Southern Africa: A River Runs Through It

Any visitor to the Southern African nations learns quickly about the majesty of the Zambezi River; the fourth longest river in Africa; the longest river in the continent by some measures, but still only about half the length of the Nile. Having experienced both the Zambezi and the Nile rivers, the Zambezi is by far the most formidable, and certainly a completely different experience than the Nile.

When traveling with Overseas Adventure Travelon a trip now named South Africa, Eswatini (Swaziland) the Garden Route and Cape Town, I also greatly enjoyed the post trip to Victoria Falls. It was in Zimbabwe that I first experienced the thundering roar of Victoria Falls, on the border exactly with Zambia, and the most notable waterfall along the Zambezi, although there are others as well, such as the Chavumva Falls and the Ngonye Falls. There is an upper, middle, and lower Zambezi. Victoria Falls and its large mouth of waterfall spanning over 4,000 feet – perhaps the widest in the world – is in the middle Zambezi. The manmade lake of Kariba also flows from the middle Zambezi. Tours go there as well, including one also operated by Overseas Adventure Travel.

 This 1600-mile-long river that ultimately flows into the Indian Ocean, passes thru Zimbabwe, Zambia, Namibia, Botswana, Angola, and Mozambique, creating a complex river system known as the Zambezi Basin. Tourists typically experience the Zambezi as I did, at the confluence of Zimbabwe and Zambia to see Victoria Falls. In addition to experiencing, it at the five overlooks for Victoria Falls, I took a sunset cruise along the Zambezi one afternoon in Zimbabwe. But magnificence in any of these South African nations can be a different experience one from the next. The thunderous roar of a rainbow laden waterfall with a family of baboons frolicking along the drenched and soaked path of nearby tropical foliage was extraordinarily unforgettable. But perhaps my heart remains beholden to the sunset river cruise on the Zambezi as a flock of birds flew across the sunset made for a movie, with hippos watching us closely from the river- banks.  For me, this part of the Zambezi experience was not just a trip, it was a complete experience.

 Although the itinerary did not include Angola or Mozambique where the river also flows, I did take a day trip to Botswana which became an unexpected highlight of the entire 30- day trip. How can one not get romantic about Africa after seeing a Zambezi River African sunset with the magnificence of the birds flying into the sunset, or experiencing the daily migration of unknown numbers of elephants and hundreds of buffalo crossing waterways across the Chobe River as giraffes looked on in supervision?

 There are other ways to enjoy the Zambezi River and Victoria Falls as well, such as rafting tours for thrill seekers; helicopter rides overhead; or even high tea at the Stanley Hotel, with easy views of the falls. From Zimbabwe, there is also the bridge to cross on the border of Zambia, with the river below. The visa into Zimbabwe is either single entry or double entry at the border. So, with an option to experience portions of the Zambezi in three countries, a purchase of a single-entry visa might be necessary for one of them.

 Any of the tours Overseas Adventure offers to the Southern Africa nations includes a visit to Victoria Falls, the Zambezi river cruise, and time along the Chobe River, either as the base trip or part of a post trip. Trips to look into are Ultimate Africa: Botswana, Zambia, and Zimbabwe SafariSouthern Africa Safari and Lake Kariba Cruise: South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana; and South Africa and Swaziland: Kruger National Park, the Garden Route and Cape Town.

 There are many Africa lovers who return multiple times, and feel a kinship with the country, an anthropological connection going back since the dawn of mankind. I am typically “one and done” in my travels. The Zambezi River changed all that. I now know that when I left that continent it was not a farewell, but a plan to see it at least once more. And to perhaps fall in love with the life-giving waters created by a complex geological structure that nature has left us to not just to enjoy, but to cherish.


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