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Toka Leya & Victoria Falls, Zambia

By Daniel Resnik on May 28, 2014 in Other

Picture: Daniel Resnik

Picture: Daniel Resnik

You know you’re in another world when you look out your back door and you’re greeted by a towering giraffe having a sticky-beak at the newly arrived tourists. Framing this extraordinary moment were six hippos floating in the Zambezi River just 50 metres away, and the knowledge that Victoria Falls, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, was only 12 kilometres down river.

After a 14-hour flight from Sydney to Johannesburg, our next journey was a short flight to Livingstone Airport, Zambia. Just a 10-minute jeep ride from the airport we were transferred to a boat for a short cruise along the Zambezi River that would take us to Toka Leya Camp in the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park.

Two minutes into our boat journey a hippopotamus exploded out of the river right next to the boat. It was surreal. It felt like we’d fallen into an Indiana Jones movie.

Toka Leya Camp is set within Mosi-oaTunya National Park (approx. 66,500 hectares, or 300 Centennial Parks) and, thanks to its proximity to Livingstone town, there are no predators in the area.

Toka Leya is a ‘Wilderness Safari’ managed camp. Wilderness Safari is a company that has been involved in the Southern African region for 31 years, turning stressful travel into adventure by organising all tours, transfers, flights and accommodation.

Speaking of accommodation, our luxurious tented room, one of only twelve, was the size equivalent of a decent one-bedroom apartment in the Eastern Suburbs, overlooking the Zambezi River and connected to the main camp areas (dining and bar) by a series of raised boardwalks. I certainly wasn’t roughing it, that’s for sure.

Within minutes of our first afternoon game drive we were being eyeballed by a herd of buffalo, while gatherings of impala were scattered everywhere. Our guide Godfrey stopped the vehicle abruptly. “We will now walk from here,” he said. I immediately thought that he was off his head, but he explained that we were going to walk with endangered white rhinos and it would be perfectly safe as armed guards would be escorting us. The guards were there to protect the rhinos from poachers who kill the animals for their horns, which are then sold for their alleged medicinal powers on the Asian market. These guards monitor the rhinos 24/7.

There are only 10 white rhinos currently at Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park and we got to spend 40 extraordinary minutes walking warily around with four of the ‘horny’ prehistoric beasts.

As we continued on (back in the vehicle) we encountered giraffes, warthogs, zebras, wildebeests, baboons, monkeys, various exotic birds and, my favourites (even though we were mock charged by one), hippopotamuses.

A couple of hours after enjoying a few ‘sundowners’ (cocktails consumed sunset) we were back at camp dining on delicious restaurant fare and reminiscing about an extraordinary afternoon.

The next morning we took the 15-minute drive to Victoria Falls where we were greeted on the Zambian side entrance by a welcoming party of very ‘human friendly’ baboons. They were literally everywhere.

The falls themselves border Zambia and Zimbabwe and are known to the locals as Mosi-oa Tunya Falls (meaning ‘the smoke that thunders’). As we approached, the first thing I noticed was the noise; it was deafening. Then came the first sight of the massive flow of crashing water – it was nothing short of breathtaking.

We crossed a narrow bridge called The Knife’s Edge, hanging on as huge plumes of mist came crashing back to Earth like torrential rain. We were back in Indiana Jones territory – raincoats were mandatory and the excitement was immense.

The views were spectacular but unfortunately you cannot see the whole length of the falls from this side, so the next day we visited the Zimbabwean side and the whole 1,750 metres were revealed. The power on display was mesmerizing; over 500 million litres of water falls every minute when the river is at its fullest.

We thought these were the best views of the falls but later in the day we took a 15-minute helicopter ride over them. The flight, appropriately named ‘the flight of the angels’, was simply magnificent.

My experience at Toka Leya Camp was nothing short of magical and the staff there were some of the friendliest and most amiable people I’ve ever met. They had a beautiful spirit matched only by their huge smiles.

They say there is a condition that afflicts people after their first safari: ‘safari fever’. It’s addictive, incurable and the only way to manage it is to keep going back!


How to organize your tour:
Soul of Africa Safari Company
0404 497 105

How to get there:
South African Airlines has daily flights between Sydney & Johannesburg. Passengers from Sydney fly to Perth with Virgin Australia (4hr from Sydney) and then to Johannesburg (11hr 35min).
1300 435 972
Return economy airfares start at $1917 including taxes.