The Bermuda Triangle (Region of the Month August 2005)
With tongue in the cheek, I call the area between Chobe National Park (Botswana), the town of Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe) and Livingstone (Zambia) the Bermuda Triangle. Because once you enter this triangle, you actually DON'T want to leave.
The distance between Livingstone / Victoria Falls (Vic Falls as everyone here calls it) and Chobe National Park is a mere 90-odd kilometres apart and to miss out on the other when in that area, is like going to Notre Damme and not go and see the Eiffel Tower. Livingstone is on the Zambia side of the falls and Victoria Falls is actually also the town just south of the falls in Zimbabwe.
Now that we all know where is what, let us start at one point - say Chobe National Park, is the northern most game reserve in Botswana. Will you believe me if I tell you there are sometimes more than 50 000 elephant in this park (no typing errors!). There are few things in this world as fascinating as joining an afternoon boat cruise from one of the many game lodges in the area and cruising upstream pass literally hundreds of elephant, buffalo, antelope and many other creatures coming down to drink. On these cruises you come within near-touching distance from crocodiles who just bake motionless in the last sunrays.
Hippos (no, they actually do not wear tutus - in fact they are one of Africa's most dangerous creatures) can be guaranteed. They often graze on the islands in the river which is great for catching these 3 tonne lawn-movers on camera. I have seen heards of elephant crossing the river channels, swimming from one island to the next with just the trunk, top of the head and tail sticking out. For all twitchers out there, you will start chirping when you see all the variety of birds - stately Saddlebill storks, many types of colourful bee-eaters, herons, eagles, darters, cormorants and I can go on and on describing the wildlife. But comes 17:30, what I call the start of the Holy Hour, the colour of the sky becomes soft, the heat of the day passes, the birds flock home, the wind quiets down, the African Fish Eagle calls for its mate and golden sun touches the horison, sticking out its long red tongue over the calm water towards you to kiss you goodnight. Then you know my friend - you are in Africa.
If you are not rich, you must be clever. The Botswana Parks charge you 70 Pula (about US$15) per person per day to enter the park. So, if you join a boat cruise on the Chobe River in the evening and a game drive the next morning you pay twice that amount. But if you do the game drive and the cruise on the same day, then you pay only once. The game drive is also great as you have a far better chance to see the big cats and the vegetation is fascinating with massive trees growing along the river bank and rapidly changing from one area to the next.
For lodges and hotel accommodation in and around the Chobe area, click here.
From Chobe to Victoria Falls (the town), you go through a fairly simple bordering crossing just to the east of Chobe. Do not be surprised if you see elephant crossing the tarmac on the short stretch to Vic Falls. From Chobe to Livingstone you must cross the pontoon across the mighty Zambezi (just east of where the Chobe River and Zambezi meet to run together towards the falls). It is fantastic to watch the typical African scenery's and human interaction around this little adventure. It all looks likes chaos but it is wonderfully organised chaos and all works well in the end crossing from Botswana into Zambia.
Vic Falls. I have often said this place epitomise Africa - the friendly people living amidst nature and the energy of falls flows over into the town. Even elephants wonder on the outskirts of town and overhead huge Trumpeter Hornbills cry like babies. In the streets one is brought to a sad awakening that the people are suffering from a government who has scared most visitors across the river to Livingstone. Now you only see a few white faces around where only some 10 years ago the pavements where filled with visitors - now the pavements are only filled with cracks of decay. However the people are some of the friendliest you will come across, trying their utmost to make difficult ends meet and still have time to greet you with a genuine smile. I will never forget as I was sitting in a camp site next to a trailer filled with the best food you can imagine for a trip further into Africa, when Big Boy, the camp's security guard, with whom I talked many times on previous visits, invited me to come and share his lunch - the only food he would have for the whole day. Then you stand humble in the shadow of a force bigger than that of the human spirit called Genuine Hospitality. It is a force that we in the Western Society don't see anymore and treat with suspicion when we come across it.
There is just so much to do here including white water rafting (I think they call it 'white' because of all the white you can see around people's eyes and faces when they go down the rapids), helicopter flips & other types of flying activities (well worth as one cannot see the huge gorges formed over millenia by the force of the water further down the river from the flat grounds) and plenty more.
Plan at least half a day for the markets to admire the artwork of people who have few more things than a primitive hammer and chisel but provide art that could be displayed in the best galleries of the world. Everywhere were you walk bands are playing music to make a bit of extra money and the music comes so natural to them like breathing to you and me. It is part of the culture, part of living, part of the body.
Visit the Victoria Falls Hotel and its old colonial charm and while having high tea like a queen, look down the huge gorge behind the gardens towards the falls chasing a misty spray high into the sky.
Sit on the deck of the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge just before sunset and watch game coming down to the waterhole and have a sundowner yourself - the Bermuda Triangle is getting hold of you just tighter and tighter.
Dinner at The Boma, a unique feast of all kinds of venison barbequed in front of you, with local traditional dancers swaying their bodies to the rhythm of the African drums, should not be missed either.
Crossing the gorge from Zimbabwe to Livingstone by bridge is the brain child of Cecil John Rhodes, the founder of the De Beers Diamond Company, gives you great views of the falls itself. And if you want know why adreline junkies become addicted, then you can bungi jump from this 111m high bridge.
Livingstone is actually about 10km away from the falls and not so close like Vic Falls, but due to the economy in Zimbabwe spiralling down, hotels and resorts are springing up all over and there are some really beautiful private lodges right on the water's edge.
And the waterfalls? Well, this Natural Wonder deserves a whole chapter all by itself. So keep watching this space...
Getting to this region: Getaway Africa has a number of fly-in packages , Botswana , Victoria Falls , Zambia , Namibia , Zimbabwe as well as other safari package tours of this region. On a tight budget, join an overland tour. There is no reason why you cannot visit this area.
See you in the Triangle.