The fabulous Victoria Falls..... as you are driving from the airport there is a constant rumble in the far distance (almost like an aircraft or traffic on a distant highway) and what appears to be mist across the hills.... It is only as you approach the town of Vic Falls itself that you realise that the rumble is, in fact the Falls themselves, and the 'mist' is created by the spray. Amongst my most enduring memories of our visit are the sounds of Vic Falls - the roar of the water regularly punctuated by the sound of helicopters flying tourists over the gorge.....
One of the best things about Vic Falls is that it is, to all intents and purposes, a small town set down in the middle of a Game Park. The animals are free to come through the town and frequently, in the evening, driving along Zambezi Drive (which curves around the eastern side of the town) one can be halted by elephants, monkeys, buffalo and antelope crossing the road on their way down to the river to drink. Running alongside the Falls itself is a long, winding path where I caught this little bushbuck, grazing peacefully by one of the greatest natural sights in the world.
We called in at Gorges Lodge - just to have a look around and a cup of tea - and were so stunned by the views and the welcome that we deserted our self-catering chalet and stayed for two days! The following year (98) we went back to stay for a further 3 days. Our room is the first building in the distance on the right with the lighter thatched roof. With only a 3 foot patio between you and the 700 foot drop it is NOT the place for anyone suffering from vertigo! Watching the white-water rafters screaming their way down the gorge in the early afternoon was a daily treat!
At our chalet at Lokuthula Lodges we were joined each morning by a family of warthogs who came begging for breakfast titbits - despite the fact that we were frequently frying bacon! Quite confident around man, they could often be found rooting around the patio. The only problem with the chalet was that one whole wall was in fact a roll-up canvas which meant that we had to stay alert for animal intruders once we had 'opened up'! (Secured by ties in about six places, it was not something you could close in a hurry if a lion or cheetah suddenly decided to visit!)
This was the first time that we had ever seen elephants coming to swim in a river..... whilst we were travelling on a pontoon boat alongside. They were making their way to a favourite island in the middle of the river and seemed to really enjoy the water. As a large-sized, regular swimmer myself, I understand the attraction of suddenly finding myself weightless!
At present the jury is out on exactly what this is! It's from one of the tiny antelope groups that include dikdiks and duikers (but they are greyer in colour) and the suni. I am convinced it is a suni - but if anyone out there knows better - please email me! These little antelopes, less than 2 feet high, are usually quite shy and found in twos, as breeding pairs form very close bonds.
Not everything on the Chobe River is cuddly or cute.... We saw some of the biggest crocs we have ever seen during river trips at this lodge. The speed that crocs can move at, given a reason, is surprising. We have seen crocs being fed huge bones from lodge kitchens and the sound of those jaws, cracking straight through the largest ones in a single bite, is quite unnerving!
Hippos are amongst the most dangerous animals in Africa and have been known to inflict horrendous injuries on people who have annoyed them, with their huge and powerful bite. We once had a tent near a river and hippos would return to the water about four o'clock every morning after a night's grazing, making more noise than a gang of lager-louts after a night on the town!
In Kenya the Sable Antelope is only found Shimba Hills, which we never visited - so we were delighted to hear that there were many in Chobe - but could we find one? NO! Near the end of our visit we finally came across this fellow standing near the marsh... I've included it here - not because it is one of my best pictures - but because I waited SO long for it!
Rarely, even in the best lodges and camps, do rooms have a private swimming pool but at Chobe Lodge we were lucky to have this luxury in the African sun! I had a bad leg when we visited there but they pulled out all the stops to help me, including putting on a special pontoon boat for river trips, a landrover just to take me down to the waterside and a suite close to the main buildings. What more could anyone ask?
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