The Absolute Safari Week 8: Zimbabwe and Botswana

I don't think much can beat visiting Victoria Falls and the Okavango Delta in the same week! Even in low season, and some rainy days, I cannot recommend these 2 individual and very unique experiences enough! The falls is an astounding feat of nature... and If you've ever dreamed of camping in total wilderness, and seeing every star in the sky with perfect clarity you can't go past the Delta. 

Day 50: Devil's Pool

This morning was a very early rise, but well worth it! I had signed up for a morning of activities across the Zambian border of Victoria Falls and made sure to have an early night so that I wouldn't sleep through my alarm (My phone had been broken since Uganda, so cheers to the best tent-mate ever, Manuela, for being my alarm even though she didn't have to wake up as early!)

Welcome to Zimbabwe sign

I was meeting a driver at the border crossing, so I walked from the backpackers, through the town and watched the sunset from the bridge. I still arrived at the border early, and my driver was about half an hour late so it was a bit of an awkward wait, but an interesting opportunity to people watch the locals who commute across the Zim/Zam border every day for work.

My reaction at seeing a beautiful Elephant herd directly below us

My reaction at seeing a beautiful Elephant herd directly below us

Finally, we were off! My lovely driver helped me get through the border with ease (I needed to pay for a multiple entry visa as I had already passed through Zambia days earlier, so make sure you keep that in mind if you have activities based around Vic Falls on opposite sides of the border) and we arrived at a run-way. I was jumping with excitement, being the only one in the overland group who had signed up for a microlight flight over the falls. I had read about this experience and seen photos while planning my adventure and decided that it was a must do, no matter the price! It seriously did not disappoint! For those of you that have no idea what I'm talking about, a microlight is an open-air aircraft that sort of looks like a hang glider. For the 15 minute scenic flight, we did two big loops over the waterfall. I could feel the chill in the air from the spray, hear the thunderous noise of the crashing falls and see the rainbows reflected off the water from above. I could see everything so vividly - the Vic Falls bridge, the whole town and all of the intricacies of the gorges that were once 7 other waterfalls. The pilot did a few tricks, making my stomach fall but I was as giddy as a kid on Christmas! Before returning to the runway, we detoured out over the intricate waterways leading to the falls, and over the national park area that surrounds Victoria Falls. We saw a herd of elephants, a few crocodiles in the river and a hippo making tracks back to the water. At such an early hour, it felt like I had my own private show to one of the most beautiful natural areas of the world. I know some of the others opted for a helicopter flight over the falls, but I can not recommend the microlight experience enough if you are looking for something totally unique to make your time in Vic Falls unforgettable!

Victoria Falls Microlight

After we landed, my driver rushed me off to the Royal Livingstone Hotel to meet up with the girls to brave Devil's Pool. If you've ever done any research on Vic Falls at all, you have heard of the Devil's Pool! A natural rock pool, immediately on the edge of the waterfall that you can hang out in. Our experience included a boat transfer from the hotel to the edge of the falls, a dip in the pool with some great photo-ops and a luxurious breakfast in a tent near the falls before being transferred back to the hotel. The pool itself was surreal. Ropes leading across the river were used to hold onto to fight the currents as we swam across. There were little fish in the pool that would tickle your feet and legs. I'm a big advocate and lover of the pedicure fish-spa experience in SE Asia, but it was hilarious watching some of the girls squirm! The guides made us take it in turns to take photos in the pool and peek over the edge, before a group photo shot. We had an awesome time, and it was good fun doing an activity with just the girls of the group.

Breakfast with the ladies

Breakfast with the ladies

The breakfast provided of poached eggs, bacon and muffins/pastries was divine! My only complaint of the whole experience was that it was a massive tourist turn-style! Travelling with an overland, this was the only company we were given a choice of and I didn't do any research outside of that. For an insane $135USD, we were herded into the pool to take our photos, and then rushed through the breakfast tent to make way for the next group, with it all being over within a quick hour. My advice to any of you, and my future-self when i go back solo some-day would be to do your research on this experience! We saw a group of people across the way, in another pool who had ventured out on their own to find it. While safety with something of this scale is paramount, I will be researching another option that will hopefully allow more time and more of an immersive experience.

Coffe Grande

Coffe Grande

After such an early start, we still had a whole day to kill. We caught a taxi back to the border, but as soon as we got out the heaven's opened up and poured down on us! We ran to the bridge and took shelter at a cafe until the weather settled down. One of the girls, Emilie, had also signed up to do the bungee jumps so we hung around at the cafe, which was a great vantage point to watch her jump. Manuela and I then branched off to go and enjoy a coffee at Shearwater cafe. I CAN NOT WAIT to come back to Victoria Falls just to get another of these divine grande coffees (i.e. already a great coffee, made better with a shot of Amarula, our new favourite drink!) 

Manuela enjoying her Amarula Coffee Grande at Shearwater Cafe

Manuela enjoying her Amarula Coffee Grande at Shearwater Cafe

Victoria Falls Casino

The rest of the day was spent at leisure at the backpackers, hanging out. We had heard that there was a casino in town, so after dinner most of the crew walked down to suss it out. It was a weird vibe, we walked through the lobby of a huge hotel to get to it's casino only to find that it was completely deserted, with the exception of 2 security guards. We looked around at the closed up tables and asked the men where all of the action was? They laughably told us that all of the dealer's had gone home because they hadn't had any customers all day. Totally bewildered, and slightly tipsy, we mucked around, turning the casino into our own personal playground (and possibly pinching a few souvenir poker chips that had been left out on the table). We had been looking forward to a bit of gambling all day, so disappointed with the lack of night-life we headed back to the hostel only to find that it was raging! There was an airline/travel industry conference in town and they had all headed to Shoestring's for a drink and a dance. We hit the D-floor with the oldies and decided to make a night of it! The boys got a little bit too drunk and called it a night, but the girls were keen to keep on. Peter, our guide, had told us about a local drinking-hole called Brown Sugar, that didn't even open until after midnight. So after midnight, we joined the convoy and hitched a ride to Brown Sugar to dance the rest of the night away.

Brown Sugar
Victoria Falls Casino

Day 51: Brown Sugar

After a big night of dancing (i.e hungover AF) I decided not to go white water rafting in the Zambezi, as I had already done it on the Nile, and instead opted for a day of chilling, getting an oil massage and more coffee grandes... and then maybe another night of dancing at Brown Sugar.

Day 52: Thanksgiving

Today we said goodbye to Victoria Falls and crossed the border into Botswana and onto Chobe NP. It was a stressful border crossing and I spent a lot of time sleeping on the truck. We pitched tent at the campsite and a bit tired out from game drives and a big few days in Vic Falls, I made a good decision not to go on a drive in Chobe. As soon as the few that decided to go had departed, it started to piss down raining. I ran into my almost bogged tent to escape the rain and had yet another nap! Sometimes you just need one of those kind of days hey? I awoke to the pitter-pattering of the rain on the canvas and in a pool of humid sweat. After showering it off I jumped into the thanksgiving preparation dinner. We spent hours under the shelter peeling, grating, chopping and washing ingredients for the big dinner. We BBQ'd a few chickens, made enough mash potato to feed an army and Lena made a cake for dessert! Even though it was a pretty shitty, rainy day, it was a great night sitting around in a circle eating, laughing, drinking and proclaiming what we were thankful for.

Day 53: Maun

Today we drove to Maun and said goodbye to Anna and Marita on their last day. It was mostly a boring drive day, but then this happened...

Stopped to take a photo of a giraffe on the side of the road...

Stopped to take a photo of a giraffe on the side of the road...

Yep, that's an elephant photobombing! 

Yep, that's an elephant photobombing! 

I FREAKING LOVE AFRICA!!!

I FREAKING LOVE AFRICA!!!

Day 54: Mokoro ride in the Okavango Delta 

Okavango Delta Botswana
Traffic jam in the Okavango Delta

Traffic jam in the Okavango Delta

Ready to row!

Ready to row!

We had a pretty cool campsite in Maun with a sweet pool that we were sad to leave, but very excited to be heading out for a remote few nights into the Okavango Delta. We were picked up in open Jeeps, so of course it pissed down raining yet again. As soon as we got to the Delta entrance though, the skies turned into a beautiful blue and the weather settled down. We unpacked our supplies into Mokoros (local dug-out canoes) and were introduced to our Polers (the locals who would push our canoes through the Delta with long-ass poles). We were allocated 2 to a canoe, which was set up for comfort with out tent mattresses folded into makeshift seats.

THIS IS ONE TO PUT ON YOUR BUCKET LIST GUYS! The Okavango Delta is an intricate network of waterways, forming a swampy inland delta, highly concentrated with wildlife that can become somewhat stranded on the islands in the delta. Poling through the delta in the mokoros was one of the coolest things I have ever done - It was good fun having races against our fellow overlanders in their respective mokoros and egging on the polers to go faster! Eventually though we were all basking in the sunshine, having a nice, relaxing nap.

Okavango Delta
Okavango Delta
Tortoise Okavango Delta

We arrived at our 'campsite'... I use this term loosely because really we just pitched our tents on an island and dug a big hole for you-know-what. After pitching tent, and lounging about for a while, our guides took us out into the wild for a nature walk. We were in seriously wild territory, no borders or vehicles between us and the other creatures. Unfortunately though, the most we came across was a tortoise and a few wild cows.

Okavango Delta
Okavango Delta guide

Day 55: Hanging out at the Okavango Delta

The guides rudely woke us at the crack of dawn for a morning nature walk that breached on 5 long hours (That is too long to make The Roaming Street do exercise first thing in the morning without food... I was not a happy camper!). The sunrise was stunning though, and we saw some beautiful creatures out before the heat of the day. 

Catching the sunrise does have its upsides though

Catching the sunrise does have its upsides though

Naturally, after a long walk and campfire breakfast I had a nap. After the hotbox of a tent woke my slumber, I stumbled out to join a round of cards. One drink turned into a few and it became a rowdy, drunken round of cards. The guides asked us if we'd like to go for a swim and poled us out to a deeper area where they were fairly confident there wouldn't be too many crocs or hippos. We were all a bit silly drunk and spent far too long playing in the delta, coming out with some wicked sunburn.

The polers also took us out for a beautiful sunset mokoro ride around the delta, before returning to camp for an awesome camp dinner, and a night of cultural performances mixed with some local group games. 

Okavango Delta Campsite

Day 56: Flying over the Okavango Delta 

Okavango Delta Scenic Flight

We sadly poled away from the Delta and back into Maun this morning. Myself and some of the girls chose to do a flight over the Delta as well, it was a bit of a last minute decision as they had one seat left on the plane and I had enjoyed the Delta so much, I wasn't quite ready to say goodbye. Our pilot looked younger than me, and the plane was a little old Cessna, so it was quite nerve-wracking but the view was unforgettable!

The hotel/campsite in Maun treated us to a beautiful buffet dinner tonight, as we prepared to leave Botswana, all in an all it was too short of a visit!

More of a visual person? Checkout my short destination video of Botswana:

The Absolute Safari Week 8