he area around Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, Africa is a place you don’t want to miss if you have a love of wild places (with all the conveniences nearby), wildlife of all kinds, big skies and lots and lots of photo ops. And if you’re a timeshare owner, Lokuthula Lodges is the perfect place to stay.
Zimbabwe is just north of the Tropic of Capricorn in south central Africa between the Limpopo and Zambezi Rivers. It is bordered by Zambia on the north west, South Africa on the South, Mozambique on the east and northeast and by Botswana on the southwest. The names alone conjure feelings of mystery and excitement, and if you’re a Rudyard Kipling fan you’ll smile at the memory of The Elephant’s Child, in the Just So Stories, in which Kipling described “the great grey-green, greasy Limpopo River, all set about with fever-trees,” where the “Bi-Coloured Python Rock-Snake” dwells. Yes, it’s THAT part of Africa!
By far the country’s largest tourist draw is the stunning Victoria Falls, first discovered in 1855 for Western science by the famous explorer David Livingstone, though of course it had been known to Africans for centuries. The local people in the area call the falls “Mosi-oa-Tunya – The Smoke that Thunders”, in reference to the huge column of spray and mist the falls throw up when the Zambesi River is running high and the falls are at their most magnificent. Livingstone himself, concious of his duty as an Englishman, named them after the Queen and claimed them for the British crown.
Six separate falls (Devil’s Cataract, Main Falls, Horseshoe Falls, Rainbow Falls, Armchair Falls and the Eastern Cataract) make up this incredible spectacle that plummets more than 300 ft (100 m) into a sheer-sided abyss which separates Zimbabwe from Zambia. The canyon is spanned by a lovely, if unnerving, 1905 Edwardian bridge which links the two countries.
Considered the largest curtain of falling water in the world, the magnificent Victoria Falls draws visitors from all over the world. Be advised that standing anywhere in the general vicinity of these falls will get you good and wet from the spray when the falls are in full spate.
Sharing the magnificent Victoria Falls with neighboring Zambia across the Zambezi River, Zimbabwe has developed the area carefully. Conscious of the heritage it holds in trust for the world, the country’s national parks has maintained the Falls and the surrounding rainforest virtually as they were when Dr. Livingstone first saw them almost 140 years ago. The Falls and the surrounding rainforest are preserved as a small 9-sq. mile (23.4 sq kilometre) National Park and form one of Zimbabwe’s four World Heritage sites. This small area is adjacent to the much larger Zambezi National park; together they cover an area of 56,000 hectares (138,379 acres or 216 sq. miles).
For those who enjoy a challenge, the world-renowned Victoria Falls area presents one of the top adventure destinations in the world. Some of the activities available include:
- White Water Rafting (day trips and expeditions)
- River Cruises (Breakfast cruise, Sundown cruise, Lunch cruise, Ornithologist’s cruise)
- Game drives (half and full day, night drives)
- Bunji jumping off the Victoria Falls bridge, the world’s highest commercial bungi jump (locals claim that it is also the second highest on the rebound).
- River boarding
- Tours (Traditional, Cultural, Zambezi Nature Sanctuary, Falls Tour)
- Aerial trips (Helicopter, fixed-wing, and microlight)
- Upper Zambezi Canoeing (if you want to see the “wild side”, canoe the lower Zambezi River)
- Walking Trails (or guidedWalking Safaris in the Zambezi Valley)
- Horse and Elephant Trails
- Visiting the Snake Park and crocodile farm
- Shopping for unique and beautiful African items
- Visits to the cultural villages
Areas within the region that are of special interest to the wildlife enthusiast include:
Mana Pools: Formed by the remains of the main Zambezi River channel, the wild and magnificent Mana Pools is a designated World Heritage Site. A haven for many bird species, this ecosystem supports a large variety of big game such as elephant, buffalo, zebra, waterbuck , kudu as well as big cats. Hundreds of hippos and crocodiles lounging along the Mana River are a familiar sight. Canoe trips or walking safaris provide a memorable experience.
Matusadona National Park: Set along the southern shoreline of Lake Kariba and covering an area of 543 sq miles (1,407 sq kilometers), Matusadona lakefront position stands in stark contrast with the high and wild mountain country of the Zambezi escarpment, which traverses the park. Wildlife is plentiful and the park is noted for its herds of elephants and buffaloes.
Lake Kariba: 125 miles (200 kilometers) long and some 24 miles (40 kilometers) wide, Lake Kariba is the result of the creation in the 1960’s of the Kariba dam, which supplies the country with hydro-electricity. Lake Kariba is a popular destination among Zimbabweans and South Africans who come to enjoy the many water related activities offered by the lake such as fishing, sailing and water-skiing. Elephants, buffaloes and other species of small game are common along its shores and on some of its islands where even lions can be found. Be aware that there are lots of crocodiles around the lake as well, making the waters unsafe for swimming.
Chizarira National Park: Remote and magnificent, this stands as Zimbabwe’s most scenic park. It is famous for its small black rhino population and the panoramic views from the ridges and mountaintops of the unspoiled valleys below, all abundant with wildlife. The Busi Valley notably supports elephant, lions, leopards, warthogs and several species of hoofed mammals.
Having such a long history of international visits, Victoria Falls has developed into quite a sophisticated destination with an excellent support infrastructure. Hotels, shops and other facilities are available on both sides of the falls, all paying careful attention to preserving the natural surroundings.
One of the best accommodations around is an RCI-affiliated Gold Crown Resort, Lokuthula Lodges, located within the famous Victoria Falls Safari Lodge compound. Among other distinctions, the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge is one of four companies to have received the Green Globe Distinction Award for Outstanding Environmental Performance for the year 2000 at the I.T.B. in Berlin earlier this year.
Meaning “peace” in the local dialect, Lokuthula consists of 2 and 3-bedroom luxurious lodges, sleeping 6 and 8 respectively.
Set high on a plateau, which forms a natural boundary to the unfenced Zambesi National Park, Lokuthula Lodges are just 2 ½ miles (4 kilometres) from the Falls. They are “furnished in a riot of ethnic colours and fully equipped with everything a discerning guest would wish to find in an upmarket Lodge. Each lodge is serviced daily by Lokuthula`s friendly and professional housekeeping staff.”
Surrounded by nearly 200,000 acres (80,000 hectares) of unspoilt African bush, Lokuthula’s border with the Zambezi National Park offers magnificent views of the pristine bushveld. A nearby waterhole attracts a wide variety of game during the year, including elephant, buffalo, impala and kudu.
A three-tier swimming-pool, poolside bar, children’s playground, snack restaurant and TV lounge are situated on the grounds of the main compound and adjacent to the award winning Boma restaurant. You can even play a little golf nearby, if you simply can’t make it through a vacation without a call from the links.
Dining outdoors at The Boma, by candlelight, you will find yourself listening, between the clinks of crystal and silver and the murmurs of guests, for the sounds of the lion’s cough and the other wild sounds of an African night. The food is superb, the waiters friendly and helpful, the atmosphere charged with the special ambiance that being in Africa provides. And either during or after dinner you may have the pleasure of watching native dancers perform their own special magic, with the roar of the nearby Falls accompanying them.
It doesn’t get much better than that!
Some Web sites for more information about the area:
- https://www.facebook.com/lokuthulalodges/ –Lokuthula Lodge, with lots of pictures
- http://www.zimparks.org/index.php/parks-overview/national/national-parks — About Victoria Falls and Zambezi National Parks
- http://www.lonelyplanet.com/destinations/africa/zimbabwe/ –The Lonely Planet Guide to Zimbabwe
- http://www.geographia.com/zimbabwe/ –Exploring Zimbabwe
- http://www.zambiatourism.com/travel/places/zambezir.htm –The Great Zambezi River
- http://www.zambiatourism.com/travel/places/victoria.htm –Victoria Falls
- http://www.zambiatourism.com/ –The Zambia National Tourism Board
- http://www.zambezi.com/ –A comprehensive site about the Zambezi River and its environs
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