination. The town is located about 10 minutes from Victoria Falls, and you will need to take a cab there. The walk is not safe, due to wild animals and some shady individuals looking to rob tourists. There are a number of hostels and low-mid range hotels right in Livingstone, and quite a few very upscale hotels closer to Victoria Falls, including some with on-site animals (Royal Livingstone pictured)!
One of the most adventurous activities at Victoria Falls is swimming in the Devil’s Pool – a natural infinity pool right on the edge of Victoria Falls! When the water levels are too high, which is pretty often, Devil’s Pool is closed due to safety concerns. But have no fear, Angels’ Armchair is open for business! Angels’ Armchair is a similar pool also right on the edge of the Falls, very close to Livingstone Island. Just a tiny rope separating you from the 354 foot drop off… If you click on the pictures below to enlarge them (pictures taken from the Zimbabwe side of Victoria Falls), you can see people in Angel’s Armchair on the left side of the screen. We took these pictures the day before we were sitting in Angels’ Armchair. I called them crazy…
Now I don’t really like heights nor am I much of a risk taker (and Dan even less so), so you’re probably wondering how I got myself into this… Well, I really wanted to see Livingstone Island, and the tour to Livingstone Island automatically comes with a visit to either Devil’s Pool or Angels’ Armchair. Livingstone Island is an actual island right on the edge of the Falls. There it is – the island right on the edge! This picture was taken from our helicopter tour!
Dan and I stayed at the historic Victoria Falls Hotel when we visited Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.
The Victoria Falls Hotel is an old historic hotel located right in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. The Grande Dame of Victoria Falls if you will. The nightly rates at this hotel are more than Dan and I usually spend on hotels, but I just could not come all the way to Victoria Falls and not stay here! So we bit the bullet. I thought it was quite luxurious and a worthy splurge!
The hotel is set in a dramatic location, with views of the spray from the Falls, the Victoria Falls Bridge and the Second Gorge from the main terrace. Truly stunning!!
If you have been reading my posts (and here it is again if you haven’t!), you know that Dan and I took a sunset cruise on the Zambezi River when we visited Victoria Falls. I found this tour to be extremely enjoyable, suitable for all ages and really a “must-do” when visiting Victoria Falls! The above picture was taken from the Sunset Cruise. The cloud/smoke in the background is water coming off the Falls!!
No need to book ahead of time. All accommodations in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, from hostels to the fanciest hotels, offer this tour, and you can generally book it the same day. It costs about $60 US a person. Wild Horizons, who did our transfer from the Livingstone Airport to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, seems to organize the Zambezi Sunset Cruise in Zimbabwe.
We purchased our tickets around noon for the Sunset Cruise later that evening. Around 4:00 p.m. a Wild Horizons tour bus picked us and several other tourists up to head to the “port.” The bus stopped at several other hotels to pick up guests. When we arrived at the “port,” which is not much more than a boat landing, we filed down to the dock and boarded one of several boats waiting in the water. Some boats are nicer than others, and which one you get is really based on luck.
Tourists have two options when visiting Victoria Falls, which is one of the Seven Wonders of the World: Zimbabwe or Zambia. The Falls straddle the border between the two countries, and the famous border is marked but the photogenic Victoria Falls Bridge!
Zimbabwe has historically been the tourist favorite, offering the best views of the Falls and the closest accommodations. In recent years, however, political turmoil and crazy-inflated currency have lead many tourists to visit the Falls from Zambia, rather than Zimbabwe. Dan and I decided to visit both sides and started our tour in Zimbabwe, and I much preferred to Zambia!
Old and new Zimbabwe ads! I just love travel ads!
The good news is that Zimbabwe is steadily returning as a tourist destination. The politics largely avoided Victoria Falls in an effort to keep tourist dollars flowing into the country, and Dan and I really saw no sign of it on our trip. The people were very friendly and we felt totally safe. The only lingering effect of the past troubles is Zimbabwe’s lack of currency. As of April 2015, Zimbabwe uses the US dollar.
Its no secret that Dan and I love craft beer, and I try to visit at least one craft brewery everywhere we go! When researching Cape Town, I came across the Super Cool Beer Tour and obviously had to sign up! We were able to sign up online for the afternoon tour, between about 1 and 6, on a Friday afternoon, our last afternoon in Cape Town, and what a fun afternoon it was!
The afternoon started with a personal pick-up at our hotel by Louwrens, the head guy, who was super cool, like the tour = )
The tour started with a drive through town to Newlands Brewery, which is now a main stream brewery (read: non-craft) run by SABMiller. It makes common South African and international beers.
While not craft brewery, Newlands Brewery is still a cool spot to visit. There is a lot of history here and the grounds are quite the production. We walked around a bit and saw some old cars and then moved into the tasting room for a tasting of about six beers, which included a wide variety of the “big beers” produced at the brewery such as Castle, Flying Fish (a shandy-type beer) and Pilsner Urquell. After, we got to select a pint of our choice to enjoy in the lovely outdoor beer garden! I went with the Castle Stout!
If you are in the Cape Town area, in addition to the Wine Tour, you absolutely must take a trip down the Cape peninsula to visit the villages and beaches on the way and the Cape of Good Hope!
There are several options for touring this area of Cape Town: self-drive, join a tour or take the Green Bus from Cape Town. We decided to take an arranged group tour, Day Tripper’s, because we did not have a car and the tour included stops at Hout Bay and Simon’s Town and a bike ride through Cape Point! If you are choosing between the 3, self-diriving gives you the most flexibility but requires advance planning, an arranged tour is the easiest but you are married to their schedule and the Green Bus is the most environment-friendly and is fairly easy, but time is very limited. Our tour with Day Trippers was only about $65 a person and well-worth it.
After an early pick-up at our hotel, the first stop was Hout Bay with an option to take a boat to “seal island” for $10 US.
Since we wanted to see the seals, we went directly to the boat for the 20 minute boat ride, which goes around Hout Bay and right up to Duiker Island (aka “seal island”). Duiker Island is really a tiny rock of land inhabited by tons of seals. To avoid confusion, there is another similar, but slightly larger, island in False Bay officially named Seal Island. No need to visit both! The scenery to the island is gorgeous!
Coming up on the island…the seals are so cute! Take your camera!
If you don’t take the boat ride, there is a craft market and several shops and restaurants in Hout Bay.
After the boat ride, we grabbed some coffee and moved on to Simon’s Town to see the Penguin Colony at Boulder’s Beach! To get to Boulder’s Beach, you walk straight through Simon’s Town and pay a small fee for entrance into the park.
In addition to the penguins, Simon’s Town is a cute little town and would make a good lunch stop.
After the penguins, we drove to Cape Point Nature Reserve, which is the very bottom of the Cape peninsula and leads to to the Cape of Good Hope. Our tour, Day Tripper’s, incorporates bicycling into all of its tours, so we stopped as soon as we entered the reserve and cycled about 5km to our lunch spot, which was a basic picnic…the lunch could have been better.
Did I mention, the Cape Point Reserve is ABSOLUTELY GORGEOUS. Gorgeous scenery was a theme on this tour.
Below are the bikes and me on the bike! It wasn’t as hard as it looked…
We also saw some wildlife, including baboons up close and personal and ostrich! Actually, the baboons can be aggressive if you have food, visible water bottles or are carrying a large woman’s tote bag (they know they contain food). Be careful – they are quite large and have really big teeth! They did not bother us and there are park employees monitoring their location to ensure they leave the tourists alone. But, if you see a traffic jam, it is probably due to baboons!
After lunch, we cycled another 12 km down to the Cape of Good Hope!!
After an obligatory photo-op, we did the hike from the Cape of Good Hope up to the Cape Point Lighthouse. The hike is not exactly easy, but it wasn’t difficult either. It is one of the most gorgeous landscapes I have ever seen and you do not want to miss out on this hike. Definitely wear proper shoes.
Once we made it to the Lighthouse area, there are a few shops and the Two Oceans’ Restaurant, We didn’t eat there, but it looked really good! Definitely go up to the light house, which offers gorgeous views of False Bay (shark diving is there) and the meeting of the Atlantic and Indian oceans. If you have mobility issues, note that you can drive directly to the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point Lighthouse. There is a small funicular that takes passengers from the restaurant/shop area to the Lighthouse.