Excited for the next chapter of the trip, after a filling breakfast, I was ready to explore more of the ever-so-captivating Victoria Falls by air. So at 10AM, we all met at the hotel reception and the United Air Charter drove us to their headquarters, about a short ten-minute ride away.
Once we got there, we quickly picked a route – the twelve-minute route, where you just fly over the falls and the nearby area. After paying for the route, we had to wait for the helicopters to get back from their flights.As I sat there, I noticed a local man playing the Marimba, a local Zambian xylophone-like instrument. My dad joined in, too. Oh, what a tune it was!
Once the helicopter landed at the Baobab Ridge helipad and had gone through the pre-flight maintenance, we hopped inside. Their staff kindly provided a step-ladder that allowed easier access for me to the helicopter. And I got the window seat – the best seat for unobstructed, panoramic views through the giant glass windows. Diva got the lucky seat in the front while Mom and Dad sat beside me.We took off, flying over a canopy of green trees, whizzing over the Victoria Falls, circling several times, viewing it from both the Zambian and Zimbabwean sides. We even flew over the Zambezi River, overlooking the Devil’s pool, a natural infinity pool edge, created by the rocks of the falls, where only daredevils would swim by the edge of the falls.
I cannot even find the words to describe the flying experience, except that it was spectacularly mesmerizing. I highly recommend it! That way, you can see the entirety of the falls, which is impossible to see from the ground.
Here is a short video of the amazing Victoria Falls from the air.
Once known by the locals as Mosi-oa-Tunya, “the Smoke that Thunders”, Victoria Falls were brought to the world’s attention in 1855 by Dr. David Livingstone, who famously said that the “scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight”. While neither the highest or the widest waterfall in the world, it is the world’s largest sheet of falling water, 1.7KM wide with a volume of a range between 20,000 to 700,000 cubic metres per minute falling down a vertical drop of 100 metres.
One can take in impressive views of the falls by walking across the Knife-Edge Bridge for an amazing view of the main gorge (this is what Diva and my parents did in my last post). A short walk down to the Boiling Pot gives way to the base of the falls. Of course, the long main bridge – the Victoria Falls Bridge spanning across the gorge from Zambia to Zimbabwe, is the ideal location to get a spectacular view of the falls. It is often where the mist, which can be seen from 30KM away, wets the visitors as they stand right under the rainbows. Today, the main attractions on the bridge range from historical guided tours to the 111-metre bungee jump.
After the short helicopter ride, we were back down, and since they only have three helicopters and two were already in use, the remaining members of the group went up next. They, too, were blown away by the mesmerizing aerial views.
Once they got back, we headed back to the hotel and lounged by the pool. I was already feeling more relaxed as everything on my list was checked off. Having spotted a soft-serve ice-cream stand, I headed there and everyone soon followed. But as soon as I had devoured my bowl of vanilla soft-serve, the sky was suddenly overcast and it started to drizzle. As we made way to our rooms, it started to really pour down hard. And so, we spent the afternoon just chilling in the room, a much-needed break from the busy few days of constantly being on the move.
We unanimously decided to skip going over to the Victoria Falls Bridge, as it was a three-hour long excursion, and we simply didn’t want to spend that much time there.
So when the rain stopped at around 4PM in the evening, Mom, Dad, Diva and I headed back to the Mosi-oa-Tunye National Park to get a few shots of the falls, and I instantly noticed that the falls seemed a little fuller than earlier in the morning. We then proceeded to the nearby curio shops and bought a few souvenirs. We bought a couple of teakwood carved figurines and the abandoned, demonetized Zimbabwean dollars (including the famous trillion dollar notes). I guess you can call me a trillionaire, now 😉
On the way back to the hotel, we stopped by the shops in the Activity Centre to check if they had any worthy souvenirs. Finding nothing interesting except the ever-prominent fridge magnets (which we, of course, bought), we proceeded to return to the rooms, however, we spotted the other half of the group swimming. The pool looked so inviting in the humid heat, so in a jiffy, we were all cooling off in the water.
We swam for a bit and then went back to the rooms to get ready for dinner. We had booked a lavish, formal dinner at The Royal Livingstone Hotel. It was right next door to the Avani Victoria Falls Resort, literally in the same vicinity.
We regrouped at the hotel reception, as we waited for the electric shuttle to take us to the hotel. The Royal Livingstone Hotel is in walking distance from Avani but because of wildlife roaming at night, walking is not advised.
At this point, I must admit I had forgotten to pack my electronic wheelchair’s charger, so the power was slowly dwindling away, thus I opted to use my manual wheelchair (the very one given to me by Bushtrack Safaris). This proved to be the right decision here as the manual wheelchair was chauffeured to the resort via golf cart while I went with everyone on the electronic shuttle.
At The Royal Livingstone Hotel, the staff offered me their own manual wheelchair, while I waited for mine to arrive. The wheelchair was out of order, but I had no other option but wait for the other one.
As we waited for our dinner table, I admired the décor and design of the hotel. This hotel, compared to the Moroccan vibes of Avani, had a classier and colonial-style décor. There was glassware on every shelf and huge paintings alongside vintage black-and-white photographs hung up on the walls. The reception led straight to a deck, which is a popular spot for drinks while watching the sun set over the Zambezi river. There was a pool, not too far off from the sundeck.Once we were led to our table in the outdoor dining patio, my wheelchair had arrived from the other hotel and I promptly switched. Then, we proceeded to order. I was excited to dine here because the design and layout of the hotel (well, the much I had seen so far) reminded me of the classic Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Lodge.
The menu looked enticing with a variety of continental dishes. The food was both incredibly tasty and filling. I was satisfied. But of course after the mains, I had to try their desserts, even though I was completely stuffed. Since both Diva and I couldn’t decide what to order, we got the assorted platter, which had bite-sized mini versions of all the desserts they offer. It was delicious and I’m sure I had more than I could eat.Oh did I mention that, while we were chowing down our dinner, a zebra had come right behind us by a fountain a few feet away, undisturbed from the noise and laughter coming from the restaurant? (Sorry, no pictures, as Diva couldn’t quite get a decent one in the dark.)
After a delicious meal, we headed back to our resort. I used the golf cart this time, with the wheelchair tied at the back and headed back to the resort. Exhausted, I fell asleep as soon as I hit the sheets.
The next day, we woke up to pouring rains, so, unfortunately, Diva and Dad had to cancel their microlight experience (which had been booked the day before). However, the weather cleared up later, but we had a flight to catch.After a quick breakfast and some swift packing later, we were ready to leave the hotel at noon. We detoured to the local Shoprite for a few necessities, before heading to the airport. We quickly checked in, and spent the next few hours by a café, as a majority of the airport was under construction.
At 3:15PM, we boarded the flight, flew to Harare for an hour-long pit stop and then straight to Nairobi. Landing at 9:30PM, it hit me that the five-hour journey home meant that my little southern African adventure was over. But fret not, I am already planning the next adventure…
Photos courtesy of Hitesh and Diva Shah.