Issue 27
Thunder Struck
The mighty Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe is an enduring epic masterpiece of nature
By Jo Kromberg  ·  2016-08-01  ·   Source:

Photos by Willie Smit

 

"The only man I envy is the man who has not yet been to Africa - for he has so much to look forward to."

So said a chap called Richard Mullin and I agree with him wholeheartedly 99 per cent of the time. But not when stuck at the border between Botswana and Zimbabwe for two hours in the scorching heat - that’s the 1 percent.

 

We wait patiently in the long queue with the rest of African humanity, but finally this too passes and we’re on our way to Victoria Falls Safari Lodge in the tiny town of Victoria Falls, courtesy of Africa Albida Tourism. The bright crimson of the frangipani and the bone-dry heat had subsided slightly from the previous time I set foot on this quant village, what with it being winter and all.

 

The Vic Falls Safari Lodge is just as I left it many years ago - set in tranquil, indigenous gardens where elephant roam and warthogs kneel to mow the lush lawns - literally! Set high on a natural plateau, the westward facing Lodge borders the Zambezi National Park and is just 4 km from the thundering Vic Falls.

 

We arrive in the lobby and after a quick check in I ask the friendly duty manager to locate the General Manager Jonathan Hudson for me.

 

"Welcome home!" he says, approaching me with a big grin. And it feels like home indeed. We are shown to our quarters for the night, the spectacular five-star Vic Falls Safari Club, adjacent to the Lodge. The rooms are elegant and huge with sweeping views of the bush, to inspire poetry in even the most monosyllabic soul.

 

There is a gargantuan bed with plush percale linen in the middle of the room, mini bar, air con, instant and fast Wi-Fi, an espresso machine, a massive bathroom with lovely smelly things and - this I love - a pillow menu.

 

We have lunch in the main dining room of the lodge and memory serves me correctly as I tuck into a delectable home-made chicken and mushroom pie and my photographer gobbles up his steak. I remember this lodge as having top-notch food and service and nothing has changed in the few years since I’ve been here. But time’s a wasting as we have a sun downer boat cruise to get to.

Sundowner cruise

 

Jonathan himself drives us the few minutes to the jetty where we board the majestic Zambezi Explorer, one of the most luxurious vessels on the Zambezi - and there are many. In fact, there is a veritable traffic jam of boats on the river this time of day. After a hearty welcome, a lovely chap called Stanford introduces himself to us and shows us around. The boat has three decks; two for the plebs and then the exclusive upper deck where you get wined and dined in style with plush sofas and the like. But it comes at a price, varying from $85 to $110 for the cruise of two hours and the Signature Lounge dinner. The cruise itself for the rest of us includes unlimited drinks and the most divine gourmet snacks and costs about $60 per person.

 

As we lazily set sail, people start mingling and relaxing and the bar is super busy. We find a quiet spot at the back of the boat from which to admire the mighty Zambezi, straddling the countries of Zimbabwe and Zambia on this stretch of the river. We spot a myriad of birds, crocodiles and of course, the ubiquitous hippo. The staff must be some of the friendliest and efficient anywhere and the snacks and drinks keep coming with a smile and a joke every time. A jolly good time is had by all. The sunset catches my breath in my throat and we watch it turn the color of molten pink copper before it quickly sinks beneath the horizon, the Zambezi having swallowed it whole.

 

Back at the lodge we have a few minutes to grab a quick shower before dinner at the world-famous Boma restaurant, also belonging to Vic Falls Safari Lodge and a two minute shuttle ride down the road.

 

Dining delights

 

If the cruise is a relaxing, fun and scenic experience, the Boma is as visceral as it gets. From the moment you enter the open air restaurant - where everyone gets fitted with a traditional sarong - you are immersed in a dining experience you are never likely to forget. There is of course the food - game and venison such as eland, kudu and impala, crocodile strips, warthog steaks... on and on it goes.

 

The food is not only exotic (there is also sausage and normal cow steak for the less adventurous and delicious salads, soups, breads and veggies for the vegetarians) but plentiful and absolutely delicious. You choose your poison and the chefs prepare it on the open fire or grill right in front of you. During dinner guests are regaled with traditional dancing, but then the fun really begins. A band of five drummers then take center stage, which is to say the area in the center of the restaurant and they mesmerize us with their incredible craft. The wonderfully charismatic leader then encourages all of us to follow his lead on drums we were all given. This turns out to be the best fun of all and even the most sullen, morose tourist begins to smile, relax and participate. The lead drummer later has everyone eating out of his hand as we all take to the dance floor. The theatre of it is incredible, as one of our new friends point out. After this incredible experience and many tales of the bush, I fall into bed exhausted

 

World wonder

 

An early breakfast the next morning, and then we drive the few km to the main attraction and in no time find ourselves suspended on a bridge hundreds of meters above one of the Seven Wonders of the World in the furious, full-flowing white form of the Victoria Falls. With the perfectly sliced arch of a rainbow, the Vic Falls is twice as high and twice as wide as the Niagra Falls in Canada. In height and width Victoria Falls is rivalled only by Argentina and Brazil's Iguazu Falls. It is also the largest curtain of falling water in the world, with 500 million liters plummeting down per minute. The locals call it Mosi-oa-Tunya or "the smoke that thunders" - so much more apt and descriptive than old Livingstone’s colonial homage to his British queen, me thinks.

 

No feeling in the world compares to the sensation of being here and watching, feeling, hearing and smelling the utter might of nature and feeling as small as an ant...

 

And then, as quickly as it began it is over just like a dream, and we find ourselves on a plane back to the dreariness of the daily city grind.

 

So until I return again, au revoir beautiful Zimbabwe.

 

Contact:

 

Africa Albida Tourism—http://www.africaalbidatourism.com/

 

Victoria Falls Safari Club—http://www.africaalbidatourism.com/safari-lodges/victoria-falls-safari-club

 

The Boma Restaurant—http://www.africaalbidatourism.com/victoria-falls/restaurants/the-boma

 

Getting there:

 

While there are plans afoot to create direct flights between China and Victoria Falls, this has yet to transpire so your best bet is to fly to South Africa with Air China and take a Fast Jet flight from there—http://www.fastjet.com/za

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