Saturday, July 27, 2013 – Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe – Elephant Ride

We all had different adventures today. Marian Moran, Janet Shi, Arthur Luehrmann and Martha Luehrmann went early on the elephant ride. Arthur and I rode on Tusker, with mahout Taurai Mahlayeya. It is obvious how Tusker got his name. He has the biggest tusks I’ve ever seen. We saw some lavender crotons, which have nice-smelling leaves. We saw the puffy nests of white-browed sparrow weavers. We also saw a long-tailed shrike. And we saw some winter thorn acacias. When animals eat acacias they stop producing fruit and leaves, and instead grow thorns.
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mahouts waiting on their elephants for the new set of tourists

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Janet Shi and Marian Moran
get settled on their elephant

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shadow of Arthur and Martha and mahout Taurai Mahlayeya on their elephant, Tusker

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Janet Shi and Marian Moran on their elephant

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we're off on the elephant trail ride

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Arthur and Martha and mahout Taurai Mahlayeya on their elephant, Tusker

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another set of tourists on their elephant

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dismounting can be tricky

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ong-tailed magpie shrike?

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warthog tribe at the animal reserve

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Arthur sits on Tusker's knee while mahout Taurai Mahlayeya looks on

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Arthur feeds Tusker a yummy, while mahout Taurai Mahlayeya looks on

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Martha feeds Tusker a yummy, while mahout Taurai Mahlayeya looks on

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Taurai Mahlayeya shows us Tusker's mouth with its grinding teeth

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Martha stretches up to pet Tusker

Saturday, July 27, 2013 – Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe – Walk With The Lions

Janet Shi, Marian Moran, and Martha Luehrmann went together to the Walk With The Lions installment in the Stanley & Livingston Private Reserve. Paul was our guide, with Paula (funnily enough) as his volunteer assistant with the lions, Paul told us that lions are in great danger of extinction from disease and poaching, and that this area has been set aside to raise orphaned or injured lions, and to try to introduce them again into the wild. Our fees, plus donations worldwide go to the maintenance of the camp and the mission of re-naturalizing the lions. We can learn more about the effort at The lions we will be walking with are 17-month-old females. Paul provided us with long walking sticks. We were told to stay at the rear of the lions while moving. Do not run or you will be perceived as prey. Distract them with the tips of the sticks they give us so they are not looking at us while we pet them.
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our guide, Paul, tells us what to expect and what safety precautions to observe

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below are the four stages expected of the Lion Project, but to date they haven't been able to transition a lion to stage 3, much less stage 4

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stage 1

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stage 3

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stage 2

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stage 4

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Janet Shi pets the lions

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17-month-old lioness

on the walk with the "Lion Encounter"
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Martha pets the lions

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we're up walking

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we're back to lazying

After our walk with the lions we went to visit with two younger cubs.
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lion cub with Marian Moran

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lion cub with Janet Shi

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lion cub with Martha

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now this lion cub was delighted to get tummy-tickled by two of the tourists

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Saturday, July 27, 2013 – Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe – Helicopter Flight Over The Falls

The early name for the falls was “the smoke that thunders”. Some of our group went on the helicopter over the falls in the morning, but since Marian and I were at the Walk With The Lions, we went in the afternoon. We were very lucky because the morning flights were crowded, and it was only the two of us (plus the helicopter pilot!) in the afternoon. It was fantastic! At one or two points the entire line of the falls was one big rainbow! It was also wonderful to get a bird’s-eye view of the zig-zag of vertically walled canyons that the Zambezi River has carved through the basalt and sandstone.
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our helicopter

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the paths we flew over and around the falls

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map of the rain forest walks along the falls
which we took the next morning

our Flight of Angels
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Victoria Falls seen from the International Space Station. Original image courtesy of the Image Analysis Laboratory, NASA Johnson Space Center

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here we are flying over the Zambezi River to the brink of the falls

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the falls can be seen at left from the spume they send up in the air

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approaching the lip!

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and now we are just going over the falls

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the outflow from the falls cuts its way into another canyon

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amazing carved canyons due to the Zambezi

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rainbow in the mists over the falls

The recent geological history of Victoria Falls can be seen in the form of the gorges below the falls. The basalt plateau over which the Upper Zambezi flows has many large cracks filled with weaker sandstone. In the area of the current falls the largest cracks run roughly east to west (some run nearly north-east to south-west), with smaller north-south cracks connecting them.

Over at least 100,000 years, the falls have been receding upstream through the Batoka Gorges, eroding the sandstone-filled cracks to form the gorges. The river's course in the current vicinity of the falls is north to south, so it opens up the large east-west cracks across its full width, then it cuts back through a short north-south crack to the next east-west one. The river has fallen in different eras into different chasms which now form a series of sharply zig-zagging gorges downstream from the falls.

Apart from some dry sections, the Second to Fifth and the Songwe Gorges each represents a past site of the falls at a time when they fell into one long straight chasm as they do now. Their sizes indicate that we are not living in the age of the widest-ever falls.

The falls have already started cutting back the next major gorge, at the dip in one side of the "Devil's Cataract" (also known as "Leaping Waters") section of the falls. This is not actually a north-south crack, but a large east-northeast line of weakness across the river, where the next full-width falls will eventually form
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the old bridge we walked across yesterday -- you can see the zip lines across the canyon, and people also bungee jump off the bridge!

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astonishing rainbow the length of the falls

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another view of the falls

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the shadow of our helicopter as we come in for a landing

Saturday, July 27, 2013 – Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe – Sunset Cruise on the Zambezi

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Abi Nyoni, Lauren Nyoni, and Leo Nyoni

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dancers at the cruise dock

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4-year-old Leo Nyoni

dancers on the dock
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map of this part of the Zambezi River

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our bartender with his Zimbabwe flag concoction

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Laura and Ken Westray with Monica Shephard in back

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Janet Shi

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Arthur Luehrmann

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malachite kingfisher?

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Lala palms on the Zambezi

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another crocodile -- I don't think I want to swim in these waters

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a little boat crosses the molten lava of the sunset

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another cruise boat

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Loren and Leo Nyoni

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Loren and Leo Nyoni