Zimbabwe 2019

Victoria Falls

We planned this trip because we were invited to a wedding on the island of Mauritius. Our travels would take us through Johannesburg, and it seemed like a great time to see some of southern Africa. So we started in Victoria Falls. The waterfall ebbs and flows over the course of the year. By the end of the rainy season, roughly April and May, the Zambezi River is a raging torrent. At that time of year the waterfall is over a mile wide! We were here in mid-November though, near the end of the dry season, and by then the waterfall shrinks to a width of just a few hundred yards.

The Zambezi marks the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe, so in the pictures below we're standing in Zimbabwe looking across into Zambia. One of the advantages of seeing the falls at low ebb is that you can actually take pictures. When the river is at full roar, the spray makes it hard to keep anything dry and visibility is limited. Another plus is that you can access the "Devil's Pool". At the edge of the falls there's a spot in the rocks that resembles an oversize hot tub. It's a natural pool about 25 feet across, and it's right on the lip of a 300' drop. At high water you couldn't reach it, and you'd be swept over the edge even if you could. But when the water level is lower, guides on the Zambia side show people how to walk to the pool. Apparently it's not as dangerous as it looks.

The photos below begin with an aerial view, the Devil's Pool is in the yellow diamond. Then you see people walking to the pool, and finally there's a side view. Look closely at the side view, the people in the previous pictures are in this picture also, but they're fly-specks compared to the drop off!

Vic Falls - aerial view Vic Falls - climbing into Devils Pool Vic Falls - Devils Pool Vic Falls - side view

The last picture of the falls shows a dry cliff. When the river is high that entire cliff is hidden by the waterfall.

Vic Falls - dry cliff

There's an "Elephant Interaction" offered at a nearby elephant sanctuary. The elephants in the sanctuary are fairly wild. They roam freely, including into an adjacent national park. But 4-5 elephants have become habituated to allowing visitors to approach them. It's a basic reward system. We get to stand next to them for a few minutes, and then we feed them something that looks like dog food kibble. The minute the kibble was gone, the elephants wandered away.

By the way, notice the vegetation in the elephant sanctuary. It looked just about dead. The ranger assured us that as soon as the rains returned, the trees would bloom and grass would soon be knee deep.

Elephant encounter TC Elephant encounter CC Elephant encounter family

We stayed at the Batonka Guest Lodge which was delightful. The staff was super friendly and it was a great place to relax after the long flight from New York. Here's the breakfast scene.

Batonka breakfast

On an unrelated note, our flight from Johannesburg landed in Livingston, Zambia, and our accommodations were in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. They're pretty close as the crow flys, but it took about 45 minutes by car. It was interesting to see a little bit of Zambia and then a little bit of Zimbabwe, and the border crossing was a lot to take in, (it felt like we were in a movie). Zambia seemed poorer and less developed than Zimbabwe, and the que of trucks at the border was huge. We were told a driver might lose a week waiting in line on each side. As we rolled down the lines of trucks, drivers were standing around, cooking over open fires, sleeping under tarps, and generally killing time.

Border que Created by
Terry Culhane
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