Bright sunshine heralds my arrival in Zimbabwe. It is as bright as the smiles that welcome me to Victoria Falls Safari Lodge. It seems like I have my own praise singer as I step from the air conditioned shuttle into the humidity that is almost swimmable.

Although my main purpose for visiting Zimbabwe is to see Mosi-oa-Tunya, The Smoke that Thunders; there is much to see and do in the vicinity of the Falls and Victoria Falls town. There are opportunities to get closer to nature, options to get your adrenalin fix, to try something entirely new and different, get a bit of exercise and of course, if you so wish, to just relax.

Where?

Victoria Falls Safari Lodge

Victoria Falls Safari Lodge was built in 1994. The Africa Albida Tourism Group have used innovative ideas in through involvement in the community to ensure their staff and guests are provided for and have a guest experience that they will fondly remember for a long time.

This is evident in the friendliness and hospitality experienced with all the staff I encounter, whether it be in the restaurant, walking across the verdant, forested grounds, or at the front desk because I have somehow misplaced my electronic key to my room (there is always that one person).

The Lodge faces a waterhole which borders the Zambezi National Park, which means the main viewing deck lookout is out over the waterhole. This gives opportunity to appreciatethe wildlife variety that frequent the area to quench their thirst. It is spectacularly lit up at night, which I found was one of my favourite things to do while visiting. To dine and look out on the waterhole to see if I could spot any wildlife. There are 72 rooms in the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge, with 24 that are waterhole facing.

The Suites are attractively and romantically appointed. It must be the mosquito nets, but there is just something about them that is incredibly whimsical. Above the bed an artwork with Kingfishers brightens the room with flashes of colour, picked up in the cushions. I walk onto the balcony and am welcomed by a panorama of trees that run off to the horizon. What better way is there to relax than enjoy a cup of coffee on this balcony with this view?

The MaKuwa-Kuwa restaurant is the main restaurant at the Lodge. They have just introduced a new menu and it is a gastronomic treat! From flavoursome lunchtime salads and burgers to three course dinners and pastries and hot breakfast to give a boost to the start of your day. If you savor a dinner here, you may even be lucky enough to be serenaded by the Acapella group, Insizwa.

What to do

Victoria Falls is a place of much activity. There are so many things to do that it is seriously difficult to choose. Aside from the mentioned activities below, you can also white water raft, bungi jump, gorge swing, do a bicycle tour, zip lining, go on a Zambezi Park game drive, experience elephant encounters and art, try a walking safari, horse riding or take a helicopter ride above the falls.

Royal Zambezi Cruise

It is a muggy day, but I am so ready to go out on the Zambezi River for the first time. It is the 4th biggest river in Africa being 2700 kilometres long. Going on a sunset cruise is a unique way to engage in some wildlife photography of birds, gaping hippos and swimming elephants.

What a way to relax! I enjoy cocktails and snacks while listening to the gentle slapping of the water on the hull of the boat and watch birds fly into the burning red sky at sunset. The Royal Zambezi is a royal way of enjoying the Zambezi; compliments of the experienced Wild Horizons who have over 256 combined years experience in guiding tours.

Victoria Falls

Kalala Lozi people call Victoria Falls ‘Mosi-oa-Tunya’, which means ‘The Smoke that Thunders’.

There are some things you need to do before you head off. Make sure you have applied your sunscreen, are sporting comfortable walking shoes, quick dry clothing and a good rain jacket. The spring rains start in November, but it takes time for the water that has fallen in the Angolan Highlands to make its way through the gorges to the Falls. It is going to get a little wet out there if you are visiting between February and May because this is considered high water season. But it is pretty humid, so you may actually enjoy the spray.

There are 16 viewing points along the stretch of the Falls on the Victoria Falls tour. The tour starts off down a cobbled alleyway of trees to past the Chain Walk where you have a view down the gorge from the top or you can walk down a staircase of 73 stairs to get a closer inspection. This is likely to be the first time you feel the spray of Zambezi water on your face. The next stop is to pose alongside the statue of David Livingstone who is said to be the first European to have glanced upon the Victoria Falls. From there you head to The Devil’s Cataract. The view is quite arresting, surrounding you with the rumbling of water as you look over the basalt rock formed falls. In high season, 90 000 cubic litres of water pass over these falls per second. A pretty staggering fact.

Victoria Falls

I follow the rain forest path and watch butterflies fluttering in the sunlight. Seeing butterflies in the number that you do here is said to be a good sign of a healthy eco system. As you follow the trail, there are a number of good viewpoints of the Devils Cataract and how deep the gorge is below as the water plummets over it.

Standing in the spray at the Main Falls is an incredible experience! It is like standing in a rainstorm with the thunder being replaced by the roar of the water coming over the Falls. The mist almost obscures the view and passes by in waves.

From Rainbow Falls to Danger Point is a stretch in the sun with occasional sidewash of spray. Along this stretch you get to see the majesty and length of the Falls, which culminates in Danger Point and the Boiling Pot, where the water seems to rush into the valley creating froth and a whirling mass of water.

We end the tour at the bridge where adrenalin junkies are found to be smiling after their jump, and where a border crossing is located. The Tour culminates in a walk back through the wooded lanes and open vlei like areas, while I am still humming from the excitement of what I have just experienced.

Vulture Culture

Not a bird that is traditionally known for it’s beauty for sure. But vultures are nature’s cleaners and they are actually now an endangered species. Victoria Safari Lodge has a daily feeding time where they put out meat for the birds in order to educate guests about these amazing creatures. It is a way to also monitor the vulture numbers as they are dwindling due to poisoning, usage in traditional medicines and electrocution by power lines.

There are four different types of vultures (spot white-headed, hooded, lappet-faced and white-backed vultures), as well as marabou storks that are traditionally at this meal time. It makes for a tremendous opportunity for photography and to learn more about the culture of the vulture.

Open market shopping

For a taste of local life and culture, I head into Town to the Elephant Walk Open market to find some local art and curios and try my hand at some bargaining. I found that I am a bit soft hearted and this process meant I came home somewhat poorer with a heavier suitcase, but happy to have mementos of my Zimbabwe adventure.

The Boma Dinner and Drum Show

This is an experience you do not want to miss. The restaurant is a round area partially under the open skies, with an abundance of local cuisine and delicacies (try the Mopani worms and get a certificate for your efforts).

As I am greeted I am wrapped in a Chitenge and guided to my seat in the Monde Village. I note that the restaurant is filling up fast. It is best to book beforehand, because this restaurant experience is regularly booked out. The experience starts with sampling a beer, Chibuku, which is made by locals and has a savoury, almost stout – like flavour. After trying Chibuku, those seated at the table take part in a traditional hand washing ceremony before the evening commences.

Boma Dinner and drum show

There is a delectable variety of starters to enjoy while you watch the dancers and drummers beat out a rythmn. I decided that variety is indeed the spice of life after all and sampled all sorts of food. I settled on tasty Mains of the spicy peanut butter rice, spinach, guinea fowl stew, sirloin steak and stir fry. Dessert was chosen to top the evening off on a sweet note (and for a bit of energy for the coming drumming). Malva pudding, custard, creme caramel and fruit.

Face painting happens next. And I am not talking about the children. Even adults like to have their faces painted sometimes πŸ™‚ I had elephant earrings on, so on my cheek, a mother elephant was painted so that they could walk in unison.

I have to admit, I was a bit nervous about the drumming. Although I would love to claim I am co-ordinated, this simply is not true. Every person is given a drum and led in a lesson on getting some rythmns right. When the rythmns are combined, it makes a fantastic amount of fun. It is such a joyous and inclusive experience to be part of the beat. Truth be told, the small indiscretions of missed beats can’t actually be heard when so many drums are beating, so there is no need to fret. It is such a memorable experience under the thatch and stars that will be putting a smile on your face for a long time.

Altogether, Victoria Falls is a fantastic way to both relax, view one of the seven natural wonders of the world, learn new things and be surrounded by friendly people and the beauty and majesty of nature. All while being in the comfort and ease of beautiful accommodation.

It is an experience I highly recommend. I know that I have actually been teased about how much I have spoken about it since my return. In my opinion, that is when you know it has been a great experience.

If you are looking for contact details, you can find them here:

Victoria Falls Safari Lodge

Wild Horizons

Victoria Falls Accommodation options

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Victoria Falls Safari Lodge

The 3 Star Safari Lodge has 72 rooms including 24 waterhole facing rooms and dining at MaKuwa-Kuwa Restaurant.

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Victoria Falls Safari Club

5 Star and exclusive. 20 Safari Club Rooms, 16 club standard rooms, 4 club suite rooms. Butler Service, seperate restaurant, seperate swimming pool, afternoon teas and cocktails.

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Safari Suites

The Safari Suites are Family units. There are two 4 bedroom suites (sleeps 5) and two 3 bedrooms suites (sleeps 7).

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Lokhutula Self Catering

31 units in total. 2 bedroom and 3 bedrooms units with a fully equipped kitchen. Nearby Boma serves breakfast and lunch as an alternative to making your own food.

Getting here

From Johannesburg: You can take a direct flight from OR Thambo to Victoria Falls International airport and arrange to transfer to the Lodge by shuttle.

From Cape Town: You can take a direct flight from Cape Town International to Victoria Falls International airport and arrange transfer to the Lodge by shuttle.

From Durban: You can take a direct flight from King Shaka International to Victoria Falls International airport and arrange transfer to the Lodge by Shuttle.

4 thoughts on “The Smoke that Thunders, Victoria Falls”

  1. This looks like an amazing place to visit! You’ve really covered everything, really helpful and interesting.

  2. I have just visited on the Zambian side and absolutely loved it! Only downside for me is the potential for malaria and the horrid side effects of the meds!

    1. Hi Karen, it is such an amazing experience! I didn’t take any of the meds to be honest but was very vigilant with protection and mozzie spray. I must say, some may think it risky, but I think it was a good course of action.

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