#24 Zambezi and its famous Victoria Falls

#24 Zambezi and its famous Victoria Falls

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“From 22th of July to 10th of August”

Zambezi‘s elephants

After crossing a beautiful road lined with baobabs, we go in search of a wild camping. The first one with Agathe, Laurène’s sister. The sun is falling, we don’t have to wait to enjoy the last lights. On a path leading to a lodge, we find our place in the middle of the trees.

After a good sleep and a hearty breakfast, we set out again in the direction of the Zambezi River. This river encircles Zambia, creating a natural border with Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe. We are downstream from the famous Victoria Falls. Between them and us lies the Kariba lake that we have just left. We settle in front of the river, in the camping part of a lodge. Without waiting, the elephant show begins. While Agathe and Valentin have settled down to read, I see a little further about fifteen elephants crossing the river. They have no foot and swim to reach a small island full of fresh herbs. Their trunk in the air is used as a snorkel. They move forward to the other bank. 

The next morning, they are back in the camp. Here, it is their territory. They come closer and closer. We have to close Uyo and go to the safety of the reception. We take the stairs of the building to be in the front row. It is in the calm that we observe their least facts and gestures.

Before leaving the Zambezi to go back inland, we wanted to explore it by boat. After a few days on the spot, we found the right deal thanks to some German travelers we met on the road. We organize a trip for the three of us at sunrise.

At dawn, the river is smooth. This natural mirror reflects the orange sky and all the small clouds composing it. We sail to the border of Zimbabwe. This delimitation created by man, the animals do not care. The crocodiles wobble from one bank to the other to bask in the sun. Unfortunately, our guide does not hesitate to disturb them to get closer until they get scared and so do we. It makes him laugh.

In the water, the hippos are kings. We cross many groups of an impressive density. We have never seen such a concentration. This boat safari ends with the meeting of waterbucks and bushbucks who come to quench their thirst. From the water, we discover them under another angle. 

Kafue national parc 

By reading some guidebooks, we realize that the Kafue National Park is very wild and that it is not easy to see the animals. We take this information as a challenge. We choose to visit it on two days to have more chance to cross its inhabitants.

We find a wild camp site near the entrance.  We are already in the middle of antelopes. Unfortunately, the cloud of tsetse flies around the van prevents us from opening doors and windows to enjoy the landscape. We cloister ourselves inside to read, or to do some editing. The space is not big in Uyo, we all try to find a more or less comfortable place, in spite of the heat which rises because we are locked up. At the time to go to bed, the flies left. It is too cold for them. Finally, we can go out breath fresh air.

We get up with the sun, eyes sharpened, ready to go in search of wildlife. We quickly understand why the task will be complicated. The road is bordered by a forest with little visibility and it is difficult to see the animals unless they cross. Nevertheless, we cross several types of antelopes. Although this park does not have a high density of animals, it has endemic species that we have never seen before. The rarity makes us savor every moment.

Our second goal of the day is to find accessible lodging for tonight. There are few doors in the park and we will not be able to go out for the night. We don’t drive very fast on the bumpy roads. The campsites inside the park are too expensive for our budget. We go to meet the rangers to find a solution. After a quick explanation of our situation, they propose us to park for the night near their camp for 5$ per person. The price suits us but the camp is not very well located. If we sleep here tonight, we will have to cross the whole park tomorrow, about 150km of bad tracks on which we do 20km/h. We keep this option, but continue our way.

After two unsuccessful campsites, we try the last one in the area, halfway along the route. It’s a campsite outside the park, on the other side of the river that delimits it. To get there, you just have to park your car on the park side and honk your horn. A small boat comes to meet us to cross the river. We just had lunch and we really want to find a solution for tonight. We talk about our budget to the manager who agrees to accommodate us. Without Uyo, the camping will be different. Tonight we will sleep three in our tent. We miss a mattress for Agathe but they will be able to provide it to us. It is good! We have our accommodation for this evening. We leave on the other bank to take advantage of the last hours of sun in the hope to see other types of animals. Unfortunately, they are always so rare. We enjoyed each encounter although they were often brief. Even at more than 50m, the animals not used to humans, run away when they see us coming.

The sun is setting and just before the night sets, we go back to the campsite parking. We take everything we need: tent, comforters, quilt, stove, cushions, two small seats, etc..

We are quite loaded. The manager of the place welcomes us. He explains us that seeing the sun declining, he chose to install us in their two camping tents. As they have a lot of sheets, they also installed two double mattresses with comforters and pillows. The great luxury! They quickly prepare us a fire around which we start to cook. This evening, it is fajitas, with home-made pancakes. It is one of our main recipes! We spoke about it so much to Agathe that it is time that we make her discover.


As soon as we are back on tarmac, we quickly go to Livingstone to get our residence permit extended. Arrived at the immigration, we find closed door… However we are Monday.  We worry a little. We wonder if the building, a little dilapidated, is abandoned. On the door no information on the opening hours. By passing in front of the one of the bank of next door, we understand that we are a holiday. We will come back tomorrow.

Livingstone is the tourist capital of Zambia. Located at the southern tip of the country, it is less than 15 minutes from Zimbabwe and less than an hour from Botswana and Namibia. Named after the missionary and explorer Dr. Livingstone, the city is a staging point for travel to Victoria Falls. This adventurer dedicated his life to the search for the source of the Nile, without succeeding. We visited it in Uganda (see Article 18 Along the water in Uganda: from Sipi Falls to the source of the Nile)

We quickly take our marks, we will spend more than a week here until the departure of Agathe and the arrival of our new passengers, Pauline and Quentin. 

Victoria falls

In Livingstone, we meet again the Zambezi river that we explored last week. We have heard a lot about the Victoria Falls, considered as one of the new wonders of the world. It is one of the most famous attractions in Africa: a must-see. They are visible from Zambia and Zimbabwe. We expected to see something exceptional, but even prepared, even after having seen pictures, to find oneself in front of this immensity of nature leaves one speechless! 

Stretching over 1.7km wide, the Zambezi falls as far as the eye can see. From Zambia, we can only observe a third of it but we can guess the rest of this spectacular waterfall in the cloud in front of us. We lose the notion of time to discover this waterfall under all its angles and little by little the colors change. We are there since two good hours and the sun begins to go down. It brings orange-pink colors which are reflected in the water. This one crashes in a deafening roar 100 meters lower, in the hollow of the gorges which zigzag downstream. 

It is in these gorges that we planned a rafting trip to perfect our experience of the Zambezi. The rapids downstream of the falls have some passages classified 5, the highest that exists. We leave for a 3 hours trip with 15 big rapids.

Overland mission 

Yesterday Agathe got on a bus to Lusaka and its airport. Our friends Pauline and Quentin will arrive in a week. While waiting for them we want to get out of the city to find a quiet place. On our application “iOverlander” we find Overland Mission that has already welcomed travelers. We don’t really know what to expect but let’s go. 

We are welcomed by Ciaran who works on the camp of the association Overland Mission. He presents us the space for the campers and also shows us the future camp with view on the gorges. It is magnificent but seems difficult of access. Many shrubs still block the passage. He hopes to be able to clear it for the next month. We are welcome and Ciaran even proposes us to join the collective meal. We end up accepting to join the dinner every evening.

Ciaran discovered overland mission while on vacation in his home country, South Africa, following his studies in geology. He met one of the founding members of the base and decided to follow him before looking for a job. He is passionate about the work and ends up meeting his wife during one of the missions.

Overland Mission is an American humanitarian association that helps poor people around the world. To help them, the association relies on the Bible and its values. Ciaran explains to us that it is not always easy to distinguish between the culture that they wish to preserve and the practices that can be considered as “bad”, that is to say that harm others. One example is the rite of passage from boy to man. This is a very important step in a man’s life and brings him manhood in the eyes of the tribe. However, this ritual is very demanding physically and mentally. After this ordeal, young men feel untouchable and think that everything (especially women) is due to them. Rape is frequent following this event. 

It’s interesting to talk with the members of the association. Some of them tell us about miracles seen in the communities after they have passed on their faith.

The goal of the association is to have a long-term impact on the communities. This is why base camps have been created like the one we are staying in. Everything has been thought out so that the members can settle there for several years and live comfortably with their families. Canteen, swimming pool, soccer, basketball and volleyball courts… you can almost feel like you are in an American university. The base is located on a cliff overlooking the Zambezi River Gorge, and the setting is incredible. Every evening, we have the right to an incredible sunset!

To work here, members must be self-financing. They each have to find sponsors who will allow them to receive an income every month. Every two weeks, Ciaran and Jamie send a newsletter to their American donors to explain the progress. On a daily basis, they also give news via WhatsApp to those most involved. Ciaran is working on the construction of a building to receive local tribal leaders, in addition to repairs and improvements to the camp. Jamie, his wife, is in charge of the adult school, to train the local people.

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