The Zambezi River: Mozambique's Force of Life | Full Documentary | TRACKS

there is power in the ground and in the


the Zulus dance for rain not here but a

thousand miles away the dusty ground

cries out for water the dancers are

calling on a great force that comes to

life on the other side of the continent




the power on which they call is the


the mighty African river that is the

force of life


the story begins with a clap of thunder

over the highlands of Zambia near its

borders with Angola and SIA these hills

took about thirsty but the dry season is

coming to an end the Thunder makes the

wildebeest Restless this storm will see

the rebirth of the power of the mighty


the river rises in the northwest corner

of Zambia in the highlands of South

Central Africa from here it follows a

long southerly route through Zambia to

the Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe all along

its course it is a force for life and

for death


it's birth is a quiet affair the rains

form muddy river lots that gather almost

surreptitiously into streams and finally

into a river the recently stable

landscape becomes a shifting setting for

small dramas


a chameleon's grip is secure but the

same cannot be said for the branches it

stands on in these turbulent times


it sets off on a voyage into the unknown

on a river that will dominate the lives

of those that live along its banks

stream beds that have long been dry will

soon be transformed by the rains into

roaring torrents the long-awaited water

will bring life to most along its banks

but to some as its power grows it will

bring death

it carries with it silt from the uplands

which will enrich the lowland soils but

it picks up other cargo along the way

a wildebeest has paid the price of one

clumsy panic-stricken day

the vultures miss nothing from their

vantage point in the sky

but they will have to wait there are

other eyes in the water




Lorena's will feed the lowland pastures

but before that they will feed the



the wildebeest carcass is vanishing

before their eyes but still the vultures

must wait


only when the last crocodile is sated

will they get their turn the bobbing

carcass still bears enough meat to feed

a squabbling Assembly of Africa's

Undertaker's but soon even the vultures

have finished with it the river will

take the rest while they saw over the

landscape looking for their next meal


they know them the river winds on down

through the highlands whose hills it has

carved over the centuries



the floods have died down now leaving

their casualties on the riverbanks the

carcasses of drowned

trees will provide shelter for the

rivers smaller inhabitants here in

western Zambia where Eddie's form quiet

pools small fish find a place to rear

their young under the storm scarred

banks they're members of the cichlid

family known as mouth brooders because

of their unique way of protecting their

babies the father carries his young in

his mouth releasing them only when he

feels safe suddenly he does not feel

safe anymore

the hideous jaws belong to the tiger

fish a fierce predator the cichlid

father hastily gathers his brood into

the safety of his own mouth to keep them

from the mouth of the tiger


on a small scale but tigerfish is among

the fiercest predators in the river


the chameleon is too big for the little

fish but there are plenty of crocodiles

about and for young one a chameleon

makes a convenient snack the chameleons

sharp hooked claws are not adapted for


they're for climbing on plants but out

here there are no plants


the River of Life provides an escape

route for the time being with the

crocodile watching the chameleon dare

not make a sudden


finally the crocodile loses interest

chameleons may not be adapted to life in

water but hippos most certainly are ears

eyes and nostrils are all perfectly

designed for endless days of bathing

under the African Sun they live in their

thousands along the deeper parts of the


the only thing they don't seem to be

adapted for his life in such crowded

groups hippos spend most of their day

dozing and the rest of the time

disagreeing with each other as the

current in the river slows down the tide

of life begins to flow more strongly on

its banks male water bucks spa together

fighting for status ready for the mating

season both are too well-armed for

anything more than a little light

fencing read bark is similarly engaged

and equally cautious about accidentally

injuring their opponent

if this is intended to impress our

watching though it's not very successful

the dough is at least by an attention to

the surroundings and with good cause


there's enough meat on the hoof on this

riverbank to keep a lioness and a litter

well fed throughout the coming dry

season but the antelope are well aware

of the risks they take when they come to


the read-back have made their escape but

there are other drinkers at the water's

edge the Dyna says three comes to feed

and she needs meat for them now that

they are weaned she must hunt for four

but today the weather is hot and the

bark are wearing the Cubs will have to

go hungry the lioness has a difficult

time when her cubs are this age they're

too young to hunt but they're active and

curious liable to disturb her quarry in

their efforts to join in the chase but

today there will be no more hunting a

bigger disturbance than three small Cubs

was just arrived at the riverbank

unlike the antidote elephants have no

need to feel nervous when they make

their daily visit to water the Predators

simply back away knowing that there is

nothing for them here the lioness will

lead her cubs into a shaded place where

they can wait until nightfall and better

chances to hunt

along the riverbanks the elephants can

find plenty of food even in the dry

season trees here plunge their roots

deep into the ground so that even when

the river is running low they can reach

its life-giving water the baby of the

family is not particularly hungry or


such is the Plenty in this part of the

river he is content to watch his elders

one female carries out a little

do-it-yourself dentistry on a sore gum


the youngster learns by everything he

sees perhaps he will need the same

remedy in years to come grass is a

seasonal foodstuff here when the dry

season takes over it will be in short

supply the adults make hay before the

Sun shines too strongly and the young

ones follow suit

the river attracts other drinkers

warthogs are the preferred prey of a

number of large predators but they come

to the Riverside apparently without a

care in the world

the young elephant is not quite sure

what to make of them the adults have

seen it all before at this time of day

where the Lions are sleep in the shade

the riverbank is a peaceful place the

cool damp grass is a refreshing midday

snack for elephants and warthogs alike

but other animals are feeding in the

river itself

the african fish eagle is a graceful and

powerful hunter found all over the



it's swooping flight and unerring aim

make it the emblem of these waterways

it's plaintive call the voice of wild



even while it is feeding high in the

trees beside the river it watches the

water for its next meal all along the

Zambezi and on lakes and large water

holes all over Africa fish eagles have

carried out their precision raids since

long before there were human eyes to

admire them


now the Zambezi has become a calm

meandering stream winding its way

through the endless reed beds and

papyrus of west-central via through the

lowland swamps here it is the source and

support of all life

among the told papyrus the local people

make the most of the rivers generosity

the passing fisherfolk are watched

calmly by the greatest fishermen in

Africa but the river is not all

generosity jaws lurk along its banks in

this trackless maze of reeds it is as

well to know exactly where one is going

and how to get home again and who your

neighbors are

there's enough fish here to satisfy the


so they rarely worry the people

and the wondering isin is more likely to

be eaten by a crocodile than to trouble

the boys in their canoe familiarity

breeds not contempt but ease in

surroundings that would seem forbidding

to an outsider

something has disturbed the squawk Oh

heaven a heavy rustling in the reeds

but the boys know what makes that noise

the people here live not only among the

reeds but in them their houses are

fetched with them cut from among the

endless reed beds

the reeds is strong and light and

waterproof if they're properly selected

and set up and they're free

the lousy people have been living here

since about 1600 when they left their

former home in Angola to settle among

the swamps here the livin is easy in a

gentle climate the broad Zambezi is

their highway their larder and their

building supply store as well they're

not alone of course all around them

animals have also made use of this

generous home feeding and making their

homes under the enormous lowland skies

chief among them not surprisingly our

fish eating birds the swamp is home to

countless egrets and cormorants nesting

in the reeds and fishing in the river no

one has ever tried to work out how much

fish they eat some live and breathe here

while others come from far and wide on

seasonal migrations the river can supply

them all and in despair as the expectant

army of egrets waits on the bank the

river teams and swirls with fish catfish

rise through the debris on the bottom

and splash on the surface comments are

quick to pick off the younger smaller

fish catfish feed on the bottom feeling

for their prey with the whiskers that

give them their name will come to the

surface to catch insects when they often

find an unlit wedding as their huge

yellow eyes suggest stone curlews are

mainly nocturnal by day they stand

dreamily about on the riverbank as if

they were watching the egrets fishing

boys from the nearby village disturb the

birds but not for long

all are equally members of the vast

local ecosystem dependent on the river

for all that they need the force of life

here in the huge swamp stretching far

south to the Okavango Delta is slow and

gentle offering a rich and peaceful life

to all its inhabitants


it will not always be this quiet the

river has a violent future not far




here though hippo still have a peaceful

life they may be built like wrestlers

down to water they become ballerinas

weightless in their own element

all animals are specialized for their

own way of living from the burly hippo

to the elegant fish eagle but some are

specialized in unexpected ways


the little reed cormorant is like any

other cormorant

but for one thing because of its life

among the reeds it needs to be able to

perch better than others of its kind it

has long flexible toes to adapt it to

its Reedy home the riverbanks of the

watering place for the animal with the

worst reputation for violence in the

whole of Africa cape buffalo have been

feared ever since white hunters first

came to the continent they might look

rather like large cattle but they are

fiercely defensive of their young and

very dangerous when cornered an

anonymous French author said long ago

this is a very vicious animal if you

attack it it defends itself

while they drink the Buffalo need to

keep their eyes open the river is home

to some of Africa's largest crocodiles

which would be quite capable of dragging

an unwary Buffalo into the water by its

snout they do not stay around when a

crocodile is near

without the element of surprise the

crocodile is harmless but the Buffalo

are taking no chances they have only one

real enemy in the African bush lions

regularly take their calves when the two

species meet the hunger on the Lions

face is matched by the new hostility on

the buffaloes the lion yawns in

frustration but it watches for a chance

to attack the Buffalo seems to be

waiting for it to try all cats signal

frustration by waving their tails the

lion is no exception

cats have another thing in common when

they are thwarted at potato they weren't

really interested anyway as the herd

makes its way from the river it's very

close to permanent human settlements but

the Buffalo are no threat to the

inhabitants who give them a wide berth

the country here in central Zambia is

open wooded Savannah with wide clearings

dotted with acacia trees good for

agriculture where it is watered by the

river the people keep goats and grow

crops in the clearings but they have

very little impact on the wildlife near

one of the favorite watering places the

colony of carmine bee-eaters has set up




the birds ignore the comings and goings

around them

they've become familiar with people and

their domestic animals down centuries to

the beat as people are no more of a

threat than Buffalo they carry on their

urgent business under the very feet of

the locals digging you up nesting

tunnels in the bank of the river home

locals are likely to get a face full of

SAP as one woman comes to the bank the

birds fly out in a dense swarm but this

has nothing to do with her movements

beaters perform these mock panic flights

even when they don't know anyone is

there it might be to reassure them that

the colony is not too crowded they soon

returned from their mass exodus

the Carlisle bills are in other parts of

Africa is a migrant moving from the

cooler northern and southern extremes of

the continent to normal parts where it

breeds but it lives in Zambia all year

round breeding between September and

November at this time of year it's

joined by a rarer relation the

white-fronted Peter which also shows no

fear of people in fact all the birds are

content to use the bundles of reeds as

purchase and to search them for any

insects from Midas or shelter inside as

the people work around them the birds

have an occasional aerial census if

that's what their apparent panic attacks

are really for


the mighty zambezi is at its most drowsy

now forming oxbow lakes as it meanders

lazily between the reed beds the people

who live here were not always River

dwellers they're descended from Bushmen

who fled here in the 18th and 19th

centuries to escape men who captured

them and sold them into slavery the

descendants of those men are dancing now

far downstream for rain

the zoodles were always a warlike tribe

dominating those around them with their

ferocity and aggression for the

peaceable Bushmen there was no

alternative but to seek refuge in the

deep bush along the banks of what became

to them the river of life


the Zambezi waters the dry Savannah

along a broad swathe on both banks a

band of plenty winds across the plain at

its heart the silver ribbon that is the


for the river people as for their

neighbors upstream the Zambezi is

highway and Lada well and wash house

like ratty in Wind in the Willows they

live by and on and often in the river

the river is there a source of building

materials - it's tall reeds are ideal

for fencing and for the walls and moves

of houses in this gentle climate the

villagers have friendly neighbors in the

bush vervet monkeys that have become

tame and trusting though often somewhat

liked fingered when there's food about

the houses are well built and the monkey

roof but the open village square is too

inviting to ignore beside an empty box

with a very apt logo the monkeys forage

for scraps in the heart of the village

for the small boys they're a constant

source of affectionate amusement

safe with its prize in the trees high

above the village the monkey can feed at

leisure while the boys play below their

dance is strangely similar to that of

the Zulus once the scourge of their


but now far away and no longer a threat

down by the river

while their mothers wash the dishes the

children go fishing the fish here are

small but enough of them will make a

nourishing meal the abundance of the

river enables the whole family to play a

part in village life

as evening approaches the children play

while their mothers prepare the evening

meal the men and the older boys will

soon be home from their day on the river

under the watchful eyes of the vervet

monkeys another quiet day draws to a

close the river is bigger and bolder now

tree-lined and more powerful when it

wounded slow length through the reed

beds here another population of hippos

find a perfect home in the clear

shallows they plied as if weightless

through the water tiptoeing delicately

along followed by a cloud of fine silt

their life is quiet and restful here

where the river is wider and they have

more space there seems to be less

conflict among the fleshy editable

Giants than there was further upstream


the river is their life they go ashore

only at night to graze on the lush grass

along the banks they glide about

underwater not in search of food but

looking for relief from the Sun in spite

of living in some of Africa's hottest

climates hippos are martyrs to sunburn

further downstream the vervet monkeys

are much wilder than those that live in

the village unaccustomed to people they

have to find their own living among the

trees without the benefits of scraps of

human food they spend almost their whole

time high above the ground only rarely

venturing down to drink and occasionally

to socialize on the riverbank

for them the ground is not a regular

source of food but often the place of

danger bother young monkeys Flay their

parents keep a close eye on them and

watch for danger even fallen trees close

to the ground are more secure than the

open riverbanks

they offer a ladder to safety out of

reach of predators

the monkeys are really at ease only when

they are high in the trees even here

they take it in turn to practice lookout

while the others feed they don't need to

go to the ground even to find water

cracks and clefts in large branches

often contain a few drops to drink even

if they have to be winkled out with the

monkeys long fingers they watch each

other all the time to see what food

there is or where others have found

water the trees not the river are their


among all their busy activity at least

one pair of eyes is always open to the

approach of danger when it appears the

response is immediate


the Python is no direct threat to the

monkeys could all snakes are potential

enemies to all primates and the fear of

them is instinctive reason doesn't come

into it for monkeys any more than for

most humans


when the snake crawls back into the

grass the panic is over and silence

returns to the tall trees the river

broadens out a little further along its

course to form wide marshes where Lech

we are at home with their broadly

splayed hooves they don't sink into the

muddy ground but seemed to float over it

without getting bogged down


elephants in spite of that great weight

also have very wide feet so that they

too can walk safely in this treacherous


where the ground is dryer and an

elephant can stroll unhindered through

the grass the vibration of its heavy

tread awakes another of the area's

residents Lions find it difficult to

hunt on the marshy ground but because of

the large numbers of animals attracted

by the abundant water and lush grazing

they're always in evidence they wait for

animals on their way to and from the

river but not for Elephants the lioness

finds a fresh patch of shade to wait for

a cooler time of day

loving water as they do elephants find

this part of the Great River Valley an

ideal place to live they gather in their

family parties at favorite drinking and

bathing places total immersion is the

favorite form of bathing here in the

river the elephant's show total

enjoyment - this is elephant heaven

water cool and sweet and why their baths

over the family moves off into the

grasslands to find something to eat


but the Great Rivers Idul is about to

come to an abrupt if temporary end the

Cataclysm begins innocently enough as

the river is split by shows of little

islands in midstream here as in the

highlands where it was born it's not

sweeping aside sand and mud but eating

away at rock each island diverts the

flow a little challenging the river to

where it down the channels flow faster

as the river is constricted between the


water flowing at this speed has enormous

power it erodes the rock over the

centuries carving a channel through the

softer strata and leaving the harder

layers standing proud

the Zambezi has eaten away at the edge

of the plateau as he dives more than 300

feet into the gorge below

this is the Victoria Falls the largest

waterfall on earth even in the dry

season in November in December it

carries more than 7,000 cubic feet per

minute in times of flood it can exceed

24 million

in the local language it's called mosey

what um be the smoke that thunders the

plume of spray can be seen and heard

from miles away

the Falls are nearly six thousand feet

wide but in places the chasm into which

they plunge is less than 200 feet across


the first European to see the falls in

1855 was the Briton whose name became

synonymous with African exploration in

the nineteenth century

David Livingstone he named them after

the Queen of England at the time above

the gorge the cliffs are shrouded in

perpetual mist people come to marvel at

the sight that Livingstone said would

cause even an angel to wonder

Livingston believed that the Falls were

created by a massive earthquake that

caused a huge rift in the Earth's crust

but geologists today know that they were

formed over millennia by the erosive

power of the water itself

the spray drifts over the surrounding

land to create a patch of dense tropical

vegetation home to chameleons that feed

on the abundant insect life in the mist


water buck find a fitting home here and

people too drawn by the hypnotic power

of the tempestuous stream the rains that

fall on the far-off Angolan border feed

the mighty power of the river here in

Zimbabwe a world away from the muddy

stream that gives it birth

this deep gorge patiently carved from

the living rock bears witness to the

pent-up energy of water that has

traveled 600 miles across Africa the

monkeys that live here are in a

different world from their relatives in

the peaceful village all those that live

in the tall trees by a sleepy river far



the Falls carve a huge gorge 45 miles

long and 400 feet deep

a thousand miles beyond it lies the sea


700 miles downstream still far from the

Indian Ocean people rely on the massive

power of this river that rises so far

from their home



deep into the night the zulus dance to

the power that is in the earth the power

that comes from the sky the mighty power

of the Zambezi the force