Last year I was welcomed to the 30s club. While most husbands may shower their wives with dozens of roses and take them for a pampered, romantic getaway, my husband is different. I got a dare-devil, adventure filled welcome to the 30s club and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I was aware that we were going away for my birthday, but the destination was to remain a surprise. I despise being kept in the dark and nagged for days on end for my husband to reveal our travel plans. Being quite the secret keeper, he ignored my constant badgering. We were being couch potatoes the one day, when he casually mentions that we need to exchange some dollars for Zimbabwe. And the cat was out of the bag!
We were scheduled to leave Johannesburg early on the day of my birthday. Of course, our trip would not be complete without some travel trouble. Instead of spending my birthday cruising on the Zambezi River, as was initially planned, it was spent sipping tea and munching on the complimentary meal at the airport diner due to a 4 hour flight delay. Nevertheless, the remainder of the trip more than made up for spending my birthday at the airport. To begin with, my incredibly sweet husband arranged with the air hostess to wish me happy birthday over an announcement to the entire plane. Hint hint, for anyone looking to score brownie points with their partners.
Our hotel of choice for this four day adventure was the Kingdom Hotel in Victoria Falls (Zimbabwean side). The hotel has a great Africa themed feel to it. The rooms were clean and spacious. The hotel was well located, not too far from the Victoria Falls airport as well as a walk away from the main town and the Victoria Falls National Park. A buffet breakfast was included in our stay. The hotel offers in-house tour operators, which is always useful if you haven’t already planned an itinerary.
Our itinerary for this trip was planned and included a swim at the devils pool, cruising and white water rafting on the mighty Zambezi, a helicopter ride to capture aerial views of the magnificent falls and exploring the Victoria Falls National Park.
“Scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by Angels in Their Flight”.
The phrase coined by Sir David Livingstone so aptly describes the magnificence of the falls as well as the name of the helicopter ride offered by tour operators, Flight of Angels. Formerly described as ‘Mosi-oa-Tunya- the Smoke that Thunders’ and more recently as the greatest curtain of falling water in the world, speaks to the grandeur of the falls. We visited during the dry season (October – December) when the falls were not in its full glory yet still magical!
The sight from the various viewing points is breath-taking and the gentle mist of water felt from the falls is surreal. The Flight of Angels helicopter ride is an experience not to be missed too. Even though the ride is short, the aerial view is worth it, providing insight into the landscape of the land surrounding the falls as well as the zigzag gorges of the Zambezi, which can’t be viewed from anywhere else.
The sunset cruise on the river is also a worthy activity, allowing you to kick back, catch a glimpse of the hippos and crocodiles while enjoying a sublime sunset.
Victoria Falls not only offers the best views of the iconic water wonder, it also has a world-class adventure tourism scene. The benefit of visiting during the dry season was that we got to enjoy two of the many adventure activities offered, white water rafting and swimming in the devils pool. These were both phenomenal. The devils pool tour begins with crossing over to the Zambian side (one more passport tattoo), after which a short boat ride is taken from the Royal Livingstone hotel to Livingstone Island.
Then the fun begins – the most thrilling swim in nature’s infinity pool directly at the edge of the falls. You can lean over the edge and get an extraordinary view of the 100m drop. Hair-raising but definitely one for the bucket list. As we did a morning tour, we were treated to a delightful English breakfast after our daring swim.
Being a relatively good swimmer and quite comfortable in vast bodies of water, my biggest fear of white water rafting on the Zambezi was not drowning in a rapid but rather getting bitten by a croc or attacked by a hippo – I’m not even kidding!! I was glad to be informed by our amazing guide Chris that there are no hippos in the gorges on our rafting route, only baby crocodiles (not too comforting, but I could deal with it). The adventure commenced at around 7 am, getting geared up and briefed at the top of the gorge. Carrying your rafting gear, you proceed to walk to the bottom of the gorge where your guide and rafts are waiting. With some basic practice beforehand, you are ready to conquer the Zambezi, made up of 19 rapids ranging from grade three to grade five rapids (the most intense). Overland truck eater, Judgement Day, the Terminator and Gnashing Jaws of death are some of the names conjured up for the infamous rapids. We watched rafts capsize, embraced the opportunity of swimming through one of the less daunting rapids, I got my lip busted open and even frantically rowed away from an almost encounter with a croc! Needless to say the voyage through the formidable rapids of the mighty Zambezi was EPIC! I warn you, the hike back up to the top after rafting is painful and my least favourite part of the day.
If we were not completely fagged out by the day’s activities, our evenings were spent walking into town to have a relaxed supper at one of the numerous cafes. Walking into town was safe. You do get hassled by the street merchants trying to sell you the odd ornament or Zimbabwean dollars as a souvenir, however if you ignore them long enough, they bugger off. A firm favourite for us was Shearwater café. I would recommend the prawn pasta and vegetarian halloumi wrap. We even returned to the café on a second occasion to enjoy a good cuppa tea with freshly made waffles. We had to stick to vegetarian/seafood options as the restaurant wasn’t Halaal. Be sure to pop by the stores in town if you are interested in purchasing traditional Zimbabwean merchandise or just to have a look.
The country is in political unrest and the trip was not cheap due to everything being priced in dollars (US Dollars and not Zim Dollars J), but the friendliest locals, vast beauty and adventure tourism more than compensates. Definitely my kind of bucket list adventure and the perfect kick start to my 30s.