Cruise Specialists hosts Steve and Wendy Bodenheimer are taking us along on another amazing journey. This post outlines one of Cruise Specialists’ exclusive Overland Tours that Wendy hosted for a small group of our clients, disembarking from the ship in Mozambique, and seamlessly returning to the ship a few days later in Cape Town.
We were an excited group of 15 that hopped on a minibus to be whisked to the Maputo Airport in Mozambique for a short flight to Johannesburg, South Africa. Joburg (as the locals call it) airport was huge and at times confusing. My most important job was to keep the group together, as we met up with our local guide. Lynn was right on time, and soon we were driving to the township of Soweto for lunch at the famous Wandie’s Restaurant. It was a fun meal with music and singing and warm hospitality.
After we finished there, Lynn took us on an informative ride around the city, visiting both the old and the new, including Nelson Mandela Square. The new was quite beautiful and modern. Our hotel for the night was 54 on Bath, located in the trendy suburb of Rosebank. It was understated and luxurious, with everything you could want in the spacious rooms. Dinner in their elegant restaurant ended our very busy day on a high note.
The next morning it was back to Joburg airport for a two-hour flight to Livingstone, Zambia, and the Royal Livingstone Hotel, where we would spend three nights. Robert, our main guide and driver, escorted us to the hotel where we were greeted by four zebras munching grass in front of the reception desk. That’s when it sunk in that we were really here, on the banks of the Zambezi River, watching the mist from Victoria Falls and interacting with the wildlife.
The hotel was full of hunting lodge artifacts, overstuffed lounge chairs and quiet garden spaces. All the rooms had balconies or patios looking out onto the river, and there were several comfortable outdoor decks for enjoying the sunsets with a “sundowner” cocktail. Zebras, impala, giraffes, baboons and monkeys roam freely on the large property, not afraid of the attention they drew. We were warned to keep our patio doors locked, as the monkeys have learned how to open the doors and love trashing the rooms!
That evening we had our first of many border crossings from Zambia to Zimbabwe to visit the popular Boma Restaurant. Boma was certainly a unique experience. It’s a big outdoor venue with a covered barbecue area for cooking a wide variety of meats in large pits. I wanted to try warthog, but the line was too long. I bypassed the various worms and bugs being served in favor of more traditional foods like chicken, spring rolls and salads. There was music and dancing by people in native costumes, and some locals selling their handmade wood carvings. Being the good tourists that we are, we left quite a few dollars behind.
It was the end of the rainy season, so the falls were big, full, powerful. I had no idea how massive it would be. Robert told us we’d get wet, but we had no idea just how wet. We started on the Zambia side and followed the trails, stopping at viewpoints along the way. The closer we got, the more water sprayed us. There were several rainbows across the falls right in front of us. We crossed a narrow bridge over the water and were in a torrential downpour of spray coming off the falls. It was hard to see, the wind was blowing, we were soaked…and we were all laughing! What an amazing experience!
No visit would be complete without a trip to the Zimbabwe side, so we crossed the border again. We don’t get quite as wet on this side, but we do get a much better view of the magnitude of this phenomenon. The scope and power of so much water in constant motion leaves you in complete awe.
Lunch at the Victoria Falls Hotel gave us another view. Set up on a hill, looking down on the falls, we saw where we had just walked and could take in the beauty of not just the falls but the surrounding landscape. This was another lovely hotel in old colonial style, looking like something out of Gunga Din. On the way back, we were shown Victoria Falls’ famous baobab tree called The Big Tree, which is between 1,000 and 1,500 years old. There’s a local myth that anyone who plucks a flower from this tree will be eaten by a lion!
Zambezi River Cruise
Returning to our hotel, we had just enough time to dry off, change, and get ready for our sunset cruise on the Zambezi River. It was hard to believe that this wide, slow-moving river suddenly falls off into a raging wall of water. It was two relaxing hours with unlimited drinks, snacks, gorgeous scenery and a perfect sunset.
When we returned to the dock, we exited the boat into a magical space—candlelight table settings, flowers, a lovely buffet, a bar, local musicians—all for just our small group. Someone said it looked like a wedding reception. There was dancing and singing, along with the eating and drinking and lots of laughter and good conversation. It was a special evening.
Chobe National Park
Day four included Botswana and the glorious Chobe National Park, where we saw thousands of impala as well as warthogs, giraffes, elephants, crocodiles and numerous species of birds. It was a rough ride on the rutted and muddy road, but well worth it to see not only the animals but the gorgeous landscape of the river.
After lunch at the Chobe Safari Lodge, we boarded a double-decker boat for a two-hour river cruise, where we watched the elephants bathing along the shore, caught sight of at least eight hippos at rest in the shallow water, and enjoyed the peace and quiet of this natural setting.
On our last morning, we visited the Mukuni Village, a community of 7,000 Zambian people who live a very traditional existence. We were given a tour by a local woman and had the chance to see the inside of their homes, their water supply, some of their community buildings, and, the most fun, their young, happy children. I was expecting to see poverty, and by western standards, I did. Except these people seemed happy in their traditional roles—they speak English, most go to school and can read and write. They support their families through the crafts they make and sell. So, of course, we all helped by patronizing their local craft store, coming away with gorgeous, hand-crafted souvenirs we’ll cherish forever.
Our small band of travelers then flew to Cape Town and effortlessly met back up with the ship. It was wonderful to see Steve waiting for us out on the pier!
This series shows you what you can expect on a Holland America Grand Voyage. Here are previous peeks: Grand voyage send-off, what to expect at sea, Polynesia, New Zealand, Western Australia, Singapore, Thailand and Mozambique.