Dr. Livingstone, I presume… at 200

IMG_0486 (960x1280)Thanks Gene for pointing out an excellent article about a book describing Dr. Livingstone, famous for walking back and forth across Africa, identifying Victoria Falls to the outside world, missing the impassable Cabora Bassa cataracts on the Zambezi River which prevent navigation to the interior and who was somewhat less than thoughtful regarding his wife and children.

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Kathy’s Smilebox, Jo-burg to Zambia to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

Smilebox_502131730Four members of our tour group, Richard and Kathy, Gene and Rachel followed another path as the SmarTours extension to Zimbabwe was fully booked.  They stayed one extra night at a bed and breakfast in Johannesburg then caught a flight to Livingstone in Zambia. From there they crossed over into Zimbabwe and saw Victoria Falls en route to their resort lodge further up the Zambezi River.  Visit Kathy’s Victoria Falls Smilebox for their pictures and videos from this part of their journey.

Zimbabwe visas, warning to Canadians

IMG_0516 (1280x960)Watch out if you’re a Canadian visiting Victoria Falls!  A cash register is waiting for you.

Current requirements are for Canadians to pay $75 US upon each entry into Zimbabwe.  US citizens pay $30 for a single entry and $45 for a double entry visa.  There is no double entry visa available to Canadians.  So, let’s use our example of a day trip from Victoria Falls to Chobe wildlife park in neighbouring Botswana.  Returning at the end of the day, we had to pay another $75 each to get back to Victoria Falls.  So for our trip from South Africa into Zimbabwe with a day trip into Botswana, our total visa cost was $75 x 2 entries x 2 people = $300.  Our US friends on the tour managed to do this for $45 x 2 = $90 per couple.  The visa cost was one of the reasons we did not attempt to cross the bridge over to Zambia to see the Devil’s Pool on the other side of the Zambezi River.  Also, be prepared to pay in cash, US$ or South African Rand as credit cards, debit cards and traveler’s cheques are not accepted at the border.  It’s better to have the correct amount in case the border post won’t make change.  Finally, if you are a family you need to know that all children and infants are also subject to the visa fees, as of June 2012.

I wonder where the lions are…

Chobe Park, Botswana

Chobe Park, Botswana

Here’s some Bruce Cockburn music to go with this post.  I recalled a comment made by a guide during our “walk with the lions” in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.  He mentioned an amazing rate of decline in recent years in the lion population.  As a biologist, my first thought was, “They’re going extinct.”  Since our return from Africa, I’ve seen news articles about rhinos and crocs, but not lions.  So I went looking for more.  Lion population estimates presently vary from 20,000 to 30,000 world wide, 10% of the African lion population 100 years ago.  Some sources quote a 90% decline in only the last 30 years. The best web site I’ve found is a map at National Geographic that shows population changes across time.  Additional information is also available from National Geographic at this site.  The Panthera cat conservation site indicates that there are only 7 countries in Africa that are believed to have more than 1000 lions.  From a biologist’s point of view the problem is 2 fold, not only are the population estimates extremely low, but the geographic expanse remains relatively large which results in isolated communities and reduced opportunity for out breeding.  Here’s a Youtube video describing the conflict between farmers, urbanization and lions in Kenya.

This blog has changed…

Something was bothering me about this blog. The topic is our 2012 tour of SA, Swaziland, Kruger Park, Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe and Chobe Park in Botswana.  It wandered off topic when I started adding links to news articles.  I consider posts about places we visited such as Cape Town and Johannesburg to be fair game, as are links to articles about wildlife in the southern African countries.  But links to news about Zim diamonds? helicopter gifts? juju and witchcraft? Zim reform impacts on livestock farming?  Although extremely interesting, I no longer think that they belong in this blog.  The posts I have removed included: “Dear White People“, a controversial essay by Gillian Schutte; the South African death rate found in the CIA World Factbook; South African miners’ debt levels contributing to social unrest.  Before we left on our tour to South Africa, I watched the news stories about the truckers’ strike necklacing and miners’ strikes. I have watched the farm workers’ strikes develop and the demonstrations against municipal boundary changes since then.  There’s a pattern of violence such as white farmers under attack and attacks on journalists accused of spying for the state reminiscent of the last days of apartheid.  Confrontation signals the underlying tensions of a fractured society.  Jobs disappearing and shanty towns next to cosmopolitan cities.  The horrific rates of violence against women.  What is the new South African reality?

I read an excellent article, “Christmas in Zimbabwe” as that country gets ready for a constitutional referendum leading into a potentially dangerous election later this year.  I found a disconnect between Zimbabwe requests foreign aid for food while mineral export values exceed $1.8 billion.  There’s so much money in platinum, palladium, gold and diamonds and yet poverty is rampant, food and water is scarce for many and this week the government claims it has $217 left in its bank account!

So by all means I encourage you to do as I do, set up a couple of Google Alerts to receive the news from these countries, and be prepared to be astonished.

Hello Africa!

Jim and Debbie, Richard and Kathy and Gene and Rachel toured South Africa, Swaziland, Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe and Chobe Park in Botswana with SmarTours in Oct/Nov 2012.  Seeing African animals in the wild has always been one of Debbie’s dreams.  Jim prefers cities, history, culture and food.  So the trip was magnificent for both.  South Africa, Swaziland, Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe and Chobe Park in Botswana are great places to tour, travel, visit. My wife and I, our friends and our tour group traveled safely, enjoyably throughout our trip. Our guide in South Africa was Ron McGregor.  There was no bad news to recount and lots of most enjoyable adventures.  I find southern African nations to be…. intriguing.  View News SA and News Zim pages to see what’s been going on in these countries since Feb. 2013.