Devils, Angels and Thundering Smoke

26 June 2018 | Travel East Africa |

Reading Time: 4 MINUTES

Who would have thought that it is just a skip and a hop from the Mara to scenes so lovingly gazed upon by angels in their flight?

What serenity, what sublime tranquility, it is to be sitting here, as I am, on the banks of the Zambezi River as it gently flows below me, surrounded by verdant jungle, lush birdsong, and cloud-accented blue skies. Such are the pristine surroundings one might feel inspired by as to work while on vacation. And so, I find myself writing this blog.

Continuing the annual tradition of spending our anniversary in a new country, Shannon and I (this year, with Perrin in tow) looked at all the non-stop flight options from Nairobi and settled on Zambia. Kenya Airways flies directly to Livingstone for a 40-minute layover before continuing on to Cape Town. From wheels up in Nairobi, in just four hours you can be getting soaked at the edge of Mosi-oa-Tunya, aka “The Smoke that Thunders” aka Victoria Falls.

With four nights at the gorgeous Royal Chundu Island Lodge, we were looking forward to a fine balance of R&R and adventure – and that is exactly what we got.

Royal-Chundu Hotel

As one would expect from the name, the lodge’s four lovely villas and guest area are hidden on the banks of a private island in the middle of the Zambezi River. The spacious villas have sliding glass doors opening onto a deck over the river, complete with an outdoor tub for a romantic evening soak. The perfect base from which to explore this iconic corner of Africa.

Enjoying Victoria Falls is a full-sensory experience:  besides the majesty of seeing it, you’ll hear the roar of the water, feel the drenching spray, even smell and taste the earthy river.

Heli-ride

Our big day of exploring started with a helicopter pick-up from the Lodge, cruising over the Zambezi River towards what looked like a smoking hole in the distance. Undoubtedly the best view of the Falls, this bird’s-eye approach is critical to truly understand the geologic history and formation of this natural wonder, and to gain an appreciation for just how massive it is. After a couple of loops, we took a steep dive for an adrenaline-pumping, heart-thumping rocket through the gorge below, skimming the tumultuous river, blade-tips seemingly kissing the narrow canyon walls, weaving sharp corners at unnatural angles. It was exhilarating.

angels-pool

But this is not the most death-defying way to experience the Falls; that title goes to taking a plunge in the pools off of Livingstone Island. Because the river was too flooded to safely take a dip in the famous Devil’s Pool, we gingerly eased ourselves to the edge of the Falls at nearby Angel’s Pool – arguably even more terrifying than Devil’s Pool because of the powerful rush of water threatening to sweep you away at any moment. We stretched out over the edge as far as we confidently could, before retreating back to safety.

Shannon-walking-next-to-falls

We wrapped up the day with a stroll along the canyon’s crest below the Falls, which offers the easiest and most in-your-face opportunity to feel the raw power of the thundering curtain of water. From the Zambian side in the February flood it is an impressive, roaring wall of water that, without a poncho, will leave you soaked to the bone in a matter of seconds.

Crocodile with prey

With the rest of our time on the banks of the Zambezi, we enjoyed sundowner cruises, watching for wildlife in the Matetsi Reserve on the Zimbabwean side, gin and tonics in hand as the sun dipped lazily below the horizon. We visited Royal Chundu’s neighboring village, Mushekwa, where the wide-smiled and charismatic matriarch of the community, Edith, graciously hosted us for an introduction to life on the Zambezi, showcasing how the village supports the Lodge via the provision of produce (all fresh supplies come from within a 3km radius of the lodge).

A-hosted-tour of Mushekwa

On our last day, we enjoyed an adventurous paddle down the Zambezi River in inflatable kayaks, weaving through flooded islands, enjoying vignettes into river-life as we waved hello to passing fisherman, and keeping a wary eye out for hippos. We beached our kayaks for a picnic lunch at a site where the Royal Chundu team had set up a delicious smorgasbord (and inviting hammocks to boot).

Canoeing along the Zambezi

We would have spent all day there if we could have (there was enough food to last us the night, and then some), but our Zambian retreat was drawing to a close, and a short walk across the island brought us back to the lodge for our drive back to Livingstone where, during the first few minutes of takeoff, we could see Victoria Falls’ smoky plumes in the distance, waving goodbye – until next time.

Picnic along the Zambezi

“The islands above the falls are covered with foliage as beautiful as can be seen anywhere. Viewed from the mass of rock which overhangs the fall, the scenery was the loveliest I had seen.” David Livingstone

Note from the Editor: Our little blog continues to share every adventure that can easily be extended from where we live. The possibility of connecting the Victoria Falls with the Mara without an overnight stop was remote until just a year ago. And now there is also a non-stop flight to Cape Town – wait for that story.

Warmest thanks to Tina and the Royal Chundu family for making the Daviii feel so welcome (soon to be Daviiii)

ABOUT: Tyler Davis

As on-property regional director, guide and birding fundi, Tyler is one half of the regional director couple that leads the team at Angama Mara. Being the birding extraordinaire that he is, he has been known to let his attention wander during meetings. The trick to keep him focused is to place him with no direct view of anything feathered. Tyler ensures that we are a grounded and well-rounded team. He also sometimes forgets to take his binoculars off at dinnertime.

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