Vacationing for the Modern Explorer
One of the seven natural wonders of the world, Victoria Falls in Zambia, is a destination for adventurous sightseers, who are lured by its attractions, activities and luxury lodgings.
Not to belittle America’s own natural wonders, but measured against Victoria Falls, Niagara Falls is merely a dribble. Outside Livingstone in Zambia, the mile-wide Upper Zambezi River falls 300 feet. pouring 14–20 million gallons per minute into the Batoka Gorge. The curtain of water creates dancing rainbows and kicks up spray as heavy as rain, soaking tourists, monkeys and baboons alike. The water’s roar can be heard from miles away. Locals call it Mosi-oa Tunya, “the smoke that thunders.” One of the seven natural wonders of the world, Victoria Falls is a destination for adventurous sightseers, who are lured by its attractions, activities and luxury lodgings.
Something about the magnitude challenges visitors to try exhilarating stunts. Tempting fate by soaking in the Devil’s Pool at the edge of the water’s drop-off is the timid adventurer’s option. At the other extreme, the “wildest one-day white-water rafting trip in the world” hurtles through the basalt gorge, with up to four times the volume of the Grand Canyon’s Colorado, dropping 400 feet in the first 15 miles in rapids officially classified as extremely difficult.
Above the water, daredevils on ziplines zoom back and forth across the gorge at up to 65 mph, and bungee jumpers leap off the lofty Victoria Falls Bridge, falling 230 feet before bouncing back. On the Zimbabwe side, brave tourists leap off a platform into a Gorge Swing freefall before dangling back and forth like pendulums above the water. Others try the Flying Fox cable slide, soaring horizontally across the gorge. And mountain climbers rappel the steep cliffs on ropes anchored to the top.
After viewing the falls from every angle, those less athletically inclined can tour the region’s tamer sights. Livingstone’s charming museum has sections on Zambian culture, history and animals, plus an extensive collection of memorabilia about its famous namesake, the explorer who discovered the falls and was subsequently “discovered” himself when Stanley declared, “Dr. Livingstone, I presume.” Visits to the Mukuni village introduce the crafts and lifestyle of the local Leva people. And more conventional sports are numerous: horseback riding, kayaking, canoeing, hiking, safari and birding expeditions, game fishing.
Along the Zambezi, lodging ranges from luxury hotels to elegant safari lodges. Situated near the eastern cataract of the falls, the elegant Royal Livingstone Hotel is surrounded by lush lawns and wildlife with a wonderful platform for viewing the sunset. Sussi & Chuma, a resort named after the two brave servants who carried Livingstone’s body all the way back to England, consists of 12 romantic split-level air-conditioned tree houses set high in the riverine forest on a dramatic riverbend. With therapists using Thalgo and Africology products, its spa is a good place to recover from fall-side activities.
Baines River camp courtesy of sussi & chuma, bungee jumper courtesy of stanley safari lodge