Saturday morning started early. We were picked up at 7 AM in front of the lodge to go on a lion/white rhino adventure. Lions, just like the white rhino, are endangered so they are being breed at an animal sanctuary with eventually release into a national game reserve. At the animal sanctuary, which is approximately 1000 acres, they are able to roam free until they are released. The lions are trackable by an antennae-device in which the more rapid the beeping, the closer the lions. As we approached the sanctuary’s gate, the game ranger pulled out the antenna and a handheld radio that started making all sorts of beeps and bops. The ranger said that the loins were too close to the gate, it would be unsafe to enter using this gate, and we would need to drive to another entrance. When I heard this, I figured they were putting on a show to give us our money’s worth. As we began to drive around, along the side of the fence to get to the next entrance, six lion cubs (2.5 to 4 years old) were lined up and just looking at us!! The driver stopped the safari vehicle and we just looked at their size and beauty. The six cubs will be old enough to go to the game reserve in about four years.
After watching the lions for some time, we continued to drive to the other entrance to the sanctuary. As we neared the next gate, an employee came running towards us. He was one of their mechanics and remembered that there was some spare rope on the safari vehicle holding down the top canopy. When he realized that he was short on rope, he came out to ask the guide to cut the rope so he could fix a vehicle he was working on. It was crazy. I loved how the mechanic knew his vehicles that well. One thing I’ve noticed here is that nothing goes to waste and people don’t take things for granted.
We arrived at the next gate, passed through, and began looking for the lions again. Our vehicle was driving through grass taller than the truck! After a bit, we came across one of the cubs that we had seen earlier. He was the youngest cub and very curious. He saw us and began to creep around the corner of tall grass to check us out. He first sat down and then eventually laid down to watch us. He began to clean himself, yawn, and finally rest his head. We stared back at him wide-eyed and truly amazed to watch this “baby”, who is 250 pounds, just sitting there about 15 feet from us. We watched him for about 20 minutes while the ranger told us about the conservation effort of the park. He also explained that the adult lions were at the other side of the parking, enjoying the tall grass which is why we wouldn’t be able to find them. We eventually headed off to a safari-type breakfast which was in a small open-air building with a thatched roof. I just love all the thatching that is done here. We had scrambled eggs, bacon, fresh fruit, toast, juices, and coffee. Overlooking the wilderness is not a bad way to have breakfast. After breakfast, we were off to see the six white rhinos in the Mosi-oa-tuna National Park. Within 5 minutes, we started to see animals: baboons, zebras, giraffes, and wildebeest. It was like watching National Geographic. The driver stopped so we could take pictures. We eventually get to the area of the rhinos which are guarded 24 hours a day for protection from poachers and each rhino has two rangers assigned at all times. A armed ranger walked us to an area where four of them were resting in the shade of a tree. We stood about 30 feet away from these massive beasts. They seem to be very mild animals unless they feel threatened. Our guide explained that one of the rhinos, not under the tree, had a baby a few weeks ago. We learned that when a rhino is born, the mother will take the baby away from the group until the baby is strong enough to be introduced, accepted, and ultimately protected by the group. The guard said that the baby will soon begin to get his own guards assigned to him. Among the group of four under the tree, three were females and there was one juvenile male about four years old. The guide explained to us that the dominant male rhino was still getting used to the teenage male being part of the group. As our small group of six people were standing there looking at the rhinos and talking to the rangers, I heard a rustling in the bushes and the pitter patter of some pretty big feet coming up behind us. All the sudden the guard says “follow me, follow me” as he tries to get everyone out of the path of the dominant male rhino as he is moving towards the shade tree where the other rhinos were resting. It was unbelievable how quickly an animal that big was able to move! The dominate male rhino approached the females but once he realized that the young male rhino was also under the tree, the dominant male stopped abruptly and just stared down the young male. The females, recognizing that the dominant male was unhappy with the young male being there, stood up and moved to surround the young male. As we watched this unfold, I just kept thinking to myself, “anything could happened now”. After about ten minutes of watching this standoff, the guards motioned to us that it was time to leave and we slowly walked away. There are a couple pictures included in this blog that show the dominate male charging towards us. As the rest of us were running for cover hoping not to be trampled, Kathy just stood there and took pictures. Small strike against my man card 😊.
Once back in the safari vehicle, we continued the drive through the national park and saw animals everywhere. There were termite hills that were 80 to 100 years and over ten feet tall. There were so many of these massive termite structures! The next thing we knew, we are back at our hotel because the David Livingston is inside the national park. Pretty sweet.
Back at the hotel, we grabbed a quick bite for lunch and decide to take a tour of the Victoria Falls Bridge. There is a walking tour that begins with a short theatrical performance which was wonderful. A man portrayed the role of the on-site engineer responsible for assembling the bridge that would stretch from the cliffs of the Zimbabwe side to the cliffs of the Zambia side. I say “assemble” as the bridge was first built fully in England (upside down!) to make sure that everything fit together, each piece was numbered, then dismantled, put on a ship and sailed down the west side of Africa and ½ up the east side of Africa to the port of Mombasa, Kenya, to then be transported overland to Victoria Falls, reassembled from each side simultaneously and, unbelievably, it fit together! The performance explained how the bridge was designed and built, how which it cost (76,000 British pounds), and that it only took 14 months to build. Fun facts! I can’t imagine how much money and time it would take if you would try to build such a bridge in today’s world.
After the skit, we harnessed up to walk on the catwalks under the bridge. This was under where the cars, trains, and people traveled. Within the first 40 feet of the tour, I wondered what I had gotten myself into as this was not meant for tall people. Julie, I sure got my squats in that day! Keeping it high and tight thanks to the bridge tour! As we walked along the underside of this amazing bridge, the view into the gorge of the Zambezi river was unbelievable. We could see a double rainbow just underneath us and right over the boiling point where we had sat for hours the day before. I sure do feel like I found my pot of gold with the amazing views, sheer size and beauty that the falls have to offer. It’s a must do on your bucket list. And I will be happy to join anyone if you come down. Just saying 😉 When we got to the middle of the bridge and I looked down and was literally standing in two countries.
As we neared the end of the tour along the bottom of the bridge, our guide showed us a painting bucket near the bottom of the gorge. One of the painters fell off the bridge and lived (!) although he has a long road to recovery. Luckily, when he fell, he was close to the side of the cliff and only fell about 100 feet and then continued to tumble down. Wondering how long it takes to paint the bridge? Six years from one end to the other and as soon as they finish, they start the process again. They can only paint about six months of the year, during dry season, as the mist is too strong during high season for painting. The painting is all done by hand, just brushes and buckets. Before painting each time, they first take off the previous coat of paint. When there is power, they sandblast it off. When there is no power, thy have to hand scrape with a bristle brush. There is no way you could pay me to stand on a 2×12 placed between support beams and paint/scrape. OSHA would have a field day on the bridge.
We finished the tour of the bridge’s catwalks which ends on the Zimbabwe side and then walk back across the top of the bridge to the Zambia side. This is where the bungee jumping takes place. A 111 meter (approximately 300 feet) jump over the Zambezi River. WOW. Hope I can muster up the balls to do this someday. I had bungee jumped before when I was much younger/braver/stupider so time will tell if I do it again—but that also wasn’t 111 meters high or over rocks and a rushing river! We wrapped up the tour and headed back to the hotel for sunset and a G and T. What a great full day of incredible sights.
Side note: So my visa was expiring at midnight and I was not supposed to leave the country. Well I don’t think crossing the bridge really counted and apparently neither did immigrations. They gave me back my passport and I was back on safe ground back in Zambia.