Tag Archive: Africa



A fellow blogger once asked how many countries I have visited. A friend once “humble-bragged” by advising I should start planning to cover all 7 continents to “round up my travels”.  Unfortunately, I don’t keep count. Why do they, I wonder? Nor does it matter to me what others think I missed or should have done. I go where it pleases.  And beyond the sights, my memorable experiences are always characterized by the people I interacted with. That includes the people I traveled with. I have the good fortune of traveling with many, varied circles of friends outside of family. The foodies, the sightseers, the adventurers, the history buffs, the art and culture vultures, the hikers, as well as those who just long for some R & R. Not stuck with any single group, I relish the company of each. That includes a peculiar group I’d call the “losers” — people who don’t care getting LOST, seeing the ”mishap’ as another opportunity to explore! 






In Bhutan, I found a very admirable tour and hiking guide. My friend Beth and I “adopted” Sonam whom we referred to as our godson. We are still in touch, thanks to Facebook. We were updated with Sonam’s adventures from a young man to bridesgroom to young father, moving from Bhutan to Australia. I credit Sonam for making it possible for me to hike up to Taktshang Monastery aka Tiger’s Nest. The hike is quite dramatic considering you see the site high up in the mountain from the base where pilgrims and tourists commence the hike or horseback ride for the first 1 hour. I chose the latter to conserve my energy for the hike and met Tring, the old man whose horse is likewise called Tring. Don’t ask why. Meanwhile, I left my friend Beth with our driver who grew years older (again, don’t ask me why 🙄) accompanying my friend up to the Halfway Station. Tashi Delek!





Still on Bhutan, I have to say I’ve been so impressed with how kind and caring their people are. Whenever I stopped for oxygen breaks, there were locals eyeing me as if asking if I need some help. They’d only stop staring and got on with whatever they were doing when I smiled to reassure them I’m still alive 😊 Also, I never found a race so detached from material wealth as these Bhutanese. Sure there were poor people around, but I never once felt that money mattered most to them. I sure hope that didn’t change over the years since I’ve been there. 






Because I run a blog site, one of my followers learned I was staying in Madrid for nearly 3 months back in 2013. He messaged to invite me to a good Cocido de Madrileño lunch plus an afternoon tour of the city’s hidden gems. The best tour I ever had! Under the tourist radar sites included trespassing on strangers’ apartments to view better preserved medieval walls of Madrid. Well not exactly trespassing — Marco actually knocked on strangers’ apartment doors to view the walls from their porches!  And these locals were most accommodating. 




Because I made many solo trips in and around Spain, I met a lot of new friends and interacted with many locals. Before getting off a bus, I’d ask the driver which is the best way to reach the Plaza Mayor. Invariably, the bus driver will advise me he’d be back on that dropoff by a certain time for my ride back. Better than riding a cab! On that New Year’s Eve I was in Madrid, I jumped up and down with the locals,shared drinks with them, and even hugged them as the clock struck 12. My niece and them locals were family 😘




In Mongolia, my friends and I had a chance to visit a ger, eat an authentic lunch, and observe how a typical Mongolian family lead a nomadic lifestyle. I parted with my locally-crafted necklace to give to the “lady of the ger” who cooked and served us some dumplings and tea right inside the ger. We didn’t sleep in a ger. I don’t think I could unless one goes to the gers put up for tourists with modern conveniences 😜 






In Hanoi, I found children playing “sipa” which literally translates to kick. It’s a native game in Vietnam, Philippines, Thailand and other Asian countries. I joined those kids for a game in my wedged sandals while carrying my bag. Beat that! Then in India, I strayed from our travel group and found ourselves in the kitchen of a Sikh Temple where they were preparing to feed a long line of devotees. The volunteer cooks looked tired but friendly. And locally? I remember spotting a fellow blogger in a Masskara festival in Bacolod City. I approached Enrico and here’s our photo before the parade started! Listen to the drum roll… 




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Sightsee. EAT. Rest. EAT. Repeat.


Food is an integral part of my travels and yes, you may say food defines many of my adventures. The passion to search for certain kinds of food is serious business. Going to great lengths for a food particular to the area builds the excitement as much as checking out the local attractions. So, here’s a compilation. It is a living, breathing list as I intend to add more as I get busy celebrating life. A few inches more on the waist, on the hips won’t hurt 🙂

 

 

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EATING AROUND THE PHILIPPINES

 

It all starts at home. While the Philippines has national dishes like adobo, sinigang, Kare Kare and lechon, there are regional cuisines that are must-try eats. Check these out.

 

Philippine Cuisine

Regional Cuisine: Northern Philippines

What and Where to Eat in Laoag and Vigan

As Spicy As It Gets in Bicol

What To Eat In Batanes

Eating Frogs and Crickets From the Philippines’ Culinary Capital

 

 

DINING101 in AFRICA

Boma Dinner and the Exotic Meats of Africa

South African Cuisine

 

BUEN PROVECHO EN ESPAÑA!

Eating Around Spain

Best Churros Con Chocolate

 

FOOD PORN IN BANGKOK

 

EATING AROUND BHUTAN

 

PHÔ & MORE IN HO CHI MINH

 

BEYOND NASI GORENG IN INDONESIA

 

FOOD COMA IN KOREA

SUBJECT TO ADDITIONS, NO DELETIONS.

 

LIFE AS A MOVIE (Part 1)


I’m on a REVIEW MODE. I always tell my family that when I grow too old to be able to travel without breaking any bones or being a burden to my travel companions, I’d be quite content in a lazy boy watching my OWN MOVIES and photo albums. It’s my MEMORY AIDE these “memory catchers”. I want to remember all the happy moments!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Safari videos certainly rank up there in my collection of memories. How else can you replay those moments when you’re just a few feet from a rhino or a pride of lions? It’s a miracle my hands stopped shaking to capture these moments in video. But my Zambian adventure tops the list too. Aaah….. Zambia. It’s everything I did not expect!

 

 

 

 

 

 

My first helicopter ride didn’t happen in Zambia. My first heliflight was back in 2007 in Alaska. Setting foot on Mendenhall Glacier was a top thrill too. That’s when I knew I can give up shopping anytime to blow dollars on these expensive adventures. But there were also happy moments where I didn’t have to burn a hole in my pocket. Times with family. Adventures with my “elves”. *Happiness*

 

 

 

 

 


This blog was written some months back. For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out how I missed publishing it. I beg your indulgence. This “back blog” completes my series on South Africa’s Western Cape.

 

 

This morning, we bundled and layered up good for a cold day at sea. No matter how cold it gets, we were ready for the whales. Humpbacks or Southern Rights, we’re eager to see them whales. The sun was out. But the water’s far from calm. Our premium whale-watching cruise was cancelled for safety reasons.

 

 

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We were hoping till the last minute. Quite frankly, I hardly paid attention to the majestic seascape offered by Plettenberg Bay as I mulled over the idea of seeing them Southern Rights in their own territory. All too often, our sleepy demeanor was disturbed whenever our coach coasts along the Adriatic and Indian Seaboard while our Tour Director points somewhere off the blue waters. A whale? Where? I couldn’t trust my eyesight and I simply obliged by snapping photos here and there. Upon review, I was dismayed to find nothing other than what looked like rocks off the ocean.

 

 

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Well, no whales today. And we leave tomorrow for our safari. Tough luck. Instead, we headed for the Birds of Eden to while away that frustrating afternoon. On other days, this could have been an interesting afternoon. The photos speak for themselves. Those are beautiful birds. But. They. Are. Birds. 🙂

 

 

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As we exited the bird sanctuary, we found a Monkey park right beside it. Also baboons right outside the bird park. They all looked busy. Either they found something to eat and share among themselves or they are simply on a “stroll”. Either way, they scare me. They look very aggressive. So unlike the safari “beasts” who didn’t seem interested in humans.

 

 

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And so, the day ended with some despair over the botched whale watching adventure. Coming on the heels of another botched adventure (cable car ride to the Table Mountain, no less!), we knew we just had to find our amusement elsewhere. Like a food adventure? Very well. Thank God South African cuisine didn’t disappoint.

SPOT THE DIFFERENCE AFRICAN SAFARI


I’m back. One short to make the Big 5. The leopard was a no-show. But the giraffes, zebras and many antelopes more than made up for the leopard’s absence.

 

 

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Game! I was happy and content until I reviewed a blog written by my friend Shane Dallas a.k.a. Travel Camel. Shane did his first safari years back and has since gone back to the less beaten paths in Africa. You can say I’m the newbie where Shane has gone on to pursue other dimensions of travel adventures.

 

 

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I may have seen enough zebras in Entabeni Private Game Reserve.  BUT they were all COMMON zebras. Not the Grevy’s Zebras with white bellies and thinner stripes. I was awed by the regal giraffes with their elegant necks and luscious eyelashes, but not one I sighted was the reticulated giraffes Shane has blogged about. The ones we found in Entabeni had brown “splotches” while the reticulated giraffes have finer and more defined skin patterns. Spot the difference, if you will.

 

 

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Our very first Rhino!

 

 

The rhino we sighted was the white rhino. White not because of it skin color, but WIDE lipped rhinos. Compare this with the hook lipped BLACK rhino. Smaller in size, but different. More rare, they say.

 

 

 

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The Rare Black Rhino

 

 

And then there are the antelopes. Many impalas. Some elands. But no kudus with their spiral horns. Another friend (whose kudu photo i borrowed) suggests we do a national park next time. More animals, more natural, she says. Well, I guess there’s no “perfect safari”. There are some safari animals indigenous to a certain place. Like the springboks are indigenous to South Africa’s Western Cape while the Grevy’s zebras are nowhere to be found in Entabeni. But that’s fine. There’s always a next visit. 🙂

 

 

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Kudus. I only met you on a dinner plate but NOT in person 😦

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Elands. Looking like they just had their sumptuous dinner.

“Everything in Africa bites, but the safari bug is worst of all.”

Brian Jackman (2004 Travel Writer of Year )

Dr. Livingstone, I Presume?


Only 42 then, Dr. Livingstone was a Scottish missionary and explorer whose claim to fame includes being the first European to discover Victoria Falls in 1855. He was also a witness to a massacre of African slaves, prompting a meeting between him and H. Stanley of the New York Herald. In that 1869 meeting, Stanley was quoted to have asked “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?”. The question is tinged with humor because Livingstone was the only white face amidst a group of Africans. The quotation likewise gave rise to a song of the same title back in 1968. Obviously, Dr. Livingstone cannot easily be forgotten in this land where a town, a Museum and a hotel, among others, were named after him.

 

 

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Mosi-oa-Tunya (Tokaleya Tonga: the Smoke that Thunders; the ‘i’ is silent). “Discovered” by Dr. Livingstone in 1855.

 

 

But this blog is not about the man. This is about the Royal Livingstone Hotel right by the Eastern Cataract of the majestic Victoria Falls. To visit Livingstone Island, one takes a short boat ride from the Sundeck of this 5 star hotel. Fabulous is one word to describe this hotel. From the Sundeck, to the poolside, to the porch and breakfast nook, to the sprawling garden overlooking the “smoke that thunders”, one is tempted to swear that a single visit ain’t enough.

 

 

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A boat ride from the Sundeck of Royal Livingstone Hotel will take you to the Livingstone Island where you can walk to the edge of the cliff or swim in Devil’s Pool right by the edge.

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This is the Sundeck. During the wet season, the “mist” is more dramatically visible complete with the sound of the waterfalls.

 

 

Drinking by the porch or in the Sundeck is a must. I can just imagine how misty it gets during the wet season. A friend told me she’d never forget the sound of the gushing waters from the Falls while sipping her drink in this hotel. Quite an experience, I must say.

 

 

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Poolside. Royal Livingstone Hotel. Eastern Cataract of Victoria Falls. Zambia.

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Colonial-inspired Royal Livingstone Hotel. Its sister-hotel, the Zambezi Sun Hotel has a more African and resort- theme.

 

 

It would be a dream to actually stay in this hotel and be served your breakfast in this very colonial-inspired dining parlor. Or perhaps enjoy your sundowner from the hotel bar while listening to good music. Would they play “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?” . I bet!

 

 

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Breakfast Nook in Royal Livingstone Hotel

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Feels and looks very exclusive.

 

 

So, would you stay here the next time you visit? “Sam” is waiting. (He just migrated from Morocco to Zambia).

 

 

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Play it again, Sam.

NEVER FAIL TO READ THE SIGNS IN AFRICA


If there’s something I learned not to miss here in Africa, it’s reading the signs. Oh sure, mind those signs. It can save your life!

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BE WARNED! No wonder we had to sign so many waivers.

Funny. Amusing. Or scary? Having signed so many WAIVERS here, it becomes nearly obligatory to mind those signs. You don’t find much of them anywhere else.

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Baboons really scare me. Reminds me of their my scary episode with their cousins in Kathmandu, Nepal.

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This got me off that tempting bench by the river. In a heartbeat!

So, before you claim an empty bench and relax with a frothy hot cocoa, READ. For all the dangers they pose, I must say though that those signs are nearly inconspicuous.

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Zebras by the Hotel entrance.


Oh well, THIS IS AFRICA!

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What could be more exciting than an African Safari?

 

 

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Entabeni Rock and the Resident Wildebeests

 

 

Lion and cheetah sightings. Staring down cape buffaloes and warthogs. Admiring giraffes and waiting for hippos to come out of the water. Keeping still and quiet while a rhino sidesteps your safari cruiser. EXCITEMENT. MUCH!

 

 

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Safari Animals. Awesome experience!

 

 

A break between the morning and afternoon safari drives meant lunch in a garden setting and a visit to the Pedi Village within the Entabeni/Legend Wildlife Park and Game Reserve. AND A PEE BREAK. Of course. Those bladders can only hold it for so long. Unless you have the nerve to pee in the bush and risk a leopard passing by or stepping into a thicket within feet of a pride of lions feasting on a wildebeest.

 

 

 

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Pedi Village within Legend Wildlife Park

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Lunch was great. As with every meal served in Entabeni. Food quality and service quality is tops. Mediterranean this noontime, after an African bush dinner last night. Those meatballs, gyros, squid rings and feta salad are savory, “light” and ideal in-between-safari drives meals. But they need to do something about those toilet locks!

 

 

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Greek Salad in Africa?

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Mediterranean Light Lunch In Between Safari Drives

 

 

So there I was, lining up to pee. Only 2 toilets for women. I took the one on the right. Locked myself with the key on the keyhole. I shouldn’t have. But I wanted to shed my thermals under my safari suit as the afternoon sun kept us warm enough. When done, I turned that key right, left, up and down. No luck. I was locked in. I looked behind me and assessed the size of the toilet window. It meant getting up on the water closet and swinging out of the window into what looked like a private garden guarded by 2 pet dogs.

 

 

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Behind is the toilet facilities where IT all happened.

 

 

I dropped my bag through the window, prepping myself for the “escape”. Only to remember my cellphone was in the bag! No worries, those ladies knew I was locked in and sought help. Frankly I was more worried about the pet dogs by the garden. Thought if I survived the lions and the rhinos, jumped clean out of this toilet window, only to be bitten by 2 pet dogs, THAT WOULD REALLY BE FUNNY. All that barking either sent a message of sympathy (for me) or warned the owners of my impending intrusion.

 

 

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Pit Stop for Lunch and a Pee, plus more. Lunch was served in the garden… right side of this photo, under the trees.

 

 

Safari rangers to the rescue. These 2 gentlemen were trained well to guide you, protect you and save you during the safari drives. Were they also trained well to rescue old ladies out of a toilet window? Juan got in through the window to test the keys and locks, and then advised me to watch him get out again. He didn’t want me to jump out. Instead, he asked another fellow to help him pull me out. Well, not exactly pull me out. I climbed out as told: upper torso out the window, then right leg out (aaargh) onto the right arm of one rescuer, left hand on another rescuer’s head for balance, the other hand held by one of the rangers, then pulling the rest of me out the window, left leg on a rescuer’s thigh, and finally piggy back on the other fellow till my feet touched ground. All that time, the 2 pet dogs happily watched as if it was a show.

 

 

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Lunch. 2 x of this serving.

 

 

That episode worked up my appetite such that I had 2 plate servings. Thank you Juan. Thank you Pedi Village Guide. I’m sorry this old hag can’t recall your name. I promise NOT to lock the doors anymore anywhere here.

 

 

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MY HEROES!

“Only by going alone in silence, without baggage, can one truly get into the heart of the wilderness. All other travel is mere dust and hotels and baggage and chatter.” – John Muir

 


Was it an authentic boma dinner? Who’s to tell? I love it. Bush dinner under open starlit skies only African nights can offer. Listening to the rhythm of African drums as the aroma from various meats grilling to perfection wafted through the thin dusty air. Curries stewing in open metal pots. Camp fires and blankets failing to keep us warm.

 

 

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Campfires at 6 Celsius? Hand me that blanket!

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Steaming hot. Just the way we want it.

 

 

The drum beats and a motley group of singers and dancers entertained us in the Entabeni Private Game Reserve. So, this is what dining in the bush is all about. Another “experience” tucked under our belt. Hard to appreciate then because of the cold. Too cold that the thought that a beast may lurk somewhere in the dark hardly mattered. Too dark that we hardly cared what exotic meat we may be eating.

 

 

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Interactive Drum Session. (I’d rather dance)

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Medium Rare. Perfection.

 

 

But it must be said. They sure know how to do their steaks here in Africa. In Tribes in the Emperor Palace Complex in Jo’burg where we dined, I enjoyed my 300 gram rump so much. Before that, the Congo Wild Mushroom topped with creamed spinach and cheese is “to die for”. Better than Portabello, if you ask me.

 

 

 

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Order the Congo Mushrooms and the Rump. You won’t regret it. Then some Malva Pudding as African dessert.

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Malva Pudding on your lower left, folks.

 

 

And how about all those exotic meats in the buffet spreads in Zambezi Sun Hotel? The crocodile meat I found rather bland. But the Impala and Kudu meat…. Now, that’s real game dish I won’t pass up. Better than the biltongs, boerewors, kudu pies and ostrich bobotie I’ve tried in the Western Cape. (The springbok pie in Berluda Farmhouse is still tops)

 

 

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Choose your WILD!

 

For the life of me, I never thought I’d fall for antelope meat that much. The Zambezi fish was so good yet I just couldn’t pass up the exotic meats. Guess I knew they’re to be “experienced” best here than anywhere else. Truly, the “taste of Africa”. Speaking of which, I didn’t fail to visit the store by the same name to take home some pâtés made from the same exotic meats: crocodile, impala, kudu, ostrich, springbok.

 

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Exotic meat pates: Crocs, Kudu, Ostrich, Impala, Springbok.

 

 

For sure, this is an African cultural and culinary experience. Chatting up locals, engaging in culinary adventure, drinking their local beers and wines, bush dining under African skies. Quite a sensory experience, don’t you think?

 

“Do we really want to travel in hermetically sealed popemobiles through the rural provinces of France, Mexico and the Far East, eating only in Hard Rock Cafes and McDonalds? Or do we want to eat without fear, tearing into the local stew, the humble taqueria’s mystery meat, the sincerely offered gift of a lightly grilled fish head? I know what I want. I want it all. I want to try everything once.”
Anthony Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly


I like the vibe here. More than anywhere else. It has the “truly African” feel to it. Or perhaps, I should say “Truly Zambian”.

 

 

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Just a few meters away is the edge of the cliff. Have your Eggs Benedict breakfast here while “listening” to the smoke that thunders. Victoria Falls!

 

 

Breakfast right by the “smoke that thunders”. What beats that? I’d readily give up my oyster and champagne breakfast for this experience. Yes, it is more than just breakfast. It’s quite an experience to munch through your Eggs Benedict while listening to the gushing waters from the falls and feeling that “spray” of water as the wind blows your way.

 

 

 

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Thank you, Chikie, for this photo. I really hammed it up, didn’t I?

 

 

To think I was already so pleased with Zambezi Sun’s buffet breakfast. And my premier breakfast spot right by the pool, which Ngandan secures for me every morning! Can’t complain about this Zambian leg of my African journey. Everything worked out perfect here. It’s in the stars!

 

 

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Royal Breakfasts indeed! A local, Ngandan, secured this spot for me each morning.

 

 

From our hotel, it’s only 2 kilometers trailing a path to view the Falls from different angles. Make that 4 kilometers for a return trip. The sun is out but the path is slippery owing to the water spray from the waterfalls. I’ve read about this tourist who slipped and fell from the edge (yes, he died) when a baboon sprung from nowhere to snatch his bag. So let me just say I took great care scaling those steps, crossing the wet bridge, watching out for baboons and yes, snapping way too many photos.

 

 

 

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An aerial shot of the Falls with the Zambezi Sun Hotel on the lower left. From this spot, we hiked towards the steel bridge where we had a better viewing of the Falls and the Livingstone Bridge. Had a good “spray” too!

 

 

You can only take so many photos of the SAME Victoria Falls. From a helicopter, from the edge, from the bridge, from the many viewing spots. Lighting differs quite a bit, and the mist from the Falls can make or break a shot. After a while, you stop. Wiping my camera lens, I can only feel gratitude in my heart for all these natural wonders. The Falls. A rainbow here and there. Standing on a spot of land in Zambia, while looking out to the other tourists standing on a spot of land in Zimbabwe just across the Falls. Or looking down to the Zambezi River where some dare white-water raft or swim at Boiling Point. Such beauty. And I was there!

 

 

 

 

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Photo Credits: Chikie. (That’s me up front, busy snapping photos while getting slightly wet from the water spray)

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That’s the hiking trail. Just 4 kilometers return trip. And look at that rainbow!

 

 

Oh, by the way, there are some others who’d rather view the Falls while jumping off Livingstone Bridge which connects Zambia to Zimbabwe. If you care for a jump, just remember that a young woman once bungee-jumped and the rope snapped and she plunged straight into the waters. She had the presence of mind to swim under the currents to pull her feet off the rope then swim up to the nearest rock to wait for rescue. Now, what are the chances you can do a repeat of that? Best of luck, chap!

 

 

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You can only take so many photos of the same Falls.

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SEE THAT BUNGEE-JUMPER? IT’S THAT TINY RED DOT BELOW THE LIVINGSTONE BRIDGE WHICH CONNECTS ZAMBIA TO ZIMBABWE.

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THE LIVINGSTONE BRIDGE. AND THE ZAMBEZI RIVER BELOW. SOMEWHERE THERE IS THE “BOILING POINT”.