Experience the delights that the wonderful city (yep, it’s a city) of Victoria Falls and the surrounding area has to offer – from a tour of Vic Falls, a bit of adrenalin on the High Wire, a helicopter flip over the Falls, and a spectacular sunset boat cruise on the Zambezi River. Add to that experiencing the Zambezi National Park on foot, and getting up close with some of the incredible conservation initiatives in the area such as vulture conservation, anti-poaching and the rehabilitating of orphan elephants to name just a few.
Tulani from Bushtracks Africa was once again in attendance to transfer us from the Victoria Falls International Airport to the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge for a Vulture Culture conservation experience and lunch.
Vulture populations are under threat and their numbers are dwindling due to a variety of issues, from loss of habitat, poisoning, and poaching for the use of their body parts in traditional medicine, amongst others. It was fascinating to learn about these remarkable and endangered birds and watch as they squabbled for food.
We spotted white headed vultures, hooded vultures, lappet faced vultures and white backed vultures, as exciting as this was, this experience is not just for entertainment value but assists in accessing vulture numbers in the region as well as being a valuable education tool.
Kitted out in safety harness and depending on how much courage you have you can choose between the more sedate flying fox, to the zip line or big swing over the Batoka Gorge.
The best way to experience the mighty Zambezi River is by boat and we were fortunate enough to enjoy sundowners and dinner aboard the Into Africa vessel with dinner provided by Bush Cuisine. Enjoying local Zambezi Lager and G&Ts as the sun slowly dropped towards the horizon, we scanned the riverine bush for birds and wildlife, and watched hippos pop their heads up to announce their presence.
Whilst enjoying an evening of wonderful local cuisine, we had the privilege of listening to Charlene Hewitt (CEO Environment Africa) tell us about the Victoria Falls Green Fund, and initiative to encourage conservation and community development in and around Victoria Falls.
Victoria Falls is blessed with a wide variety of accommodation options, including several new boutique style hotels. I was staying at the Shearwater Explorers Village, ideally located near several restaurants, craft and curio markets as well as being just 400m from the Victoria Falls itself. They also make the best cappuccinos! Perfect for our early morning game drive into the Zambezi National Park.
I love being in the bush, and to be able to experience it on foot is a bonus. Safety briefing dealt with, Paul our Shearwater bush walk guide led us into the bush…
An elephant poop lesson, the identification of a jawbone and several interesting fauna and flora bush facts were shared. After some baobab tree hugs, we headed off for a coffee and snacks stop on the bank of the Zambezi.
Some time was spent at the Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust, established in 2008 initially to offer wildlife rescue and rehabilitation. Over the years their conservation efforts have grown to include working with local communities to focus on conserving habitats as well as finding scientific wildlife management solutions and veterinary health solutions to animal diseases. Here we learnt about initiatives to help combat human-wildlife conflict, and learnt about elephant collaring, chili bombs and community education. Judge, their rehabilitated vulture gave us the beady eye before we headed of to lunch.
Gazing down on the magnificent Victoria Falls is quite awe-inspiring and seeing the massive expanse of the Zambezi thundering over the edge of the chasm, absolutely breath-taking. A costly, but worthwhile experience!
There’s something very special about staying in a national park in an unfenced lodge. The anticipation of what might visit, tinged with a slight sense of apprehension – all unfounded obviously. And Old Drift Lodge on the banks of the Zambezi is such a place. Where the old charm of travellers past blends seamlessly with modern luxuries to make each stay memorable.
I had visited previously, so knew what to expect, but still the ambiance of the main lodge and views out across the Zambezi took my breath away. Whisked off promptly on arrival for an afternoon sundowner cruise, without the sun unfortunately, but still balmy enough to appreciate the G&T, honking hippos and basking crocodiles.
The tented suites are beautifully appointed and spacious with outdoor shower and gorgeous brass bathtub too, albeit a little chilly to experience. Dinner was delicious, and the bed incredibly comfortable… I went to sleep wondering if I would have nocturnal visitors as on my previous visit when two elephants decided to slurp half the water out of my splash pool. Getting up to peek at these grey giants I discovered that there were buffalo grazing on the banks of the river too… and if that wasn’t enough the distant roar of a lion had me firmly in Africa. This time around I had hippo grunts and nightjars as my bedtime serenade.
Having missed the sunset, I decided an early morning sunrise cruise was a must. One cappuccino later I was heading out with Fanuel my guide, I was obviously taking one for the team, as the rest of the group had decided to sleep in. A steamy Amarula coffee warmed me up as we headed out to greet the dawn. Mist hovered on the glassy water and the sky turned from an inky purple to shades of pink and orange.
Sunrise did not disappoint, nor did the birdlife… African finfoot, grey-headed parrots, and a large flock of white-chested fly catchers. I was sorry I hadn’t brought my binoculars.
After a hearty breakfast we made our way back into town for a tour of the Victoria Falls. A highlight of any trip to the region.
Drenched, over-awed and feeling exceptionally humble at the magnificence of the sight we headed to the Elephant Cafe for lunch and a talk by storyteller Clive Wakefield.
And storyteller of note he was, having several of us in tears as he told of David Livingstone’s life and exploits, his successes and failures, and his ultimate sacrifice. There is so much more to this man’s life than the statue at the Falls can ever depict. And the Elephant Walk centre also offers shopping opportunities in abundance…
We had seen the Falls from the air and been drenched under the spray, now it was time to see them from the deck of a luxurious river boat – a sundowner cruise on the exceptionally luxurious Pure Africa vessel the Zambezi Explorer.
First, we went downstream for views of the ‘thunderous smoke’ and Livingstone’s Island, before heading upstream for sunset. Cocktails and canapés and the best weather yet, made for an exceptional experience!
Victoria Falls has a variety of accommodation options to offer, from the historic and iconic Victoria Falls Hotel, a selection of hotels and backpacker-style options, to a plethora of boutique hotels and B&Bs, as well as luxury safari lodge options. But a favourite with many is the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge with its wonderful bush setting and spectacular views over the Zambezi National Park – with sundowners overlooking the waterhole being a memorable highlight.
On this occasion the Victoria Falls Safari Club, with its luxurious rooms was to be home for the next few nights. It is a private facility with fabulous views, fine dining and a focus on exclusivity – it even offers a personalised butler-style concierge service!
The king-size bed takes centre stage with its spectacular views over the bush, and a balcony on which to enjoy an early morning coffee. The spacious bathroom is luxuriously appointed with a large shower and bathtub, cleverly separated from the bedroom area by the bedhead and the gently draped mosquito net. Just the place for relaxing with a good book after a hectic day exploring.
After a relaxing lunch I took my time exploring the Victoria Falls Safari Club grounds, appreciating the natural surroundings with its splashes of green and pops of authentic African colour. The two-tiered pool looked rather inviting but I decided some quiet time absorbing the sights and sounds of the bush would serve me better, as would the sun setting over the orange-tinged mopane trees.
We were fortunate that The Boma Restaurant had opened again after its lengthy Covid-19 closure. The dinner and drum show didn’t disappoint, its lively vibe entertaining from the moment we arrived. An impressive spread of starters, soup, and an enticing array of traditional fare from the braai buffet – including vegetarian options, was followed by delicious desserts.
Thankfully the energetic dance performances and interactive drumming in between allowed time to space out the courses. Local culture is portrayed in the décor and design and local craftsmen are on site to sell their beautiful creations. Another local ‘must do’ is to try the mopane worms… I found them slightly chewy, but overall, quite tasty – and I have the certificate to prove I did it!