Zambia (2): Day Ten : Old Mondoro to Livingstone & Victoria Falls
We were somewhat late in setting off from Old Mondoro to the airstrip for our flight back to Lusaka, and therefore took off on a high speed dash through the bush to get there in time. After the extremely leisurely pace set on game drives this was quite an experience, especially on the bumpy game tracks that most of the journey depended upon. Leaving Jack Gartside in Lusaka, the rest of us then transferred onto a flight into Livingstone. If you are lucky, on a light aircraft flight, you may be able to persuade the pilot to take a detour over the Falls, before coming in to land. On arrival there we headed for the Zambezi Sun Hotel.
This 212-room hotel features adobe-style architecture with simple finishes highlighting bright mosaics and fabrics, and the intoxicating environment is characterised by ethnic wall stencils, timber and plaster ceilings, Zambian artworks and accessories. It is constructed in a series of eight buildings, consisting of the guest rooms, a central pavilion of restaurants and a fabulous convention centre. Bizarrely, and as can be seen from the accompanying photograph (), the hotel grounds are full of, fairly tame, wildlife, such as zebra, vervet monkeys and the like, circulating among some very modern sculptures.
Closer to the hotel itself can be found numerous baboons (), one of which we once observed standing on a room terrace, with its legs braced, attempting to open the doors leading from the bedroom onto the terrace. If it had succeeded one dreads to think what would have happened to the guests’ belongings.
Immediately on arrival we were greeted by a sort of Zulu dance (), which we found somewhat strange (for Zambia), but were assured that there was a historical reason why this was authentic (but which we promptly forgot). In the hotel grounds is a splendid pool, which is actively used by the hotel’s largely family-oriented clientele (). You might think that a hotel like this would be a strange experience after days spent in small bush camps (as indeed it is), but its main claim to fame is that it is only a 10 minute walk from the iconic Victoria Falls, entirely through the hotel’s own grounds. No need to book a guided tour, you just stroll down whenever it takes your fancy.
After a hurried lunch this is exactly what we did, and it was a truly mind-blowing experience. Nothing can prepare you for the sheer magnificence of the Falls (), and on my first visit I declared that I could get back on the plane and return to the UK that day, without feeling that the trip had been a waste of time.
On this occasion the Falls weren’t quite at their most tumultuous (when you can in fact hardly see the cliffs for spray, and simply get soaked () while viewing them), which probably gave us a better viewing experience - but in stark contrast to the lack of falling water much later in the season ().
We issue our guests with a brief guide to viewing the Falls, and the associated area, including a walk over the famous Knife Edge Bridge, which parallels the Falls, giving an unrivalled view (), and, at the right time of day, some remarkable rainbows, due to the interaction with the spray. You can also take a path down by the side of the gorge below the Falls, to what is known as the ‘Boiling Pot’, where the Falls descend into the river below in a maelstrom of activity ().
The other part of the experience involves taking a walk through the market close to the public entrance to the Falls area, and walking along the road bridge (seen above) that separates Zambia from Zimbabwe. It is from here that the renowned Victoria Falls bungee jump takes place ().
After such an experience anything else might seem an anticlimax. But a further treat was in store in the early evening, when we took the classic sundowner cruise on the ‘African Queen’ steamer () that operates out of here (together with her sister ship, The African Princess). There was plenty else to see on the trip, besides being wined and dined, including hippos () and crocodile (). Finally we then managed to capture this classic shot of an Egyptian goose ().
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