Smoke that ThundersBy Megan Singleton

A pink tinge has fallen over the Royal Livingstone resort on the edge of the mighty Zambezi. The famous orange African sun slipped over the horizon about 30 minutes ago, and I can barely see the mist from Victoria Falls now from my spot at the Sundowner Bar on the river’s edge.

It’s dry season and the famous roar of the falls, a kilometre down stream, is merely a pleasant hum.?? The lodge sits in the 46-hectare Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park and zebra have wandered onto the front lawn beside the swimming pool to graze. We have been warned not to go near them – they’re wild animals after all – so everyone just carries on with their gin and tonics as if it’s perfectly normal.

Gin and tonic is practically prescriptive here. The quinine, it’s said, helps to keep mosquitoes at bay. Not that I’ve been bitten, and they say there are none, but a girl can never be too sure.

The Big Five are why most travellers come to Africa, armed with their zoom lenses and memory cards. But which of these amazing and fearsome animals is on the list? Not the giraffe, hippo or zebra, which roam freely around the resort. The list is actually about which animals are the hardest to hunt on foot – that would be the buffalo, rhinoceros, elephant, leopard and lion.

We have already spent a couple of days at Sun City in Pilanesberg National Park in South Africa, just out of Johannesburg, or Jo’burg, or even Jozi, if you’re really down with the locals. Sadly the cats were nowhere to be seen, but I did photograph the other heroes out with their families for a morning graze. But my highlight was our weekend in Livingstone, Zambia.

The tiny Livingstone International Airport is smaller than Napier and it’s just a short coach ride to the Zambezi River where we met a water taxi for our ride to the lodge. Hippos peeped out of the water, while on the shore we watched an elephant walk up onto the bank, dangerously close to a fisherman. We’re not sure if they’d seen each other; luckily elephants have notoriously bad eyesight. This is not the spot for swimming – we’re about five kilometres from the falls and the current is not to be messed with. Besides, with hippos (the most dangerous animal in Africa) and crocodiles in the water, who would?

We pulled up to the sand bank at the Royal Livingstone Resort. Our luggage had already arrived by road and a fruit cocktail was waiting, as were three girls from the spa to give us all hand massages. I could be very happy here.

The river bank has large jagged boulders embedded in the grass to keep the soft footed hippopotamus and elephant from deciding to call in. It may be a national park, but they can just swim on by, thank you very much. We are warned to keep our doors closed at all times because many a guest has had their room ransacked and stuff stolen (including a designer shirt) by the cheeky monkeys. Sure enough, the next morning I was chased inside by one who had seen me drinking a cup of tea on my balcony. Suddenly there were six of them. I tried to shoo them on, but when one turned and hissed I thought, right, you’re the boss, and retreated inside leaving my hot tea on the table – which he sipped and stirred with his tiny human-like hand.

Zambia is the more favoured country from which to see the falls with the political unrest in Zimbabwe keeping many travellers away, and of course, this is where they were first discovered by the white man. Livingstone is named after Dr David Livingstone. The Scottish preacher and explorer came here in 1855 and after returning home and spreading the word about the majestic rawness of these falls that shimmer with rainbows in the mist, tourism grew.

The falls were originally called Mosi Oa Tunya, meaning the Smoke that Thunders – both names used today.??And, while river-side massages and cocktails are almost obligatory, adrenalin seekers can bungy jump off the Victoria Falls Gateway Bridge between Zambia and Zimbabwe (you’ll need your passport), white-water raft or jet board on the Batoka Gorge, and the truly mad can go out to David Livingstone Island in the dry season and jump off the top of the falls into a tiny swimming hole. Me, I’d rather have another gin and tonic, thanks.

Megan flew courtesy of South Africa Airways and was hosted by the Royal Livingstone Hotel.

www.royal-livingstone-hotel.com

www.flysaa.com