Victoria Falls

On our Botswana safari, we drove from Chobe National Park to Livingstone, Zambia, to see Victoria Falls. We took a ferry across the Chobe River at the Kasingula to Zambia. At the ferry crossing, one can see four countries: Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

Victoria Falls is formed by the Zambezi River flowing over a level piece of basalt in a shallow valley and then drops into a chasm. Victoria Falls is 1700 meters wide and 108 meters tall at its highest point. We visited in April, the peak water flow.

This photo shows the Zambezi River from above the falls, with the broad river stretching far to the right. The large cloud is mist from the falls. Note the rainbow in the mist, just above the river. In the early morning, the sun is rising behind me. I used a circular polarizer to darken the sky and show the mist cloud better.

cloud forms over Victoria Falls from the waterfall mist
cloud forms over Victoria Falls from the waterfall mist (click to enlarge)

Water gushing over the near side of Victoria Falls.

Victoria Falls
Victoria Falls (click to enlarge)

Most of the time, the falls were obscured by the mist from all the falling water.

mist and rainbow at Victoria Falls
mist and rainbow at Victoria Falls

The Victoria Falls Bridge crosses the chasm nearby, and some people pay to bungee jump into the gorge. Look carefully, and you can see a person being hauled up after jumping off the bridge. In 2011 a bungee cord snapped, and a young woman plunged into the river with its many crocodiles. But the safety issues must have been resolved by 2014, and people are still at it.

bungee jumping from Victoria Falls Bridge
bungee jumping from Victoria Falls Bridge

We stayed at a nearby hotel a 10-minute walk upstream from Victoria Falls, which allowed us to visit the Falls many times. The initial photo of this post was taken from the hotel grounds. The hotel employs zebras to help keep the grass short, with the Zambezi River in the background.

zebras keep the grass short
zebras keep the grass short

This vervet monkey climbed up to our second-story balcony.

vervet monkey on our balcony
vervet monkey on our balcony

And on this happy note, our Botswana safari ended, except the 36 hours to fly back to California.

Savuti Channel, Day One

On the first morning at Savuti Channel on our Botswana safari, we found a pride of lions with their zebra kill.

lioness and zebra kill
lioness and zebra kill
lion feeding
lion feeding

Less than a mile away, this zebra was bloody but walking without a limp. Perhaps a lion bit the tip of the zebra’s tail, and the zebra managed to escape. The zebra’s legs and rump are bloody where the zebra’s tail would touch when the zebra wags its tail.

wounded zebra
wounded zebra

A lone elephant in the distance, across untrampled grass. This is Africa.

lone elephant
lone elephant

As we pulled up to a water hole, this elephant ran out from behind a bush.

elephant came out from behind a bush
elephant running out from behind a bush

Elephants came to the waterhole to drink.

One of our favorite birds, a lilac-breasted roller.

lilac-breasted roller
lilac-breasted roller

We visited the lion pride, and they were still at it.

We visited the Savuti Channel and found a pod of hippos.

hippo in the Savuti Channel
hippo in the Savuti Channel

In the afternoon we encountered this elephant in musth, where the male elephant’s testosterone levels are increased and they are more aggressive than normal. This elephant charged our land cruiser, and our guide had to drive fast in reverse to escape. Besides being aggressive, an elephant in musth has urine dripping from his penis (which we saw) and a secretion running down from behind the eye.

elephant in musth
elephant in musth (click to enlarge)

The other land cruiser followed us through the water to get to the elephant in musth.

As we headed back to camp at dusk, a leopard crossed the road in front of us. It stopped beside the road as we stopped. It was six feet away, looking at me. I tried to take a picture, but the camera did nothing when I pressed the shutter button. It was too dark for the camera settings. My camera was set for daytime (100-400 mm lens, aperture value of f/6.3, auto ISO), and it was dark.

By the time I changed the camera settings, the leopard was walking down the road.

leopard at dusk
leopard at dusk

A couple joined us for dinner. Friends of our guide, they’re filming lions. They were sleeping in their truck near the zebra kill, and they heard the kill in the middle of the night. They’ve made films for the BBC and National Geographic, including underwater shots of crocodiles in the Okavango Delta. Very impressive.

After dinner, I talked about the leopard sighting with our guide, and he said that where we saw the leopard is only a quarter mile from camp, as the crow flies. We drove on the road, which winds around. Closer to home, last month a mountain lion wandered through a nearby school and the park where I play tennis.

Moremi, Day One – Babies and Rain

On the first day in the Moremi Game Reserve on our Botswana safari, it was cloudy and rainy.

In the early morning, this elephant extended its trunk toward us, to better sniff us.

elephant smelling
elephant smelling us

We saw two Burchell’s zebras nursing. Found in southern Africa, Burchell’s zebras have a light gray stripe between the black stripes on their flanks.

baby zebra nursing
baby zebra nursing
Burchell's zebra nursing
Burchell’s zebra nursing

And a baby giraffe.

baby giraffe
baby giraffe

Look at the closeup below to see a wound and scab on the left rear leg, and a bird hidden behind the tail.

baby giraffe wound
baby giraffe wound

A yellow-billed stork perched on a termite mound.

stork on termite mound
stork on termite mound

A female kudu.

female kudu
female kudu

At the end of the day, we headed back to camp early because we weren’t seeing much.

During heavy rain, low spots in the dirt roads fill with water. The game warden in the photo below tried to drive through the puddle and got stuck. He’s getting his bag from his truck before we give him a ride to the warden office. The next day our camp crew got his truck out. Dirt roads can become impassable in the wet season.

warden with stuck truck
warden with stuck truck

Ngorongoro Crater

We spent an entire day in Ngorongoro Crater, rising early to be at the entrance gate before dawn, and staying until 6:00 pm. Here’s an Abdim’s stork on a candelabra tree, colored by the predawn light.

Abdim's stork on candelabra tree
Abdim’s stork on candelabra tree

Here’s the crater from the crater rim. The crater is large and flat, surrounded by steep rim walls. We would drive around the crater.

Ngorongoro Crater from entry gate
Ngorongoro Crater from entry gate

For some people, Ngorongoro Crater was the highlight of their safari.  We saw more kinds of animals that day, than we would see on any other day. Seeing an animal for the first time on safari is special, and the introduction gets you ready to see more.

Two previous posts cover a lion family and grey-crowned crane.

Zebras and more lions.  Zebras are smart and darling. The small brownish zebra is a baby. The brown fades away with age. Lion pictures include a lioness hunting in vain.

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A wildebeest mother and baby.

baby wildebeest nursing

Cape buffalo are part of the big five.

cape buffalo
cape buffalo

Africa has ostriches.  Females are brown.  When an ostrich drinks, it raises its head to drain the water down its throat.  See the drops of water dribbling from its mouth as it raises its head.  Ostriches have powerful kicks.

ostrich drinking
ostrich drinking

The critically endangered black rhino.  Indeed, we didn’t see black rhinos after leaving Ngorongoro Crater.

black rhino
critically endangered black rhino

This spotted hyena drank and then marked territory in the water, so that other animals knew it had been there. Other animals don’t associate closely with hyenas.

spotted hyena drinking
spotted hyena drinking