Thursday, July 3, 2014

A few days at Victoria Falls: Jumping bungee and getting soaked

After breakfast, I spent a little time with Clive, The Kingdom's activity coordinator.

He told me how to get to the mid Vic Falls Bridge bungee jump, and booked me on a helicopter tour for the next morning, prior to my departure back to Johannesburg.

The moment before the moment.

Bungee jumping
You must navigate through the aggressive pan-handling mobile street merchants to the Zimbabwean border post. Produce your passport so they can see the visa you bought to get into the country (though I'm told this is not necessary, I wasn't looking to find out for certain). Tell the border agents you're going to bungee jump and they'll give you a ticket to return. Probably a good idea not to lose that ticket.

Keep walking. The bridge is open to auto traffic, so keep to the pedestrian areas at the outer edges. The nugee jump hut is in the middle of the bridge on the gorge side (not the falls side). But to jump, you must first register and pay. The place to do that is up a small hill on the Zambia side.

There may be a crowd at registration, so remember—it's Africa. Registration involves signing a few waivers, getting weighed, and paying. They offer other adventures (bungee swing, zip line), but I ws there to jump bungee. Nothing else.

They write your mass in kilograms and your number in the queue on your forearm. Proceed back through another set of aggressive merchant/pan-handlers back to the mid-bridge hut. They'll fit you with some harnesses and a flimsy floatation vest.

At long last, you'll be invited to the preflight area. There, they wrap your calves in sturdy "towel" before binding them tightly with a collar rope. That rope is attached to the bungee cord several times with independent carabiners. The camera guys chat you up as the rope guys do their work. The video will be on offer after the jump.

Then you waddle out to the diving platform. With a quick "5-4-3-2-1-Bungee!" you're helped with your jump by men who are tethered to the bridge. And off you go. Seconds of free fall. Over 100 meters. Then a jerk and increasing upward acceleration as the bungee kicks in. Some lateral motion as well, since you jumped forward. You swing under the bridge then back into the view of the platform.

Your oscillations die out as a worker in a boson's chair comes down to retrieve you. He puts you upright and gets you back to the underbelly of the bridge. You tether yourself to a guide rope on the understructure of the bridge and walk back to the Zimbabwe side and go back topside. By the time you get back to the registration area, they've got your video in the hopper and ready to show. And a round of still images, too.

I asked if they transferred the media via wifi from the cameras. No, the camera guys literally run the memory cards to the production room at registration. Wifi of the feet.

I bought the video, but not the stills. When I opened the disc on my computer, the stills were thrown in, too. (I think they presume you'll buy both video and stills, and prepare the DVD accordingly.

Victoria Phyz Falls

Was I ever in much danger bungee jumping from this bridge? Yes. The cord hardly ever breaks. But don't tell that to Australian, Erin Langworthy. She got more of an adventure than she bargained for.

Falls Watching
Having survived the bungee, I spent a few hours in the falls park ($30 per entry). The best shot I got was likely a pano on my iPhone.


I walked the full length of the path, but there was so much water here in July, the spray dominated most of the length of the falls. I got duly soaked. (I probably needed a fill-in flash here.)

At the end of the trail, you had a nice view of the bridge. Late into the afternoon, the bungee jumpers were still bouncing in the gorge.


I returned early the next morning in hopes of interesting light. This time, the trail guard manning the hotel gate to the foot trail walked me past the pan-handling merchants to the park entrance. I got a few shots before returning to the hotel to prepare for my helicopter tour. On the way out, a baboon was posing on top of the park sign.

Air Touring
The helicopter tour is called "Flight of the Angels". A quick road transfer from the hotel gets you to Zambezi Helicopter HQ. They weigh you before grouping you into a flight group. If you're in a shopping mood, a variety of wood carvings are on offer.


Eventually, your helicopter comes in, the previous passengers exit, and you climb on board.

I brought the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200 for this flight, and got one nice still.


You can buy a video of your flight. I passed. Here's one I found YouTube.

Victoria Falls - Flight of the Angels

Keepers from
Victoria Falls. [coming soon]

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