Most of our travel arrangements for Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, had been made in advance with Caroline of Lucky Bean Travel, who did a superb job. Once there, we added on a day trip to Botswana for wildlife viewing. Only 3 days in total was just enough to give us a taste of what a longer African trip could be. I enjoyed it very much.
The structured travel seemed right for Africa, although we are normally do-it-yourself travelers. Philani of Ingugama Tours transfered us to and from the hotel, took us to Botswana for wildlife viewing on the Chobe River and overland, delivered us to the Boma dinner and the Zambezi evening cruise. Each of these sections had knowledgeable and helpful driver/guides.
Victoria Falls is a small town, with all of the wealth disparity you might expect. It didn’t seem right to be walking around snapping photos of people who were labouring under heavy loads of charcoal or produce that they were transporting 15 km to earn few dollars. (We asked permission and tipped these women.)
We couldn’t walk far without acquiring “companions” who wanted to sell us wood carvings, help us find our way, etc., for a tip. At the same time, the friendliness of the people is genuine. We came home with more little wooden rhino figurines that we really need!
Zimbabwe’s economy is in a mess. The US dollar is the de facto currency, and the bank machines
sometimes often run out of money. The only way I got more cash was by getting a cash advance from a VISA machine.Then we had to get small denominations from the hotel. We even got a rare US $2 bill.
We stayed in Ilala Lodge, which was lovely! Definitely a cut above my usual haunts.
On our day trip to Botswana, we saw lots of elephants, hippos, impala, crocodiles and birds, as well as some zebras, buffalo, chimpanzees, and more. But it was a pleasantly relaxed day – lots of gazing time as we rode bumpily over desert road and smoothly along the river. I liked that aspect – feeling like we were just observers in a game reserve where the animals were in charge, and not in a theme park where they worked shifts for the benefit of tourists. I realize that I had a vague feeling before, that left me not too interested in going on a safari. Now I’m more interested.
Of course we went to see Victoria Falls, which were very impressive. They warned us we would “get wet from the spray” but we had the idea that “spray” is something more gentle than it was, at times. At those times, I didn’t get the camera out! It was the only thing I managed to keep dry.