part 4: Combined Report: Ngoma & Victoria Falls

Photography and report by Lyndon & Jason Duplessis

High resolution photos available on Flickr! (Wildlife) (Birds) (Camps & Scenery) (Lyndon’s Photos)

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Ngoma and Victoria Falls

Ngoma Safari Lodge

At this point in the trip, Lyndon and Jason would finally be traveling together for the remaining 3 nights and Sara would be heading back home to return to the real world.

We met up at the Dumatau airstrip to share some stories and photos before our flight to Kasane where we were picked up for a 55km road transfer to Ngoma Safari Lodge. The lodge is located on the west side of Chobe National Park, where there are very few other camps. This is an important distinction between east and west Chobe, as in the east you will have to deal with many other vehicles while on game drives. At Ngoma, we only saw one other safari vehicle during our two game drives.

There were 8 rooms all facing a flood plain of the Chobe River. The view was spectacular even with the flood plain empty.

The rooms were once again quite luxurious. Beds facing a large wall of windows peeking out into the plains, sitting area to one side and a few stairs to the restroom which stood behind the bed. Each room has a private plunge pool as well where elephants have been known to come by and empty during the dry season.

The main area at the lodge had the same wonderful view with a larger rock pool down below. Our dinner had a few menu options including a large, well-cooked steak and some ice cream to finish off the night.

But I’m getting ahead of myself here. We arrived in time for our afternoon activity, but the guides don’t recommend heading into the park for the evening. The path through Chobe is somewhat of a one way circle route that takes a certain amount of time to complete and the guides have to make it before the gates close. Instead of an evening drive in the park, the lodge offers night drives on the property just outside the National Park where they regularly see all of the same game including predators.

Our morning drive was exciting as we would be able to get into Chobe. We had to leave somewhat early for our transfer to Victoria Falls but we decided to stay somewhat close to the gate so that we could always leave quickly if we needed to.

This strategy ended up paying off quite well as we were able to see a female lion out in the open. She looked like she was hunting and ducked into a small dense group of trees and bushes. Once we made it to the other side we noticed a male was in the bushes as well! They looked at us for a little while and then went into the privacy of the bushes to continue what they had apparently been doing, mating.

There are plenty of other options for activities at Ngoma Safari Lodge including a drive to Kasane for a cruise and a village cultural visit. We have heard that Ngoma has received approval to build their own dock for the cruises so they can use their own boats eventually as well.

Victoria Falls Safari Club

We were picked up after our game drive for a road transfer to Victoria Falls Safari Club. Ngoma was kind enough to give us a pack lunch before we left as well. When we arrived at the border, customs and immigration were a bit odd as we had to leave our passports with them as the visas were being ‘processed’ and they managed to misspell my surname on my visa but I was told everything would be fine. Luckily it was!

The Safari Club is just a bit outside of Victoria Falls. We had stayed at the Safari Lodge next door but the Safari Club was new to us. The Safari Club is a private portion of the Safari Lodge, so at any time you can head to the Lodge and have drinks or meals but those staying at the Lodge cannot come have drinks or breakfast at the Safari Club. You are also given unlimited wireless internet but it was as most things are in Africa, slow.

The rooms were also quite a bit nicer. They were very modern with a somewhat open concept restroom.

One interesting thing around there is the daily vulture feeding at about 3 PM just below the Safari Lodge. We both went to see them toss out a few dozen pounds of meat trimmings and bones so that over 100 vultures could feed. I must say, they smelled horrible.

We did have a somewhat major hiccup that was eventually resolved. Upon arrival we asked to be booked on the brand new Zambezi Explorer cruise ship. We were told the cruise pickup was at 4:30 and were out in the main area by 4:15. Once the transfer arrived the driver did not have us on the list and we were left behind, only to be rushed by another driver to try and catch the cruise ship. Unfortunately the ship we were rushed to was not the new one, which had apparently set off closer to 4:00, so we had to cancel our cruise.

The manager at Vic Falls Safari Club apologized to us and booked a transfer and the cruise for us on the following day at less than half price. It ended up working out well though, because that night we went to The Boma for dinner instead. If we had done the cruise AND the Boma we would have been over full.

The Boma was as it always has been, a very touristy experience with decent food at a somewhat high price.

Victoria Falls Hotel

After a nice breakfast at the Safari Club, our second stop in Victoria Falls was only a 10 minute transfer away. While it was built in 1905, recent refurbishments have brought some modern characteristics. There is a computer room with free internet and we were given wireless internet passwords for 50MB of data, any additional amount and we would need to pay.

Our one afternoon at Victoria Falls Hotel would be quite busy. Just before lunch time we walked to the falls along the hotel’s “private” path. We were unfortunately met halfway by nearly a dozen locals trying to sell or trade some of their curios. If you don’t want anything you must just keep walking! But if you are interested in something, I would suggest bringing some old clothes, shoes, hats or cheap sunglasses to trade. I’m sure you could get quite a good deal.

The water level was very high at this time of year, so we couldn’t risk bringing the camera down to some of the viewpoints. We saw some visitors that were completely drenched from spray! Even at one of the dryer spots, at one point the wind shifted and we were getting lots of water. Make sure you bring ziplock bags for your phones or larger bags for cameras if you want to go to all of the viewpoints!

At 3 we were just in time for high tea. Bert had recommended it to us. It’s a little pricey at $30, but it is meant to be shared between two and there is a huge variety of scones and cakes and treats to eat with your tea.

Lastly, we were picked up for our cruise on the mighty Zambezi Explorer. Once we finally got to see this ship we understood all of the talk we had heard. Three decks high, just gorgeous, it quite literally stood head and shoulders above the other ‘cruise’ ships. If you are going on a cruise in Zimbabwe, this is the only ship we will recommend from now on. For only a few dollars more than other cruises you get roughly 10-12 appetizers (enough to fill us to the brim after skipping lunch and dinner and only having high tea) along with any drinks you would like for the length of the cruise.

Our final morning on safari we headed for a late breakfast at Jungle Junction, one of the three restaurants at Victoria Falls Hotel. We would recommend having breakfast early on, as it seemed like the food was not as fresh as it could be.

We were once again off for about 24 hours of travel to get back to reality. Another educational safari in the books with 17 different properties during a 13 night trip. A few of the camps definitely stood out but we would return to any of them in a heartbeat. Botswana really is still one of if not the best safari destination in all of Africa.

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