As our journey progresses northwards there is a noticeable decline in the quality of internet. I have spent numerous frustrating hours sitting close to a wi-fi router willing my posts to upload to no avail. I have kept on top of writing due to the long truck journeys, but I am at the mercy of the availability of internet. My apologies!
We met for breakfast with our new group bright and early to make our way towards Bostswana. There were several other trucks heading the same way so our guide wanted to make sure we were there ahead of the others. Unlike our last group who instantly gelled and filled the bus with chatter, our new group was ominously quiet, even with the truck being set up better for socialization. Chris and I, and Michael and Tiana (the brother and sister duo from Auz from our last tour) snagged the 4 person card table allowing us to easily pass the drive by playing. We arrived to our destination in Botswana by midday, having encountered no issues at the border and managing to get all of our shopping done in the specified time limit at the grocery store stop. We had a quick lunch before some people headed out to Chobe National Park for a boat cruise game drive, while we stayed behind enjoying the pool and some relaxation. At 3 pm we met up with the people who had gone for the cruise and all headed back into Chobe for a sunset game drive in open landrovers. The park was beautiful, a more lush contrast compared to the other parks we had visited owing to the presence of the river. We spotted tons of elephants, giraffes, various antelope species, hippos and crocodiles. To our dismay many members of our new group gasped and proclaimed the name of whatever animal we came across, successfully scaring the animal away. They had been told by the guide before beginning the drive to be as quiet as possible as we approached the animals at close range, and despite the best efforts of a few other members of the group “shush’ing” these people they continued to make a racket any time we were close to an animal. It was very frustrating for those of us who were sitting quietly wanting the opportunity to snap pictures at close ranges. The other frustrating part of the drive was another landrover with a different ATC truck members kept getting stuck in the sand, necessitating retrieval by our vehicle. Our patience paid off as just as the sun was setting we found a group of young cub lions feeding on the kill of a buffalo. We were able to get alarmingly close to them as they intermittently played with each other and fed on the kill. It was a spectacular sight and we stayed for over half an hour observing them and snapping pictures. Big thanks to Tiana for the pictures with her amazing zoom!
We then quickly began to head towards our campsite for the evening; a bush campsite within the park without any type of facilities except a makeshift loo. There were no fences, nothing to stop the animals from paying us a visit. Our tents had been assembled for us and an inviting fire welcomed us to the campsite. Our chef had gone ahead to the campsite and prepared us a delicious spaghetti bolognase. We enjoyed our dinner at the stories of the guide who was spending the night in the bush with us. We [finally] introduced ourselves, having gone two days without any formal introduction process. It was a very early and action packed day so it didn’t take long for the group to retire to bed. The stars were spectacular, viewing was even clearer than when we were in Namibia. Once in our tents for the night we were strongly encouraged to not get out of them as there was a high probability there would be animals passing by the camp. We were lulled to sleep by the sounds of various animals, the reality of the fact we were in the bush with no fences passing through our minds in an almost dreamlike fashion.
It was a very early start the next morning for a sunrise game drive on our way out of the park. It was absolutely freezing; the wind whipped our faces in an unrelenting way. I will be honest, we saw almost nothing on the drive, the most excitement came with the whisperings of a leopard in a bush. The only thing we could see was a shadow moving within the bush, it very easily could have been a warthog for all we could discern.
We ended our game drive and quickly boarded the truck to head to Livingstone, Zambia. We were lucky at the border and cleared it in no time. We made it to Livingstone, had a quick lunch and then Michael, Tiana, Chris and I headed to the Royal Livingstone Hotel where we were being picked up for our Angel Pools excursion. ATC strongly recommends against this activity as it is a “high risk” activity, but Brad and ‘Rel had done it and loved it so we went ahead and booked it. We arrived to the Roal Livingstone Hotel and were immediately impressed with the place. It has a perfect view of Livingstone Island and the mist from the falls. It overlooks the water that feeds the falls, and if you didn’t know the falls were a few hundred meters downstream you would think it was simply a calm body of water. We waited a few minutes until our boat arrived to pick us up. We hopped in and immediately the driver took off full speed ahead towards the falls. It was a little unnerving, but before we knew it we had pulled up to Livingstone Island. We disembarked onto the island and quickly made our way to the front of the island closest to the falls. We walked to the edge of the falls and one by one were taken to peer over the edge. I cannot express how magnificent this perspective of the falls was. People rave about the helicopter ride, which certainly would give you the perspective of the span of the falls, but standing on the edge looking over gave you the perspective of the magnitude of the falls. Our guide was fantastic and snapped hundreds of photos of us, all unprovoked. We first entered a small pool facing the curtain of water on the Zambian side for pictures before heading to the Actual Angels Pool which more faces the Zimbabwean side. We all linked hands and walked with trepidation along the edge until we finally entered the pool. We were literally mere inches from the edge, the current, although slight, still feeling dangerously strong considering the circumstances. The guide continued snapping pictures and taking videos as we waved to the dismayed visitors on the opposite side of the falls. One of the people waving comically signaled for us to dive off the edge, to which we signed for her to go first. It was surreal to gingerly peer over the edge, it gave a whole new understanding of the local name for the falls which translates to ‘The smoke that thunders.’ All three of us had a burst of adrenaline as we sat in the seemingly harmless pool. Before we knew it, it was time to link hands again and head back. We had signed up for the high tea visit so after our guide gave our feet a rinse from the mud [we felt like royalty] we were sat at a table overlooking the falls and brought gin and 7’s. The snacks came 15 minutes or so later and were very satisfactory. We were very lucky as it was only the 4 of us for the entire excursion, it was a welcomed respite from the rest of the group.
We caught our boat back to the hotel and decided to have a sundowner on their deck before heading back to the campsite. It was the perfect end to a highlight of our tour so far.
While waiting for our cab driver to pick us up we got chatting to one of the workers who drives a golf cart around the hotel, bringing guests to their various rooms. He offered to take us for a spin to see the presidential suite, which we happily accepted. The hotel is definitely impressive, and most definitely way outside of our current budget or any foreseeable future budget. As we were turning around to head back to reception he pointed out 2 giraffes feeding on the trees not even a meter from where we were. I highly recommend visiting Angels Pool, or at the very least going for sundowners at the Royal Livingstone Hotel!
The next day we headed out early to get to South Luangwa National Park. After a very long day in the truck [12 hours] we made it to the park and our campsite for the evening. Shortly after arriving we had an unexpected guest show up to our truck. As the cook and his helpers for the day were busy preparing dinner an elephant showed up, helping himself to generous portions of carrots and corn on the cob. It was absolutely hysterical to see him stuffing as much as he could as quickly as he could into his mouth while the workers hustled to grab their slingshots to scare him away. It was the quick thinking of our driver, Steve, who jumped in the cab and laid on the horn that got the elephant to charge away from our truck. Our cook was hardly phased, he laughed and continued on with his preparations. It just meant we needed an additional grocery shopping stop to restock what the elephant plundered.
The next morning we awoke early for a game drive in the park. Very early into our drive we spotted a lion protecting its kill on the shore of the river; a baby hippo. Several other lions could be spotted napping closeby.
We were keen to see a leopard as the parks habitat is perfect for them and our guide said it was more common to see the leopards in the park rather than the lions. Unfortunately our truck didn’t spot one, while the other truck were lucky enough to get a brief glimpse of one as it was chasing a potential meal. It was still a lovely drive and again the park was totally different than any of the parks we had been too, there were many more trees [this is the reason it is good leopard territory].
After our drive we backtracked a bit to a town that was closer to the border of Malawi, where we were heading the next day. Our guide was going for a jog and invited us to join him. Chris and I and 4 others from the group tagged along and were surprised that as we ran the local children, seeming to appear from no where, joined in step with us and ran the whole way with us. At one point two little girls grabbed my hands and we ran hand in hand for several hundred meters. It was a wonderful experience and made the jog much more worthwhile. After our jog we did some exercising before cleaning up for the birthday celebrations of one of the other guests. It was a pleasant evening, but did not compare to the fun we had with our first group!
The next day was yet another very early morning as the Malawian border is notorious for taking a long time. I will cover our adventures in Malawi in my next post!
*We booked our tour through African Overland Safaris, the Adventure Travel Division of Tshokwane Safaris, on behalf of Africa Travel Co. We experienced incredible customer service and were fully satisfied with the price we paid and the information we were provided about the tour. Find more information at: http://www.african-overland-safaris.com OR http://www.tshokwanesafaris.com.