Sunday 5 October Livingstone – 27 degrees

HELICOPTER FLIGHT OVER VICTORIA FALLS AND ZAMBEZI RIVER
After a good night’s sleep and a leisurely breakfast overlooking the Zambezi River, we headed off to United Air Charter’s Helipad at Baobab Ridge Helipad for our 30 minute flight. Us and 2 other couples boarded our Eurocopter E130B4 Collibri helicopter, with the two of us being put in the prime position in the front – Sandy next to the Pilot and Richard next to the window.
We took off from the helipad and flew at low level over the landscape with its Baobab trees, Mopani trees and Acacia trees to the Zambezi Gorge. As the pilot flew over the edge of the deep gorge, we had a magnificent view through the front bubble of the helicopter. The pilot lowered the helicopter into the bottom of the Batoka Gorge with its 800 feet towering cliffs and we had an exciting flight down the rapids, skimming along 50 feet above the water, weaving through the gorge. After a long straight rapid, the pilot lifted us up out of the gorge and headed to the falls, passing over several cultural villages.
We were delighted to discover that there were several huge waterfalls that couldn’t be seen from where we were yesterday and the pilot did figures of eight so that the people on both sides would get a great view as he explained various things through our headsets eg the reason we had to fly at 1500 feet above the falls was to maintain a clearance between us and the mist rising from the falls.
The pilot then took us over Livingstone Island and then Siloka Island and Mosi Oa Tunya game park, where we could see some elephants trying to stay cool under the shade of some tree.
We were really pleased that we had decided to do this extra long flight because it gave us the opportunity to really see the size and the grandeur of this natural phenomenon. We saw much mor of the falls from the air than we thought was actually there after our walk yesterday. We could really understand how breathtaking the falls would be during the wet season because they were spectacular today!!
When we arrived back at the hotel, we were greeted by men in tradition dress and a choir singing – just beautiful.
While we were waiting for our lunch to be delivered to our room, a number of zebras wandered past our verandah and stopped outside our room to graze – only in Africa!!
We had planned to have lunch on the verandah but our porter suggested that this might not be a good idea as the monkeys would be attracted to our food and try to steal some. Although we haven’t seen any monkeys here, we decided to take his advice and eat inside our room, looking out over the Upper Zambezi River.

LION INTERACTION
What an awesome experience we had this afternoon! The two of us and two other couples from our group, Kevin & Rosemary and Pete & Barbara, were collected from the hotel and taken to the Mukuni Big Five Safari Centre, about a 7 minute drive for here.
Our guide, James, talked to us about the lions and described how we should act around them and what would take place. He also told us that there would be three other handlers there to protect us and “make sure we went home with big smiles”. James gave each of us a stick approximately three feet long and described how we should use it to help us walk some rough terrain but also to use to distract the lion if it became too interested in us – we should put the end of the stick near its mouth and the lion would naturally chew on it playfully and lose interest in us. There was also a videographer, who took lots of footage of the afternoon and has promised to drop a CD/DVD into the hotel for us this evening.
We followed James down to the area that the other handlers were sitting with two lions, both aged 21 months – a male, Terry and a female, Diana, a brother and sister. We were introduced to the handlers and then to the lions and then each of us got to interact with them, patting them, talking to them and having our photos taken. When Sandy had her interaction with Diana, James asked her if she would like to scratch Diana under the chin and of course, she did – Diana appeared to enjoy it as much as Sandy did and proceeded to yawn, which then encouraged Sandy to scratch Diana behind her ear, which she also seemed to thoroughly enjoy!
Richard also enjoyed his time with both of the lions and couldn’t believe it when Terry, the male lion, opened his mouth to show us his teeth.
Each couple also had photos with both of the lions and they we all had the chance to walk with them. At one stage, Diana, the female lion, climbed up onto the fork of a tree. This presented us with a great photo opportunity, so each couple stood in front of the tree with her looking down on us. Neither of the lions were in a harness or restrained on a lead, so they were able to do as they pleased, and before too long Diana decided to come down.
When both of us were interacting with the lions at the same time, one of the handlers took our camera and took lots of photos for us.
Before we left the complex, James took us to see the Caracals and the Cheetahs.
We had an absolutely awesome afternoon and came back to the hotel elated!!
What a wonderful day we have had: flying in a helicopter over Victoria Falls this morning and playing with the lions this afternoon!!
There are lots of photos in the gallery on the website, although the late afternoon shadows made photography a bit tricky!


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