Written by Linda Kaye on 15 May, 2002
The Kingdom is a beautiful complex housing the one of the most expensive hotel in Victoria Falls, a casino, restaurants, chic boutiques, an internet facility, tour desks and much more.
The grounds of the Kingdom were somewhat of a "safe haven" from…Read More
The Kingdom is a beautiful complex housing the one of the most expensive hotel in Victoria Falls, a casino, restaurants, chic boutiques, an internet facility, tour desks and much more.
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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Written by Peregrine on 14 Nov, 2000
If you buy any souvenirs in Zimbabwe, buy one of the marvelous stone sculptures, mostly carved by the Shona, the predominant tribe in the northern part of the country. In the past 25 years, the art world has made quite a fuss over these…Read More
If you buy any souvenirs in Zimbabwe, buy one of the marvelous stone sculptures, mostly carved by the Shona, the predominant tribe in the northern part of the country. In the past 25 years, the art world has made quite a fuss over these sculptures, and a few artists now command exorbitant prices in European and American galleries. The style is something between modern and primitive; the simple lines and native subjects are compelling.
For a few dollars U.S., you can find wonderful examples of these sculptures in just about every crafts fair, flea market, and gift shop in the country. Like any flea market, however, the quality varies. I got the impression that every would-be sculptor in Zimbabwe was trying his hand and making his fortune, fortunately, most of them are very good, if not all that original. The market I visited in Harare had only one booth where the young man showed any creativity. The Falls Crafts Village in Victoria Falls, had more variety, but they didn’t have the dramatic style of the Shona.
Most of the sculptures are done in serpentine, but I also bought one in sandstone. If you don’t make it to Zimbabwe, take heart. Like many things you bring back from afar and think are unique, the Shona sculptures have started to show up in gift catalogues and import shops.
Written by SaraP on 02 Jan, 2004
It’s a long way to head down to Masvingo for great Zim, so what else is there in the area? The main jumping off point for the World Heritage Site at Great Zimbabwe is Masvingo (28km away from the entrance). Frankly, it’s a rather…Read More
It’s a long way to head down to Masvingo for great Zim, so what else is there in the area?
The main jumping off point for the World Heritage Site at Great Zimbabwe is Masvingo (28km away from the entrance). Frankly, it’s a rather unprepossessing spot, a dry and dusty mining and farming town for most of the year; if you visit in September, you'll at least see the purple jacarandas and scarlet poinsettias which set the streets alight. Originally Fort Victoria, it was the site of the first white settlement in the country, not surprisingly named after the English Queen. Present-day Masvingo is the hub of an active mining district, producing a large variety of minerals (asbestos, chrome, lithium, tin, tungsten and gold); asbestos is mined at Mashava and Zvishane; gold at Renco and Bikita. The region's claim to fame is as the largest source of lithium in the world. From what we could see, it had nowhere to eat in the evening (there were one or two grotty-looking cafes/bars during the daytime) and nowhere to stay!
Also in the area are the following attractions :
-- Mutirikwi National Park and Kyle Recreational Park. Kyle (Scottish for a channel of water) is the second largest dam in the country after Kariba -- years of drought have hit hard and the Lake Mutirikwi's capacity has shrunk so that water sports are now unfeasible but it’s worth a trip nonetheless to the vast park and game reserve as they form a stirring landscape of granite, aloe plants and giant cacti, with nyala, oribi, tsessebe, eland, wildebeest, zebra, kudu, giraffe, and the marvellous white rhinos wandering amongst the San paintings which are daubed on the rocks. Game viewing can be undertaken either by car or pony trails. Walks are demarcated and there are picnic sites. Horse riding is also popular for game-viewing (US$20 for 2 hours).
-- Though just off the Bulawayo road and only 25 kilometres from Masvingo, Mushandike Dam is not on tour itineraries. This means you are likely to have the Mushandike Sanctuary , with its antelope, zebras and leopards, to yourself. Winter is the best season for scenic drives when the leaves of the Mopane trees set the forest aflame with their autumnal colours.
-- There’s a small chapel at the dam wall, dedicated to St Andrew – depending on who you talk to, it was built either by an earlier water bailiff in memory of his daughter or by Italian prisoners of war during WWII. Either way, interred are the remains of 71 Italian PoWs and is worth visiting for the murals which are reminiscent of the Sistine chapel.
-- Also found near Great Zimbabwe is Morgenster Mission & Finger Rocks. The mission is known for its School for the Deaf. The World's View at Morgenster is one of the finest panoramas in Zimbabwe, the Finger Rocks being two monoliths, which appear to guard the entrance to the mission.
Written by tylerhardage on 28 Sep, 2007
It has often been said that the human race would be happier as a civilization if it reverted back to primitive life. Maybe that is because everything would seem much simpler or perhaps because there would be less things going on to make us unhappy.…Read More
It has often been said that the human race would be happier as a civilization if it reverted back to primitive life. Maybe that is because everything would seem much simpler or perhaps because there would be less things going on to make us unhappy. Either way, I do believe that getting away from technology and all its conveniences is helpful at times.Two summers ago I was with five friends walking down a dirt path. We could hear the roar of water crashing from a great height about a mile away. The jungle on either side of the dirt path was full of luscious shades of green. As we walked the sound of the crashing water grew louder and louder until finally it felt like we were in the middle of a tropical storm. As we turned the corner there was a small concrete ticket booth that had seen its fair share of seasons. An old African lady awaited us, more so our money than us. After we paid her we entered Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, Africa, also known as the smoke that thunders. The falls are one mile wide and three hundred sixty feet high, and absolutely the most amazing thing on the face of the earth. As I caught my first glimpse of Victoria Falls, the only thing I wanted to do was run as hard as I could and jump as far as I could over the edge only to simply free fall to my death in the majestic waterfall. The last pieces of the sun were still coming over the horizon putting an unreal tint to the water and the only thought on my mind, the only desire in my life at that very moment, was to leap in. I did not care about buying wooden animal carvings in the market, I did not care about taking my first shower in three weeks, or finally washing my socks and the future certainly held no value to me. My deepest desire at that very moment was to jump. There are no guardrails at Victoria Falls, there are no concrete paths, no warning signs about possible wildlife, and no tour guides. Basically, the waterfall is about as simple and primitive as you can get. It is nature, in all its might, hitting you in the face. Man’s technology does not exist there, nor does it compare. More emotions are experienced across the river from the waterfall than can be described. You are absolutely terrified, unbelievably excited, shocked, and held in awe, not mention completely soaked all in a single moment.Imagine any waterfall you have seen camping or hiking and multiply it by ten thousand and you might come close to what Victoria Falls is like. Water is spraying you in the face. You can see a rainbow every time you turn your head and the sound of the water is overbearing. You can see hippos in the distance down the river that leads to falls and you can feel the depth of the canyon bidding you to jump.As my friends and I walked along the path, staring for what seemed like hours as tons and tons of gallons of water gushed over the edge, no one said a word. This place was too holy to speak. There was something sacred that Victoria Falls was reaching out to tell us.Finally, the silence was broken as one of the girls gave out a tremendous scream. Down the path a good twenty feet was a group of baboons. They were playing in the trees, throwing sticks, and more importantly, standing in the middle of the path. The first thought that went through all of our minds was all the frightening stories we had heard on our trip to Africa about baboons killing people when they felt threatened. We immediately backed away and discussed our plan. The only plan was simply to wait, terrified of what would happen if the baboons got angry with us.Eventually, they gave us enough room to cross the path. Thank goodness they moved because the baboons were, it seemed, guarding the best view of the falls. There was a rocky outcrop on the cliff where you could look down directly in the river running below. This had to be the closest you could get to the waterfall. From here you could almost see the entire waterfall. The scary t Close
Written by soobax on 06 Jun, 2000
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I came to Victoria Falls. Flying in and out of this town proves to be trying, as flights running from South Africa to Victoria Falls are infrequent. But it is well worth the hassle. The falls themselves are…Read More
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I came to Victoria Falls. Flying in and out of this town proves to be trying, as flights running from South Africa to Victoria Falls are infrequent. But it is well worth the hassle. The falls themselves are so spectacular and are a must-see. I had never been so amazed by nature. I was moved by the purity for the falls and the total respect given to them by everyone in the town. Writing about Victoria Falls alone does not do the place justice; it is truly a place where a picture really is worth a thousand words.
Accommodations: when you think of Africa, great accommodations probably don't come to mind. Think again. I am not a camper, but my camping experience consisted of sleeping in 'luxury tents' that were complete with beds. (Granted, not as comfortable as my Queen-sized bed, but hey, it's better than the cold ground). Camp grounds in the area fill up quickly, or so people told me, so if you're planning to rough it, make a reservation early. There are also plenty of hotels in the Victoria Falls area that offer upscale accommodations that offer top-notch service.
Dining: while the food is not memorable, you will not starve so don't bother bringing the jar of peanut butter and the box of Ritz crackers. This is because Victoria Falls is predominantly a tourist area, and you will find that most of the food options cater to Western palettes. Pizza, burgers, and sandwiches are fixtures on every menu, while Coca-Cola signs are plastered everywhere promoting the world's favorite soft drink. Eating what the locals eat might prove to be a hard task, as it seems that most of the people I encountered had the same penchant for ice cream and chicken sandwiches that I had.
Activities: the main reason one comes to Victoria Falls is for seeing Victoria Falls. This can be done from a helicopter ride, a hike through the park, or a canoe ride. Seeing the falls from more than one perspective is a must. Beyond the falls, there are plenty of outdoor activities to take in, and of course, the trump card of the visit is if you happen to see animals in the wild. (The hotel I stayed at featured placards in each room warning of the elephants that are known to wander around the premises.)
More Info (to be added to the last slide of the template) While most people worry incessantly about disease when visiting Africa, Victoria Falls is not a region where this is a concern. Before you're visit, call the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta to inquire about the shots they recommend that you take. Since you will be outside a lot, I recommend a tetanus shot if you haven't had one in seven years. Also, if you're going during Malaria season, be sure to fill your prescription a few weeks before you go otherwise the preventative treatment isn't effective. (The pills are also a little unsettling on your stomach, so take them with a big meal.) Stick with bottled water when outside your hotel. You will find vendors on almost every block selling cold water. Just check for a sealed cap. Most high-end hotels purify their water, so drinking from the tap is safe. Camp grounds generally import their water or boil it, so that is also safe to drink. Be careful about having ice in your drink if you're eating at a place with which you're unfamiliar.
A few other things to take into consideration: Bring plenty of insect repellant because there are lots of bugs. Binoculars are a must--animals are everywhere but sometimes you’ll need a little help seeing them. Film and batteries can be expensive so don’t forget to pack extras. The nights are very cold -- jeans for going out and flannel for when you’re sleeping are extremely necessary. The days are warm enough for T-shirts and shorts. Everyone is casual -- leave your finest jewelry and clothes at home as they are apt to get dirty quickly. If you’re planning to camp at some of the sites or stay in a low-end hotel, book your space well in advance, as spots fill up quickly.
Written by Joy in Seattle on 15 Apr, 2006
Mana Pools is located on the Zambezi River and is one of the major parks to go see wildlife. You also can go tent camping in the park. It is the only game park that I know of that allows you to get out of…Read More
Mana Pools is located on the Zambezi River and is one of the major parks to go see wildlife. You also can go tent camping in the park. It is the only game park that I know of that allows you to get out of your vehicle whenever and wherever you feel like it. It also is the only game park that I know of that you don't have to drive to see the animals. If you are camped near the river they definitely come to you. If you have a 4X4, the park is now open year round, but if you get stuck you might not get pulled out because the park staff do not have fuel to spare for their tractors.It is very exciting to eat lunch with animals being so close.I saw lions and some more common wildlife. After 4 days there, I felt like elephants were as common as jack rabbits.Tent camping at the park is always available, maybe not pleasant during the rainy season. Lodges are booked quite a bit in advance. Do not pack fruit. Elephants have been known to knock down even the lodges for fruit. Close
Written by tjtr23 on 22 Oct, 2004
The walk to the falls is hot, but not too far away from town. You do pay an entry fee to enter the park, but the view far outweighs this minimal charge. In October the moisture in the air was enough to dampen most travellers;…Read More
The walk to the falls is hot, but not too far away from town. You do pay an entry fee to enter the park, but the view far outweighs this minimal charge. In October the moisture in the air was enough to dampen most travellers; I can only imagine the drenched visitors in wet season (March to May).
We walked through the green forest with glimpses of the falls and then we stumbled upon a thorny makeshift fence that separated us form the Zambezi Gorge. The view from here was wonderful. Wildlife can be seen as we continue to walk along the path, and eventually the sky will open up, flaunting full view of the fall’s edge, which is breathtakingly beautiful. You can walk the other direction from the entrance to see the Devil’s Cataract and a few other views of the falls, which do not measure up to the real deal but are interesting to see.
The Flight of Angels is where you can fly over the falls in a light aircraft and see exactly what the angels do. We were advised not to do the flight by a regular visitor to the area because it was dry season. This I regret. I am sure it would have been magical, so please take the chance if you can, as there is still a lot of water.
Written by SaraP on 14 May, 2003
On the way to Masvingo, the Serima Mission (pass through Chatsworth, turn left at the small dam and drive straight for about 25km) is a jewel - it's run as a school and also a sort of adult halfway house. The pretty little Church…Read More
On the way to Masvingo, the Serima Mission (pass through Chatsworth, turn left at the small dam and drive straight for about 25km) is a jewel - it's run as a school and also a sort of adult halfway house. The pretty little Church of Our Lady attached to the mission contains some fantastic carving (font, candlesticks, lecterns) and marquetry, set into the walls, of biblical scenes.
It's quite a trek through the countryside to get there but you'll pass through lovely countryside and pick up the sights and sounds of life going on way outside the cities (and villages).
At the mission, the nuns are welcoming (they don't seem to get many visitors and make the most of you) and well informed about the history of the mission, and can also tell you a great deal about how the local people are faring.
The mission was set up in 1948 under the auspices of a Swiss missionary (Father Grober) who taught local people the techniques of carving as well as spreading the good word.
His legacy can also be found in the curious (both for its name and the set-up) Golden Spiderweb on the Masvingo Road (you can't miss it by car as there's only one road) which has the best kept toilets I have seen anywhere in Zimbabwe, serves magnificent fresh chocolate cake and sells bargain souvenirs. Look out for the Swiss-style St Nicholas figures as part of Father Grober's influence and the dinky "Christmas Shop" (which doesn't sell anything remotely festive these days).
Other sights in the area of Great Zim include the game park on Lake Kyle which is well worth a deviation, as is the Lake itself (for watersports and gentle walking).
Written by SaraP on 15 Jun, 2003
When you’ve finally dried out from your drenching on the walks around the falls, head into town for a wander and perhaps a spot of shopping. The town itself is small -- really a one road show -- but with a couple of good…Read More
When you’ve finally dried out from your drenching on the walks around the falls, head into town for a wander and perhaps a spot of shopping. The town itself is small -- really a one road show -- but with a couple of good "malls" that have a good range from not-too-pricey all the way up to Harare-gallery pieces for Shona experts with cash to spend.
The biggest selection can be found at the Landela Centre (down a rather uninspiring little dirt-road turning off Livingstone Way, but you’ll soon find your way) where you’ll find shops selling most forms of craftware (as well, it has to be said, as some overpriced tat). Prices are pretty good and, if you’re discerning, you can pick up pieces at similar prices to the Harare shops. Various different outlets offer T-shirts, ethnic beaded and silver jewellery and other clothing as well, if you’re so minded, as the odd tiger skin or elephant’s foot footstool (I was assured by the management that they were Victorian).
Alternatively, try along Adam Stander Drive for more one-stop shops : Jairos Jiri and the Falls Craft Village sell the gamut from postcards to jewellery, painting, and craftware and have some good reasonably-priced Shona sculpture and they both have an extremely good range in terms of both price and style; Dezign does some novel, colourful clothing and accessories. However, one thing to note here is that it’s a favourite hang out for beggars -– young children with pleading eyes lead apparently blind adults and are very persistent.
Sundays see exhibitions of Shona singing and dancing at some of the "malls" (again, not too good if the begging children are operating) –- and the groups have on offer the usual variety of their music on CD. You can sometimes catch them performing at some of the restaurants –- the Vic Falls Hotel restaurant hosts them on a Saturday night (but sadly the $20 buffet doesn’t justify eating there just for the music).
From here, it’s also worth a wander at any time from about 3pm onwards around town (you won’t see a soul save in restaurants before then) to see the station, which dates from 1906 when the line was built to bring the first tourists to the Falls. The line still doesn’t seem to see much action and the locals casually wander up and down the tracks -- there's a sign next to the sidings which warns "BEWARE OF TRAIN" but it’s pretty overgrown and seem to be totally ignored.
When the heat starts to fade, people come out to pass the time of day, spread some gossip on street corners and promenade (on a Sunday afternoon in their Sunday best - well worth the short walk into town to see the finery of the women alone).
Written by SaraP on 18 Jun, 2003
The National Park on the Zim side costs £14/$20 as a non-resident (and trying to blag your way in is ill-advised -- I saw some tourists get caught short when they could not prove they were residents and the very unpleasant "Green Bombers" who hang…Read More
The National Park on the Zim side costs £14/$20 as a non-resident (and trying to blag your way in is ill-advised -- I saw some tourists get caught short when they could not prove they were residents and the very unpleasant "Green Bombers" who hang out on border-posts and entry-points like this did not take kindly to it) -- the Zambian side £6.50/US$10. They each have their charms and it’s well-worth visiting both if you have time.
On the Zim side, enter either down the track from Vic Falls Hotel, over the railway track and straight on or down Livingstone Way from town. At the entrance, they’ll give you a map of the paths and the way is pretty well sign-posted. Turn left to head towards the small museum which won’t take too much of your time and head on for the larger-than-life Livingstone Statue at which point you have to tun round as you’ll hit the NP fence. Retracing your steps via Cataract view with a great (if somewhat dizzying) panorama of the gorge to get some feeling of the power of the falls as you see the water flowing over the edge at enormous speed, and make your decision whether to risk life and limb lurching down the slippery moss of "Danger point" (not that they’re trying to tell you something).
Heading on, you’ll come to perhaps the best view -- Zim Falls Bridge -- a highpoint of which may be to join forces with any locals who are hanging out to watch tourists paying good money to jump off the bridge and dislocate their spine.
At quiet spots, look out for wildlife (especially deer) among the profusion of leaves and ferns and bushes.
Crossing over (you have to come out, cross over the bridge -- take your passport and some cash for a £6.50/$10 Zambian day-pass visa) into the Zambian side, you’ll find the NP there gives quite a different perspective of the falls and rapids. You’re closer to the falls and get a better feel of their fury and power, as demonstrated by some of the great names for the individual rapids :(Truck Eater, Terminator, Washing Machine and, my personal favourite, Pearly Gates!) although to be honest they do rather blend into one after a while (particularly if, as when I went in April, you’re there at the end of the rainy season and there’s more mist and rainbows and thunder of rushing water than actual views of it).
Last major tip is to make quite sure you have a highly unflattering waterproof poncho with you and a couple of plastic bags for your passport, cash and particularly your camera. Might be worth splashing out (pardon the pun) for a disposal waterproof camera for the occasion.
Overall then, if time was tight, I'd spend my time and money on the Zambian side for variety and sheer natural power - however, Vic Falls town has more to offer (and is better placed) than Livingstone so you're likely to be able to justify a trip to both.