Victoria Falls – chase the rainbow through Mosi Oa Tunya

Victoria Falls - Paradise at the End of the Rainbow

Victoria Falls is the English name for the Mosi Oa Tunya, the infamous, bountiful waterfalls in Mosi Oa Tunya National Park, Zambia. “Mosi Oa Tunya” means “The Smoke that Thunders,” but David Livingstone, the Scottish explorer, named Victoria Falls for his queen. Both names are widely recognized. Today, the Victoria Falls are recognized as one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World.

The falls are breathtaking and powerful enough to intimidate and inspire even the most experienced of travelers. They fill you with wonder and awe. They’re big; at 5,604 feet wide, they form the largest continuous sheet of falling water in the world, and they’re moving; the constant erosion of the falling water has actually pushed the falls markedly backward over the years. The umissable crowning glory of the falls is the permanent rainbow. You can see a rainbow from almost any angle as you walk along the path viewing the falls. You can chase it if you want, but it moves — trust me, I was after that pot of gold.

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The Livingstone-adjacent Mosi Oa Tunya National Park is full of wildlife and well-known not just for the magical waterfalls and rainbows, but for Mosi Oa Tunya game drives. Additionally, the park features level five rapids just below the falls, and you can also take elephant rides, helicopter tours or go bungee jumping. When you visit the falls, they may not be as powerful as you see above; part of the water is diverted to create hydropower — but according to our guide, we happened to visit on a lucky Sunday when the hydropower plant was under maintenance.

Perhaps Victoria Falls is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. It’s hard to tell which side of a rainbow is the end and which side is the beginning.

To reach Victoria Falls, fly into Livingstone from Johannesburg, or to Lusaka and then take a train. Nearby accommodations include the fabulous Sussi & Chuma treehouse hotel. Right outside the Victoria Falls Heritage Site is a market where you can bargain for all kinds of souvenirs, so be sure to read Bartering in Africa – bring socks and other tips before you go!

[Photos and video by Annie Scott.]

My trip to Zambia was sponsored by Abercrombie & Kent and Sanctuary Retreats, but the ideas and opinions expressed in this article are 100 percent my own.

Travelers chronicle epic road trip through the Congo

Africa’s Democratic Republic of the Congo has earned a legendary reputation among travelers. This war-torn African nation was once the stomping grounds of the famous explorer Henry Morton Stanley (Dr. Livingstone, I presume?) not to mention the setting for well-known books including Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and Tim Butcher’s Blood River. This infamous history was apparently no threat to Belgian travelers Josephine and Frederik, who undertook a road trip across the Congo earlier this fall in a well-worn Toyota Land Cruiser.

Josephine and Frederik’s tale actually doesn’t begin in the Congo – it begins in Belgium. In 2006, the wanderlusting couple decided they wanted to drive around the world, bought a Land Cruiser, and began their trip in Brussels, traversing their way across much of Asia and Africa in the process.

Though the pair had driven thousands of miles before reaching the Congo, their epic trip from the Southeastern Congo town of Lubumbashi to the capital at Kinshasa was a feat for many reasons. Due to more than 50 years of on-and-off war, the country’s infrastructure is in terrible shape. Roads, where they exist at all, are not much more than dirt tracks. Maps are inaccurate. And the Congo is notorious for its corrupt military and government, meaning the pair would be shelling out plenty of bribes and “taxes” along the way. Yet somehow, with a little bit of luck, plenty of supplies and a whole lot of bravado, the pair made it through the trip. The 14 page chronicle of their trip is an epic read…full of adventure and plenty of mishaps.

The reader questions and comments interspersed with Josephine and Frederik’s chronicle are telling. How did you do it? What was it like? Is it irresponsible to travel through a recently war-torn country? Each of these questions has contradictory answers, none of which is resolved easily. With a trip this epic – it’s up to the reader to form their own judgment. Grab yourself a comfortable seat and give this travelogue a read – you won’t be disappointed.

[Flickr photo by whiteafrican]

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Visiting Nakatindi – The challenges of a village in Zambia

Nakatindi kids hamming it up for the camera
Nakatindi is a small village in Zambia which was founded by a white landowner. He wanted locals to raise cattle on his property, and so the village was created for them. Unfortunately, over time, the land became unsuitable for the cattle, who eventually had to be sent to graze on the other side of the Zambezi River. Now, this village is struggling to make ends meet — a sociological recipe all too common in Africa.

I visited this village on my Abercrombie & Kent tour of Zambia, as A&K is currently providing funding for the local community school. Also present in the village are volunteers from African Impact and Princeton in Africa fellow Mary Reid Munford, who is working as a project manager for the volunteers. The volunteers stay nearby in Livingstone.

Abercrombie & Kent used to support another local village, but unfortunately, their donations kept mysteriously disappearing, pocketed by some party along the way. Even donations of food would fail to reach the villagers. After too many second chances, the unfortunate situation led to their selecting another village to support. This is just one of the reasons the cycle of poverty here is so difficult to break.

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In Nakatindi, there is no virtually work available. Every so often, someone will come by and ask for workers — but there are far too many men who would love the job. The result of this is that they knock their price down and down to beat out their neighbors. They end up working for as little as a dollar for a full day, and due to this, the standard of living stays painfully low.Nakatindi School
Education is of course one of the few antidotes to poverty, and the local community school for grades 1-7 (above) is doing their best to give Nakatindi’s kids a fighting chance. The children are learning English and volunteers from African Impact conduct physical education classes, giving them extra exposure to a language that could change their lives. It’s actually somewhat difficult to get children to come to school in a village like this, so the school has constructed a kitchen (see gallery). The addition of a kitchen means that kids who show up get a meal. That gets the job done as far as promoting education.

However, after 7th grade, the children need to get to the local high school, which is a good walk away. With the help of A&K’s donations, the school is saving for a bus. They are also planning to purchase a maize grinder. They would save money by grinding the maize for the children’s meals on site, and could even earn money by selling ground maize. They could pay someone to do the grinding with that money, as well, so the donation creates a job — it’s sustainable donations like these that can truly improve this village’s standard of living.

Nakatindi town center

Though they are not working directly with Abercrombie & Kent, Mary Reid Munford says African Impact’s goals are similar in terms of sustainable help. “We are pretty strict with our volunteers not just handing things out as it creates a sense of dependency. Our whole philosophy is about empowerment and sustainability.” African Impact is currently building a health and education center in Nakatindi (below), with the help of volunteers both from abroad and from within the community. The community Club, which is somewhat like a city council, will be able to use the building as an office, and there will be a large space they can rent out for events like weddings and other parties.

Nakatindi health and education center, under construction

Our tour of the town was pretty short, and though our guide spoke English, he was a little hard to understand sometimes. The tour was notably uncomfortable. My companions remarked on the unease we all felt, trekking through their village in our nice outfits and shoes, and with our fancy cameras. Though most of the villagers understand that tourists coming through is part of what generates money for the community, some were a little less than welcoming. From what I could pick up from body language, one woman shouted at our guide and said something to the effect of “if they want to take pictures of my house, they have to pay me.” I kept my camera pretty quiet after that.

It would have been stranger to be welcomed with open arms.

And yet, “welcomed with open arms” is exactly how we felt whenever we encountered kids in the town. They mobbed us, wanting us to take pictures of them and then show them their digital image. They wanted to play with my companion’s blonde hair, and for some reason, they all wanted to take turns holding my hand. I was a little concerned about one thing: although I understand these kids are learning English, I didn’t hear one word from them. In other parts of Zambia, when we encountered kids, they all wanted to say “HELLO HOW ARE YOU” and other phrases they knew to us. Furthermore, I heard one of the African Impact volunteers say that she was pretty sure the kids were just repeating her English phrases back to her in physical education class, and not necessarily picking up the meanings. I hope the quality of their teachers — not just in English, but in all their classes — isn’t lacking, or if it is, that it can be improved.

One thing is pretty clear: the kids are a lot of fun. They’re energetic and funny and love the camera. Check out this video of them hamming it up for me by the well:

So, would I recommend a visit to a local village when on safari in Africa? Definitely. The visit was more than a reality check (after staying in luxury camps with nothing to do but take pictures of zebras and eat), it was emotional and felt respectful. Maybe some of them didn’t want us there, but wouldn’t it be worse if tourists came through the country all the time and never even so much as poked their head into a real village to see how the people live? It’s an uncomfortable question, but for me, the answer is that making an effort to learn about people, if the intentions are good, is always okay.

My trip to Zambia was sponsored by Abercrombie & Kent and Sanctuary Retreats, but the ideas and opinions expressed in this article are 100 percent my own.