After our two safaris, we went to Zimbabwe, where we went on a sunset cruise on the Zambezi River, a canoe trip on the Zambezi River, and a day trip to Chobe National Park in Botswana. Oh, and of course we saw Victoria Falls!!! That was a decades-long dream of mine that I never expected would become reality. Actually the whole trip was a life-long dream that I never thought would become reality.
Both the sunset cruise and the canoe trip afforded us many glimpses of wildlife, including our first crocodile sightings, as well as many new bird species. Our guides were wonderful at identifying birds for us, which was good, since I was completely overwhelmed by how new they all were and how many there were.
The canoe trip was really fun and a bit intense. At the outset our guide, Innocent, warned us about the dangers of hippos (they sometimes charge and capsize canoes) and crocodiles (they occasionally bite the inflatable canoes). Thankfully the canoes have five sections, so if a croc bites them, they can still stay afloat. Innocent told us that if a hippo capsized the canoe, we should swim for shore as fast as possible, since the hippo would most likely attack the canoe, since it is larger than a person. Then someone asked about if a crocodile would grab us on the way to shore. Innocent replied that, “If a hippo capsizes the canoe, and then a crocodile grabs you on your way to shore… you’re having a very bad day!” As it happened, we saw five pods of hippos, and at one point there was a pod on our right and another on our left, and right then a large male started charging us from the left. Innocent paddled the canoe he and I were in very fast (he had told me I didn’t need to paddle, so I could sketch), and the other canoes followed. Right after than a large crocodile jumped off the shore toward us, and Innocent started whacking his paddle on the water very hard to scare it away!
When I got my first glimpse of Victoria Falls I was awe-struck. Even though it was the dry season and the water level was much lower than it apparently is during the rainy season, it was amazing to see the volume of water, the height of the falls, and the magnificent rainbow arcing across the gorge. I could have stood and stared at it for hours.
The day after we saw Victoria Falls we went to Chobe National Park in Botswana, where the abundance of wildlife and the open terrain meant that we had constant wildlife sightings, which meant that I was sketching almost constantly all day long. The huge herds of elephants and buffalo were amazing, but what really caught my attention were the numbers and varieties of birds, including many new bird species for Stephen and me.