Welcome back to chapter 4 of our epic wild camping overland adventures through Africa with Acacia Africa! Last week we explored Malawi, enjoying the beautiful lake, getting to know locals and learning how to play the Bao game. We also had the wildest beach party ever! This week we head to Zambia, the African capital of extreme outdoors activities and home of adrenaline junkies!
We travel south from Malawi to Livingstone in Zambia where we set up camp at the Victoria Falls Waterfront campsite on the banks of the Zambezi River, just a few kilometres from the incredible Victoria Falls. The falls are 108m high and 1708m wide. It is not the widest nor the highest waterfall in the world but it is the ‘largest’ due to having the largest sheet of falling water. It is one of the 7 natural wonders of the world along with the Aurora Borealis, the Harbour of Rio de Janeiro, the Grand Canyon, the Great barrier Reef, Mount Everest and Paricutin. The falls sit on the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe. If you cross the Victoria Falls bridge you can venture into Zimbabwe, once you’ve got a visa and paid for entry, something a few people on our tour chose to do for the day. In Zimbabwe you can visit the Victoria Falls rainforest, the only place in the world where it rains every single day of the year!
We spent several days in Livingstone where we had the opportunity to get involved in many exhilarating outdoor activities, but first, we head to the magnificent Victoria Falls. The spray from the falls can be seen from up to 20 or 30 kilometres away, hence the local name Mosi oa Tunya, the ‘Smoke that Thunders’. The English name was given to the falls by David Livingstone, explorer and missionary in Africa, naming it after Queen Victoria of England. Make sure you have a waterproof jacket and/or back pack for your camera. I wasn’t well prepared having forgotten everything on the truck! I had to rely on Sarah to get photos and got completely soaked. It wasn’t a problem though as it was a beautifully sunny day so I dried off pretty quick once we’d left the falls. We walked to the top of the falls where you can swim in the waters up to the edge of the waterfall when water levels are low enough (between September-December). The falls have an ever-present double rainbow but they also create ‘moonbows’, a phenomenon that only happens in 2 places on the planet, here and at the Cumberland falls near Corbin, Kentucky, USA. A moonbow is created when the moon’s light is reflected and refracted off the waterfall’s spray.
Monkeys and baboons live at the falls, some of which were huge and I found terrifying! They are confident creatures strutting about making sure you know that they own the place. We were told not to look them directly in the eye as they take it as a sign of being challenged and will actually fight you! And they will probably win! Every now and then we would come across one walking down the path and I would leap to one side, turn my face away and hope it would just pass by in peace. I did see a couple cheeky monkeys trying to steal from people. One grabbed a girls camera and made off for the trees. Make sure any food is packed away safely in your bags as they will do all they can to take it from you.
Zambia, for me, was the African capital of outdoor activities. Adrenaline junkies you need to get there! On our first day we had the opportunity to do bungee jumping, zip lining and gorge swings. I very much enjoyed jumping to my near death over the Batoka Gorge! I look back at these pictures and think how brave I was. Since becoming a mother, I have gained a fear of heights and can’t even cope on a ferris wheel, let alone think about jumping off a cliff! My aim this year is to beat my fear of heights!! Any advice on how best to do this welcomed!!
Sarah opted out of these activities and instead chose to get involved in an elephant conservation programme and volunteering project where she helped paint a local school. Sarah absolutely loved her time doing both of those activities, particularly getting up close with the elephants and feeding them.
Our camp in Zambia was amazing with its own outdoor swimming pool where we spent long periods of time in the evenings pretending to be hippos. We invented lots of fun, animal related games during our travels through Africa (once you’re there you’ll understand!) There were cheeky monkeys all around our camp site too. We witnessed a very funny situation where a girl from our tour was trying to take photos of a group of them when they got pissed off with her and chased her! She had to dive into the pool to get away from them, ruining her camera. Don’t mess with the monkeys! You have been warned!
Once we’d recovered from the first day of thrilling activities, it was back for some more. This time I did a Microlight flight with Botaka Sky over the falls. This is known as the “flight of angels”, named as such due to David Livingstone having recorded in 1855 that witnessing the falls were “scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight”. Whilst waiting for our flight, Sarah and I went to the toilet. On exiting, there was an elephant stood right outside and we were told to stay in the toilet for safety as it was a male elephant who was getting defensive due to a man getting too close trying to get photos of it. Staff managed the situation calmly and we were soon free to safely leave the toilet. Another interesting experience you would never get in the UK! The microlight flight itself was terrifying and amazing at the same time. I was sat behind a man on what looked like a tiny motorbike with giant wings! We got a bit of turbulence and I held on so tight to my seat my knuckles turned white. As if that would save me if I was to suddenly plummet to my death. In any situation like this though I would tell myself if I did die, then at least I would die happy. I got the most incredible views and it is certainly the best way to see the spectacular and dramatic scenes of the falls and surrounding area!
Out of all the enthralling activities we did in Zambia, our full day white water rafting down the Zambezi river was by far the best! Tip- wear water shoes! You have to climb down the valley over rocks to get to the river side whilst carrying the raft and I did this barefoot and was cursing in pain all the way for not having brought any! What was to come was certainly worth the pain though! White water rafting on the Zambezi is considered to be one of the best in the world. It is a deep channelled, high volume river with class 3-5 rapids interspersed with calmer stretches. To experience it at its best, do it between mid-January-June for a ‘high water’ run. Rafts sometimes flip in the water and this was something I had been hoping for throughout the first stage of rapids. Be careful what you wish for though, as I was the only person to fall out of the raft on one of the more extreme rapids. It was a scary experience as I remember gasping for air and having the raft go over me. I was fine though and once we’d all gotten through the rapid the team rescued me! When we got to some of the calmer stretches we were all able to jump in and have a swim in the river. Our instructors were amazing, so professional and knowledgable. We spent the evening having some food and drinks with them afterwards and they told us they had to be trained to university level to teach on these rapids. They saved the horror stories for then too thankfully!
See that little head bobbing in the water, almost drowning? Yep, thats me! haha!!
Zambia was absolutely incredible and I highly recommend visiting especially if you’re into extreme outdoor activities. Once our time there was over, we headed to Botswana, our penultimate country, where we go on a bushman’s walk (walking safari) and have a close encounter with some hippos during our water safari.
Check out the rest of the blogs in the series:
Chapter 1– Kenya safaris and the circle of life
Chapter 2– Safaris in the Serengeti, the Ngorongoro Crater and reflectioning on Zanzibar’s dark history
Chapter 3– Going wild at Lake Malawi!
Chapter 5– Exploring the Okavango Delta and the importance of sustainable travel
Chapter 6- Coming soon!
If you’re interested in booking this or a similar trip with Acacia Africa, check out their web page here.