The Smoke That Thunders (Victoria Falls)

Victoria Falls

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Another nice thing about visiting Chobe National Park in Botswana is the proximity to one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World- Victoria Falls.

The Zambezi River, which separates modern day Zimbabwe and Zambia, formed this incredible natural wonder. It was first “discovered” by David Livingstone in 1855, though of course it had been known to the locals long before that. He named it after Queen Victoria, as you probably already knew. In the local language of Lozi, it was called Mosi-oa-Tunya- The Smoke that Thunders. I much prefer the local name myself.

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There are a number of extra things that can be done for fun at Victoria Falls. We first wanted to do Devil’s Pool (pictured right), which allows tourists to swim in the Zambezi just over the falls in a small protected pool. While it looks dangerous, it’s actually quite safe, because the current there isn’t strong (or so I was told). This is intuitively only available during the low season, for the current increases when more water is flowing over the falls. However, we didn’t book far enough in advance so this option wasn’t available to us. Another alternative was to fly in a helicopter over the falls. It only lasts 15 minutes, but does sound like an incredible experience. I thought it would be more worth it if the falls were at 100%, so we decided to go with another option: the adventure package. We also considered going to the Zambian side, which is absolutely worth it when the main falls are full but less so when we were there.

This package had 3 inclusions: flying fox, zip line, and gorge swing. The order increases in intensity. The flying fox, while being suspended over a huge canyon by only a wire, was fairly flat so the speed didn’t get very fast. The advantage of this approach, however, was that you were facing down and could take in the scenery in a way that isn’t possible from the ground. I absolutely loved the experience but couldn’t capture it because I didn’t have any kind of adventure camera with me. 

Devil's Pool

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Flying Fox

Next was the zip line, which built up a good deal of speed in a straight line. Certainly fun, and more special to do it here than over farmland like I had in the past. Last was by far the most exhilarating, the gorge swing. You stand at the edge of a platform and jump. Or if you don’t jump fast enough, one of the staff will usually push you. Before jumping I had planned to enjoy the experience and maybe pretend to be scared by yelling or something. After I jumped, I didn’t have to pretend. It was truly horrifying for the ~3.5 seconds of free fall. I could see the cliff passing by my eyes and after being in free fall for what felt like a decade I could only assume that the rope had snapped without anyone noticing and that I was plummeting to my peril on the hard rocks below. This was, of course, false, and once the rope met tension I swung out over the river. It was beautiful. While I didn’t buy the fairly expensive video of me swinging, here’s a link to someone else so you can see what it was like.

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Lastly we went to a very cool market with things that I hadn’t seen in other parts of Africa. The Zimbabweans are excellent salesmen so you must be careful, but I ended up walking away with a warthog made of scrap car metal from a Mercedes (unsure if the Mercedes part is true or just a compelling story) and other unique gifts. It was a day very well spent, but I do feel I should go back and see it when it’s at full capacity. Currently I see it as about equivalent to Dettifoss in Iceland as my favorite waterfall, but if the main falls were at 100% I suspect that would change.

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