Pictures and descriptions below of my visit to Victoria Falls and a day trip to Chobe Game Reserve in Botswana. But first…
I explained how I grew up in Rhodesia (now called Zimbabwe) back here. It was a fantastic place to grow up.
Rhodesia was originally established when Cecil Rhodes was given a charter by Queen Victoria in 1889 to prospect for minerals north of the Limpopo River.
He negotiated mineral rights with the Ndebele King Lobengula, which resulted in the Moffat treaty and, in 1895, Rhodes took his Voortrekkers across the Limpopo into what is now Zimbabwe.
The charter was granted to the British South Africa Company, so the initial column that marched North was part of a commercial exploration, rather than a colonising power.
By 1918, though, the Voortrekkers had settled and a formalised system of administration had been set up.
This comprised a Legislative Council that acted as a check and balance on the British South Africa Company (BSAC), which effectively ruled the territory.
But in that year, the British Courts ruled that land within the area controlled by the BSAC, but which was not privately owned, belonged to the crown – a ‘land grab’ which triggered a powerful movement for self-government.
Self-government was eventually granted by charter in 1923, and was followed by an election in 1924 that established the first Southern Rhodesian government.
In the decades that followed Southern Rhodesia became part of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland until that collapsed in 1963. On its collapse Southern Rhodesia became Rhodesia (still a British territory) and then, in 1965, declared itself independent from Britain.
There followed years of International trade sanctions (instigated by Britain as punishment for declaring independence), the first black Prime Minister (Bishop Abel Muzorewa in 1978) and, eventually, the Lancaster House agreement in 1979.
The Lancaster House agreement saw Rhodesia (by then called Zimbabwe-Rhodesia) committing to a general election that was to be held the next year and include candidates from the Patriotic Front (an alliance of ZANU and ZAPU) under a temporary British Governor (Nicholas Soames).
That election resulted in the accession to power of Robert Mugabe, who presided over unprecedented corruption, 24,000% inflation, the 100 Trillion Dollar banknote and the complete destruction of the economy.
Back in 1977, during the height of the bush war, it was clear that the country could not sustain the war effort for much longer.
At the time I was a secretary in the Ministry of Commerce and Industry to two committees. They considered applications from businesses for allocations of foreign exchange to fund projects, and in that position I could see just how broke the country was.
So I took the decision to leave.
It was 22 years before I returned, which I did in December 1999 – my girl-friend at the time and I saw the new millennium in at Victoria Falls.
On that trip we covered a lot of territory, and the pictures below are from our time at Victoria Falls, from where we also took a short trip into Botswana to visit the Chobe Game Reserve.
We had spent the previous few days at Kariba, which I’ll write about separately, and flew in to Victoria Falls (this picture is not one of mine, it comes from a Facebook group but I don’t know whose it is – if it’s yours please let me know and I’ll provide the attribution!):
The first European to discover Victoria Falls was David Livingstone. He named it after Queen Victoria, but it had already been named by the indigenous population as ‘Mosi-oa-Tunya’, which means ‘the smoke that thunders’.
The power of the water going over the falls, especially at the height of a good rainy season, is immense, and they can be heard from up to 40 kilometers away.
The spray that is thrown up can reach up to 400 meters high and creates a light rain.
This may look like it was a grey day, but it wasn’t – it was only the spray, and that season was not a good one for the rains:
Of course, being Africa there’s a lot of wild life around. This Impala was just watching us as we wandered along the track through the rain forest by the falls:
Having spent the day wandering around the falls, and getting soaked in the process, there’s little to beat a sunset cruise on the Zambesi, above the falls.
This cruise takes about an hour and includes drinks and snacks (or, at least, did when we took it!). You get to see game along the river’s edge drinking in the cool of the evening, and an African sunset:
A great way to end the day!
Today, there are numerous attractions at Victoria Falls – white water rafting and bungee jumping are two popular ones, but there are others.
Like so many places, it’s become more and more commercialised.
Chobe Game Reserve, Botswana
Our day trip into Botswana and the Chobe Game Reserve started with an early pick-up from our hotel. The drive to Chobe was about an hour, including the border crossing which, when we did it, was very quick.
Once in the game reserve, we set off in a Land Rover and came across this lioness. She was a bit upset with us because she had been stalking her lunch and our arrival caused her prospective meal to escape:
Luckily for her (but not so much for her prey), when we passed by the same location some hours later, we could hear her feasting in the bushes.
This was in a different part of the reserve: a young lion plus a cub playing. The lioness was there too, but did not seem at all concerned about us:
This eland was so well disguised that, at first, he was difficult to spot. But once I saw him I was able to zoom in for this:
The second part of the tour was in a boat on the Chobe River and, on our way to the boarding point, we passed these elephants. The rain storm you can see in the background threatened to spoil the boat trip but, luckily, it passed quickly:
The boat was flat-bottomed and so enabled us to go right up to the river’s edge. Here you can see a baby crocodile. Its mother was almost right underneath the boat:
These elephants were actually at the water’s edge on the other side of that grassy island, and we were able to go right up to them on the boat:
Because of their sheer size, elephants can be very dangerous if they are disturbed or if their young are threatened, so a great deal of respect is a good idea. They have enormous strength.
The boat trip came to an end, sadly, and we were returned to our van for the drive back to Victoria Falls.
It was a fantastic day out though, and, if you’re visiting Victoria Falls, I would heartily recommend fitting it into your itinerary!
Have you been to Victoria Falls or Chobe? Tell us about it in the comments!
The Expat Traveller