Day 2 – Monday 29 May: Johannesburg – Kruger

Started the day with a warm and hearty breakfast at the Sleep Eezy Cottages, compliments of Moira and Lawrence. At 9:00am we finally got to meet our safari guide Shaun Taylor who collected us in the VW minivan, ready for our travel day to Kruger. And so we headed off …
First stop was a mid-morning coffee break (with a twist) at the Alzu Petroport roadhouse en route. Shaun had told us there was a surprise in store there, and all would be revealed if we walked to the back of the complex and looked out the window. Well, we did as we were told, and lo and behold, had a fabulous view of a game enclosure containing six rhino, a large number of buffalo and a host of eland, blesbok, ostriches and even an emu or two! All owned by the service station!! Amazing! As Shaun said, this would be the precursor to our own safari adventures!
Then we hit the road again, with the next stop being the pretty, quaint town of Dullstroom. We stopped for the famous pancakes at Harrie’s Pancakes. Lovely! Di and I had a look in the cute art/craft shop next door where I spied a fabulous locally handcrafted wall hanging … $500 AUD! After our lovely pancakes we were off again in the direction of Kruger. The next part of the journey was a bit hair-raising as we traversed hills in the company of huge coal trucks and logging trucks, given that the area is home to many coal mines as well as pine tree plantations. Indeed the pine tree plantations stretch for miles and miles as this area in the Mpumalanga province is one of the largest afforested areas in South Africa (0.6 million hectares). We witnessed their dangerous driving on a whole new level, with a motorcyclist on our side of the road overtaking us plus a coal truck on a blind bend in the road, with another coal truck closing in on him from the oncoming traffic!! Suffice to say it was a close call!!
After a couple of hours we reached our accommodation, the lovely Kruger Park Lodge which is situated on a 9-hole Gary Player designed golf course on the banks of the Sabie River in Hazyview, Mpumalanga. Very nice! There were plenty of impala meandering around the golf course. Shaun took us to our 3-bedroom chalet within the lodge. Very nicely appointed! We deposited our bags then headed off to a Hazyview elephant sanctuary, Elephant Whispers. Elephant Whispers is home to six tamed and trained elephants who were rescued from planned game reserve culling operations by Elephants for Africa Forever (EFAF). As ambassadors for their species, this herd has an important conservation message to share. And the handlers are passionately dedicated to their charges, spending hours each day keeping the elephant company, walking together, cleaning their stables, collecting food and seeing to their medical needs. They are a closely bonded unit. We had an incredible experience there, being able to touch their biggest male elephant (Tembo), exchange trunk greetings and offer him tasty treats. It was amazing when he lay down and allowed us all to touch his ears, trunk and back. I could even feel his heart beating!! Just wonderful!

While we were at Elephant Whispers, Shaun went off to collect our safari vehicle.  Upon his return, we had our first ride in our open safari vehicle, a Toyota Landrover, which would be our safari transportation for the next two days.

Our Guide Shaun Taylor

After Elephant Whispers we headed back to our chalet where we showered ready for dinner which was at G’s bistro, (shades of Griffith Uni!), in Hazyview. Shaun’s parents, Gary and Ros joined us. We had a lovely dinner, which ended with a local dessert treat, a Don Pedro, made with icecream and their creamy liqueur Amarula. Very decadent!
Off to bed at the Kruger Park Lodge.

Day 3 – Tuesday 30 May: Kruger National Park

On safari!!!
Up early. Shaun collected us, and off we headed on our first safari day!! We were all very excited!
As we were leaving our lodge we even saw hippos and baboons alongside the Sabie River bordering the golf course! What a great start to the day! En route to the Phabeni Gate (where we were to enter Kruger National Park) we passed local school children making their way to school. We were so impressed with how impeccably dressed they all were … neat as a pin!
After a short drive we arrived at the Phabeni Gate.

Karen trying to get modeling job for South African tourism.

Local entrepreneur, Patrick, had set up his mobile coffee station (complete with biscuits!) there at the gate, and Di obliged by buying a coffee. He too had made a good start to the day!

Di trying to stimulate the South African economy.e

And so we made our way through the gate and into Kruger National Park … YAY!! Within 20 minutes we had our first sighting, a zebra!

Our first sighting
Our first sighting

Next was a baboon on the edge of the road, then Cape buffalo at a watering hole. Then … thrilling … a group of elephants on the side of the road!


Next was a white rhino … and so close to the edge of the road! He happily munched on the grass there, giving us a good 5 minutes to gape in awe of him!! Then, more zebras, giraffe, impala, ostriches (very rare) and vultures.

White Rino grazing near the road

Then the pièce de résistance … an elephant family wanting to cross the road in front of us. So we stopped the vehicle, cut the engine and just sat there quietly. As the elephants moved about we could see they were shielding a special family member, a baby! Shaun estimated no more than a week old! As they were readying to cross, a vehicle coming from the opposite direction just kept driving through without stopping. So they retreated. And it left just us on the road. They prepared once again to cross … and we sat there in silence.

Elephants crossing road with baby

So they gathered around the baby, being careful to shield it, and crossed the road in front of us. Then they turned to look at us and made a gap in the group so we could get a good look at the baby! It was priceless … very special! It was as if they had rewarded us for our patience and sensitivity. A truly beautiful moment for us all!

Elephants showing us the baby

After all this excitement it was the end of our morning safari. So we headed for brunch to the Cattle Baron restaurant at our next lodging, the Skukuza Rest Camp. NB: Skukuza means “man who changes everything” and is a reference to James Stevenson-Hamilton, the first warden of the Sabie Nature Reserve, who was perceived to sweep the land clean of poachers and other criminals operating in the area.We even toasted our first animal sightings with a bottle of champers! We deposited our belongings in our rooms, located in the Waterkant section of the lodgings. They overlooked the Sabie River and a bridge, providing us with a lovely outlook! Then we had a look through the shops adjoining the Cattle Baron.

Next … time for our afternoon safari. Sightings included giraffes, zebras, impala, warthogs, ground hornbills, lilac breasted rollers, wildebeest and elephants.

Our first Croc sighting
Lilac Breasted Roller
Impala in Day dress
Impala in morning dress

Following our afternoon safari it was time to enjoy sundowners at the Lake Panic hippo hide. So we set off with wine, beer and nibbles, and settled in at the hippo hide where we sat surreptitiously and observed the goings-on at the lake. A very peaceful environment where we spied hippos, a crocodile and numerous birds.

Lilac Breasted Roller
A Pair of Grey G-Away-Birds
Hippo Family at Lake Panic
Apparently it is quite rare to see one of these birds, let alone 5.
Ground Hornbills

Then back to the Cattle Baron restaurant at our Skukuza Rest Camp lodging for dinner before turning in for the night.

Day 4 – Wednesday 31 May: Kruger National Park

On safari!!!
Up early (5:00am) for our morning safari. Yet another clear day. And we’re off again …

Early morning sun rise and off we go on Safari

Early sightings included giraffes, baboons, vervet monkeys, dwarf mongoose, Cape buffalo, elephants, elephants and more elephants!!

A tower of giraffe spotted on morning safari.
The legs have it
Look into my eyes

Amongst the elephant sightings, one was a group of elephants digging holes in the sand of a riverbed until they reached suitable water to drink. Apparently, some elephants don’t drink water from the river because they feel that the water is too dirty due to other animals swimming and urinating etc in that water.Thus they employ their own water filtration system … how clever!!


Herd of elephants filtering the water

We basically followed the Sabie River to Lower Sabie, stopping at an interesting place called Sunset Dam where we saw a huge number of crocodiles basking at the water’s edge! I for one have never seen so many crocodiles congregated in the one place! And some of them were enormous!! We sat in the vehicle for a good 15 minutes just taking it all in, and having a good look at these amazing apex predators through the binoculars.

Look closely there are 11 crocs in this one stretch of of the water hole

Next stop, brunch at Mugg and Bean at Lower Sabie Rest Camp. Well, this Mugg and Bean certainly has glorious views over the Sabie River, so we took in the panorama, and also enjoyed the company of numerous starlings and a barn owl! Then we were off again on safari! Sightings this time included elephants, giraffes, zebras … and … incredibly … a lioness!! Steve was the A1 lion spotter, seeing this beauty sunning herself on a sandbank in the river. So we sat and soaked up the thrill of seeing our first lion in the wild! It was all up to Norman to get the ace photos!


Then it was back to the Skukuza Rest Camp where we had a short “rest period” (during which Steve & Di saw hippos coming out of the water … all viewable from our rooms!) Then it was off to the Lake Panic hippo hide again. Hippos were there again … and Norman got his “hippo with open mouth” shot … YAY!! However this time we were also treated to the sight of an African fish eagle taking an African jacana!

African Fish Eagle
Hippo at Panic Lake

We then headed back to our lodging, where we had dinner at the Cattle Baron again (with some repeat orders of last night’s meals). After dinner we enjoyed our “bush TV”(that is, our camp fire). It was just lovely sitting around the fire with a beverage in hand, recounting our wonderful adventures. Heather definitely had the winning tale though – her “toy”story!! Nothing could beat that!!
Time for bed …


Day 5 – Thursday 1 June: Klaserie Private Nature Reserve

Once again we were excited for the day ahead as we were headed to the Klaserie Private Nature Reserve where we would be treated to a very private, exclusive safari experience! The Klaserie Private Nature Reserve is a 148,000 acre private conservancy that is open to Kruger National Park, allowing animals to roam freely. However visitor numbers are strictly limited providing a more intimate exclusive experience, and walks are permitted in the bush (if accompanied by an accredited guide)! It is one of the most unspoilt reserves in the area, being fiercely focused on nature conservation and low-impact tourism. Bring on the day!!!
We set off singing ‘He’s Got the Whole World In His Hands’!! And in the first sunlight of the day, while we were still in Kruger National Park, we saw giraffes, zebras, and elephants.

And our last sighting before exiting the Phabeni Gate was a herd of about 100 Cape buffalo. They were alongside the road grazing, and looking to cross the road. So we stopped dead in our tracks, cut the engine, and just sat there silently. And the buffalo came!! They virtually surrounded our vehicle in their quest to cross the road. I will never forget the sounds of them, in great numbers, munching the grass at the road’s edge! That was a highlight for me … truly awesome!


Cape Buffalo
Herd of Cape Buffalo

We then headed back to Hazyview where we firstly stopped in at G’s Bistro for brunch (Shaun’s dad, Gary, joined us), after which we changed over the safari vehicle to a minivan for the trip to the Klaserie. Then it was off to the local shopping mall to buy a SIM card. Done! And we’re off again!
En route we passed through rural townships like Bushbuckridge where it was interesting to see the local folk going about their day-to-day life. Such creative spirit roadside with a car wash involving buckets of water and rags, and plenty of elbow grease!! Once again, we encountered plenty of coal trucks and logging trucks on the road.
After about 2 hours travelling, we arrived at the Klaserie HQ (basically the entrance to the Klaserie Private Nature Reserve) where two safari vehicles awaited us. We met our trusty tracker, Wiseman, who would be Shaun’s aide for the next three days. And so we changed over to the Range Rover with Shaun, while Wiseman took all our bags in the other vehicle. Off we went! Straight away this is quite different to Kruger in that there is really only one sealed road through the reserve. All the safaris will be off-road on dirt/rock tracks. Fabulous!
And so we hit the tracks! Bush bashing our way through the scrub, we negotiated a rocky mound before … lo and behold … there was our private lodge, Nyeleti! Literally out in the middle of the African bush with nothing around it for miles was this incredible luxury accommodation surrounded by manicured lawns, all with a view of the Klaserie River!!

It took our breath away, a real oasis! Nyeleti comprised six twin-bed thatched roof rondavels (African round houses), luxuriously appointed with quality furnishings, mosquito nets, and ensuites featuring claw baths. Our rondavel was called ‘Joao’ in memory of much loved local elephant, Joao, who roamed the area from 1939 to 2000. The property also featured a common lounge and indoor dining room, lovely al fresco dining area, braai and fire area, and a splash pool.  All exclusively to ourselves!!
Shaun introduced us to our private chef, Lindsay, who would be preparing all our meals for the three days. We were gobsmacked at the whole arrangement! Lindsay had lunch prepared for us … we all loved her salad, most especially her homemade dressing. After lunch and a short rest time, we headed off on our afternoon safari. Sightings included giraffe, hyena, waterbuck and impala. And because we were in the private reserve, we could leave the vehicle, meaning we could enjoy our first real African bush sundowners! A fantastic treat!

Then it was back to our beautiful lodging for a “Lindsay” dinner of chicken curry, roti and samosas, after which we sat round the camp fire and revisited our stunning day!

Day 6 – Friday 2 June: Klaserie Private Nature Reserve

Yet another stunning day in Africa!!  Awoke to clear blue skies – perfect weather!

Another glorious Sunrise

Off on our morning safari …   Sightings included giraffe, a lone bull elephant, and a group of three white rhino!  All the while, Shaun is keenly tracking lion and leopard so is stopping the vehicle from time to time and getting out to inspect the animal tracks.  And it’s walking day … YAY!!  So after a safety briefing from Shaun, we headed off, in single file between Shaun and Wiseman, for our bush walk!  It was great to actually be able to walk out in the bush and feel a part of it.  On our walk we sighted warthogs, Sharpe’s Grysbok, and impala.

Then it was back to camp for lunch.  Lindsay’s lunch today was frittata, macaroni and cheese, and a favourite with the group … salad and homemade dressing.  Then it was two hours of free time at our lovely lodging where it was wonderful to just relax and immerse ourselves in our surroundings.  Even during the rest period, we managed to see, from the luxury of our lodgings, elephant, giraffe and two waterbuck!  I must say this incredible place made me feel like Karen Blixen in ‘Out of Africa’! This quote from her famous tome sums it up – “The views were immensely wide. Everything that you saw made for greatness and freedom, and unequalled nobility.”

Then at 3:00pm we were off on our afternoon safari where we came across a hippo skull and sundry other animal bones.  Di was in her element, wishing she could take them home!!

Saddle-billed Stork

About 5:00pm we stopped and set up for sundowners at (what I coined) “Pride Rock”.  It was stunning watching an African sunset from our elevated viewpoint.  What could be better than being out in the African bush watching the sun paint the sky iridescent red and orange, all the while having a glass of red in hand!  I don’t believe it gets much better than that!!

We continued on in safari mode, with the sun now set.  So it was time for our first night safari which involved Wiseman using the spotlight and his incredible tracking skills to spot wildlife under the cover of darkness.  No mean feat!!  Not long into our night safari we were rewarded with an incredible sighting, a gigantic white rhino!  It was so big that a number of us thought it was an elephant at first glance!  Shaun was even pretty stunned.  Continuing on we saw warthogs, bushbabies, civets, and a large female hyena.

A vulture.

Female hyena

All the while we were still on the hunt for the elusive big cats which the tracks seemed to suggest were off in another area that Shaun hadn’t navigated before.  So, Shaun and Wiseman swapped places as Wiseman knew that area and track.  Shaun then sat in the tracker seat up-front, and Wiseman took over driving duties.

No lions tonight, we’ll be back on the case tomorrow!  We made our way back to camp where the camp fire was roaring, and Lindsay had readied everything for our South African braai (BBQ).  Our feast included Cajun chicken, Lindsay’s yummy homemade sausages (made from fillet steak), pork ribs, corn, and a lovely beetroot and feta salad.  Shaun cooked the braai, which we all savoured.

Another fabulous day done and dusted!

Day 7 – Saturday 3 June: Klaserie Private Nature Reserve

We’re on a lion hunt!
And off we headed on our early morning safari. First sighting of the day was a big white rhino!


What a great start to the day! Soon after that we came across a pack of African wild dogs on a hunt. Shaun was pretty excited about this sighting as the African wild dog is the most endangered carnivore in South Africa. This pack was on a hunt, and scenting for their prey. We followed them for about 20 minutes and it was incredible to see their highly organised way of hunting and working together. It was evident what incredibly intelligent and social animals they are.




Sightings for the morning included giraffe, honey badgers, and bushbuck. Shaun surprised us with a wonderful morning tea on a rise beside the Olifants River! We had a 180° degree view of the river and a pod of hippos oblivious to us.

During morning tea Wiseman recounted in detail a fabulous story about him being entrapped by three lions … comes with the territory it seems for obtaining Dangerous Game Guide accreditation!! Happy to say he passed! At morning tea time Heather disappeared off into the bush momentarily but suffered stage fright … hahahaha!!!
After morning tea we were off again until Shaun spotted a tree that caught his interest. It was then that we learned of his passion for trees, more especially photographing them. So Norman too made a beeline for the tree, duly lay down in the scrub, and took some shots. At one with nature!
Then it was back to Nyeleti for an early lunch. Lindsay had prepared for us an eggplant bake, with lentils and corn fritters. During our midday “rest period” we observed a herd of Cape buffalo grazing by the river. What a great sight … all from our dining table! While we had our break, Shaun made a mercy dash to another of the Klaserie Camps to top up our wine stocks which were at a critical level! Ah, we were saved by the bell … thank you Shaun!! Then we were off again on our afternoon safari, all the while still tracking big cats. Sightings for the afternoon included warthogs, giraffe, bush babies, a genet, and steenbok.

Sundowners were at the old airport hangar lookout where the sun, a giant orange ball of fire, descended, lighting up the sky in the most vibrant red, pink and purple colours! Truly magnificent!
Then it was back to our lodging for our last dinner in this truly glorious place. Lindsay had prepared cauliflower and blue cheese soup, followed by slow cooked lamb, potatoes and greens. Most hearty!
Then we sat round our last camp fire in the Klaserie and recounted our “top 3”experiences of the trip so far. It was fabulous to re-live those great moments again. And plenty of funny stories were also shared, including Shaun’s “Mrs Tastic” tale (absolutely hilarious!) and Steve’s “long nose, long tail, short legged, rough backed terrier” joke!
Then off to bed … last night in the Klaserie.
As a side note – It is worth mentioning here that over the past few days Shaun had taught us the Zulu word for ‘thank you’… ‘siyabonga’. Well … I was trying it out at every opportunity!! At least five unsuspecting locals fell victim to my Zulu outbursts, one child even answering me today! GO ME!!

Day 8 – Sunday 4 June: Klaserie to Johannesburg

We’re still on a lion hunt, even though it’s our last morning in the Klaserie! So we headed out in a last ditch attempt to find those elusive big cats that had kept Shaun guessing. Upon scrutinising the animal tracks, Shaun and Wiseman thought the watering hole was worth a visit. Alas, to no avail. We soaked up our last safari in the Klaserie all the same.


Young Steenbok

Brown crowned Tchagra

Then we headed back to camp for a last breakfast with Lindsay before leaving. What a magical place the Klaserie has been, completely captivating.
We said our goodbyes to Lindsay then headed in the direction of Klaserie HQ to change over from our safari vehicle to the minivan. Then it was off towards the Klaserie main gate to exit the reserve. We were trucking along the main (and only sealed) road in the Klaserie, only a few kilometres from the main gate, when Di (who had been asleep), awoke with a start and called out “lion”!!! Shaun stopped, then backed up to find … unbelievably … a leopard on a track just off the road!! Being nocturnal creatures, leopards are notoriously hard to spot during the day as they are normally resting, draped on tree limbs or lying in thick undergrowth.


This was nothing short of sensational! Di, our “Queen” leopard spotter!! Our leopard allowed us to get reasonably close in the vehicle, all the while checking us out inquisitively. Thankfully, he allowed Norman to get some fantastic photos!

And that was how we enjoyed our thrilling last 10 minutes in the Klaserie. What a fitting end to our time there! AND … we checked off the ‘Big Five’! Done!
Onwards towards Johannesburg, passing firstly through the town of Hoedspruit. Then we made our way through the utterly spectacular Blyde River Canyon in the Drakensberg Escarpment. Talk about jaw dropping scenery! We actually stopped there at craft stalls local women had set up on the roadside. Talk about stalls with a view! Di and I had a look through them, and I bought a couple of tablecloths. Then we set off again. The next town we passed through was Lydenburg. Then it was time to stop for a late lunch at lovely little Dullstroom, where we had enjoyed pancakes on our way to Kruger some six days ago. This time we had lunch at Pickles and Things. Then we hit the road again for J’Burg. On the approach to J’Burg, there was a large haze cloud which I asked about. Shaun explained it was a result of the locals burning coal for heating!
Finally we made it to our warm and inviting B&B, Sleep Eezy. We deposited our bags, showered, rugged up, then walked the 15 minutes to local Italian restaurant, Pizza Del Forno. The food was hearty and plentiful, and we found a nice Shiraz, Thierry & Guy’s ‘Fat Bastard’. Not a bad drop! And Heather celebrated our incredible leopard sighting with leopard necklaces for us three ladies! YAY!!
Off to bed, ready for our flight to Victoria Falls tomorrow …

Day 9 – Monday 5 June: Johannesburg to Victoria Falls

Up early in anticipation of our trip today to Victoria Falls!
After a hearty breakfast, we said our goodbyes to Moira and Lawrence. Shaun arrived to collect us, and we were off to OR Tambo International Airport to fly to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. Our loads were a bit lighter as we had just one duffle bag each! Shaun kindly agreed to store the remainder of our belongings/suitcases at his home until we met up again in a week’s time. And we were off … Zimbabwe here we come!
After only a relatively short flight (1.5 hours), we touched down in Victoria Falls at about 1:00pm. We then queued and waited 1 hour for our visas to be processed. By the time our visas were finalised, we were the last passengers to clear the terminal (ours were the last bags on the baggage carousel!). NB. Just have to make mention of a Zimbabwean Government sign at the airport that stated “It is a criminal offence in Zimbabwe to make any derogatory or insulting comments about President Mugabe. Any person making such comments is liable to arrest and prosecution.”
A representative from our tour company, Wild Horizons, met us at the terminal and took us to our awaiting minivan (after local dance troupe stationed at the airport terminal entrance welcomed us to Zimbabwe!). Once in the minivan, we met our Tour Director, Charles (who reminded me of Bob Marley). Turned out Charles has a degree in mathematics, and is fluent in five languages (two being European)! And we were off to our hotel. En route, we passed one form of local transport, a donkey cart. And saw other townsfolk transporting all their food and belongings (some pretty heavy loads) on their bicycles. Talking to Charles on the way to our hotel, we asked about activities for later in the afternoon as we had a 2-3 hour window of opportunity before our BOMA dinner that evening. I specifically asked about the Victoria Falls helicopter rides I had read about beforehand. He said yes, we could likely get booked on that at about 4:00pm, and said he would make a call to confirm. Di and Steve didn’t want to do it, however Heather and Garv were keen … and so it was done! We were all confirmed to do our helicopter flights over the Victoria Falls … at $150 per person! YAY, what a thrill!!

We then arrived at our accommodation, the amazing Kingdom Hotel, which featured great domes, pillars, and bridges over its many water features. The architecture was designed to resemble that of the city of Munhumutapa, the once mighty capital of the ancient Shona Kingdom. Reminiscent of ‘Indiana Jones’! We basically had time to check in, deposit our bags, have a quick look around, then it was off for our helicopter ride. While Heather, Garv, Norman and I would be off on the helicopter, Di and Steve were going to indulge in high tea at the renowned Victoria Falls Hotel, a magnificent colonial hotel built in 1904.
Let’s experience Victoria Falls … Firstly, some impressive stats about these falls …
Victoria Falls is one of the seven natural wonders of the world. 1800 metres wide, and 108 metres high, it’s one and a half times wider than Niagara Falls and is twice the height making it the biggest curtain of water in the world. A million litres of water per second are funnelled over the 108 metre drop, creating a plume of spray that can sometimes be seen as far away as 50 kilometres. Understandably it is known as “Mosi oa Tunya” (“the smoke that thunders”)!
And we were off to Bonisair Helicopters for our ‘Livingstone’s Angels Flight’. Once there, we sat through our safety briefing, after which we were weighed, then it was on board! Norman and I had our flight first. With experienced Rhodesian pilot, Tom, at the controls, we were up and away. Well … words can’t describe the jaw-dropping sight of these breathtaking falls from our vantage point where we could take in the whole panorama! The sheer size and magnificence of the falls was a thing to behold! And our day was beautiful and sunny with clear views so we were even treated to rainbows when viewing the falls! Utterly superb, and worth every cent!!
Then it was back to base for Heather and Garv to have their turn.
After both flights were finished, Norman and I bought videos of the flights from Bonisair as a memory of our wonderful experience. We were on such a high!!
Then it was back to the Kingdom Hotel where we showered, changed and all met up again, ready for our traditional BOMA dinner. We were collected by a Wild Horizons guide and driven the 20 minutes to the BOMA. Upon arrival where we were welcomed with a traditional greeting, then given ‘chitenges’ (traditional robes) to wear. We were then seated at our table. The food included a wide selection of traditional Zimbabwean dishes including warthog, crocodile, impala, buffalo and kudu. And lovely salads. Norman even braved the Mopani worm, and was duly awarded a certificate of achievement! The night included Amakwezi traditional dancers, singers, and their amazing drummers, Amazulu. We were each given a drum and joined in as well!
All in all, a fun night.
Back to the Kingdom Hotel to bed …

Day 10 – Tuesday 6 June: Victoria Falls

First up was a beautiful buffet breakfast in our lovely Kingdom Hotel.
Then we were off with our guide Lavelle on a walking tour of Victoria Falls, through the rainforest. He drove us to a spot about 10 minutes away from the hotel where we commenced the walk. We had been warned we would get wet (in fact soaking wet) due to the spray from the falls, so we all had rain ponchos however the guide also gave us raincoats which were fairly heavy duty. I had also suggested Norman not bring his camera gear (to which he duly complied).
Off we set on foot, through the lush rainforests that surround Victoria Falls. We took in the sights of the falls however sometimes (due to the volume of spray), it was complete white-out! It was fantastic though to get an up-close look at the rocky gorges that serve as steep channels for the Zambezi River, as well as Devil’s Cataract (the lowest point of the falls) and Main Falls, Horseshoe Falls, and Rainbow Falls. And we saw the statue of David Livingstone, the intrepid explorer who discovered these falls in 1855 and named them after Queen Victoria. And yes, the parts of our bodies/clothing that were not covered by our raincoats did get soaking wet! After our walk, we had coffee at the Rainforest Café at the falls, and I bought a Christmas ornament in the souvenir shop there.

After getting changed, we were out the front of the hotel when a Zimbabwean troupe sprang into action with their high-energy song and dance numbers.  Well … Heather and I … never to let an opportunity like that pass us by … joined in!!  They even adorned us with their tribal head dresses, then it was on!  Then Steve joined in as well for a rendition of ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’!  It was all happening!  After all that … what can I say but Heather’s high kicks are amazing!!!

After our song and dance fun, it was off to walk across the Victoria Falls Bridge.  So off we headed in the direction of the bridge. Unsure of exactly how to get there, I suggested we take a path off the main route. Wrong move (it was the wrong path)! Within minutes, we were surrounded by local hawkers with their wares … and they kept coming! Then, seemingly from out of nowhere, an official ran in and forced the hawkers away. Turns out he was a member of the Zimbabwe Tourist Police whose job it is to provide security for tourists, and offer assistance in these types of situations. Anyway, he not only did that, but continued to escort us (on the correct path) towards the bridge. We made our way to the bridge, which also doubles as a border crossing because it connects Zimbabwe and Zambia. Because we were only walking the bridge, we were able to simply get a free bridge pass. Easy process! And we reached the bridge.


Opened in 1905, it was the inspiration of Cecil Rhodes. It was constructed in England by the Cleveland Bridge and Engineering Company, then shipped to the Mozambique port of Beira, and then railed up to Victoria Falls. In a feat of Victorian engineering, the bridge took just 14 months to build. From the bridge, the views of the falls and gorge were wonderful. One can bungee jump from the bridge, the 111 metres to the Batoka Gorge below!! We watched some daredevils do just that, then on we forged. By this time it was about 1:30pm so we headed to the Lookout Café for lunch, just down from the bridge. Perched 120 metres above the rapids of the Zambezi River, the café has spectacular views of the Batoka Gorge and the other activities that place there – the gorge swing and zip line. So we watched, with a bevy in hand, the brave punters that took on those challenges! Talk about a lunch with a million dollar view (even though they were a bit slow on bringing the meals)! Memory jog for Di, Heather and I: The stunning natural stone basins in the ladies restroom! And Heather struck her “no rhino is safe” pose!!!

After lunch we walked back to the Kingdom Hotel, in readiness for our afternoon sunset river cruise on the Zambezi River. We were collected by our Wild Horizons guide who took us to the river to meet up with our boat. On the way he stopped to show us a famous tree, ‘The Big Tree’, which is one of the world’s biggest baobab trees. People believe it is over 1,000 years old. The tree is 20 metres high and an incredible 18 metres in circumference.

As a side note, while we stopped there at the roadside, local hawkers seemingly sprang up out of nowhere, and came to the windows of our minivan, trying to sell their wares. I was fascinated to see that, after we said no and they retreated, they buried their wares under the ground surrounding the bushes there. I guess it saves them having to haul their wares around all the time!
We then arrived at the boat. Fabulous … it was a small group this day! There were only about another 10 people on the boat so it was nice and intimate. The cruise included all drinks so they brought out our wine and beer, and we set sail. Sightings included hippos, elephants, a crocodile, and even hang gliders! A real treat was seeing three elephants having a private pool party in the river! Wonderful! The cruise was lovely and relaxing, topped off with a gorgeous sunset.

After the cruise, we were dropped back at the Kingdom Hotel where we showered and changed. Then we walked down the road to the majestic Victoria Falls Hotel where we had drinks on Stanley’s Terrace. During daylight hours the Terrace has a view of the falls in the distance. Norman ordered a Scotch on the rocks and was duly served a 25-year old Scotch (at $30 a pop!) Di and I ordered Amurela, which had become my new favourite cream liqueur. Lovely pre-dinner drinks.
Then we headed off for dinner. Feeling like something a bit lighter, we went in search of pizza. After passing on Pizza Inn (fast food place!), we ended up at the Shearwater Café in the main street. And yes, thankfully they had pizza! So it was pizza all round, accompanied by house wine at $3.00 a glass! Pizza was good and so was the wine! And I loved the background music – old jazz standards from the 20’s and 30’s! Side note: Di and I saw the poster advertising cage diving with the crocs … game on!!!
Signing off another big day! Off to bed at the Kingdom Hotel …

Day 11 – Wednesday 7 June: Victoria Falls to Chobe National Park

A sleep-in day!
As we are not being collected until 11:00am, we have the morning to ourselves. We enjoyed a buffet breakfast at the Kingdom Hotel, after which I sat in the restaurant overlooking the water courses, and wrote my travel diary (I had a bit of updating to do). After an hour or so I wanted to stretch my legs so went for a bit of a walk around the hotel water courses, and did a double-take when I saw a sign that read “This lake is a natural water habitat and could contain small crocodiles. Children playing around the lake need parental guidance.” Now that’s something you don’t see every day!!
We packed, checked out, and our Wild Horizons driver duly picked us up to head to Chobe National Park in Botswana. Our first stop though would be the border crossing at Kazangula where there are two border controls, one for Zimbabwe and one for Botswana. We would have to exit Zimbabwe at the first control, then enter Botswana at the second. We would have to also change drivers and transfer from our vehicle to another on the Botswana side. It all went pretty smoothly, even though it was something of an eye-opener. I needed to use the restrooms there, and they were definitely an eye-opener! All I can say is lucky I had tissues!!! Once we successfully passed through the border controls, we were off in the direction of a town called Kasane which borders Chobe National Park. Our first stop there was a ‘budget’ lodging to drop off two other Wild Horizons tourists who had travelled from Zimbabwe to Botswana in our minivan. Well … our group all looked at each other, supremely grateful we had Shaun to organise all our accommodation as the ‘budget’ place looked decidedly dodgy!! And on we went, travelling through the bustling township of Kasane to reach our accommodation, the Chobe Safari Lodge. Once again, lovely accommodation, situated right on the banks of the Chobe River. The restaurant, cocktail bar, and our River Rooms all had views over the river. Being about 1:30pm when we arrived, we enjoyed the buffet lunch once we dropped our bags in our rooms. After lunch, it was time for our sunset river cruise on the Chobe River. This time the boat was right at our doorstep … literally! We could simply walk down the boardwalk which ran from the restaurant to a small pier, and then hop on board. Not quite the intimate cruise we had experienced on the Zambezi as this boat was pretty full. It did have an open upper deck though where the crew limited passenger numbers. This made for a fabulous way to view the wildlife! Not long after we set off, we spotted a crocodile sunning itself on the banks of the river. Then in the lush green plains of Sedudu Island (viewable from our craft), we saw numerous elephants. Other sightings included Cape buffalo, hippos, impala, fish eagles, kingfishers, kudu, kori bustard (the national bird of Botswana), and Egyptian geese. And plenty of elephants munching the long marsh grass!

After all this glorious wildlife viewing, we witnessed a most stunning sunset as the sky and water magically changed colour to vibrant red, gold and tangerine. Breathtaking!

Once back at the safari lodge, we had lovely pre-dinner drinks in Di and Steve’s room. Di treated us to Amurela (quickly becoming one of my favourite drinks!). We also planned the next day, deciding we would ask if we could swap the boat cruise for a game drive. That would mean we would have two game drives, one in the early morning, and another in the late afternoon. We also thought we would inquire as to whether we could have a “local Kasane sights” tour in the middle of the day (between the two game drives). BIG day coming up!! Then it was off to dinner, our first ‘round table’ dinner. Worked a treat!
End of our first day in Botswana …