We slept in a little bit – it was the first time we had the option in some time. After that, we went down to the restaurant to eat breakfast. It was quite a large buffet, with lots of different fruits, meats, and cereals. The view was good, as it overlooked the river, including mist from the falls. Around the hotel there were a lot of hippo lamps that Crystal liked.
At 8am we left for our Flight of the Angels, a helicopter flight over Victoria Falls. The drive over to the helipad was very short. We had to wait for a bit, but then got in the helicopter and flew around the falls several times. Getting good pictures was difficult because of the glare off the glass, but the view from all around was awe-inspiring. We came back after 15 minutes, then Justin's parents went. Some of our better shots included:
We were back to the Royal Livingstone by about 9:30, and Joshua was waiting for us. He took us to the Falls entrance and showed us around for a bit. There were a decent number of people there, but it wasn't too crowded. The falls is part of a National Park. Joshua explained that Victoria Falls was formed by plates shifting and the Great Rift. The water was much lower on the Zambian side. Some of the water on the Zambian side is diverted for the local hydroelectric plant. Some of the better shots included:
We were back at the hotel by 11, and very thirsty. We went to the bar for a drink, but we did not have a very good time. The waitress didn't know the menu very well, and also took forever to bring the check. Thus, we went over to the Zambezi Sun for lunch. The décor was Tucson meets Africa meets Knights of the Round Table. The Zambezi Sun seemed like a much "younger" hotel than the Royal Livingstone. It was a bit odd, however, that the view of the river and the falls from the hotel was blocked. Perhaps the rooms have a view, though.
After lunch we went over to the Activity Center and found out we were supposed to be there at 2:30 and not 3:30, so we had no time for a nap. The drive to the Thorntree Lodge was about 20-25 minutes. We went there for an elephant-backed safari. We had thought about doing this at one of the camps in Botswana – Baines Camp – but the camp itself was not one that we wanted to go to. We thought about setting something up for one night, but it would have been too difficult. Beverly noted that Thorntree had an elephant encounter near Livingstone, so we just set that up, and we did not have to re-arrange anything else. Thorntree Lodge has about 8 elephants, including two youngsters, one of which was only 5-6 months old. We were volunteered (by the others) to ride Bop, the one elephant who refused to walk into the boarding platform. So unlike the others, we had to climb on. Bop was also the biggest and the oldest. He stepped down to help us out a bit, but we still needed a boost onto his back. We took off for a walk through the bush, on Bop's back.
John was guiding, and told us about how the Lodge got all the animals and what they did. Most of them were either orphaned at a young age or were saved from culling operations in places where there was overpopulation. John spoke 16 languages – Zambia has about 72, and if you have friends from other areas you need to learn their language to communicate. The ride lasted about an hour, and included some good photo opportunities:
After we got back, we got to feed Bop, including throwing food into his mouth. The drive back was uneventful, but the welcoming party was interesting – several zebras out front of the hotel – you don't see that every day. We went down to the Zambezi to check out the sunset over the falls. We saw that some of the vervet monkeys had caused a ruckus, knocking over a plate full of glasses. We went to dinner at Squires, the only restaurant on the premises not belonging to either hotel – it was very good. We came back and packed – we had to re-arrange to account for liquids, etc., for the first time in awhile, so it took a fair amount of re-arranging.