After a long day of trying to hitchhike out of Nata, we arrived in Kasane. Relived that we had gotten all the way to Kasane we nearly forgot that we had another problem to attend to: we didn’t have a place to stay in Kasane. Since we were traveling in the off-season and were not sure exactly when we would be arriving, we had not made a reservation for a place to stay that night. Turns out that Chobe attracts visitors year round and everplace we called was fully booked. Just as we were going to give up on finding a place to stay a woman at a lodge took pity on us and let us a book a double room for the three of us. We went to bed, hoping that the next day would be less eventful.
The next morning we headed into town to make our reservations for the rest of the trip, lesson learned. We set out to make plans for going to Zimbabwe and to find a place to stay that night (because our current lodge was going to be fully booked). We moved our stuff across town to the Chobe Safari Lodge, an incredibly impressive place where we were walked past chalets, the pool, the river and out to the very back to spend the night in a platform tent. I was actually very excited about spending the night in the tent; it was very Out of Africa.
After settling into our tent we went to see Chobe National Park by boat. The Park has one of the largest game concentrations in Africa and is probably best known for its spectacular elephant population of approximately 50,000 elephants. Viewing Chobe by boat allowed us to experience the diversity of the park view both the land and water animals. Our guide pointed out elephants, sables, gemsboks, bushbucks, crocodiles, impalas, cape buffalos, and a number of different types of birds. It was a bit touristy compared with the rest of trip, but it was a relaxing way to spend the day after our previous day of travel. We were in bed early again, anticipating that the next day’s journey to Zimbabwe would be another adventure.
When we first started asking about getting to Zimbabwe everyone seemed shocked that we wanted to take public transport. Traveling with a tour company was expensive and meant coming back the same day, so we were trying to figure out how everyone else got to Zimbabwe. It turned out to be easier than expected. We took a private taxi from Kasane to the Zimbabwe border, crossed the border, and then took a private taxi on the other side into Vic Falls. Much simpler than expected and without any major incidents. Once in Vic Falls we headed to the backpacker to drop off our stuff before heading into town.
The town of Vic Falls is mostly for tourist, a very walk-able town with many shops and restaurants. There’s a lot to buy but we were in search of an ATM to get some American money since Zimbabwe had recently switched to the US dollar to curb its excessive inflation rate. Two of the three of us could not get any money with our cards. It turns out Visa really is “everywhere you want to be” and the only type of card accepted in Zimbabwe. Undeterred we figured the two of us would charge stuff and get by, but we seemed to have forgotten that we were in Zimbabwe. With the exception of some very large hotels, no one takes credit cards and there’s no such thing as cash back. Luckily, we had enough to get by mixing the Dollars, Pula (Botswana currency), and Rand (South African currency). In Zimbabwe they take pretty much anything that isn’t the Zimbabwean dollar. After lunch and an afternoon looking a crafts we headed back onto a boat. This time it was just the three of us and a driver cruising down the Zambezi. We got to see lots of game and even two elephants playing in the water. In the distance we were able to see the spray coming off of Vic Falls falling beneath us.
Yet, another early morning, but this time we were up to visit a lion conservatory to pet and walk with lions. A short drive from Vic Falls is a lion conservation program that breeds lions to be released into the wild and replenish areas where lions are endangered. There are a number of stages to this process and one of the first stages is bring lions into confinement for breeding. These lions are accustomed to people and so we were able to pet them and walk with them. We visited two pairs of lion cubs, but they were much bigger than I was expecting and we were all a little weary of getting too close to them. After reviewing some safety measures, we were introduced to the lions and were able to sit with them and pet them. We also got to walk through the reserve with them.
After the lions we headed back to the backpacker and got ready to visit Vic Falls. It was dry season in Zimbabwe, but the falls were still really impressive. From the Zimbabwe side you can walk for about a kilometer opposite the falls and being that it is Zimbabwe there is little to stop you from getting very close to the edge and taking a look down the enormous ravine below you. We walked the length of the falls and even considered crossing over into Zambia, but figured we had enough adventure for one trip. It was a great way to end the day and our trip before traveling back to South Africa.