Who could have imagined that there was any more adventure left in Victoria Falls after the exciting day we had with the elephants and yet there were lions to walk with, crocodiles to meet, souvenirs to buys, and helicopters to ride!
Another early morning alarm and we were on our way to walk with the lions. Our driver picked us up and there was soon devastation when upon seeing Ben, we were informed that he would not be permitted to walk with the lions. Obviously Ben was not happy but we were even more irritated because we were specifically told that he met the age requirement and obviously we would have reconsidered our activity had we known this. They explained that while the age is usually a good indication, they were afraid that his size might make him appear appetizing to the lions. What was even funnier is watching the guides squirm when I said, “I don’t understand, my son is the same height as I am.” There was only so many ways they could come up with without saying, “Yes, but your son is skinnier than you are.” Honestly, in the back of my mind I was skeptical and thinking that they were being overly dramatic, but we’ll get back to how they weren’t being overly dramatic a little later.
When we arrived, we all received a briefing on how to behave with the lions, the do’s and don’t and Ben stayed behind with a guide that gave him a lot of background on lions. We learned so much about lions during our walk, like how we should only stand at the back half of the lion and holding a stick, to remain in an authoritative position. Our tone of voice was very important and we were instructed to pet them just like we would a regular house cat. Then we got to see them interact with each other, even when it looked like they were fighting, these young lions were just practicing for when they really have to attack. They would roll around in the elephants’ dung and even eat it so as to mask their own smell from other prey. Let me tell you, we were just a little less eager to pet the lions that had just wrestled in a pile of poo. In pairs we took turns, walking with the lions, talking to them and petting them. When it was all over we headed back to camp where a breakfast was all prepared for us while we previewed the video they created of us during our lion encounter.
When we got back, they explained that although Ben had not been able to go on the walk, they could let him go meet the lions now that they had more guides to supervise. Here is where I realized that their initial decision to keep Ben from going on the walk was indeed the right decision. They explained that we should make sure that one of the adults was between the lion and Ben at all times, little did we know the wisdom of their warning. Rob and I both walked over to where the lions were, with Ben following behind. As soon as Ben came into view of the lions, they both perked up immediately and turned their attention to him. Immediately, I got between Ben and the lion and the guides distracted them with a stick and they calmed down. I think it freaked Ben out a little, with good reason I suppose, because even when the guides assured him that they were now calm and could be touched, he was very apprehensive. He got to pet the lion from behind and snap his picture and then he was good. Rob, on the other hand was eager to have the chance to pet their bellies. So he quickly followed the specific instructions of the guides in order to have his chance. Once he did, they turned into regular kitty cats that love their belly scratched. All in all, it was an experience none of us would soon forget!
Then came the crocodile cage. Rob and Jen decided to dive into the waters with Victoria Falls’ crocodiles! One would think that the most terrifying part of the experience would be the actual crocodiles themselves, but alas it was actually learning how to breathe after you are submerged in water. They provided several little lessons about how to wear the gear, how to use it, and most importantly, what to do if you feel panicky and feel you need to come up for air. The most hilarious part was when Jen went to put on her diving suit. Laughter could be heard coming from where she was changing due to the challenge of getting it on, only to learn that she was wearing it backwards. Once both of them were in their suits, it was time to enter the cage. They took a few minutes putting their head into the water just to make sure they were comfortable with their gear. When they were ready, down went the cage as it was lowered into the water that was home to 3 crocs! They got to touch its claws as it gripped the cage and pet its belly as it swam on top of the cage. The guide even took pictures and video under water! One more thing that Jen never imagined she would check off of her bucket list.
Once everyone was dried off, we enjoyed lunch and off we went for our helicopter ride.
If you are visiting Victoria Falls, I have to say that is definitely worth it to splurge a little and take in the helicopter view! It truly is the only way to really appreciate the size and beauty of the falls. Perhaps, the most humiliating part of the whole experience was when our group was called and after our briefing of what we would see and how everything worked, was when we were escorted to the scales. Nothing like being told, we just need to make sure that your group isn’t over your weight allotment. Hmph! Then, Rob made the mistake of telling Ben to make sure he stayed low, because if he got in the way of the rotor, people have had limbs cut off. Really? We are the shortest family in the world, I don’t think there that any of us were in any kind of danger of that happening.
Ben was terrified. Once in the helicopter, he was fine. The view was nothing short of magnificent! The reflection of the water created several rainbows and the smoke from the falls was beautiful! Talk about, checking things off of our bucket list, I remembering reviewing world landmarks flashcards with Ben when he was four and thinking, “When are we ever going to be in Zimbabwe?” It’s funny, I remember saying that for several of those flashcards: The Louvre, Ephesus, Eiffel Tower, Petra, Neuschwanstein, Colosseum, Acropolis, Hagia Sophia, and the Leaning Tower of Pisa…and I still can’t believe we’ve been to all of them! The flight over Victoria Falls was just surreal and before we knew it we were landing and back to reality.
On our final night in Zimbabwe we went to Boma for a traditional Zimbabwean dinner. There was dancing and singing, a medicine man called a Sangoma, and even worm eating. Yes, you read that right, for the daring, there was the opportunity to eat the Mopani worms. All four of us accepted the challenge and ate the worm. We were given traditional costumes and our faces were painted. We had warthog, eland, alligator and impala and some WhaWha, a maize beer traditional drink that I have blocked from my memory, mostly because it tasted awful, but we tried everything. After the dinner, there was a bongo drum show Amazulu and dancers called Amakwezi. What a perfect end to a perfect vacay!