I’ve been thinking, and telling people, that we were going to Zambia to see Victoria Falls. WRONG! The best way to see Vic Falls is from the Zimbabwean side and we’ve just spent the day getting to and from the falls and navigating our way through Zimbabwean border bureaucracy. Very interesting.
We’re staying in the campground at the Chobe Safari Lodge, which is on the banks of the Chobe River at Kasane. It’s at the northern tip of Botswana, where it meets the borders of Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The Lodge offers a range of tourist activities, including river cruises, game drives, a visit to a Namibian village and a couple of different trips to Victoria Falls. We chose the unguided bus transfer which took us to the border, where we were then picked up by another bus and taken to the falls.
When we booked yesterday, we were told that a visa to get into Zimbabwe would cost us USD $30 each, and that we could pay in Botswana pula, South African rand, USD, euros and probably a couple of other currencies in cash or by credit card. When we actually got to the immigration desk, we were told that the law had changed today and the visa fee is now USD$50, no other currency accepted, no credit cards. Um, today? Really? On a random Saturday in January? Pffttt, I strongly doubt it, but we were completely at the mercy of the immigration officials so we had to do whatever they told us if we wanted to see the Falls. We had enough USD to pay for our visas, but the other 5 people travelling with us only had $50 between them. We lent them some money and a South African guy exchanged some dollars for euros, and we finally got through and on our way.
The whole country works in USD. Prices at service stations, supermarkets and cafes are in USD and it’s very expensive. Not surprising for the top tourist destination in the country, but it must be difficult for the locals. Fuel is USD $1.55/litre, a tin of baked beans was $1, a pack of 6 bread rolls was $1 and a fancy bread roll in a cafe was $10.
As I’m writing this, we have a pack of monkeys playing around our tent and scampering up the nearby trees. One picked up a banana skin that Greg had left beside the tent and took it up a tree, then dropped it on Greg’ head. Another grabbed the bread roll packet, but dropped the last roll in the pack and one of his mates got it instead. Entertaining, but a bit too close for my liking. I hope they don’t have rabies.
Anyway, The Falls were amazing – spectacular, vast, huge volume of water pouring over, quite misty in places, and like it was constantly raining in parts. We took our raincoats and were glad to have them. We spent about an hour at the Falls, when walked into town to find some lunch and have a look around.
Going back through Immigration was far less eventful, we swapped buses again and got back to our tent before 5pm. We’re spending another couple of nights here because we want to do an afternoon river cruise tomorrow, on the recommendation of our fellow-travellers today. We saw some elephants this afternoon, and a few other animals. When we were driving to Vic Falls, we saw 2 park rangers with guns – the bus driver told us they were patrolling and looking for poachers, and that they were having success in reducing the number of animals being poached.
Edited to add that I forgot to mention that all the ATMs in Vic Falls dispense USD only. The German guy I lent the USD $100 to repaid me with a $100 note – the first one I’ve ever seen!