Back in January my older sister came to visit me in Botswana. We had the chance to tour around the northern region of the country and then headed over to Livingstone Zambia to see Victoria Falls.
Here are a few highlights and pictures from the trip!
Victoria Falls, Zambia
My favorite photos of the trip were from Victoria Falls and Jungle Junction.
The waterfall was experiencing low levels but it was still magnificent to see. There is something very tranquil and serene about watching water gush over the slippery slopes of the rocks. From this angle there was also a nice sprinkling of water which was welcomed as the day was hot.
In Livingstone, Zambia, we stayed at Livingstone Backpackers. They have a daily “shuttle” that will bring you to the entrance of the park. Outside the entrance there are a number of shared and privates taxis for the ride back. The taxi was 6 kwacha ($6) and the ride is about 15 minutes. So don’t waste money on hiring a tour guide to drive you to the falls. This one guide was charging us 100 kwacha to go to the falls (from the hostel). And he can’t actually bring us inside for a “guided tour”. The entrance fee was $20 (USD/200 kwacha). You can also check the Zambia Tourism website for fee updates.
The Zambia side of the falls has many hiking trails to explore if you are interested in seeing more than just the waterfalls. The only thing to be mindful of are the packs of baboons that lurk throughout the “forest”. I dislike baboons because they try to steal your belongings in search of food and they are dangerous. My sister and I were going down to the “boiling point” trail, which would have taken about a 25 minute walk from the entrance, but I saw baboons and turned back. She wanted to keep going…but noooope not I…you can go alone haha. Peace!
There is also a trail to the bridge that everyone likes to bungee jump off. If I understood correctly from what the park guide told us, you can get around a fence at the bridge entrance to walk across to the Zimbabwe side of the falls. We did not try this so I am not sure if this is completely accurate.
We enjoyed the falls for about two to three hours or so (maybe more) and then went in search of food. Across from the entrance to the falls (not the main entrance) there are a slew of souvenirs shops and vendors waiting for you to spend your kwacha. There is also a small restaurant that was actually really good. We sat inside and could see zebras on the lawn of the nearby Avani hotel.
My sister ordered some fried fish and chips and I settled for the “local” dish of nshima and chicken stew. We were the only ones in the restaurant for a really long time. After about 45 minutes (the food took a long time) we were joined by another traveling family and workers on their lunch break. There was a electric fence that separated the park from the hotel. The other family that was there had a very active toddler who wouldn’t sit still. When his parents weren’t looking he ran over to the fence to play and was mildly electrocuted. Sheesh! He was alright though. The fence must be to keep the baboons out. One baboon came up to the entrance of the restaurant but was shooed away by the security guard.
After eating we headed back to the hostel and just chilled. It was a great place mainly because of the mango trees. So many fell down while we sat by the pool. I ate one as a snack. Hey why not! Free food 🙂
The next day we were picked up from the hostel by Brett, the manager of Jungle Junction. It’s a small island right in the middle of the Zambezi river. He is a very friendly and entertaining Irish man who was born in Zimbabwe. The ride to the island was 15km (or maybe more) down a very bumpy dirt road. His pickup truck has seen better days and the passenger door swung open every time we hit a bump (like every 5 minutes). It was hilarious mainly because my sister had to close it shut and hang on to it every time it happened.
Jungle Junction, Zambezi River, Zambia
Once we reached the river two of his workers were there to help us into the dugout canoes. There were two canoes, one of which held bags and the other, supplies they were bringing back. We drifted down the river for about 15 minutes. It was really peaceful and calm. I put my hand in the water a few times and it was cool against my skin. They did tell us we would have the option to go swimming later on that day. Ahead of us I heard very loud shrieking. I asked our guide David what the noise was and he said it was a hippo. I guess the expression of terror on my face said a lot because he told me not to worry it is far away. But it sounded extremely close I thought. He could probably read my mind since he also explained that the sound is just carrying over the water. Hmmm ok…I trust you!
When we arrived to the island we were told that we are the only guest for the evening. Isn’t this how scary movies start?? Hmmm ok…I still trust you!
The first building you see upon arriving is this really eclectic bar. I have video footage of the whole island so I’ll post it to the YouTube channel. Brett chatted with us in the bar and explained the rules of the island. We were also treated to complimentary drinks. The island is pretty much self service and everyone is really laid back. There is a clip board in the bar with a tally sheet for all your munchies. At the end of your stay they review everything and you pay for what you consumed. Just think of the sheet you see in hotel rooms attached to the mini bar. We stayed in a chalet which was $35 per night. All your meals are included and paid per selection (breakfast, lunch, dinner). There is also a $25 activities fee which includes all the excursions (sunset cruise, village walk/tour, village lunch etc). The lady that runs the kitchen (or the one in charge while we were there) is named Sister D. She had a beard thicker than Abe Lincoln’s and was always wrapped in colorful chitenge cloth. Brett told us that the men can’t really grow beards here so she grew one to spite them…haha. The meals were really tasty. My only complaint was it was a bit salty. But that seems to be a problem with the cooking both in Zambia and Botswana.
We did the sunset cruise the first night, came back showered and then headed to dinner. The showers are lovely because it feels like you are showering outside but it’s completely enclosed. The scary movie suspense happened again when my sister and I both woke up in the middle of the night needing to pee. I remember telling her to wake me up if she did so that we can walk together. It is an absolute requirement to bring torches (flashlights) with your to this island. It was PITCH BLACK when we set out. Our chalet was kinda far from the bathrooms so we walked swiftly like the ground was on fire. I was walking so fast behind her that I kept bumping into her haha. The escalating noise of the night time symphony performed by the creepy crawlers nearly gave me a heart attack. We made it to the toilets and back to the chalets in one piece. I chuckled at myself because there really was nothing to be afraid of on the island.
Day two we did our village walk and lunch. The main point of the walk was to see the school that they were constructing. We sat and talked with the school head and met some of the children. I imagined they were quite confused as were the teachers of meeting black tourist. The majority of the photos in the school heads office were of white tourist and volunteers from Europe.
After the tour we met up with the lady who would teach us to cook a traditional meal. The people in this area are mainly fish eaters but the meal we prepared was vegetarian. You can see in the photo below the assortment of food that we cooked. It was so simple and delicious. It reminded of when I learned to cook Korean meals and how simple they were with real, fresh, unprocessed food.
Our cook did use a crap ton of salt in the Okra and eggplants. I had to tell her that my sister had high blood pressure so we don’t really use salt. I don’t think she fully understood me but it was OK. I never want to be one of those tourist or expats that has some complaint or adjustment to local cuisines when traveling.
Side note: When I returned home I did successfully recreate all the meals (minus the eggplants). I have a blog post and free recipe book going up soon about traditional foods of Botswana and Zambia.
In all the trip was really fun and relaxing. Jungle Junction however is not the place for the Bourgeoisie traveler. I walked around barefoot the entire time and my feet enjoyed melting in the sand. It is a great place though if you are up for an adventure for a few days. There are books in the library but you can bring your own. Cell phone service and wi-fi are not available on the island. A volunteer I spoke with before going described the place really well. She told me that it is “really relaxing to the point where you feel it in your bones”. True story and your tired bones will thank you!
You may be wondering, “but Tamara, you didn’t talk about Botswana?”. Yea I know. That may have to be another post since this one is quite long already. But in Botswana we visited the Chobe National Park and that was pretty much it. If I find decent photos from Chobe and think the story will be interesting, it will be a separate post indeed.
Let me know if you have visited Victoria Falls or Zambia in the comments below! Or if you have any questions about visiting Botswana or Zambia!