Now, you cannot visit Zambia without stopping by Victoria Falls, so after Chief’s Camp we retraced our steps via bush plane, boat, and car to Livingstone, Zambia to visit the falls. While Royal Chundu was a bit far from the falls to make the trip during our short stay, we couldn’t have been closer to action on our second visit to Zambia. We stayed at The Royal Livingstone, which is nestled on the banks of the Zambezi, a few hundred meters upstream with views the falls. The hotel is within Mosi-Oa-Tunya National Park, and we had been warned that we’d encounter wildlife on the property (and perhaps even wandering through the lobby!) So as we entered the gates to The Royal Livingstone, we had our eyes open. We wound down the curved entrance path, and almost immediately hit a traffic jam as two giraffes casually ate their lunch from surrounding trees while standing in the middle of the road!
Walking through the stately front doors, the colonial style estate opened up before us with guests lingering over lunch under the long veranda on our left and live jazz piano strains drifting in from the clubby lobby bar to our right. We had just settled into a sofa to check in when we heard a commotion and ran down the hall to see folks pulling out cameras to photograph a zebra walking through the front door. “They sure make themselves at home.” A member of staff whispered to me with a smile.
We decided to hang out and explore the property our first night. We enjoyed a massage in a pavilion down by the Zambezi (they set up a mirror beneath the head rest so you can watch the falls during your treatment!), then returned to our room to take showers, only to discover a zebra snacking right outside our screened in porch! All cleaned up we settled into The Travellers’ Bar for a drink before dinner. It’s the kind of bar where you half expect to turn around and see Winston Churchill sipping a G&T right behind you. (Apparently he had a habit of not paying his tab – I used to hang out at the Bangalore Club when I was living in India and they have his (many) unpaid bills framed in the lobby.)
Early the next morning, after the best breakfast we had in a long time, we set out along the riverside to find the entrance to Victoria Falls Park. Admission fees are included with our stay, so we went right inside. There are several paths that you can take once inside the park, and each are interesting. We started with the route a sign recommended as “best photography route”, which took a path to the left and around the outer edge. It was an easy 10 minute walk, and we saw a lot of Vervet monkeys, a beautiful canyon with the falls on the other side, and a stately bridge crossing for people traversing into Zimbabwe. However, in retrospect, the sign needs to be updated, because the next path was much more breathtaking!
Gazing on the glory of Victoria Falls, called “Mosi-oa-Tunya” (the smoke that thunders) by locals and described by David Livingstone thus: “No one can imagine the beauty of the view from anything witnessed in England. It had never been seen before by European eyes; but scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight.” Scanning to the left and right, the falls were enormous in height, width, and power. Whereas other grand waterfalls around the world are fairly open-arena, the Victoria Falls fall in a relatively narrow cut in the earth, called the Batoka Gorge. We donned parkas to protect our camera and clothes from the mist and crossed a narrow bridge, to the end of the peninsula where you can see across the gorge to Zimbabwe. From our Zambian position, we had an incredible view of the expanse and up close features, and it left us wondering why some people prefer the Zimbabwe side. This to us, was the perfect view full of countless rainbows.
We returned to the hotel just in time for afternoon tea, which included the tallest tower of finger sandwiches and sweet treats I’ve ever seen! (We’ve done many teas around the world, in Buenos Aires, Japan, Hong Kong, and England to name a few!) A vervet monkey scared me half-to-death when he appeared on the arm of my chair to steal one, two, three, four, five scones despite my attempts to shoo him away. (There was so much food we couldn’t have finished it anyway, but still! That little rascal!) That evening we cozied up to the riverside bar and watched the sunset turn the sky to beautiful shades of orange and pink over the mist rising from the falls, striking up a conversation with a gentleman at a neighboring table who returns to The Royal Livingstone every year because it is wife’s favorite place. We agreed that we all loved feeling like Doctor Doolittle during our stay and would be back soon.
All photos by David and Stacie Flinner for stacieflinnner.com.