ZAMBIA - LIVING(STONE) ON THE EDGE

If we had any doubts that we were in Africa, they were dispelled during the 3 hour wait for the Kazungula ferry that would take us from Botswana to Zambia.

 
The trip across the Zambezi here is only about 10 minutes and one can clearly see the other side.  The issue is that the one working ferry only has enough space on the deck for one truck and three cars each trip.  Not realizing this at first we were encouraged to find we were about 10th in line.  Three hours of sitting in the hot sun watching the chaos of loading and unloading and we were singing another tune.  But as they say.it's Africa.
 
Arriving in Zambia we were met by very friendly border officials and quickly passed through the red tape and were on to Livingstone.  Livingstone is our first luxury stop and was a welcome relief after the dusty and challenging nights in the parks.
 
We stayed at the Zambezi Sun which is a beautiful hotel situated in the Mosi-al-Tunya National Park, right on the edge of Victoria Falls.  It is everything you want in a luxury stop - clean accommodation, beautiful setting, restaurants, electricity, television, air conditioning - even if it was quite expensive.
 
The highlight of this area is Victoria Falls and the Zambezi River and there are tons of activities for visitors.  As we have all been here before, we have already experienced many of them including - white water rafting, bungee jumping, gorge swinging, helicopter tours, etc.
 
This time we decided to do one new activity and one old favourite.  The new activity was a visit to Livingstone Island which turned out to be one of the trip highlights thus far.  Livingstone Island is an island in the Zambezi that is situated right at the edge of the falls - literally.  After taking a short tour around the island and getting spectacular views of the falls, you get into your swimming suit and actually swim up to the edge of the falls.  Using the protection of a natural eddy you can swim right up to the edge of the falls and stick your head over the edge to look straight down 111 metres to the gorge below.  Very cool if not a little disconcerting, as the water often pushes you towards the edge a little harder than you would like.
 
After returning from the island, we had high tea at the Royal Livingstone Hotel which shares property with the Zambezi Sun.  It is one of those lavish, colonial experiences one could only ever experienced in Africa.  Then it was off for a Zambezi River Sunset Cruise on the African Queen.  It was a great way to celebrate Mike's 33rd birthday in style as we relaxed on the deck, having a vodka, lime and sodas and some birthday cake.  In the distance we watched the sun dip below the horizon as hippos grazed on the river bank.
 
Another highlight of the luxury stop was meeting up with an old friend of Matt's from Queens.  Sri Perera, his wife Louise and daughter Jasmine, were by coincidence staying at the Sun as well.  Sri is working in Zambia as part of USAID helping the Ministry of Education with its information systems, and was taking a little break while Louise's mother visited from England.  It was great to meet and see Sri and to kick back and have a few drinks.
 
Sri invited us to spend the next night at his house in Lusaka and as that was on the way to our next destination it was an offer we were happy to accept.  A quick dinner in town and another night in comfort and we said goodbye to luxury and ventured out back into the wilds enroute to South Luangwa National Park where we hoped to spot the elusive African leopard.
 
After leaving Sri's place in Lusaka we had a long day of driving to get to Chipata, just south of South Luangwa National Park.  This park has the highest concentration of leopards of any park in Africa and we were really hoping for a nice night drive to spot one.  We stayed at the Yellow Chicken/Sunnyside Farm (either name seems to suffice) camp ground that night.  We arrived in the dark, but managed just fine setting up camp and having dinner.  That night was very windy and very hard to sleep, but we awoke just fine (mostly because we just couldn't sleep) and set off to the park that was about a three hour, poor road conditions, drive.  First we had to get some diesel in Chipata.  And some Zambian Kwatcha.  The banks were still closed at this time so we exchanged with one guy at the petrol station, but when dealing with the next guy we got $20 USD stolen by his "slight-of-hand" technique perfected over many years of practice.  Mike went after the guy as soon as we realized what happened and Matt followed quickly with the pepper spray, but there wasn't much they could do and we resigned ourselves to accept that we would not see that $20 USD again.  We waited for the banks to open.  We pulled into Flat Dogs Campsite just in time for lunch overlooking the river and the edge of the park.  The campsite had a great bar, restaurant and pool and the afternoon was spent relaxing before our night game drive.  Our driver that night was Joseph (self drives are not allowed at night in South Luangwa or in most parks).  The park was very nice with great views and lots of game.  We did manage to get a quick glimpse of a leopard and had sundowners overlooking the riverbed filled with buck, giraffe, elephants and even hyena.  The next morning we were up early for our morning game drive with driver Alec this time.  Once again the lions eluded us.  We followed tracks to the river but then lost him.  We did get great hippo sightings (we disturbed a hippo's morning mudbath sleep) and elephant sightings including a baby elephant drinking on his knees.  After the drive we packed up camp and headed for Lilongwe Malawi.