It’s a while since we did a travel piece for the website, but a recent experience
at the Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, rates this a must.
During the last credit crisis in 2008, we bought a Timeshare in a South African resort
called Mount Amanzi for the magnificent sum of $376, which entitles us to spend a
week there each year, but also allows us to swap that week for certain other resorts
around the world. All we had to do was to pay a maintenance fee of around £200 a
year and we get a week’s free holiday at these resorts.
We did visit Mount Amanzi to claim our week in 2009 and it was an interesting experience
– certainly not a gastronomic one, so there was nothing significant to report for
this website, anyway.
This year, we cashed in our week at a resort where we had always hankered to go –
The Victoria Falls. Having experienced the Niagara Falls and the Iguassu Falls, we
felt that this would complete the whole set of the greatest river falls of the world.
So we were very pleased to find out that there was a timeshare available for us at
a resort near the Victoria Falls – Lokathula Lodges - www.lokathulalodges.com –
about 6km. from the falls, but available with a free shuttle from the Lodge. Attached
to the Lodge was a regular hotel under the same ownership, The Victoria Safari Lodge,
which had a restaurant, a bar and a magnificent view over a watering hole where wild
animals would come to get a drink.
The Lodge and Hotel are located within a Game reserve in northern Zimbabwe. I must
say that we were a little circumspect about visiting Zimbabwe in view of all the
stories of unrest we had heard, but we really had nothing to worry about. Firstly,
Zimbabwe is now stable economically – they have now adopted the US Dollar as their
national currency and the Victoria Falls area, nicknamed the Vicfalls Republic, is
well protected as being one of Zimbabwe’s major foreign currency earners – a boat
certainly not worth rocking. As a result, the town of Victoria Falls is full of Tourist
Police and is absolutely safe to walk about there – even at night. The only danger
is from the wild animals themselves, who sometimes do come around – especially after
dark. Sidestepping the street urchins trying to sell you old Zimbabwean 2 billion
dollar notes is about the only harassment you will get.
Apart from visiting the falls site itself ($30 per person entrance fee for foreigners
- $20 for South Africans), there are plenty of organised activities – at a price.
You can take a helicopter trip over the falls – a 12 minute flight for $125 (plus
$8 park fees), game drives from $60 to $100 depending on the location and whether
it includes a meal or not, walking tours ($50) and elephant back rides for $120.
An interesting event is called “walking with lions” where a group accompanies young
bred lions on a walk for about an hour. These are raised locally and then released
back into the wild at the age of 2 or 3 years in order to halt the diminishing number
of lions which are now found in Africa. This sets you back another $125 plus a $10
There are also a number of sunset dinner and non dinner cruises on the Zambesi river
above the falls costing from $45 to $75 which are well worth doing. A full day Chobe
safari into Botswana is also available but be warned, you will need to pay another
$55 as a visa entry fee to get back into Zimbabwe when you return unless you had
bought a dual entry visa for $75 when you first arrived at the Victoria falls airport.
You can have upper river canoe safaris (somebody else does the canoeing!) for between
$55 and $120 depending on the length of time plus, of course, another $10 park fees
For the sporting types there is white water rafting ($120), Bunji jumping and bridge
slides off the bridge leading into Zambia (passports required) for between $35 and
$190 depending on the event and there are also gorge swings and Zip lines starting
at $35 and culminating with the half day Adrenaline at $120. Needless to say that
at our age we declined to do any of these, leaving it to the brave and/or foolish.
We did also find a couple of good eating places, Ilala Lodge, in the centre of the
town, where there was an excellent price/quality ratio for what we ate and drank
and The Victoria Falls Hotel – the oldest and grandest hotel in town – a relic of
old colonial days – where we ate magnificently twice and is the subject of a separate
restaurant review. The most disappointing place to eat was the nearby Victoria Falls
Safari Lodge. Their restaurant menu looked fine on paper – indeed quite exciting
– but the execution was poor and the prices a bit over the top in the whole scheme
of things in the area. Of course, you could go shopping at the local supermarkets
and bring back to the lodge some food which you could cook over the outdoor barbecue
grill which each lodge unit had, but we didn’t do this.
An experience not to be missed, however is to go to the nearby Bauma, Place of Eating,
which is a huge hut, with a barbecue, where you could eat a number of different local
meats – Impala, Warthog, Crocodile , Coudou, for example as well as more conventional
meats such as beef, lamb and chicken. There are also, boerwursts, bockwursts and
biltong to satisfy hard bitten meat eaters. Fish and seafood eaters are not forgotten
and there is even a little corner for those poor vegetarians. All this is accompanied
by an African cabaret – singing, dancing, drumming – a fine show. At $40 plus drinks,
it makes an entertaining evening, especially put on for the tourists (and there were
plenty of those) but certainly one of the events you should experience when you are
in the area.
The Falls themselves, are, of course, spectacular. We came at the start of the rainy
season – there wasn’t much rain anyway, but at the end of the dry season (November)
the falls are at their lowest so you do see lots of bare rock, whereas at the end
of the rainy season (April), you cannot see any bare patches of rock at all, but
the disadvantage here is that the spray is so fierce, it is almost impossible to
All in all, a great place to visit even if a bit touristy, but there is so much to
do there at all sorts of levels, there’s no room for boredom.
Access from around the world is not difficult, via Johannesburg airport to Victoria
Falls Airport, about 90 minutes away. Taxis from the airport to the various hotels
cost between $20 and $30 depending on the distance.