Travel & Outdoors
This is Africa
A fellow journalist pulled up a chair alongside mine, held up her gin and tonic and toasted the sun as it set over the Zambezi National Park. “Yup, this is Africa,” she sighed.
I looked out at the herd of elephant slowly approaching the watering hole in front of us and sighed back. “Yes, this really is Africa.”
It was a sentiment we had shared on more than one occasion already during this trip, which had brought us to the beautiful, touristy Zimbabwean town of Victoria Falls via both Johannesburg and Harare international airports. And it was only our first night there.
We had no idea what wonders lay ahead of us over the next 48 hours. But for now, seated on the deck of Africa Albida Tourism’s recently upgraded five-star Victoria Falls Safari Club, our home for the next three nights, we were happy just to watch the sun sink in a pink haze behind the African bush.
On arrival, earlier that day, we had been given a tour of the property, which has become somewhat of an institution over the past nearly 20 years. AAT’s flagship Victoria Falls Safari Lodge is situated in arguably one of the best locations in Africa, with panoramic views overlooking a wildlife-rich waterhole, just 4km from nature’s astounding masterpiece and UNESCO World Heritage Site, Victoria Falls.
Perched on a nearby plateau, the luxuriously elite, 20-room Victoria Falls Safari Club boasts attentive service and all the amenities you would expect from a five-star lodge.
The property also has other accommodation options, including the Safari Suites (ideal for families and small groups) and Lokuthula (two and three-bedroom self-catering lodges).
After a restful night in the lap of African luxury, we got up, donned our raincoats and prepared ourselves to walk in the footsteps of Scottish explorer, David Livingstone, and stand face-to-face with one of the seven natural wonders of the world, Mosi-oa-Tunya…the smoke which thunders.
Well, we thought we had prepared ourselves. Not much can ready you though, for how you will feel when you see the thunderous, awe-inspiring phenomenon up close for the first time. Somehow you just know this is a moment in your life you will never forget. This is Africa.
Despite being warned that it was the ‘wet’ season, we were all still a little amazed at how completely drenched we became walking through the rainforest at the edge of the falls and nervously giggled as we tried to keep our cameras and cell phones dry.
We returned to the lodge, still a little giddy with excitement, ready for our next adventure – the Vulture Culture Experience. As we placed our own lunch orders at the lodge, hundreds of rather large birds started to circle above us. And so, while the staff at the ‘human’ restaurant upstairs prepared our chicken wraps and fish and chips, we headed down to a hide where we could witness our friendly guide, Zulu, feeding these endangered birds scraps of meat and bones at their very own, ‘vulture restaurant’. The feeding programme is just one of many ways AAT tries to give back to the local environment – they have a newly launched recycling project and often involve themselves in local clean-up programmes.
A definite highlight, and truly fitting way to top off any Zimbabwean African adventure, was dinner and a drum show in the very popular Boma venue. Situated on the same property, the Boma offers an African feast both for both the belly and the eyes.
On arrival, each of us was given a chitenge (sarong) to wear for the night, before being led to our table where we were welcomed with a traditional hand wash and a tin mug of sorghum beer. The Boma is festive, with a ‘Boma Man’ offering guests exotic cocktails and a sangoma on hand to read your fortune. Dinner was a buffet of different meats, including Warthog cooked over an open fire, and local side dishes such as peanut butter rice and Mopani worms (we even got certificates to prove we ate them!). The festivities were kicked up a notch after dinner, when each guest was presented with a Djembe drum of their own. After a few failed attempts, the band finally all the guests to drumming in unison, which led to loads of laughter and, eventually, even dancing. This is Africa after all.
The next day, as our small plane took off from the quaint Victoria Falls airport, we looked out at the thundering smoke and remarkable Zambezi River below and waved a final goodbye to this beautiful piece of our beautiful continent.
Info you need to know…
Approximate room rates: Victoria Falls Safari Lodge, standard room: R1900 per person sharing per night; Victoria Falls Safari Club, club room: R2400 per person sharing per night (bed and breakfast); Lokuthula Lodges: R1200 per person per night. Details: www.africaalbidatourism.com. Daily flights to and from Harare and Victoria Falls are with Fastjet Airlines. Details: www.fastjet.com
We’re giving away a three-night trip for two people sharing at The Victoria Falls Safari Club, including breakfasts, two lunches and two dinners (including one at The Boma), a guided tour of the Victoria Falls for two people (excluding park entry) and return flights and airport transfers. To enter click here!
Text: Leah Shone