Ep13 Zimbabwe, Jewel of Africa
Welcome to episode 13.
The next leg of our journey was to Victoria Falls International Airport, Zimbabwe. If we had traveled by land, we would have to travel through Botswana. Instead we flew from Cape Town International Airport, South Africa to Victoria Falls International Airport, Zimbabwe, just under 3 hours.
Zimbabwe, officially the Republic of Zimbabwe, was formerly know as Rhodesia. Zimbabwe is a landlocked country located in Southern Africa, between the Zambezi, bordered by South Africa, Botswana, Zambia and Mozambique. Zimbabwe was once known as the “Jewel of Africa” for its great prosperity.
Flying over Victoria Falls Airport, Zimbabwe, we saw a dry and open landscape so different from the South African landscape. We were awe struck by the vastness of the land and how magnificently beautiful it still can be in the dry season (Aug to Oct).
Elephant Hills Resort
From the Victoria Falls Airport, we were greeted with 3 small vans. Our drivers drove us to Elephant Hills Resort. This would be our comfortable home for the next two nights. The resort is situated on a small hill overlooking the Zambezi River, 4 km upstream from the Victoria Falls. Elephant Hills Resort boasts an 18-hole championship golf course. The resort is situated in a wide area where wild animals share the grounds. We saw wild warthog, impala, guinea fowl on the grounds and monkeys came to visit right outside our balcony. We were reminded not to feed the animals and not to get close to them. Sometimes, it felt like we were in a zoo together with the wild animals and had to co-exist with them on the beautiful grounds. It was a little frightening being in such proximity to them. We wondered what it is like to walk the 18-hole golf course only to meet these wild animals.
We settled into our rooms, explored the resort grounds. Some of us had a swim in the welcoming swimming pool, while others relaxed in the bar with an afternoon bite and drink. The resort was situated on such huge grounds, and there was plenty to see, explore, and relax before our next itinerary.
Wa-Nuka Queen Zambezi River Cruise
In the later part of the evening, we enjoyed a 2-hour sunset cruise at the Wa-Nuka Queen Zambezi River Cruise. The sunset cruise is geared to showcase a magnificent sunset while also enjoy a sip a sun downer and some light snacks. Cruising along the Zambezi River is an experience that creates lasting memories and includes sightings of hippo and crocodile and any other species that congregates on the banks to quench their thirst. Where there is water there is life and seeing a wild and untamed landscape from the comfort of a boat is a must do experience in this magical part of the world in Zimbabwe. It was truly a different experience that made our journey so memorable.
The River Cruise provided a much different perspective of the animals
The River Cruise experience is totally different from a land safari. We enjoyed the lovely evening breeze. The smooth rocking from the boat was very soothing. The excitement of catching a glimpse of the animals along the river or in the water was exhilarating. This is a must experience while in Africa as it is so magnificent and different from a land safari.
Sunset on the River Cruise
A relaxing dinner at Elephant Hills Restaurant
After the fantastic Zambezi River cruise experience, our drivers took us back to the hotel for an evening dinner at the Elephant Hills Restaurant. We enjoyed dinner which was filled with an assortment of food that we could enjoy. After dinner, we enjoyed browsing around the hotel grounds before retreating to our hotel rooms to relax and retire early for the next day’s big waterfalls adventure.
Summary of our Day
Zimbabwe is a uniquely different country with different culture and languages. We struck up conversations with the locals (our housekeeper, servers, bar attendants, tour operators) and discovered that life can be difficult in this harsh land and economy. Our housekeeper shared that her husband had been killed as a Mahout. A mahout is an elephant rider, trainer, or keeper. He had worked in the Elephant sanctuary. As a result, she has to care for the family as a single mum. She has to leave her village and her children to seek employment. She shares accommodation with several others outside of the resort grounds.
As we look around the nearby towns and tourist peddlers, we realize that real local life is not easy. In the luxury of our resort, we have come to recognize that the lives of locals is far from the comfort of our resort. We also realize that the locals respect and learn to live with the wild animals as they are everywhere and it is impossible to keep them out.
The River cruise is one tourist service that has given much revenue to the locals. Zimbabwe recorded 2,6 million international tourist arrivals in 2018, 6 percent up from 2,4 million received in 2017. Zimbabwe is developing a road map to grow the tourism sector to a US$6 billion industry by 2023.