Time to Walk on the Wild Side…

Amanda Vallone


A trip to Victoria Falls allows for a great adventure opportunity. There are helicopter rides over the falls, bungee jumping off the bridge, diving in the borders of Zambia and Zimbabwe, and white water adventures.

Many of the people in our group could not choose what they wanted to do as a side trip so they chose to enjoy a few things.

About 8 of our Explorers took a helicopter ride over the falls. From what I heard, it was quite an incredible experience.

15 of us decided to live on the WILD side…

The evening after our daring jump into Devils Pool, 15 of our group members decided to walk with the lions. We did not know what we were getting ourselves into. Would we be eaten alive, would we get to touch them? Would we only get to be with the cubs?

We would soon find out.

Our guide and driver picked us up at the hotel and brought us out into the bush to a wildlife refuge. Along the way our bus broke down and we had to hoof it about ½ a mile through the bush. We were all concerned a lion would find us looking quite yummy for their dinner…

Upon safe arrival to Lion Encounter, we were offered a beverage and given a briefing as to how to walk with the lions. We were all given a stick to protect ourselves. You read that right, a STICK was our protection against these creatures. If a lion lunged at us we were to point the stick at them and say “no.” Whaaat?????

So, off we went. Splitting into two groups, my group took the path with more of a hike and the other group went along more flat land in the opposite direction.

And out came the first two lions.

Trained they were! But wild animals just the same.

Paula was the first one up to walk with the lions. I think everyone stopped breathing as she approached him.

Then each of us took our turns to follow walking with these amazing creatures and getting photos along the way.

When I say this experience was magical, I really mean it. To say you walked, and even touched, a lion is quite spectacular.

I to this day cannot believe we did it.

The walk alone was a full hour or more. When we were done we were served a nice small meal and given some drinks. We then learned a lot about the conservation, how the lions were brought here, and how they’re prepared for release into a pride.

I had a few guests on my trip who did not want to participate in this experience because they watched a documentary about experiences like this that would kill the lions after they were done with them. How horrible!

The Lion Encounter is all about ethical rehabilitation and release into the wild. They do not declaw or de-tooth their lions, which is what you hear of at some of those places. It was the goal and priority of Salute Africa not to fund any of the inhumane projects. So, they paired us up directly with Lion Encounter.

Our group was so impressed by this experience and what they do for the lions. It was incredible. But a picture is worth a thousand words. Check out our photos:



What the heck is Mosi-oa-Tunya?

The Smoke that Thunders, of course!

Amanda Vallone


One cannot visit Zimbabwe, or Victoria Falls for that matter, without at least hearing the story of David Livingstone. A Scottish explorer set out to Africa, David Livingstone may have been the first white man to set his eyes on the beauty of Mosi-oa-Tunya. In May of 1856, Livingstone reached the mouth of the Zambezi on the Indian Ocean, making him the first European to cross the width of southern Africa.

The waterfall system that is shared by Zambia and Zimbabwe was named Victoria Falls by Livingstone himself, after Queen Victoria.

It is said that among all the dry land throughout Zambia and Zimbabwe, Livingstone could hear a thunderous roar and see a plume of smoke above. It looked as though there was a massive fire until he got closer. It was the smoke that thunders of Mosi-oa-Tunya, the largest falls in the world.

Victoria Falls is 355 feet in height and spread across the border of Zimbabwe and Zambia. David Livingstone landed at the biggest island at the lip of the falls, which is now known as Livingstone Island. On our walking tour of the falls we stopped at many lookouts and ended at a statue of the explorer himself. Victoria Falls was simply spectacular! This UNESCO world heritage site is also known as one of the 7 natural wonders of the world. For those checking off their bucket or “live it” list, Victoria Falls is surely one not to be missed.

My Opinion: I grew up in Buffalo, New York, and every single field trip seemed to be a trip to Niagara Falls. Though Niagara is quite spectacular as well, and it too boarders two countries (USA and Canada), its size alone is 167 feet to Victoria’s 355. Though I completely recommend going to Niagara, Victoria Falls was the most amazing falls I have ever experienced… It might be because of my next adventure though… Devils Pool.

Handicap accessible? Sure! We actually had 4 wheelchairs being pushed around the falls on that day. 3 of my ladies plus my mom were not able to make this long walk, but certainly did not want to miss the experience. So our guide set up a few wheelchairs to meet us at the entry and some strapping young gents to push my non-walkers. The cost was only $20 and the money was well earned. All my non-walkers knew how strenuous it is to push a chair on uneven walkways, and a gratuity was surely rewarded for their labor.

Child friendly? Of course! Aurora absolutely loved the falls and giggled in delight at how loud they were. She even loved the little monkeys roaming all over. Strollers could get around just like the wheelchairs. But a word of advice to parents, hold your wee ones hand or keep them strapped in a stroller as there are many lookout points and stairways without guard rails or steep cliffs.

Devils Pool

Located at the top of the falls on the Zambian side of Victoria Falls, the Devils Pool takes a boat ride, a hike, a swim and a jump to complete. After thousands of years of erosion, many rock pools have formed at Victoria Falls. Devils Pool just happens to be one of them. Located right on the very edge of the sheer drop of the falls, adrenaline junkies can make their way to Devils Pool and jump right in. This is indeed the ultimate infinity pool.

On our adventure we had a group of 6 courageous—and many might think somewhat brainless—people take on the Devils Pool challenge. But I have to say, our crazy decision was one of the best experiences of my life.

So how did we survive the jump into Devils Pool?

Well, after upping my life insurance before leaving the states (just kidding), we set our minds on our edge of the world survival jump.

Our party of 6 was taken from our hotel in Zimbabwe over to a 5* property, Livingstone Manner – one of the most amazing properties I have ever seen. With zebras right on the property and a seating area with views of the waterfall, river, and herds of hippos, we felt like we died and went to heaven. But we did not want our minds going down that path…

We had two guides bring us on a boat ride to Livingstone Island, where we then were welcomed with a celebratory drink and the ability to change our clothes into swimwear.

Whatever happens do not forget your water shoes!


One guide explained everything that would happen, and the other was in charge of our safety. As the river is only low enough to allow visitors to take this jump from August to January, safety is of top concern. We took some photos at the top of the falls on land first. I had a few mini heart attacks along the way. All I kept thinking was how dumb we all were (primarily me, bringing 5 others on this crazy adventure). One more step back and over the falls we would have been. Just writing this sends shivers down my spine.

Then we all left our belongings on the rocks of the dry land before making the swim across the rush of the river. We had a guide rope, and any poor swimmers had the guide to help them along. This area was not deep, but super rocky so you had to swim rather than walk.

We then proceeded onto dry and uneven rocks before making our way to the Devils Pool—eeeeek!

The first person to jump was our guide, showing us how to accomplish this daring feat. Next up was Barbara, then everyone else followed suit.

This pool was very deep in areas and the water was like a whirlpool. Our guide instructed us on how to get to the devils arm, the ledge at the end of the earth that was supposed to keep us safe. Call me crazy, but how does a ledge that we will sit on in the rush of water keep us safe from going over?


But… it did!

We were then instructed to pose for the camera – you know, we had to prove that we made it and actually didn’t chicken out.

After playing around in the water, taking tons of photos for proof, and gazing over the edge of a 355 foot-tall waterfall, we decided it was time to go back.

Mary Lou was my only one who did not jump in… but being in her 80’s and making it all the way to Devils Pool is pretty freaking amazing, right? The rocks to the pool were just too uneven for her.


This experience was not only exhilarating, it was my first point during this trip where I realized “this is the best trip I have ever been on.”

After making it back to land, we were served a fresh and home-cooked breakfast that was to die for.

What can I say? Devils Pool at Victoria Falls was a life changing experience!



And this wasn’t even the end of the trip! Keep an eye out for what happened next!

I Left a Piece of My Heart in Africa: Part 2

Amanda Vallone

Robben Island

“A symbol of the triumph of the human spirit.” Robben Island is exactly that. The island is off Cape Town, South Africa. You can get there by visiting the VA waterfront and boarding a hydrofoil boat. The ride, as long as the newer hydrofoils are working, will take about 20 minutes in some rough waters. If you have a weak stomach, you’ll want to be cautious about this experience. When we went the fast hydrofoil was broken and in dry dock, so our boat ride took one hour in very rough waters. After the Seal experience and knowing we would be in the same waters, I chose to sit right outside in the open air of the boat. Even after it started raining, I held my seat, and boy was I happy. All of the inside seats were in a confined area, and with no windows to boot if you went in the belly of the boat. If you sat in the front covered section you could see out the front, but got little fresh air.


Upon our much-anticipated arrival onto Robben Island, our tour guide of the Island, Nakita, informed us, though rough and rocky, we got a truly authentic experience. The boat we’d taken over to the island was actually a prisoner transport boat in the past.

We began our tour of the island with Nakita by walking through the visitors section. This looked like a sad and lonely area to visit with loved ones and family members. We learned that the prisoners were able to receive 1 letter and 1 personal visit every 6 months. Talk about lonely.3

The island itself was known to have millions of penguins years and years ago. But then the people of the island ate them, and their numbers decreased rapidly. The island also was the first place where one ailed with leprosy would be sent, away from their family, isolated from others.

Along our journey we learned about many of the prisoners, including Nelson Mandela who most of us automatically associate with the island. One that really hit home with me was a man by the name of Robert Sobukwe. Politically, Sobukwe was strongly Africanist, believing that the future of South Africa should be in the hands of Black South Africans.  Robert was a lecturer at the university, family man, and a leader in the ANC followed by the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC). His memberships within these organizations, nor his Africanist belief system, were not what got him entry into Robben Island. Rather his political power scared the government with opposing views.

In 1950’s, there was a law that made any black African man or woman carry a “pass book” with them at all times. These pass books were an internal passport designed to segregate the population, manage urbanization, and allocate migrant labor. This law, also known as “the natives law,” required black Africans to carry pass books when outside their homelands or designated areas. These black men and women of Africa could not walk a different route to work, go to a different neighborhood, or really go anywhere outside of their designated work/home combinations included within their passbook without good reason and being checked by the government.

Can you imagine not being able to leave your neighborhood or walk off the path to work for a day without being questioned and showing your passbook? Neither can I!

And Robert Sobukwe did not want to live this type of life either. So he did what any strong, powerful, and vocal person in leadership would do. He led an anti-pass campaign.

Sobukwe organized over 5000 marchers against the pass book law and in turn was arrested for incitement. But here’s the catch: Sobukwe was actually never sent to trial; he was never officially convicted. And he was kept in limbo for years so that the system did not have to call him a “prisoner” as he was awaiting trial.

Because of his in-limbo status, Sobukwe was kept in solitary confinement – his living quarters were separate from the main prison and he was allowed no contact with any other prisoners, nor to speak with the guards. He was, however, allowed access to books and civilian clothes because he was not technically a “prisoner.” But books and clothes did not make his time pleasant. The solidarity and lack of communication with people got him to the point that he told a woman named Helen Suzman that he was actually forgetting how to speak.

It is said that Sobukwe would look at the guards, pick up a fistful of dirt from the earth and let it fall back to the ground or in the wind to tell the guards, his black African brothers from the earth of Africa we all came, “You are the son from the soil of Africa.”

Over the course of his 10 years on Robben Island, he was never officially convicted. He was actually offered a job by the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People and the Montgomery Fellowship for Foreign Aid in the US. Sobukwe applied to leave the country with his family to take up the employment but was denied permission by the Minister of Justice. As we learned, it takes a pretty powerful person for the minister of Justice to vote against one single man. Robert was not even technically a prisoner, he was in limbo from a free man and a prisoner, he literally was not classified a prisoner.

Sobukwe was released from prison in May 1969, but the government was still afraid of his power among his people. Sobukwe was banished to Kimberley, where he was joined by his family. He remained under twelve-hour house arrest and his banning order prohibited him from participating in any political activity. He was also denied a passport or a job until the day he died from lung complications.

What hit home the most to me was how much power the government had against this one man. One man who was never convicted of any crimes. He organized a march defending his own rights. But the government was scared of what he may say to other Black Africans to get them to rise up against their oppressors.

South Africa has changed dramatically since the 50’s, as I believe the whole world has. But the pass-law was abolished, the political prisoners were released, and South Africa has transformed into a loving country known as the rainbow nation, coined by former Archbishop, Desmond Tutu, in 1994 as his neat description for a very multi-cultural, multi-ethnic country.

Interesting things about Robben Island:

  • Robben Island was a maximum security prison. Those who went into maximum security were political prisoners.
    • Minimum security was for the people who were thieves, rapists, murderers… you know, those people who need less security… – whaaaat?
  • Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners were kept busy by being put to work in the limestone quarry. The cave is where many of the prisoners, including Nelson Mandela himself, got bad eyesight from the bright lights and reflections of the limestone quarry.
  • There was no real need for the island’s limestone during the time of Mandela. Prisoners would break up the stone and carry it to one end of the quarry one day and then back the next — the work was really just to keep them busy.
  • While working the quarry, many of the prisoners learned to read. Even the guards would participate in the secret lessons sometimes. The rule of the quarry was “each one teach one.”
  • Once the political prisoners were all released and the prison was shut down, a national convention was held a few years later. Each of the prisoners were asked to come back to the prison and offer tours to visitors.
  • One of the former prisoners, and now guide and leader in the ANC, explained that the tour is not a museum to hatred. Visiting Robben Island should provide a lesson in reconciliation.
  • Over 1000 people were buried on Robben Island, most in unmarked graves.


  • Nelson Mandela clearly describes his cell (which you see at the end of the tour) in his book, A Long Walk to Freedom. It really is quite cramped and nothing I would wish upon my worst enemy.


  • There was a reunion at Robben Island. Many of the ex-political prisoners visited the island in which they were imprisoned for years. Many of these leaders reflected on their lives, planned for the future, and ended with a ceremony of the ex-prisoners picking up a rock from the quarry and placing it within a pile, one last time. To date, you see the pile of rocks they left there. And if you visit Johannesburg, as we did later in our trip, you will find rocks outside of Nelson Mandela’s home.


Wine Lands… Wine Farms

Stellenbosch is a town in the Western Cape that feels like you are being transported to a small vineyard town in France or Italy. The views are simply spectacular! All of the little villas on the side of the street are B&B’s, with wineries in the background. While we were in Stellenbosch, we visited a local winery and spa that was amazing. The Close Wine Estate Winery & Spa was where we enjoyed a wine tasting and food pairing with all of the local delicacies. To be truthful, the food was quite as delectable as my favorites in Spain and France. I would even venture to say, since I am on a white wine kick right now anyway, South Africa has some of the best white wines I have ever had. Some of that love may be due to the amazing trip, but either way I can say visiting a winery and enjoying some wine while in South Africa is a MUST!

Fun & Interesting Tidbits:

  • Vineyards are called Wine Farms in South Africa.
  • In the early 1700’s, one of the world’s most famous wines was produced right from South Africa, so I’d say they’ve been doing this for a while.
  • Pinotage was one of the reds I was pleasantly surprised by. It is South Africa’s very own grape variety – a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault. Pinotage was more dense and had notes of spices, chocolate, and even fruit flavors, including raspberry and blueberry.
  • Chenin Blanc is the most planted grape variety in South Africa. The wines hold peachy and floral undertones, but don’t let that make you think the wine is sweet; this white wine is slightly dry and quite refreshing.


Dinner and Drumming

While in Cape Town, we decided to enjoy a themed dinner at GOLD, a dinner and drumming experience. This was described as a taste safari of foods that will transport you from Cape Town to Timbuktu.  We received about 15 tastings of very interesting foods. Each came with a description of the ingredients as well as the area of Africa it was derived from. Each of us got some paint on our face as a traditional décor. And every chair had a drum on it.


When the performers came out they were energetic, charismatic, and informative. We all learned to play the drums as well as got an extraordinary show. This evening was so much fun! We all loved Dinner and Drumming, and were very happy to have gotten the opportunity to enjoy the experience.

Interesting Facts:

  • When you visit GOLD, the queen actually scatters 24 karat gold on each person. My husband, George, may or may not have tried to collect the remnants scattered on the table… hehe.
  • You will have the opportunity to dance with and be visited by the very tall, yet graceful Mali Puppets as they dance around your table accompanied by drummers, dancers and singers.

Is it handicap accessible? NO. Though, in all of the brochures GOLD is in fact considered handicap accessible, their definition of accessibility is quite different than mine and standards in the US. It simply means they have a handicap toilet… on the second floor. All of the dinner, drumming, and dancing takes place – you guessed it – on the second floor. And there are no elevators in this building. So, if you are looking to experience GOLD and are confined to a wheelchair, it will be difficult to say the least.

Now, when I asked if there was a lift or elevator the women of GOLD said no, we have strong men. And they were not joking! If visiting GOLD is on the top of your Live It list, just call ahead, they will literally make accommodations to carry a wheelchair up the two flights of stairs. Talk about customer service!

My experience: So I already mentioned my mom is in a wheelchair. She can walk, just not far, and certainly not up two flights of stairs. But my mom is also a determined explorer. So, what did my mom do? She slowly and with help climbed the two flights of stairs. With tears in all of our eyes, my mom made it to the top. She enjoyed the evening so much that she said to me, “Amanda, do not be upset that it was not handicap accessible. I am happy I climbed the stairs, and I would do it again for this experience.”


Is it child friendly? Of course! What little kid doesn’t want to beat on a drum all night long and not get in trouble for it? Face painting to boot? A match made in heaven for the wee ones. My Aurora the Explorer absolutely LOVED this evening and experience.


So as you can read, we fit a heck of a lot into our few days in Cape Town… but everyone was really looking forward to the next stop – Victoria Falls.

Read my next blog to learn about our lookout from the edge of the earth… literally.



Keep your eyes open for more about the rest of the trip!


Want to learn more about traveling to Africa? Our travel professionals at Roseborough Travel would be happy to answer any questions you have and help you plan the perfect vacation! http://roseboroughtravel.com/