There are times when you and your bestie want to do some travelling. The thing that always comes to mind is – will we be safe? This is simply not an issue in Victoria Falls – or in Zimbabwe as a whole at all. Tourism is the very reason for Victoria Falls’ being and tourists are treated with friendliness and courtesy everywhere, by everyone.
Our trip started in earnest at OR Tambo airport. If the flight isn’t full BA Comair offer the option of upselling to Business Class (one way at a time) at the airport. This gives you access to the Slow Lounge and to start your holiday in grand style with coffee, sparkly and delicious edibles. Once on the plane you get the extra leg room, more bubbles - and more food if you want it. Just the thing to set the tone for girls breakaway.
First stop, The Elephant Camp.
The camp is set in a private reserve on the outskirts of Victoria Falls and boy is this glamping. Our “tent, a large Bedouin style affair, was larger than an average Joburg apartment and had a magnificent view of bushveld with the soaring spray of Victoria Falls on the horizon. What more could a girl ask for? We had a small lounge with comfy chairs, stocked mini bar (included in the rate) and a coffee station with decent coffee. The large bedroom had a vast walk in mosquito net and a full separate bathroom with an all-important bath with a view and lovely smellies to add to the bath! We made serious use of the shaded deck that runs along the length of the ‘tent ‘(feels strange to call it that) It was too cold to swim in our private plunge pool but we dipped our feet into the water and enjoyed a glass of two of wine, just enjoying the view of the bush, listening to the birds and having a grand old giggle.
A weekend away is not the time to diet. You can eat healthily but the food is just so delicious and so plentiful that it’s hard to stay on the Banting track. Meals are enjoyed on the deck if the weather is good, or indoors if not, and one night we enjoyed a braai (BBQ for our overseas friends) with all the trimmings at the Elephant Camp boma.
We took full advantage of all the activities on offer: sundowners on the lip of the gorge, a guided walk on the estate to walk off some of the calories, a visit to the Wildlife Trust and a magnificent lunch at the Look Out Café, but the best activity of all was the Elephant Interaction. Wild Horizons, the owners of Elephant Camp, have been involved with wildlife conservation – more especially elephant conservation - since even before conservation was the cool thing. Orphaned elephant have had a home at The Elephant Camp since 1995 when the camp was in a different location and they have thrived. They have had babies of their own and now there are two herds of elephant living on the concession. Guests at Ellie Camp get the chance to meet with them and learn about their story and the plight of elephants across the globe from their handlers. It’s a moving experience and I bet everyone who has stood next to these huge creatures, felt their rough skin and admired their long eyelashes will ever forget ‘their’ elephant and will be just that bit more protective of the amazing continent we live in.
Next stop, my favourite hotel in the whole world, The Victoria Falls Hotel.
I am a sucker for the romantic notion of the past, when the world was still waiting to be discovered. The Vic Falls Hotel somehow fits right into this. A Grande Lady from long ago who has seen fashions and ideas change many times over, but who stands as a testament to mankind’s yearning to discover new lands and enjoy their splendors . She is old (106 years) and she is gracious and beautiful. My friend and I had a suite (each) on the left hammerhead of the hotel. Just the view of the bridge and spray from my huge four poster bed is enough to wax on about, but the suites have recently been updated and now include a vast bathroom with a sumptuous bath, walk in shower and a private loo. Gone are the dark, tired floral furnishings and in their place are beautiful linens and velveteens, updated sensitively, keeping the era the hotel was created in mind. I have to admit I couldn’t find the TV. I was sure there had to be one, yet after looking behind paintings and even in the cupboard, I admitted defeat and succumbed to asking. If you are ever in the same suite and are at a loss to find the television, it’s in a very cryptic place - much like in a plot from an Ian Fleming novel – the large mirror above the drinks cabinet turns into the TV at the click of the remote!
The hotel is perfectly placed in central Victoria Falls to walk to the Falls or just stroll around town for a spot of shopping, so we crammed in as much activity as our short stay allowed: a brisk walk in the rainforest, lunch in town, shopping, a back and neck massage at the spa in the hotel, drinks on the Stanley Terrace with the gently lit Bridge as the back drop… we just didn’t, unfortunately, have enough time for the High Tea. Oh well something to come back for!
Last stop Victoria Falls River Lodge.
There is something dramatic about travelling to your destination by boat. The pontoon met us at the jetty close to town and meandered along the Zambezi River into the Zambezi National Park, where we were met by the genial Jonathan (Jono by the time you leave) who escorted us through the treed canopy to arrive at the beautiful open air verandah of the Victoria Falls River Lodge to check in. Victoria Falls River Lodge is part of the new breed of safari lodges. The days of Zimbabwe block print fabrics and teak furniture are gone and have been replaced by an updated funky safari style that combines rustic with modern elements. Victoria Falls River Lodge offers the best of two worlds – close enough to Vic Falls town to enjoy the sites and activities, but set within the Zambezi Park, a wildlife reserve where the Victoria Falls anti-poaching unit have had great success in preserving and encouraging animals back…
On our way to our rooms we were delayed by a rather large hippo who had taken to grazing alongside the path. She ungraciously moved aside and allowed our golf cart to pass, keeping a watchful eye on us until we were out of site.
Our accommodation, a large elevated canvas structure (no resemblance to a tent) took full advantage of the sweeping Zambezi River views. Big sliding doors opened up to a deck with a perfectly sized plunge pool from which to relax and enjoy the afternoon shenanigans of the baboons. Indoors there is an open plan living area with a cosy couch and bedroom area with really good beds and walk in mozzie net. A huge full bathroom with the expected ‘bath with a view’ is completed by a private toilet tucked away.
There are a lot of in-house activities to choose from including canoeing, game drives in the reserve and boating trips. Being a pushover for a gin and tonic with a view, we opted for a boat cruise. We were looked after by one of the best guides I have ever come across on my travels. His love for the area was compelling; he passed his insights on to us and our American guests with a passion not often encountered. Our perfect sundowner and game viewing ended with a delightful elephant who took such pleasure in his afternoon swim that we all took photos of his antics.
We tried to cram in a visit to the camps amazing looking spa with an enviable view for one last bit of pampering before we departed, but in the end we decided just enjoy the moment and enjoy the view from the bar with a few laughs and a cold sundowner. The holiday was over. Just great memories left.
Any one of these wonderful destinations would make for an excellent getaway, either with a friend - or if there isn’t one to join you, alone. Everything is taken care of and you will be collected, cared for and treated marvelously. If this sounds like a trip you would like to do, email our team at Maplanga Africa and we will make it happen for you.
FYI: “Thelma and Louise” is the name of a chick flick from the 90’s starring Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon. They go on a fishing trip and end up getting into all sorts of trouble - and lucky for them, meet a young hunky Brad Pitt. Our girls weekends are not as raunchy, but still loads of fun. My travel buddy Heidi and I, have since named a rather nice cocktail we encountered on another Thelma and Louise holiday, after the movie.
If you ever want to make your own “Thelma and Louise” here is the recipe:
Author: Natalie Wood