Making the most of 23 hours in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
Updated: Aug 27, 2019
After suffering the wrath of Heathrow which left us missing our connection in Johannesburg, we finally made our way to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. What had been planned as a leisurely two days of relaxed sightseeing had now become a trying sprint of speed tourism. Our original agenda had been to spend a day enjoying the falls, taking a helicopter trip of the falls on the following morning and finishing up with a sunset cruise on the Zambezi that evening and flying out the next day at noon.
With our severely curtailed schedule, these activities now had to be crammed into what we expected to be 24 hours. To the immense credit of the local tour operator, Wild Horizons, they went above and beyond the call of duty to ensure we still got to experience all the Victoria Falls had to offer. In their revised version of our schedule, we would spend the afternoon at the Falls, then indulge in an evening dinner cruise on the Zambezi and finally taking our helicopter trip at 7.30 am before leaving for our airport at 9.00 am. What could possibly go wrong?
After dropping our bags at the wonderful Batonka lodge, we took a local taxi down to the Falls. Mere words on a page are totally insufficient to capture the majesty of this natural spectacle. The landscape around Vic Falls is generally a flat and parched (during the dry season) landscape bisected by the meandering curves of the mighty Zambezi river. Somehow, many eons ago, a slight drop in the rivers course became amplified over the course of repeated rainy seasons into a vast and lengthy fissure in the earth which we now know as Victoria Falls.
Approaching this wonder of the world, two things are immediately apparent; the low guttural roar of the waterfalls and the shimmering haze of water droplets that hang spectacularly over the falls after being jettisoned into the sky by the staggering violence of their fall into the gorge.
Being in the liberated land of Zimbabwe, in which the notion of health and safety is more a theoretical concept than a practical concern, it is still possible to walk right up to the precipitous walls of the canyon and take questionable selfies such as exhibit A to the left. This is both exciting and slightly unnerving but unquestionably an experience to be relished.
After spending 40 minutes or so drinking in the wonder of this natural phenomenon, it was time to head back to the hotel to get picked up for the dinner cruise. If it had been an option, we would certainly have spent more time there but sadly circumstances had conspired against us and the next event in our schedule had to be attended.
Without skipping a beat, we found ourselves boarding a midsized double-decker river craft along with a gaggle of tourists with various nationalities. Jess and I are always open to new gastronomic experiences and there's something genuinely pleasant about dining on a surprisingly steady vessel whilst watching out for the exotic megafauna of the Zambezi such as crocodiles, impala, hippos and a surprisingly large number of rocks that look very much like hippos.
The main exhibit for the evening, however, is not the local animal population but the stunning visuals provided by the African sun as it sets on the still waters of the Zambezi.
Jess and I both opted for the beef fillet after having being pleasantly surprised by excellent qualities of African steak we had enjoyed the previous evening in Johannesburg.
After a thoroughly enjoyable evening on the Zambezi, we were transferred back to our hotel by the Wild Horizons transport service. It's worth pointing out, that I have a what can only be described as a magnetic attraction to the local mosquito population wherever I go and the thought of spending an evening in a malarial hot zone such as Zimbabwe sent me into cold sweats. So, by way of preparation, I treated my clothes with a Permethrin spray several days before travelling to Africa and covered all areas of exposed skin with a 40% deet spray and wipes. This feverish preparation must have worked because I'm happy to report that I did not receive a single bite.
The following morning, we rose for an early breakfast before transferring to the helicopter pad. This was quite an operation and ran like a well oiled machine. There were at least 3 helicopters operating in parallel, landing to disgorge a payload of tourists before taking off again with a fresh batch of sightseers.
Having never flown in a helicopter before, I was a bit apprehensive of the noisy and vibrating environment of the cockpit but these misgivings were quickly overcome by the truly magnificent vista of the falls from the sky.