It began with a memory of my father telling me how he flew a light aircraft over Victoria Falls to celebrate his honeymoon when he was in the RAF and stationed in what was then Rhodesia.
He had “requisitioned” the plane to impress my mother by doing a loop the loop as close as possible to their honeymoon base, the Victoria Falls Hotel.
This unauthorised feat earned him a dressing down from his commanding officer (although it was felt that his judgment had been impaired by being head over heels in love).
Since then I had long harboured a vague dream of recreating their adventure. And earlier this year, that dream finally came true, albeit minus the acrobatics, with me flying over
Victoria Falls in a helicopter with my wife and 11-year-old daughter.
Nothing had prepared us for the sheer magnificence of the world’s greatest curtain of falling water.
The Smoke That Thunders, as it was named locally, forms the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia and from our airborne tour it was fascinating to see the waters of the Zambezi whooshing through tributaries and gorges to feed the waterfall.
The next best way of seeing this majestic force of nature is to go on a walking tour around its edge. We took the advice to hire an umbrella and a voluminous mackintosh, as everyone gets soaked by the columns of spray.
Our base was the nearby Victoria Falls Safari Suites, staying in one of several houses grouped around what looked like a giant treehouse with two restaurants and a bar. The rooms overlook a central water hole where, as the sun goes down, you can sit with a cocktail and binoculars, fascinated by the cavalcade of buffalo, elephant and kudu arriving to slake their own thirst.
Built on three floors, our own little thatched roost had a verandah where a constant gaggle of warthogs wandered past, ignoring the stares of us humans with insouciance.
As if all this wildlife was not excitement enough, there was traditional drumming entertainment in the evening at the boma.
This was topped off with a session with a witch doctor who startled my daughter Marina by declaring that she would give birth to three sons. Maybe not until she’s a bit older…
The next stage of our adventure was a two-hour drive across the border to northern Botswana and into the Chobe National Park. We arrived for our stay at the luxurious Ngoma Safari Lodge for two days of seeing wildlife in the best possible way, just us and a wonderful guide, Jo.
He told us more than we could ever really take in about…