An April 2002 trip
to Victoria Falls by Linda Kaye
Quote: Victoria Falls is known as the land of thundering smoke. The City of Victoria Falls exists for the tourists who come to see the Falls. The tourists these days are few but those who come are welcomed and appreciated.
We arrived from Johannesburg on an Air Zimbabwe 737 with only nine passengers aboard. We cleared customs in minutes and were picked up by a shuttle service pre-arranged through the Hunters Lodge where we would be staying. A 30-minute drive on a good highway brought us into the heart of Victoria Falls.
We scheduled an elephant safari with Wild Horizons Elephant Park for the following day, choosing the morning schedule because of the warm weather. That afternoon we visited the Falls. Late evenings usually found us at the Kingdom Casino.
We enjoyed an evening at the Boma, a truly unique combination of food and entertainment. We took a sunset cruise in a small boat on the Zambezi River, after hours and hours of shopping. And we did manage to spend some time simply sitting around the pool at our Lodge, visiting with our friends. We only spent three days in Vic Falls, but our memories of this place and its people will last a lifetime.
On the streets, there are children selling items and begging for almost anything you can give time. One little boy wanted our soda and Harry’s cap. It extremely difficult to accommodate all of them. The advice we received from those who live there was to say "no" and keep walking- do not get into a conversation with them. However, we never felt we were in danger from any of these people- they are simply trying to survive.
The vendors will accept Zim Dollars, US Dollars or Rand (currency of South Africa).
We stayed about 2 miles from the center of town and the fare was approximately .00 USD to almost anywhere. When you book a tour such as a safari, canoe trip or cruise, transportation from your accommodations is usually included.
The rooms were all oversized, except for the two bathrooms. I am not sure what the builders had in mind, but obviously liked LARGE rooms. Three bedrooms each had two beds with mesquite netting decoratively hung from the tall thatched roof ceiling. There was another long, narrow room along one side with a few more beds. The walk-in closets had plenty of space for hanging clothes and built-in deep shelves for all other items. The closets were all lockable. There was a living and dining room that would seat 15 people comfortably, a bar in the corner and a very large kitchen, completely equipped with anything one might need. To our surprise, there was also a microwave- (I knew had had carted around those microwave popcorn packages for a reason). Most rooms had ceiling fans.
One bathroom had a large tub and the other a shower. The mirror in our bathroom was so small, I joked that I was suffering from "mirror envy" as the other rooms had slightly larger ones. (See Picture)
The complex was quite attractive- built in a square with beautiful gardens and a swimming pool in the center. The gardens were full of flowers, plants, shrubs and trees. It reminded me of a lush, tropical forest. There were six smaller units to accommodate two people each.
We had a choice of self-catering or ordering a full breakfast. A time was set each morning for us to arrive in a dining room adjacent to the main lounge and we were served a wonderful "English" breakfast of fresh fruit, eggs (cooked to order), bacon and sausage, cereal, granola, toast and yogurt. Coffee, tea and juices were available. The cost of breakfast was $5.00 USD.
The Staff at Hunter’s Lodge was wonderful and quite concerned that our time there be enjoyable. The man in the office arranged several activities for us, advising us what would be best to do and see. He also recommended a taxi driver named James. James proved to be an invaluable friend.
One man was assigned to our lodge and would come in any time we were out and straighten up, wash any dishes we had used and even on one occasion laundered a few items that we had left on the floor by accident. Not only washed and dried but also ironed them. The night watchman, an elderly gentlemen, walked the perimeter of the complex all night - not to keep people out, but animals. We felt very safe there.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on May 14, 2002
Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
Restaurant | "The Boma"
The Boma will bombard your senses with tastes, smells, sights and sounds of its very unique gastronomic adventure and African entertainment. Much more than a meal, it is a cultural experience.
It begins with a pre-dinner hand washing. Our attendant poured warm water over our hands (into a bowl) as we passed a towel around the table for drying. Our meal began with a small cup of traditional "beer" followed by a tray of "finger snacks" such as peanuts and cooked slices of sweet potato.
In the center was the Boma Braai, a large open pit fire. There was lamb on a spit slowly roasting and also a large black pot simmering a cream vegetable soup. As each one of us was ready, we approached the young woman serving the soup and was served a generous portion in a small cash iron pot with a lid, which we carried back to our table to enjoy. The soup was "out of this world".
A buffet of salads was next. But, be sure to leave plenty of room for the braai (barbecue). Again, buffet style, we chose our meat dishes and had them grilled to perfection. It included lamb, ostrich kabobs, warthog, Kudu, and Impala steaks, as well as fish, beef, chicken and meat stew. There were also potatoes, vegetables and different sauces to compliment the meats. One of the "delicacies" offered was deep-fried Mopani Worms (not for the squeamish). Desserts included an incredible chocolate pudding, egg custard, and a cream cake.
At intervals during our meal, we were entertained by Shangaan dancers and singers, and also by the Sangoma, a storyteller, relating the country’s folklore, culture and heritage through wonderful stories. There were also two witch doctors offering to tell our fortunes by "throwing bones".
This experience was an entire evening of total enjoyment, good friends, beautiful surroundings, great entertainment, delicious food and a new appreciation of the culture of Zimbabwe.
The Boma is located adjacent to the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge Complex. The dress is always casual, and it is suggested that you bring a light jacket during May through August (the Zimbabwe winter). Serving begins at 7:00 p.m. 365 days a year.
Bon appetite !
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on May 14, 2002
Victoria Falls Safari Lodge
Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
Attraction | "Victoria Falls"
The Falls are called "smoke that thunders" because from miles away, it appears as billowing white smoke on the horizon. In reality, it is the spray of water and vapor rising 1500 feet in the sky. Our first glimpse of this phenomena was from the airplane at about 10,000 feet. We thought it was smoke from a fire. Boy, didn’t we feel silly to find out it was Victoria Falls !
These massive falls were first documented by Dr. David Livingstone (Dr. Livingstone, I presume) in 1855 and named it for the British Queen, Victoria. There is a statute of Dr. Livingstone down a path to the left as you enter the Falls area. Looking at the Falls from the Livingstone statute about mid-afternoon on a sunny day you will see the most beautiful rainbows. The Falls and the surrounding rain forest it has created is listed as a World Heritage Site and is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.
There are no facilities, other than bathrooms, at the Falls. There is a small information center just beyond the entrance gate, where you can buy a soda or bottle water. There are a maze of paved walkways along the route, many lead to the edge of the chasm for a better view of the Falls.
Be prepared to get wet. It is inevitable. Outside the Falls, there are many vendors that will "rent" you a raincoat. It is a good idea to get one especially if you are carrying a backpack or camera equipment. Don’t pay more than $1 USD for each. Bring an extra plastic bag to wrap your camera in. There are many area where you will be standing, looking up at a blue sky and it will be raining- not just a soft mist- rain! If you don’t have anything with you that will be ruined by the water, just get wet, enjoy the falls, you will cherish the memories. AND, you will dry quickly in the Zimbabwe sun.
The signs on the ticket booth said it was $20 USD per person for entrance. However, we paid in Zim Dollars and it was equivalent to about $4 USD.
Victoria Falls (Mosi-O-Tunya)
Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
Our Cruise Director / Captain / Driver / Bartender was a wealth of information about the river’s attributes. His keen eye spotted a variety of wildlife and important highlights. We saw Hippo, birds of prey, even an elephant on one of the many islands that occupy this wide river. This elephant was at the waters' edge and we came within 10 feet. Even though he peered at us, he was too busy eating to be concerned with our intrusion.
If you are looking for a ride on the Zambezi River, there are several options from which you can pick. We were picked up at our lodge for a 4:00 cast off with an anticipated time to return of 6:30. Besides the five of us, one other passenger joined us. Government regulations required for safety reasons a return to shore within 30 minutes of sunset, which was at 6:04 on this day. Drinks (including beer, champagne, sodas, etc.) and snacks were included in the price of the excursion
The highlight of this cruise was the Sunset view and therefore the name - SUNSET CRUISE. We were not disappointed, for words and photographs can not adequately describe the spectacular view we experienced. Another pleasant experience was the interesting conservation we had with our tour guide. He was gave us so much information about the river that it seemed that we were getting a geography lesson, but in the most enjoyable environment.
The sixth passenger, who happened to be a fellow countryman from the great state of Minnesota –USA, added another delight to our stay in Victoria Falls. He is a young man on an extended vacation, traveling the world for three months and wanting to soak up as much culture as he could and willing to share his with as many new people as well.
As the sun set on the horizon and the light of day faded into the night, our stay in Zimbabwe was also drawing to a close, for the next day we would return to South Africa. Soon our travels to this part of the world will also conclude, but will not be soon forgotten.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on May 15, 2002
Zambezi River Sunset Cruise
Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
+263 13 4 4424
Once the cobwebs were gone, we received a more thorough description of the main topic of the tour, THE ELEPHANT, including details of the full life cycle of the elephant and its habitat. One of the guides explained, by using a skeletal head of a deceased elephant, the various parts of the skull. An interesting bit of information about the elephant is that the average life span is 70 years and death comes as a result of starvation due to the loss of their seventh (and final) set of teeth.
The elephants were brought out to meet us. As we watched the trainers go through their training session, we began to see the different personalities of each elephant. The interaction between trainer and beast was inspiring. The demonstration ended when the lead elephant took a large stake passed to him by each of the other elephants and promptly delivered the stake to the youngest lady in our group. Now, how did he know to do that?
Finally, it was time for our ride. We mounted the elephants, two by two onto the backs of these large and magnificent creatures, sitting just behind the trainer, and off we went. In approaching a small lake we thought "we’ll go around" and didn’t think much of what our guide had said a littler earlier "have a good swim", until we literally when into the lake. Yes into the water. What was especially discerning was that there were several hippo on the other side of the lake. But no problem our guides knew what they were doing and we arrived on the opposite side safe and dry.
Upon returning to the camp we participated in feeding the elephants as a "thank you" for a great ride. We also had the opportunity to pet Rastus, a baby elephant who had the run of the place. Rastus even followed us on the safari. All the time we were playing with Rastus, we couldn’t help notice the wonderful aroma of bacon and sausage cooking on the open grill. We were treated to a full breakfast, and joined by several of the guides, enjoyed more discussions on the life and times of these great giants.
Following breakfast, we were invited to view a video tape that had been taken of our visit. The first five minutes was a documentary about the work done by Wild Horizon in rescuing hurt or abandon elephants. The tape was irresistible and at $25.USD, we could not resist purchasing a copy.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on May 15, 2002
Wild Horizons Elephant Safari
Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
The grounds of the Kingdom were somewhat of a "safe haven" from the street vendors that would follow us for blocks trying to sell us something. As we approached the perimeter, vendors would disappear.
We requested, and received, a tour of the hotel facilities. The rooms were plush with a distinctive African flare. Many had balconies overlooking the perfectly manicured gardens, pools and waterfall areas. The room rates range from $228 to $342 USD per night for the "International" visitor but I was told the rates were negotiable, depending on the occupancy of the hotel at the time. These rates are for two people; breakfast is included.
The boutiques are what you would expect in any first class hotel anywhere else-exclusive designs, unique gifts and high prices.
In order to appreciate the casino, one must have a firm understanding of the money situation in Zimbabwe. An unsuspecting foreign visitor might be tempted to exchange currency for Zim Dollars at the airport OR use a credit card for purchases. Both of these will cost dearly. The reason is that the "official Government" exchange rate is between 55 to 60 Zim Dollars to 1 USD. However, at the Casino, we received 200 to 1 USD. A great exchange rate, you might say to yourself; but it gets better and even more complicated. If you go to one of the many (unofficial) "currency exchanges" you can negotiate anywhere from 225 to 350 Zim dollars to 1 USD. DO NOT EXCHANGE MONEY FROM ANYONE ON THE STREET.
Back to the casino, there are 170 slots; $1, $2, and $5 (Zim Dollars). It was like playing with monopoly money- it was great fun, but we knew IF we won- it wouldn’t amount to much. Roulette, Blackjack, Poker and other table games were available after 8:00 p.m. There is also a children’s play area.
The restaurants include Panarotti’s Pizza & Pasta and the Spur Steak House. The first night we were there, we ate at the Spur. After analyzing the menu price list, we determined that IF we paid in USD our bill for burgers and cokes would be $61.00 (for 5 people), but if we used Zim Dollars, it would only be equivalent to $20.00 USD, including tip. Needless to say, we purchased more Zim Dollars to pay for our meal.
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