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Cape Town
Cape Town
04.18.13

The untamed, exotic landscape of Africa calls both romantics and adventurers. Flowing savannas, shifting sands, great rivers, rolling hills and captivating baobab trees provide the backdrop for an incredible concentration of wildlife. Join us as we explore Zimbabwe, Victoria Falls and the unparalleled thrills of safaris.

TravelSmith thanks Global Sojourns for their invaluable help in preparing this Inside Track. Visit Global Sojourns when you’re ready to plan the travel adventure of a lifetime.

Victoria Falls & Livingstone – Take Flight over the Falls

Victoria Fall from the Air

One of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World, Victoria Falls spans the Zimbabwe (Zim) and Zambia (Zam) border, which is marked by the mighty Zambezi River. The remarkable gridiron Victoria Falls Bridge connects the two countries and provides stunning views of the falls. Pathways and overlooks provide nature lovers with up-close opportunities to admire the falls and the flora. Bungee jumping, a bridge swing, zip-lining and whitewater rafting keep adventurers busy. Bridge tours and sunset cruises are also available, but helicopter tours are the best way to see these magnificent waterfalls. Offering fantastic views from above, the 13-minute and 25-minute flights provide unequaled photo opportunities. On the Zambian side, you can also try microlighting—flying in a miniature aircraft. With room for only the pilot and one passenger, these small planes have an open cockpit that guarantees an unforgettable thrill. Choose a morning flight for the best weather.

Victoria Falls – A Lunar Pot of Gold

Victoria Falls Rainbow

In addition to its cascading water plumes, Victoria Falls provides further natural wonder with its dazzling rainbows. These colorful marvels stretch across the plumes and walking paths in a grand array of shapes and sizes (some even form a perfect circle). But these divine splendors don’t just glimmer by day. Those who visit during the three days surrounding the full moon from April to July are treated to moonbows—lunar rainbows caused by the moon glowing through the spray of the falls. Since Victoria Falls is one of the only places in the world to see moonbows, it’s worth the effort to time your trip around this phenomenon. The park stays open late during this three-day period. Take a flashlight and go with a guide who will take you through the rainforest to witness this amazing spectacle. Wear raingear to stay dry—check out our large selection of travel raincoats, and boots, umbrellas and ponchos.

Victoria Falls (Zim) & Livingstone (Zam) –
Happy Hour in Africa

Victoria Falls Safari Lodge

In southern Africa, it’s customary to have a drink at sunset, known locally as a “sundowner.” Watch the brilliant sun sink into the vast horizon with either a nice South African wine or a classic gin and tonic. Even if you aren’t staying at the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge (on the Zimbabwe side of the falls), you can have a drink there. Set on a high plateau facing westward, this luxury lodge has unimpeded views of the bush. The Buffalo Bar features a game-viewing platform that overlooks a waterhole so you can watch native elephants, water buffalo and kudu have their own sundowners. You may just be enticed to stay for dinner at the lovely open-sided MaKuwa-Kuwa restaurant. The Royal Livingstone (on the Zambian side) is another great option for sundowners. Head out to the Sundeck to enjoy five-star views of the nearby falls.

Victoria Falls (Zim) – Colonial High Tea & Cocktails

Rinnpon Lea house & Gardens

The area’s colonial grand dame, the Victoria Falls Hotel evokes early 20th-century Africa in all its glory. Featuring magnificent views from the terrace, the hotel serves a variety of refreshments and libations. Tea is served between 3 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. It’s open to the public and does not require reservations. Nibble on finger sandwiches, buttered scones and sweet delights from the amazing cake-stand tower while gazing at the railway bridge and mist of the falls. For a post-tea stroll, take the private hotel path to the entrance gate of the falls—just 10 minutes away. On the way back, why not have a cocktail at the hotel bar? Or come back again for a meal? The contemporary seven-course tasting menu at the Livingstone Room restaurant is a fantastic value in a grand setting that shouldn’t be missed.

Victoria Falls (Zim) – Experience the Bush without Venturing Far from Civilization

Zambezi

Most tented camps and lodges are located 20–30 minutes from the falls, farther along the Zambezi River on the Zambian side. If you don’t want to leave creature comforts too far behind, lodges offer more enclosed structures than the camps and come with amenities similar to resorts. Built in 2012 inside the nearby Zambezi National Park, the eco-friendly Zambezi Crescent – Victoria Falls River Lodge offers luxury tented chalets with sophisticated décor, tubs, indoor/outdoor showers, living areas and private decks overlooking the river. Guests have access to fine riverside dining, a swimming pool, a tree-house observation deck and kids’ activities, while onsite game drives and private bush walks provide adventure. Experience the romance of Africa on guided sunset river cruises that return at twilight. All this is just a 10-minute drive from town. If you’re concerned the proximity may interfere with a real wildlife experience, fear not. Since the lodge isn’t fenced, don’t be surprised to find elephants grazing right at your doorstep. Sit by a roaring fire at night and listen to the distant calls of hippos and hyenas.

Victoria Falls (Zim) & Livingstone (Zam) –
Dine Out Instead of In

If you eat every meal at your hotel, you’ll miss out on some of the great local restaurants on both sides of the falls:

  • The Boma (Victoria Falls): This restaurant is definitely touristy, but it’s also a lot of fun. A grand buffet of African specialties like crocodile, kudu, zebra and deep-fried mopane worms (a staple in rural areas) accompanied by drumming and dancing make this a worthwhile experience.
  • In Da Belly (Victoria Falls): Named after a native tribe called the Ndebele, this casual locale is nothing fancy—in fact, it’s in a campsite—but it offers good food for the best value, right in the center of town. Under a thatched roof overlooking a pool, you can dine on warthog schnitzel, impala, crocodile, vegetarian fare or fish and chips. You can also enjoy an old-fashioned burger and a beer. Relax and enjoy the occasional drumming and dancing at dinner.
  • Zigzag Coffee House (Livingstone): As part of a B&B, Zigzag knows how to do breakfasts. They brew fresh espresso, cappuccino and good coffee—a local rarity—from real Zambian beans. They also prepare healthy lunches and dinners at reasonable prices. Drop in for a meal or a decent cup of joe on the way to/from Victoria Falls.

Livingstone – Travel Back in Time

There’s more to Victoria Falls than just seeing waterfalls. Take a ride on the Royal Livingstone Express Dinner Train to relive the romantic yesteryear of rail travel. After a red-carpet welcome, the classic steam train departs the Livingstone station and journeys through Dambwa, a high-density neighborhood, where smiling children run alongside the tracks waving and shouting. Continuing through the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park, the train offers occasional views of warthogs, elephants, baboons, impala, giraffes, water buffalo and rhinos. Stand on the veranda viewing deck in the observation car and sip on a sundowner, or relax in the comfort of a plush, air-conditioned lounge car. Later, you’ll enjoy a five-course meal on fine china. Gazing out on the African bush and the immense skies, you’ll know it doesn’t get much better than this.

Livingstone Island, Zambia – The Devil’s Armchair

Situated directly in the crest of colossal Victoria Falls, Livingstone Island is a landform marvel perched atop a 338-foot drop. You can visit this tiny island by motorboat when the Zambezi River water levels are safe (usually July to early March). Stand in shallow water inches from the falls’ edge or swim in Devil’s Pool, just a few feet from where the water gushes over the lip of the falls. Visitors can lean over the rim confidently, thanks to a natural rock wall that prevents them from being swept over the falls. To get there, use a reputable company with responsible guides (ask for suggestions at your hotel or lodge). Excursions to the island are limited to 60 people a day, 16 at a time. Guided tours come with breakfast, a picnic lunch or afternoon tea. Water levels dictate when it’s safe to swim in Devil’s Pool—usually from the end of August to December. In the winter months (June to August), wear warmer clothing for cold, windy conditions. We’ve got a great selection to keep you covered.

Hwange National Park – Camping on the African Plains

Hwange

Getting out into the bush to experience the wilds of Africa is one of the world’s finest travel experiences, but it doesn’t mean you have to rough it. Tented camps come with lounges, dining areas and private “tents” outfitted with stylish furnishings, beds, running water and toilets. Although perhaps less glamorous than others, Davison’s Camp shines as a no-nonsense classic. Located in a plum wildlife area in a secluded corner of Hwange National Park south of Victoria Falls, Davison’s treats its guests to a first-rate safari experience. Nine tents are nicely appointed and well spaced, while a warm and highly attentive staff caters to your every need. Gaze out from your porch on an oasis filled with elephants, baboons and zebras feeding at the waterhole, and experience a thrill when one of the animals wanders right up to your tent. Expert guides will lead you out into the grasslands on guided walks or in open 4x4 vehicles to track antelope, baboons, wild dogs, giraffes, wildebeests, cheetahs, lions and their cubs. In the evenings, retire with other guests to a fabulous dinner to recount your adventures by candlelight. Learn to identify southern constellations around the firepit and listen to the calls of the wild under the wide African sky.

Mana Pools National Park – Explore by Foot or Canoe

Kariba

One of the least developed national parks in Southern Africa, Mana Pools at the far north of Zimbabwe is known for walking and canoe safaris. During Africa’s winter (June to August), it’s home to the highest concentration of game on the continent. Massive herds of buffalo and elephants come to find water at the end of the dry season (August to October) along the banks of the Zambezi. You’ll also spot impala, lions and hyenas, not to mention crocs and hippos. Take a four-day walking excursion with Garth Thompson, one of Africa’s best-known guides and stay in camps like Ruckomechi and Chikwenya. You can also paddle a canoe down the Zambezi River on the Mana Canoe Trail to get even closer to the herds. Glide past grunting hippos, grazing impalas and twittering birds. Break for lunch and a nap, or a guided walk. After a glorious sunset and dinner at your camp, retire to your tent in a very unique safari setting.

Offered by a myriad of operators, canoe safaris last anywhere from 3–10 days and cover different stretches of the Zambezi River, from Kariba Dam downstream past Mana Pools to Kanyemba near the Mozambique border. These adventures range from basic camping to high-end tents with cots and mattresses.

Lake Kariba – Thatched Roof Living on a Big 5 Crossing

Those in search of life outside the tourist strongholds can head northeast from Victoria Falls along the Zambezi River to Lake Kariba. This massive manmade lake stretches 140 miles along the Zambia-Zimbabwe border, its dam providing hydroelectric power for both countries. Popular for sport fishing and houseboat rentals, it also borders Matusadona National Park, domain of the African Big Five: elephant, lion, leopard, water buffalo and the endangered black rhino. Hippos, warthogs and crocs also call the area home. Accessible only by motorboat, the small family-run Rhino Safari Camp is a remote gem edging the lake. Get away from it all in one of seven stilted thatched-roof huts. Without electricity, you can commune with nature in open-air showers and open-sided rooms lit only by kerosene lamps. The comfortable beds, hot showers, superb meals and sundowners are the only pieces of civilization you’ll need. Watch lions and elephants roam through camp and witness spectacular sunrises and sunsets from your elevated vantage point. During the day, explore the terrain on guided walks or game drives tracking rhinos and lions. You can also get on a boat and angle for the toothy Tiger Fish—Africa’s fierce predatory game fish.

Matobo National Park – A Spiritual Experience

In addition to providing refuge for a significant population of black eagles, leopards, white rhinos and endangered black rhinos, Matobo National Park in southern Zimbabwe also boasts southern Africa’s highest concentration of rock art. As a result, it received the distinction of a World Heritage Site in 2003. Some 700 sites contain over 20,000 rock paintings from the indigenous San (bushmen), dating back 13,000 years. Christened Matobo (meaning “bald heads”) by the Ndebele tribal king buried here in 1868, the park and its hills also showcase fantastic granite scenery and boulder outcrops in fascinating dome, spiral and building-block formations that seem to defy gravity.

Ready to Go?

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