Taking Tea at the Falls

We gazed out across the beautiful manicured lawn from the hotel verandah. The waitress carefully poured tea from the teapot and a stand of cakes and sandwiches (with the crusts cut off) sat on the table. It could have been a scene from a country hotel in England except that warthog were grazing on the lawn and baboons were bounding across it. In the distance could be seen spray and we could hear the roar from Victoria Falls. 

High tea at the Victoria Falls Hotels is something of an institution and we were all keen to try it. So after checking in to our campsite nearby we all got changed into something a little smarter so we could take tea on the terrace. The hotel dates from 1903 and is a beautiful building. High tea consisted of cucumber and other sandwiches, with some cakes as well as scones with jam and cream. All very pleasant and served with lashings of lovely tea. It was a lovely way to spend our first afternoon in Zimbabwe.
Earlier that morning we had left our campsite in Kasane to drive the short distance to the Zimbabwean border. The border crossing went smoothly and all the officials were friendly and joking. Mind you it was pretty expensive to get in. This is the first country in which we have had to pay for a visa ($55 each) on our trip and they also felt it was only fair that the truck should pay too. $190 for road insurance, carbon tax and road usage fees.
We had heard that there are lots of police roadblocks in Zimbabwe and that they are always looking for “violations”. Within a couple of Kms we were stopped at what I assume will be the first of many. All very pleasant but the policeman walked around the truck and made me switch all my lights on to check they were working, they were and we were on our way to Victoria Falls.
The following day it was time to see the Falls proper. Victoria Falls are described as one of the seven natural wonders of the world and (according to them) are one of the three great waterfalls of the world when you take into account depth, width and water flow. We had visited the other two on this trip, Niagara and Iguazu so would see how they would compare. Of the three, Victoria Falls is the deepest, Iguazu the widest and Niagara has the most water flow across it.
Gilly and I have visited the waterfalls before in the dry season so we were not expecting there to be too much water at this time of year. However we were wrong. As we approached the Falls there was a lot of spray and certain sections of the falls were quite difficult to see. Before heading out along the trail though we first had to pay our respects to Dr Livingstone.
There is some debate as to when is the best time to visit the Falls. They are spectacular when there is lots of water in them but are then difficult to photograph and you get drenched. When they are drier they are less spectacular but photos are better and you can better appreciate how the Falls cut through a gorge. In fact you can not see the Falls themselves until you are very close to them as the gorge cuts into a fault in the Earths surface. You can though hear them and see the spray from Kms away.



There is some debate as to when is the best time to visit the Falls. They are spectacular when there is lots of water in them but are then difficult to photograph and you get drenched. When they are drier they are less spectacular but photos are better and you can better appreciate how the Falls cut through a gorge. In fact you can not see the Falls themselves until you are very close to them as the gorge cuts into a fault in the Earths surface. You can though hear them and see the spray from Kms away.








We had a lovely walk along the trail admiring the Falls from the many viewpoints. They were as magnificent as always. At the end of the trail we could view the rail bridge that crossed near to the falls. This is where people bungee jump from. We could also see the rafters entering the river below. Gilly and I have rafted here before and it is great. Strangely Alisha and Lucy were not keen on the idea of rafting or bungee jumping.


So of the three which of the falls is the most impressive? It’s a really hard call as each of them is clearly magnificent. However my vote would be for Iguazu although there is not much between them, so I am sure other people would have a different opinion.
The next morning we headed out of town the short distance to the entrance to the Zambezi National Park. We were hoping to camp here for the night and to see some of the game. As this whole area including Chobe and Hwange National Park is unfenced game roams freely at will. The campsites here are more wild as there are no fences so it’s easily possible to have animals coming through your camp especially at night.
At the gate though it looked as though we were going to be thwarted in our attempt to camp by the Zambesi. The lady said the truck was too big to be allowed into the park. This was something we were worried about when coming to Africa but was the first time it had been an issue. We explained we had been let in other parks and we were not a commercial operation and the lady said we should wait for her boss who would arrive shortly. Her boss arrived and we had a lovely conversation with her about what we were doing and about her recent trip to Germany. However she said she did not think we were allowed in. Her boss then arrived and we had another conversation with him. He said usually vehicles our size were not allowed in but he would check. In the end we were permitted to enter but only to drive to the nearest campsite by the river. The park rangers were really friendly and went out of their way to help us, let’s hope this continues.
When we arrived at the campsite all the facilities were run down but this did not matter as we could camp right by the river and had fantastic views. On jumping out of the truck we could immediately see lion prints. They did not look that fresh but then we are not exactly expert trackers. The elephant footprints and dung did look fresher though. As we unpacked our table and chairs there did not seem to be any animals currently around except for the hippo grunting in the river.
We spent a lovely relaxing day by the riverside with the only animals coming through camp being a peaceful group of baboons. In the late afternoon and early the next morning we did a couple of short game drives. We did not see very much except for some giraffe, kudu, impala and warthog but we thoroughly enjoyed the scenic views of the riverfront with the kingfishers diving into the water and the fish eagles squawking overhead.



Returning to camp we made a fire for the night. It felt like been in real Africa by the riverside. We were the only ones there and as the night arrived we could hear the sounds of the bush. After the children had gone to bed Gilly and I sat by the crackling fire. We could hear baboons squabbling in a nearby tree. The hippos were still snorting but seemed much closer and there was a chorus of frogs and insects. Such lovely sounds to drift off to sleep to.

6 thoughts on “Taking Tea at the Falls

  1. Great reading as always. We are currently in Brazil and having just visited Iguazu cannot but help agree that they are spectacukar. We viewed them firstly from the Brazilian side and were blown away. We’d heard that from the Argentinian side they were even better but I couldn’t quite imagine how. Until we got there. Absolutely stunning and quite emotional. Never been to Victoria falls but agree that they outdo Niagara, which were also spectacular. The natural world is quite amazing sometimes.

    • Thanks for this. Iguazu is great so glad you enjoyed it. We loved Brazil so hope you enjoy it too. Mind you we found communicating difficult.😃

  2. Hi – how very civilised! Tea & Cucumber sandwiches!
    Yes the Vicfalls Hotel does offer long gone style and grace!
    Not sure which way your heading ie. Zim-Highlands or back to SA via Beitbridge and into Kruger Park?
    The Zimbabweans are the most friendly and easy going people!
    I know J is from there!
    Just in case you run into ZRP problems (which can happen)

    (:The ZRP has stated that if you feel that you have been harassed, bribes have been hinted or that your treatment has been generally aggressive you should contact:
    Superintendent Ncube 0772 719 730 or 0712 769 768
    Superintendent Kangware 0712 415 491
    National Complaints Line (24 hour service) (04)703631.:)

    But enjoy your travel don’t let possible officaldom spoil your trip!
    Hamba Kahle
    T&J

    • Thanks for this. We have had 3 police roadblocks so far. 2 were fine. At the third I spent 15 mins before they dropped the fine. Apart from that enjoying Zim. We are going to avoid Beitbridge and hopefully cross back into SA from Botswana at one of the small Limpopo river border crossings. I say hopefully. Due to the change in the visa rules to stop border hopping we are told because we have already had one 90 day visa this year they may only grant us 7 days which is no use. We are hoping as we look like tourists that we get another 90 days but will see. Hopefully the border will be sleepy and there will be load shedding so the computers are not working 😃

  3. Hi Gilly
    We did the Falls from the other side about ten years ago. Are you going to go to Zambia? We always say it was our best holiday ever and I am so envious of all your safari experiences! The girls must be having such an amazing time.
    Happy travelling!
    Anne

    • Thanks Anne. Unfortunately we have turned south now and are slowly making our way back to South Africa after a loop of Zimbabwe. We went to Zambia about 12 years ago and have fantastic memories of its national parks. Zambia and Malawi would definitely be next on our list but Australia and then Asia call, if we are ever going to get back within the next 2 years;)
      Gx

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