By Markus and Kate, from http://blog.africageographic.com

Last time we visited Victoria Falls we swam across the Zambezi River from Livingstone Island and sat right on the edge of the waterfall at Devil’s Pool. This time our stay at ‘the smoke that thunders’ was no less exciting.

We had a long drive down from South Luangwa, stopping for the night to pitch our tent just outside Lusaka. When we got to Livingstone we were worn out but looking forward to getting another glimpse of what the locals call Mosi-oa-Tunya, meaning ‘the smoke that thunders’. Few sights can compare to the famous falls and the water levels of the Zambezi were still high enough in June that we could see the column of mist all the way from town.

Some years back, we camped in Livingstone in September and Victoria Falls could barely be seen from the Zambian side. Things were a bit wetter this time around and we soon got soaked to the skin on the trails around the waterfall, despite our head-to-toe raingear and umbrellas. To get anywhere near the falls was a bit like walking through a particularly saturated raincloud, but the rainbows above the gorge soon made us forget our sodden state.

Despite the high water levels, we couldn’t resist taking another boat trip out to Livingstone Island. Once we set foot on this tiny piece of land that sits right on the lip of the long drop, the fast-flowing water made it clear that we wouldn’t be able to swim out to Devil’s Pool again. Instead, we walked barefoot around the spray-soaked island from where Scottish explorer Dr David Livingstone first laid eyes on Victoria Falls, posing for a picture on a slippery rock at the edge of the waterfall.

The most spectacular way to see ‘the smoke that thunders’ is from the air, so we hopped into a helicopter for a 15-minute scenic flight above the falls. This awe-inspiring experience offered by Livingstone’s Adventure gave us unforgettable views of one of world’s greatest natural wonders. As we circled above the falls, we could see the thundering rapids of Batoka Gorge and the Victoria Falls Bridge that spans the Zambezi River between Zambia and Zimbabwe.

To glide along the Zambezi River on a sunset cruise is a wonderful way to see the wildlife in the area surrounding the falls. From the boat, we saw elephants spraying themselves with water and a pod of hippos wallowing by the shoreline, waiting until dusk to climb out and graze on grass. Steering away from the massive Nile crocodiles basking in the fading light, we pulled ashore in time for sundowners and watched the vibrant Zambezi sunset with a drink in hand from the water’s edge.

We stayed in two Wilderness Safaris camps on the banks of the Zambezi that were completely different but equally amazing. The River Club oozed with old world charm and had us playing tennis and croquet and dressing up for dinner in the elegant 1940s homestead. Further downstream at Toka Leya Camp, we stuffed ourselves with wood-fired pizza and worked it off by walking back to our stylish safari tent, which was the farthest away but also had the best river views.

 

Both of the camps offer tours of the waterfalls on the Zambian side, game drives in Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park and river cruises, along with all of the other action-packed adventures to be found around the falls. The River Club supports an Elephant Chilli Pepper Project, where farmers from Simonga and other villages plant chilli to protect their crops. We got to visit one of these villages to meet some of the children, whose education is supported by Toka Leya Camp, while they ran around and played on the jungle gym.

After nearly a week in and around Livingstone, we packed our trusty Landcruiser once again and got ready to cross the bridge into Zimbabwe. As we drove towards the border, an elephant herd started crossing the road just outside town and an overly enthusiastic tourist ran up close with his camera. Luckily, some locals pulled the snap-happy holidaymaker to safety and when the elephants were gone we waved goodbye to Zambia and ventured across the mighty Zambezi.

For more information about Toka Leya Camp and The River Club visit: www.wilderness-safaris.com
To find out more about helicopter flights over the falls go to: www.livingstonesadventure.com
Tours of Livingstone Island: www.tongabezi.com

About Marcus & Kate
Marcus and Kate are a freelance writer/photographer team, contributing stories on travel, conservation and human interest from across east and southern Africa. They just completed a year in Kenya’s Masai Mara where they conducted a research project on wildlife tourism and community-based conservation, including working on projects such as Elephant Voices and Living with Lions. They are a Swedish-Australian couple with itchy feet and a love for Africa, adventure and discovery. Visit their website Life through a Lens or follow them on Facebook.
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