article by Chynette van Eeden | Maplanga Africa 7th May 2021
No one could have planned. No one saw this one coming... What our world has had to endure in the last year. In a matter of days the world came to a complete halt with most of the globe going into total and harsh lockdowns. People almost incarcerated in their homes anxious, scared. We all fell into a dark pit of the unknown, stripped of what we used to love doing, of familiarity. Of spending time with our families and friends... the freedoms to simply go enjoy a local market or meal, gone... the joy of the Saturday braai with our friends and loved ones, stripped.
And of course, the ability to travel.
Travel... this industry that we love so much has been hit so incredibly hard. Still, we try keep our heads above water, as Dory said – “just keep swimming”. When faced with so much adversity, Why? Simple; It's so that not only our clients could get back to ticking off their bucket lists and visiting all the beauty this world has to offer, but US as well. The us who have given up so much in the hope of the return of our industry, a return to some sort of normal. Travel is our heart, our love, our soul, our home away from home, our passion.
So recently my heart skipped a beat - a few actually - as the opportunity to travel back to Victoria Falls came along... an invitation to an Educational arranged by Africa’s Eden. An opportunity to see our suppliers, travel friends, experience new hotels and lodges, and to share in all the work everyone has been doing to upgrade and enhance our clients’ experiences when they do arrive soon (we hope). This was a chance to “drink in” some of our favourite destinations again. And, of course, to witness once again, the majestic and jaw dropping Victoria Falls.
So, we have been learning every day, waiting, monitoring any changes in travel restrictions and complications that might affect our clients, locally, regionally and globally....we are now starting to emerge and there is real tangible hope.
Fact! Victoria Falls City has been at the forefront with regards to vaccinations, making it one of the safest tourist destinations right now. Basically the whole town have already received their second jabs and herd immunity has been achieved.. So now, to put the whole process to test. This trip gave me the opportunity to actually check out what our valued clients will experience and by all accounts, its looking all good to go.
Flying into Victoria Falls you have to have a negative PCR test 48 hours prior to arrival, currently up for review to 72hrs. Here in SA we got our results within 24 hours. From Victoria Falls flying back to SA you will need the same test 72 hours before arrival. And man, what an easy and efficient process it was in Zimbabwe! Nurses came out to the lodge while we were having lunch at Victoria Falls Safari Lodge, did the test within a few minutes, and we had our results the next morning to fly back to SA.
The test itself is only $60, plus $10 for the nurse from Lancet Laboratories to come out and do your test - worth it! So yes, maybe a tiny bit more admin and $$$, but definitely not a hurdle that’s hard to overcome! Between availability of flights and the testing process, these have been 2 of the biggest concerns with regards to travelling to this beautiful destination. And the flights were easy peasy as well! We flew with . On time, friendly, lovely flight. My heart felt lighter already!
But now, on to the fun stuff... of course one of the first stops we had to make was the Victoria Falls itself. It never gets old, laying your eyes on that majestic world wonder. We really saw it in all its glory! It is so full at the moment that you get wet from the spray the moment you start your walk through the rain forest. At the end of it we were soaked, actually super soaked. And then it hits you, that old familiar feeling... being “home”. Victoria is once again inviting the world to come see her showing off after some ‘me time’!
Helicopters are cool, in fact more than cool so the next day we saw Victoria Falls from above, being treated to a Flight of Angels. And it really is as David described:
"No one can imagine the beauty of the view from anything witnessed in England. It had never been seen before by European eyes; but scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight."
We were reminded on this trip of a lovely description of the Victoria Falls by AA Gill which went:
“I wasn’t prepared for such a drenching evocation of the sublime. The thing about the Victoria Falls, is that no one can see or hear you when you cry.”
It was lovely to see the Falls and its people so excited to have tourists and agents in town. They have been working hard in this difficult time to create even better experiences than they already had to offer. The new Lookout Cafe is looking even more spectacular than it did before, completely refurbed after an unfortunate kitchen fire a few years ago. The views of the gorges and Zambezi rapids from the Lookout decks are simply amazing! This is also the spot where some of the famous adrenalin fueled high wire activities takes place. Some daring souls took on the massive gorge swing and the beautiful zip line. It sometimes feels like free entertainment when enjoying a drink or a meal at the Cafe too! It’s a must!! Whether you want to do the activities or not, the Lookout Cafe HAS to be on your itinerary!
We were shown some extraordinary new accommodation options, no matter your taste, wants, need or budget you will be covered in that department! The bush suburbs are showing off some spectacular new accommodation options, with quick 3 - 5 minute transfers that can be arranged easily. I was fortunate enough to be hosted at Bayete Guest Lodge and Shongwe Lookout. Beautiful spots, great hosts, excellent food!
And the new lodges and hotels! The 5 stars’ deserve 6! The renovations and refurbishments of long established properties like The Victoria Falls Hotel and Ilala Lodge bring a new dynamic to the table as well. New lodges like the Old Drift Lodge and Palm River Lodge – also superb spots to kick back and take in the African air. The town is showing off and things are happening!!
Plus our number one activity that HAS to be done, the obligatory Zambezi River Cruise, courtesy of Pure Africa, always timed perfectly for the beautiful African sunsets. Some innovative things are happening, making meal times something to really look forward to, including the Safari Butler who sets up a perfect meal setting with their Pop Up next to the Zambezi River, in the Bush, or wherever your heart desires. Whatever your vibe may be, you’re in capable hands with them!
We’ve always loved you, Victoria Falls and your beautiful people. But just when we thought we couldn’t love you any more than we already did, you said ‘Hold my beer’.
So thankful for the opportunity to have enjoyed this trip with Africa’s Eden! We are ready for you. The Victoria Falls is your oyster, come find the pearls!