What a day. I woke up early in the morning to head down to the Lusaka Airport. I had researched all of my options for getting down to Livingstone (400km south), and it seemed like almost everyone takes a 7 hour bus that costs about $18. However, Proflight – a sketchy local airline also flies to Livingstone. Their prices are normally about $200 one-way, but I saw on their website that they have $50 standby specials – score! I checked online to see that they had extra tickets leftover for my morning flight and arrived at the airport. Thankfully, flying standby worked. There were no problems and I was able to board an 18-seat Jetstream 32 down to Livingstone for a pleasant 1hr flight! It turned out to be not very sketchy!
When I arrived in Livingstone, I was picked up at the airport by Richard Chanter, the owner and manager of Chanters Lodge. This was another place that I had researched online. Richard was a General Manager of a hotel in Lusaka before moving down to Livingstone in the late 1990s and buying property for a small lodge. At that time, all of the Victoria Falls tourism was on the Zimbabwe side and tourism on the Zambian side was slow. However, in the early 2000s, thanks to Mugabe’s “welcoming” policies, the tourism quickly migrated over to Zambia. Now, at least one new hotel is built on the Zambian side of Victoria Falls every single year! Since that time, Richard has expanded his property to accommodate more guests. Online, he is active on Twitter, and has a 95% excellent rating on TripAdvisor. My expectations were high, but they were certainly exceeded when I got here – I got an excellent room at a great price with spectacular service in Livingstone. Be sure to stay with Richard if you plan on heading down to Livingstone.
As we were driving to the lodge, Richard asked me what I would like to do during my stay, and we decided on two main activities: a day of adrenaline and seeing the falls on Wednesday, followed by an all-day Safari trip to Botswana on Thursday. I settled into my room, and then Chris, an entrepreneurial taxi driver / tour operator / personal concierge picked me up. Chris was my savior during this trip. Not only did he drive me around everywhere, but he also held onto all of my valuables while I was bungee jumping, he expertly filmed my entire bungee jump on my camera, and he showed me all the best value places to visit in town! To repay Chris for all of his help, I am actually giving him a short lesson on Income Statements and Cash-Flow on Friday morning, as he hopes to be able to grow his business later this year!
Chris took me to the Victoria Falls Bridge, which is shared by Zambia and Zimbabwe. For just $15 more than the cost of the Bungee Jump, I could also do a Zip-Line across the Falls, and then do a bridge-swing (I will explain what that is later). I was in – three adventures in one! My weight was taken (I might have been eating too generously on this trip!), and I was all suited up for the Zip-line. There was no turning back now.
I found the zip-line to be quiet tame in terms of intensity. Yes, you are hanging onto a rope, suspended over a giant valley, but without the free-fall aspect, it was actually quite nice and gentle. I certainly got a great look over the falls and it was all over in less than 30 seconds.
Next was my first-ever bungee jump. This jump is considered to be one of the most beautiful in the world, and at 111m is one of the highest natural jumps. I was suited up into a different type of harness. The primary method of connection is through my ankles, but there was also a back-up body harness in case the ankle support failed. I stood on the platform with my arms spread, my head up. The guide counted down from 5 and without hesitation, I propelled myself off the platform and dived into the river below! This was my first ever free-fall, and the first two seconds were extremely nerve-racking! There is literally nothing holding you back as you fall head-first, and then all of a sudden, the rope snaps up your ankles. From there, your body will oscillate up and down with the rope, until all of the energy is gone. After that, my body was spinning quite a bit, and it seemed like the beautiful rainbows by the falls were spinning along with it! After what seemed like minutes, a guide came down meet me, and after grabbing onto him, we both climbed back up to the lower platform. It was intense! There are no photos of my jump, but like I said, my friend Chris took an excellent 6-minute video of the entire process. Unfortunately, the file is simply too big to upload until I have a high-speed internet connection in Canada.
I wasn’t done yet, next up was the Bridge Swing, which was even scarier than the Bungee. After giving you a new harness, in the Bridge Swing, you actually step-off the platform and again go into free-fall. After two seconds, the rope catches you and you will begin to swing forward and back, perpendicular to the bridge. I found the stepping-off much scarier than the dive for the bungee – particularly because the swing experience seems to be more reminiscent of how a suicide jumper would do it! Once you started swinging, it was easier to get a good look around, because you were sitting semi-upright as opposed to hanging down vertically. All in all, it was a great experience and I would definitely go Bungee Jumping again!
I picked up my valuables from Chris, and he took me down to the front gate for Victoria Falls Park. I paid my admission and proceeded to get up close to the Falls. Having seen Niagara, I believe that Victoria Falls is much more impressive. Since this was the very end of the rainy-season in Zambia, I saw the Falls with more water coming down than at any other time during the year. As a result, there was an incredible amount of mist that was coming up. Most times that you looked at the Falls, you couldn’t even see the Falls itself – just the mist! The park is set-up so that you walk along a path, and then at 15 or some points, you step off from the path and you have a clear look at the Falls. When you stepped out onto these lookouts, the force of the mist was similar to standing in the heaviest pouring rain that you have ever been in! I would wait for the mist to clear for just a second so that I could get a good picture in, before getting drenched again one second later. Thankfully, I rented out a poncho that helped keep my valuables dry – other visitors were even smarter than me as they arrived to see the Falls wearing only their bathing suit!
After taking lots of great pictures, on the suggestion of Chris, I went to have lunch at the Zambezi Hotel, one of two elite resorts immediately next to the Falls. The Zambezi and Royal Livingstone are four and five star hotels respectively, but Chris told me to go to this amazing empty lounge where I got a terrific meal for less than $10! I checked the room prices for the two huge hotels – both start at $400 per night! After lunch, Chris took me again to the Livingstone Museum, which was actually surprisingly good. I saw exhibits on David Livingstone (the British Explorer who was the first white man to enter Zambia and the first one to see Victoria Falls), the history of Zambia, and the history of man in Africa. At the museum, I met Alexa, a 21-year old from New Zealand who was in Livingstone for the past month, teaching and helping set up a social enterprise. I ended up spending the rest of the afternoon with her wandering around town, before returning to my room at Chanters.
In the evening, I went out with Alexa, her friend Bri, and her boyfriend Alex (yes, there were two Alex’s and one Alexa in our group of four). First, we went to a bar to see the second half of the Bayern Munich / Lyon UEFA Cup game, and then we went to another bar that had some live music. I got back to Chanters just before midnight and quickly fell asleep – exhausted from my adrenaline filled day excited for the next day’s safari!
Click here for the new photo album. Photos 1-41 are from the adventures in this post. Click here for the previous photo album from the first part of my trip.