I’m so excited about Africa because it is the zoo of the world and I love animals. So it was a no brainer that the Christmas gift to myself this year was to head there!
Stepping off the plane in JoBurg from
Hong Kong, I connected to Victoria falls Zimbabwe on South African airlines and it was short and easy. I stayed 4 nights at the wonderful Batonka lodge just slightly away from the main town but it was easy to get around because Batonka lodge has a taxi driver on call and also, most activities you book provide pick up and drop off.
I was greeted by wonderful Alice from the lodge upon arrival and was soon shown to my very spacious room. Alice recommended me to go to Victoria Falls safari lodge for the sunset and it didn’t disappoint. I went there for 3 nights and every night was different. I was so lucky to see a family of elephants and a giraffe on my first day at the watering hole and then a gorgeous lightning show on Christmas Day.
If you don’t want to eat in the lodge, Alice and a few locals also recommended 3 monkeys cafe, the lookout cafe, shearwater cafe and if you want local food, Mama Africa.
On my second day, I went to the Victoria falls and it was amazing. It was super hot and sunny and that’s why I got gorgeous rainbows everywhere I walked. In December to January, the falls is at 50% capacity and that’s why you can still walk around it and see the depths of the falls from the walk. When it’s full of water, you have to take a helicopter to see it from the top as the spray from the falls is too mighty.
Bring good sunscreen, a hat, your sunglasses and your camera. I wore slippers as I didn’t want to get my shoes wet. The walk is paved nicely so don’t worry about mud and it was rally way to walk as it’s flat all the way. The sun was also so strong that my went clothes and hat dried off from the sprays as I finished the walk. The falls is amazing as it is huge. It’s a bit smaller than Iguacu but because it was sunny, the rainbows made it so special. The whole guided tour ended around noon. You have the option to also go to Zambia after and dip yourself in Devil’s pool, where you can dip in the waters just before the Zambezi becomes the Falls.
If you don’t have activities booked in the afternoon, I recommend going to the lookout cafe just about 5 minutes drive away. I got my transport to drop me off here instead of the hotel and it didn’t disappoint. The view was amazing. This is also the place people zip line, swing and do other adventure activities from. The food was decent and the service was good. The next day, I heard that it had caught fire at 4am on Christmas Eve. There was a short circuit and the whole place was burnt down to ashes. I was so lucky to eat there whilst it’s open. I heard they would be rebuilding it so I hope by early 2019, you should be able to enjoy the views there while you have your meal.
In the evening, I went on the sundowner cruise with Ra-ikane. It was an open boat that’s mid size, not too small so crocs can get you and not too big so you don’t have to squeeze with too many people for photos. It was a great way to see the sunset and the Zambezi river as it comes with an open bar and snacks. Yes, alcohol and soft drinks and snacks all included. The Americans on the boat with me drank the bar dry hahahaha I only had a nice glass of red wine. We were lucky to see hippos, a croc, many birds and also, an amazing sunset that day. Towards the end of our cruise, we saw an elephant up close as well so that was a good day! You also have the option of a dinner cruise which ends around 8pm.
On day 3, I took a full day trip to Chobe National Park in Botswana. Just about 1 hour and you get to the border and the customs was quick and easy as Singaporeans don’t need a visa. Coming back was a different story as coming back to Zim many of my other van males needed a visa so it took a longer time.
We started off with a river cruise and that cruise had free flow of drinks, no alcohol, no snacks so if you didn’t have breakfast you should pack a snack.
The cruise was a 3 hour long one and it was a very hot day so we’re very lucky to see a lot of elephants, buffalos, hippos, impalas, antelopes and different types of birds. We were also very luck to see a kill, crocs have managed to catch a baby calf and was enjoying it in the waters. The guide with us had amazing eyesight so he literally spotted everything there was to see.
I got lunch at the hotel and thereafter, you ate whisked off to a safari in a 9 man 4×4.
The 4×4 drove us to Chobe National Park and we were now actually inland, driving along the river that we cruised along. OMG that was the most amazing thing so far as we saw almost 100 elephants and 10-15 giraffes, buffalos, impalas and birds. It was mating season so we also managed to see the elephants have fun. They’re have the closest emotions to humans and we could see a pair actually walking away from the herd to have a good time 🤣
Our guide joked that impalas are the McDonald’s of Africa, see if you can spot the M on their asses.
Being in Botswana was like being in a huge open zoo. I love animals so it’s so great to see so many of them in their natural habitat. The beautiful elephant babies are so cute that I think even if you don’t like animals, you would begin to when you come to Africa.
Oh! I also learnt one thing, that you can’t be skinny just eating greens. Hahaha
I haven’t managed to see the main carnivores yet as I’ve heard the lions and leopards only hunt in the early mornings and evenings. My guide says their paws are very sensitive to heat and they sleep 20 hours a day and so I’m counting on Sabi Sands to see them as I’ll be staying in the reserve whilst I’m there.
On my forth day in Victoria falls, I was thinking if I should sky dive or raft in the night Zambezi. I chose white water rafting as I’ve not done it before ever and apparently these would be the best rapids anywhere in the world.
I was very lucky to have Colgate as my guide from Wild Horizons. He joked that he’s 56 years old and had 6 wives. He worked at the Colorado river for 3 months and was training another Zim guide who was called Bruce and had muscles like him. We only flipped once under Colgate’s direction and expert eyes. It also helped that I had a nice Californian family with me and we had great team work. We were allowed to swim in the waters in between rapids when it got too hot. When we flipped on our last and biggest rapid called ‘Oblivion’, I saw Colgate flip the raft back on his own and I swear he was like Bruce Lee on water. I didn’t manage any photos as It’s impossible to have even an underwater camera with me. If you have a go pro, I’ll say bring at your own risk and mount on the helmet coz I remember when I flipped, I had the boat knock my helmet and I was oblivious to how I floated back up. oh, I had my very tight life jacket that Bruce tightened for everyone before we hit Oblivion. 🤣
If they tell you you don’t need to be fit to white water raft, they’re lying. In Victoria falls, you do because it take a lot of effort to paddle and also, the hike down the gorge and up you will need a lot of stamina and strength. I am still hurting from the climbing and the paddling. But it’s the most amazing thing you can do on Xmas day as you feel the mighty Zambezi river as you go through 19 rapids with names like the terminator, the mother (my favourite) and of course Oblivion! Apparently, your raft will be completely vertical to the waters at Oblivion and I guess that’s when we all fell out. Colgate called it the best rapids you can find in the world. The views from below is amazing too, in the parts you’re not paddling for your life.
Victoria falls is very safe, there is a small town where you can shop around and many cafes and restaurants. The only danger from walking around at night is that you may encounter wild animals so take the taxi at night to go back to your hotel if it’s not in town. I had Thulani as my driver from the lodge and I’m pretty sure there are many other drivers whichever lodge you stay at who could pick you up and drop you off.
I highly recommend Batonka as the people who run it are so friendly and amazing! Rooms are huge and they only built it in 2016 so it’s new too. I was so sad to write this as I’m leaving Vic Falls for Cape Town but I know a new adventure awaits. I will be back to Zimbabwe as I’ve heard Lake Kariba is amazing.
Till then Zimbabwe, you have been an awesome introduction to Africa.
Tip if you need a visa for Zimbabwe. Get the multiple entry visa if you intend to do the Chobe, Botswana day trip or swim the devils pools in Zambia. It’s cheaper that way and you skip the long queues on the way back to Zim. The airport queue was also rather crazy on the way in as well but I managed to breeze through it as I didn’t need a visa. So Singaporeans, you should put Zimbabwe on your list, just saying.
If you need a driver in Vic falls, Thulani has a 6 seater. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org