I am an Australian natural history writer and photographer. My aim is to encourage people to venture outdoors and enjoy the natural beauty of our planet.
Visit my blog naturallysouthaustralia.com
Published November 16th 2016
As I walk along a pathway that runs besides the falls, the spray, thunderous roar and spectacular scenery provide an unforgettable, sensory overload. Fascinating plants, birds and insects are everywhere and occasionally I catch sight of a monkey or antelope. Near a bend in the trail I catch a fleeting glimpse of a banded squirrel–like animal that might be a mongoose. It is barely visible in the water drenched forest before disappearing into the undergrowth.
I am exploring Victoria Falls; Mosi-oa-Tunya (The Smoke That Thunders), on the Zambezi River. This magnificent series of waterfalls and rapids cascade through steep gorges on the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe. I have walked down to the falls from the Victoria Falls Hotel where I am spending an indulgent few days before moving on to Botswana's Okavango Delta. The hotel was built in 1904 and is a wonderful example of Edwardian colonial architecture. Recently refurbished, it merges a tasteful blend of classic decor and atmosphere with all the modern facilities befitting a luxury hotel.
I decide to walk back to the hotel rather than catch a taxi. Just a few hundred meters from the falls, away from the spray that supports the rainforest, the terrain changes to the typical dry scrub of southern Africa. Different animals habituate this environment. Elephants, giraffe, wart hogs and baboons are commonly seen close to the hotel grounds and even graze on the manicured lawns. After walking for a few minutes I come across a troop of chacma baboons including females with young. Just inside the boundary fence vervet monkeys are climbing through the tree tops delighting guests despite their food stealing antics.
Back at the hotel I watch one of the chefs gathering herbs from the hotel's garden and chat to him about the local wildlife. He has a keen interest in birds and directs me to an area near one of the pools where he has recently observed white fronted bee-eaters hawking for butterflies. I thank him and spend the next hour watching a pair of these beautiful birds catching their lunch on the wing. My own meal, an exquisite risotto, is taken on the veranda where I am treated to the sight of a variable skink sunning itself on the steps that descend to the lawns where warthogs are quietly grazing on the fresh cut grass.
There are a variety of day trips that can be organised through the hotel and I elect for a late afternoon cruise along the upper Zambezi, above the falls. It is not the safari style search for wildlife I will encounter in the Okovango but a leisurely cruise with wine and canapés whilst hanging the long lens over the side combing the banks for elephant, hippos, crocodiles and whatever else the river serves up. And my last shot for the day, a hippo warning us not to encroach any further into its territory, is a fitting end to a wonderful day around Victoria Falls.