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!
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.
Hello! After a far-too-long hiatus, wareontheglobe is back! The postings fell behind due to a two-week vacation to Southern Africa and preparations leading up to it (i.e. clearing my plate at my paying job for the trip!).
As you may have gathered, Dan and I took two weeks and traveled to South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe earlier this month. We took this trip as an early 30th birthday celebration for Dan. What a treat, and so worth it!! I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the entire trip was amazing! I will be posting a lot about our trip, as so many people have already asked for information about it and how feasible such a trip would be for them. While waiting for the more detailed posts, here is a sneak peak to tide you over!
For starters, we flew direct from JFK to Johannesburg, South Africa (JNB or “Jo’burg” as everyone calls it) with South African Airways on a 14.5 hour flight (yes, that was a ridiculously long flight) and then transferred to Cape Town for six lovely days!
Cape Town is a BEAUTIFUL city right on the Southwestern tip of the continent. We sampled delicious, delicious wines in Stellenbosch, hiked around the Cape of Good Hope, bronzed on the beach (as Dan says), saw the famous penguins and took a boat to Robben Island to see where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned. Our time in Cape Town was amazing and while we stayed six nights, one with limited time could do the highlights in just a few days. Here are some of my favorites – full post to follow:
After Cape Town, we flew back to Jo’burg (1.5 hours or so) and then transferred to Livingstone, Zambia (another 1.5 hours) to see Victoria Falls for three nights! We split our time between the Zimbabwe and Zambia sides of Victoria Falls (or “Vic Falls” as the locals call it) Another wonderful experience, but a bit of an effort to reach, requiring a connection in JNB each way. If you want to visit Victoria Falls, you need to stay AT LEAST two nights and I would recommend longer. There are many activities to do aside from the Falls, including elephant-back safaris, helicopter rides, a walk on the edge of the falls, day trips to Botswana to see the game reserves there, rhino walks, and any dare devil activity you can imagine! Here are a few highlights from our trip – a view of the falls from a helicopter and the Botoka Gorge just beyond the falls. Another full post to follow!
After Victoria Falls, we flew back to Jo’burg, spent a night there at the lovely Bath on 54 hotel and dined on a 10-course tasting menu at Cube Tasting Kitchen. I’ll have to come back to JNB to see the city! Here is a shot of the hotel pool with Jo’burg in the background from our room.
We saved the best for last, ending our trip with a safari near Kruger Park, South Africa. We stayed at the luxurious Vuyani Lodge and saw lots of zebra, giraffes, elephants, monkeys and even two cheetahs! I will be positing more about the safari but here are a few shots! We were so close to the animals!
In short, this was SUCH A FUN TRIP!!! And it was not nearly as difficult to plan and execute as I had imagined! Totally doable! While we took a long, leisurely two weeks, you can do this trip on a shorter time-frame. For example, Cape Town and a safari can be done on 10 days and one or the other could be done in a single week as long as you don’t mind the long flight! Prices were way more reasonable than I expected and everyone spoke English.