One of the major reasons we decided to visit Africa was to see Victoria Falls — one of the largest waterfalls in the world and even taller than Niagara Falls. I have to admit, I knew NOTHING about Zambia going into this trip. But we were pleasantly surprised at just how nice it was. And how safe it felt walking around day or night. We spent 2 packed, heart-pounding days here. The country has narrowed in on the adventure travel market and offers some crazy things to do. Below are 5 experiences to test your nerves.
5. Devil’s Pool at Victoria Falls, Zambia
There are moments when I look back on our travel and wonder, “Now what were we thinking!?” Like the one time we went swimming in the Amazon River with crocodiles. Not gonna lie – probably a bad idea. But I was (mostly) calm during this activity since everything seemed so professional about the waterfall dip organized by the swanky Tongabezi Lodge.
We opted for the tour that included a swim at the top followed by lunch on Livingstone Island, open during the dry season (generally mid-August to mid-January).
Devil’s Pool was certainly the most expensive swim we’ve ever done at $165 USD per person, but you know, I’m willing to pay if the tour company will keep us from flinging off the top (simple life goal!). Probably the most nerve-wracking part was first climbing into the water and feeling the rush of the current pushing us towards the ledge. You get no rope or lifejacket.
As we sat on the rock a few feet away from death’s door our Zambian guide gave us advice — don’t move to your right or you might get swept away. Advice taken… and I guess I’m glad he told me this AFTER I got on the rock? I’m still not sure! The Devil’s Pool can only be accessed in the dry season (mid-August to mid-January) since the water drops low enough and you can grab onto the edge. While seemingly safe, it still got our hearts racing. And is one major bucket list item accomplished!
4. Microlight Tour Over Victoria Falls
Believe it or not, the 15-minute microlight tour over the falls was A LOT scarier than the Devil’s Pool. But what is a microlight? According to the guide, microlights are basically lightweight aircrafts that can seat about 1 to 2 passengers. Or you can take my definition — a lawn chair with a propeller! Not much of an exaggeration.
This activity ranked as one of the most frightening things I’ve ever done in my lifetime (and as you can see, I’ve done plenty of dumb things by the title of this blog post!). Every doomsday scenario went through my head: what if the engine breaks? Or if my pilot passes out? Kevin meanwhile was coming up with scenarios of his own, and was convinced that his seatbelt wasn’t tight enough and he’d fall out of the chair (even testing the belt once he safely landed on the ground).
With all this said, I did my research and went with a great tour company Batoka Sky, which was professional and felt as safe as you could dangling in the sky.
I was nervous most of the trip. At one point I actually had to move my legs away from the pilot since I was shaking too much. But I eventually calmed down and enjoyed the birds-eye view passing above the falls and even zipping back down flying just above some hippos and elephants. A 15-minute tour sounds brief, but I really don’t think I could have lasted much longer. Once we made the smooth landing, my heart continued beating rapidly for another 15 minutes. Who needs coffee when you have this? Flights run throughout the day and are $179 USD each.
3. Bungee Jumping From Victoria Falls Bridge
I always do a lot of research into our travels. Especially when putting our lives into someone else’s hands. And let’s just say it was a very EASY decision when it came to passing on bungee jumping at Victoria Falls. Upon Googling it, the very first headline read, “Bungee Jump Accident Drops Woman into Crocodile-Infested Waters”. Turns out, an unlucky Australian woman took the literal plunge when the cord snapped and she dropped into the water. Miraculously she escaped with a few scratches and swam to shore. It’s a good lesson for any traveler that accidents can occur so chose your adventure wisely. The company has since taken measures to ensure equipment is checked more often. But still, my answer to doing this: a big o’l nope!
2. The Lion Encounter
Kevin once again struck up a conversation with more strangers — this time a couple from Chicago who gave us this next wild idea: to visit Mukuni Big 5 where you can join lions in the wild. We asked our hotel tour desk to look into it, and within minutes they made a reservation for the very next morning. Guess we’re committed! But I did wonder, how was it so easy? Did a tourist get eaten alive and now there is a last minute opening? Whatever the reason, we arrived and came across a pretty big sign warning to go no further.
Within minutes, we were joined by a team of 6 guides to make sure the lions didn’t get “too playful.” As we walked down the path, we could hear the branches cracking in a frenzy ahead of us. The kitties were coming in fast, and hopefully they don’t see us as their next toy!
The rules are simple – approach all lions from behind. And if they begin to get “playful” (i.e. agitated), you need to back away s-l-o-w-l-y while maintaining eye contact. Of course, I completely forgot all of this and jumped away frantically at the first sign of movement!
We petted the lions for about 15 minutes and then joined them for a walk where we had to stay behind them. They called the shots and basically we went wherever they wanted to go (even if it involved walking through some bushes!).
It was an amazing experience — and at the very end, they rolled onto their back for a belly rub. Seriously, it was just like a much bigger, stronger version of our dog. Cost to do the Lion Encounter is $125 USD per person.
1. Dining at the Elephant Café
The Elephant Cafe truly is a 5 star experience. And it is the perfect combination of excitement and a relaxing evening event. We were picked up in the late afternoon by car and taken to the dock where we boarded a jet boat and went searching for animals.
After 20 minutes, we reached the cafe where several elephants were waiting for us to feed them. The staff gave us several bags of food and Kevin and I took turns getting shoved around by their powerful trunks!
After interacting with them and getting some pretty amazing photos, it was time to clean up and enjoy the multi-course, all inclusive diner. And we soon learned, we would be the ONLY guests for the entire evening in the restaurant. Essentially it was like we rented the entire place for ourselves for the night.
The meal was phenomenal – using all locally sourced food. Each course was honestly better than the previous one.
As the night progressed, the staff even brought over more bug spray so we wouldn’t get attacked by the mosquitos that come out in massive numbers at night. The VIP experience doesn’t come cheap — in fact, it was probably the most extravagant part of our trip. The total cost is $460 USD for two people, including all transfers (but tips are separate). Wholeheartedly I’d say the price is worth it. It was first class all the way! I can get used to this.