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Kelly Explores Victoria Falls and Botswana’s Delta and Pans

Last month I had the pleasure of heading back to Africa for the second time this year. On the agenda this time was a four night stay in Victoria Falls (two on the Zimbabwe side and two on the Zambian side), followed by four nights in Botswana’s Okavango Delta and a final two in the Makgadikgadi Pans.

Victoria Falls, or ‘Mosi-oa-Tunya’ (The Smoke that Thunders), makes a wonderful addition to any southern Africa safari. It works well as a starting point to rest a little after a long flight, or after your safari to enjoy a little down time before heading home. At over 1,500 metres wide and over 100 metres high, it is the largest curtain of falling water in the world (in terms of volume), and forms part of the border between Zambia (Livingstone town) and Zimbabwe (Victoria Falls town). The view of the waterfall is different from each side, so crossing the border during your stay is quite a nice thing to do. Breathtakingly beautiful, the falls are host to an exciting assortment of adrenalin-fuelled activities, including bungee jumping, white water rafting, helicopter flights, gorge swings and more! You can also head downstream to enjoy some gentler pursuits, such as boat trips, fishing, community visits and canoeing – there really is something for everyone here.

When planning a visit to the falls it’s important to consider the time of year, as the water levels change quite dramatically. They are at their lowest around October and November, after which they slowly begin to rise, peaking somewhere between the end of March and May, and then gradually decreasing again. If you want to see the falls at their most impressive, then March to June is a wonderful time to visit. However, if you are more interested in a full day of whitewater rafting or swimming in Devil’s Pool (the natural infinity pool at the top of the falls), then travel during the low water months, as this is when you can enjoy these activities.

There is a wide range of accommodation to choose as a base for the falls in terms of both the type of property and the location. There is a number of really good quality, well run guesthouses and boutique hotels that make a great base for exploring the area and offer really good value. These properties tend to be in or near to the main towns and Victoria Falls in particular has a good selection. Batonka Guest Lodge and 528 Victoria Falls are great examples, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them. If you want something more central and a little bigger, then Ilala Lodge is a fantastic option too.

Alternatively, there are the more traditional lodge style properties, like Waterberry Lodge in Zambia or Mpala Jena in Zimbabwe, and these are located further out of the main towns (around 30 mins to one hour away). They tend to be scattered along the banks of the Zambezi, upstream from the waterfall, in idyllic locations on both sides of the falls. This style of property is quite a lot more expensive than a guesthouse, but you’ll usually find that meals and local drinks are included in the rate as well as a whole range of activities to choose from.

In short, if you would like to be central, close to the falls and convenient for most activities, then Victoria Falls town and its suburbs are the ideal location. If you like the idea of being in a quieter location and somewhere beautiful to relax and enjoy ‘Africa’, but still have access to the falls and activities, then a lodge on the banks of the Zambezi works really well, particularly for stays of three nights or more.

After my time in the falls, I took a road transfer over the border to Botswana, where I hopped on a light aircraft down to the Okavango Delta. This is one of my favourite places in Africa – it doesn’t matter how many times I visit, the sheer beauty of the Okavango always steals my breath away!

I started out in the private reserves in the south of the Okavango, with a night at Kanana Camp. I had expected to head straight out on a game drive on my arrival, but instead they surprised me with a scenic helicopter flight – it was amazing and I would highly recommend it!  The general game viewing was very good in this area, though I was limited to game drives only. Many of the lodges in this area can offer motorboat and/or mokoro excursions when water levels allow. Water activities are usually operational by May, but the floodwaters have come low and late this year, so I was restricted to land-based activities. This is something that always has to be considered when planning a trip to the Okavango. If water activities are very important to you, then it’s crucial to visit an area that has permanent year-round deep water… which is where I headed next.

From the southern reserves I moved up to the Moremi Game Reserve. This is an area that offers consistently good game viewing and also has access to a deep water channel. Motorboat excursions are especially good here. I took one from Okuti Camp and it was magical. I saw elephants feeding on water lilies, chest deep in the water, and the most stunning of sunsets (which I enjoyed with a G&T) – bliss!

I then finished my time in the private reserves in the north of the Delta. Again, this is an area known for its excellent game viewing, and like the Moremi they also have access to deep water, so can offer year-round boating activities. I spent a wonderful few hours exploring the lagoon in front of Kwara Camp by mokoro, and saw plenty of hippos, lechwes and crocs (small ones, thankfully).

My final stop in Botswana was the Makgadikgadi Pans. This was actually my first proper visit to the Pans (better late than never), and I absolutely adored it. This area is the definition of unique, home to the largest salt pans in the world, which is all that remains of a huge inland lake that was estimated to be larger than Switzerland! It’s a stark landscape in many respects, but I found the overwhelming feeling of space both humbling and quite moving. What’s so surprising is that there’s no shortage of life here. I saw zebra and wildebeest in droves, plenty of elephant, more bat eared foxes than I could count and a lot of evidence of lions (though sadly no actual lions).

The range of activities is also fantastic. I spent a morning playing with the area’s habituated meerkats, an evening enthralled by the trance dancing of the local bushman and took a quad bike excursion across the pans. Game drives, horse riding, sundowners and sleepouts are all possible here too. In short, I cannot recommend this region highly enough, it’s a truly beautiful and fascinating place.


Kelly stayed at – Pioneers Victoria Falls, Mpala Jena, Tongabezi, Tintswalo Siankaba, Kanana, Okuti, Mma Dinare, Kwara, Jack’s Camp and Camp Kalahari.

Kelly visited – Batonka Guest Lodge, 528 Victoria Falls, The Wallow, The Elephant Camp, Ilala Lodge. Palm River Hotel, The Victoria Falls Hotel, Old Drift Lodge, Victoria Falls River Lodge and The Island Treehouses, Zambezi Sands, Matetsi Lodge, The Royal Livingstone, Wilderness Toka Leya, Sussi and Chuma, Thorntree River Lodge, Mukwa River Lodge, Chundukwa, Waterberry Lodge, Rra Dinare, Splash Camp and San Camp.

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