Tag Archives: Victoria Falls

The 2019 wish-list: top five safari destinations to explore in 2019

Over the next few weeks we’ll focus on five different safari destinations worthy of making your 2019 wish-list. We’ll look at new camps, lodges and activities and give you ideas for amazing holidays in 2019. 

This week – it’s Zimbabwe.

1.ZIMBABWE

Kanga-Camp-Mana-Pools-Zimbabwe-African-Bush-Camps-Safari-Tented-Camp-Main-Area-2-1200x750Kanga Camp, Mana Pools

Zimbabwe is firmly back on the safari map with a more stable political climate, investment going into developing its tourism infrastructure and the Univisa making holidaying in both Zimbabwe and Zambia easier.

This land-locked country in Southern Africa offers magnificent wilderness , exceptional guiding and a fantastic array of activities. You can canoe the Zambezi, walk in Mana Pools, zipline over Victoria Falls and stake out a waterhole from a hide in Hwange in the space of a 10 day -two week trip.

Prime safari areas are easily accessed via the international gateways of Victoria Falls and Harare. The best time to go is between May and September although many of the camps are open from April to mid November.

Find out more about Zimbabwe and see sample safaris here.

Call us on 01603 964 730 or email enquiries@realafrica.co.uk to discuss a safari to Zimbabwe.

Mana Pools

Rukomechi287There’s a real buzz about Zimbabwe as we start 2019, and especially beautiful Mana Pools.

If you saw the BBC Dynasties episode on the Painted Wolves of Mana then you’ll have some idea why this World Heritage national park has attracted so much attention in recent months.

This wild and beautiful region is only accessible during the dry season (April to November) there are very few vehicle tracks and only a handful of safari camps.

Activities include walking, canoeing and 4WD safaris with wildlife viewing off-the-scale. The area is very well-known for its large bull elephants – encounters can be thrilling (especially on foot) – as well as a full cast of predators.

Well-established owner/run camps such as Vundu Camp where wild dog expert Nick Murray who appeared on the Dynasties episode is based, or Goliath Camp, home of Stretch Ferreira stand the test of time with emphasis firmly on quality guiding.

2017 saw the opening of John’s Camp,  and Zambezi Expeditions and Kanga Camp from African Bush Camps.

2018 sees further new camps with each one below having a strong focus on responsible travel and conservation.

1.Chikwenya

Chikwenya large_focal_g4310-chikwenyaChikwenya is part of the Wilderness Safaris portfolio of camps and lodges. The camp has always been in this magical position on the far eastern boundary of Mana overlooking the Zambezi but in autumn 2018 it opened with a completely new look. There are just seven glorious tented suites  complete with outdoor showers, with two family units to follow in Spring 2019. Activities range from walking and boating to day and night drives. A stay here would work well with one of its sister properties in Mana, Ruckomechi or Little Ruckomechi on the western boundary or with one of the excellent Wilderness camps in Hwange (Davisons. Linkwasha, Little Makalolo). The camps are all accessed by nearby airstrips and the services of Wilderness Air. Enjoy a 5% long-stay discount on 6 night+ safaris in any combination of their Zim camps/lodges for stays until 31 May and from 1 Nov 2019 (subject to availability – special dates apply).

2.Nyamatusi

Nyamatusi-Campmain-area-outside-Mana-Pools-National-Park-Zimbabwe-5Owner-run African Bush Camps is due to open six suite Nyamatusi Camp in April 2019 giving clients three wonderful but very different camps to choose from in Mana Pools. Nyamatusi is a luxury option in a private concession in the eastern area of Mana with all suites offering plunge pools and wonderful views.  We love ABCs new Wild Dogs of Zimbabwe itinerary which splits time in Mana between Kanga Camp and Mana Expedition Camp,  a characterful mobile camp on the banks of the Zambezi. The itinerary also visits Somalisa Expedition Camp in Hwange and Thorntree River Lodge on the Zambian side of Victoria Falls.

3. Greater Mana Expedition Camp

Greater Mana great-plains-manaexpedition-gallery-13Great Plains Conservation also now offers an exciting itinerary option in Zimbabwe with the opening of Mpala Jena close to Victoria Falls. Mpala Jena has just four tented suites, and works brilliantly in combination with Greater Mana Expedition Camp in the private Sapi Reserve on the eastern boundary of Mana Pools. Mana Expedition hosts a maximum of six guests and the emphasis is very much on activity and adventure in this pristine and beautiful environment.

Here are some other new camps/lodges in Zimbabwe to look out for and consider for your holiday:

Matusadona/Lake Kariba

Bumi-Hills-Safariimbabwe_Luxury-Safari-Lodge_Lake-View_Viewing-Deck_-African-Bush-Camps-88-1200x662Bumi Hills reopened in 2018 after an extensive refurbishment. There are ten suites with spectacular lake views. Lake cruises, walking safaris and game drives are all on the agenda. This is a stunning spot to simply relax and admire the colours changing over Lake Kariba. One of the highlights of any visit to Matusadona is learning about rhino conservation here and the background and success of the Intensive Rhino Protection Zone.  Other well-established options in the Lake Kariba/Matusadona area include Changa Safari Camp and Rhino Safari Camp.

Hwange

Verneys MachabaSafaris-verneys-camp-gallery-13Verney’s Camp is a new opening in Hwange and sits in a private concession within the south-eastern zone of the national park – a low traffic area. This classic tented camp, part of Machaba Safaris is an exciting prospect and offers eight tented rooms plus a further two family rooms. All tented rooms look out to the waterhole in front of the camp. Verney’s further strengthens the excellent camp offering in Hwange which can be reached very easily by road from Victoria Falls – the main gate is around a 2 1/2 hour drive away. There is also an airstrip for fly-in safari access,  but road transfers, especially if travelling in a group or as a family, give flexibility and allow you to have more freedom with your baggage! Fly in safaris impose very strict baggage guidelines!  Road transfers also help to keep the cost down while  allowing you to see more of the country. The Hide Hwange remains a favourite option with the waterhole very close to camp  along with Camp Hwange and Davison’s. African Bush Camps offer three high quality options with Somalisa, family friendly Somalisa Acacia and Somalisa Expedition. Some camps offer the chance to get a behind-the-scenes conservation experience with visits to the Painted Dog Conservation Centre or by joining a Hwange Pump Run. Find out more about Hwange here.

Victoria Falls

ZimZam slider shutterstock_129335261There are dozens of places to stay in Victoria Falls – you can stay in an economical  guesthouse in town,  a colonial grand hotel with lawns rolling virtually down to the Falls, a safari lodge or a river lodge. Victoria Falls is a great place to arrive and relax following an international flight. It’s a good destination for families with many exciting activities on offer, for example the Flying Fox or canopy tours. Victoria Falls combines brilliantly with a safari to Hwange since you can transfer easily and affordably by road, or with Chobe in Botswana. In the last year several new properties have opened around Victoria Falls.  At the top end is spectacular Mpala Jena from Great Plains.  Old Drift Lodge is also new, around 7km upstream of Victoria Falls on the banks of the Zambezi. The lodge is owned by Wild Horizons who also offer The Elephant Camp at Victoria Falls. The tented lodge opened in May 2018 so has had a season to settle in. There are 10 suites here plus an additional four family suites. As well as being able to enjoy river cruises and game drives on the banks of the Zambezi, guests are close enough to visit the Falls themselves and enjoy some of the many activities. Masuwe Lodge is in a similar location and has re-opened after extensive refurbishment. You can also stay on the Zambian side of the Falls – known for its beautiful river lodges – great places to kick back pre or post safari and to get out on the water, but you’ll have to wait to read the blog on Zambia…

Next week: why a holiday to Tanzania should be on your wish-list.

 

VIDEO: The Flight of Angels, Victoria Falls

Victoria Falls is one of the seven Natural Wonders of the World and a UNESCO World Heritage site. The massive Zambezi River falls over 108  metres (360 ft), with over 1,050 cubic metres of water per second racing over its lip when its in full flood. When visiting, from either the Zimbabwean or Zambian sites, its often hard to get a grasp on the scale of it. Vast clouds of spray rise up, soaking you in seconds and hiding areas of the Falls in mist.

With a total width of 1,706 metres (5,604 Ft) spread out in a large arc, its also impossible to get a vantage point from where it’s all visible. After the Falls, the river runs off in a deep cut canyon, racing away through a series of fast-moving rapids. From the ground you can only look from certain vantage points, like the iron bridge that links the two countries, completed in 1905, but get no idea of its course, how it twists and turns as it runs away.

A great way to see the Falls is on the Flight of Angels, a 10 minute helicopter. It gives a perspective of the vastness of the African landscape, the size of the Zambezi as it heads to the Falls, the amount of spray produced and a birds-eye perspective of the Zambezi gorges as they channel the water away.

Many of our clients who visit the Falls do the flight and love it. As well as great views its also exhilarating. This video was taken by Lily, one of our Senior African Consultants. We’ve left it unedited, running from lift-off to landing. You will see in the video that the helicopter circles the Falls twice, ensuring that whichever side of the helicopter you are on, you get a great view of the Falls in one direction, and views of the river, gorge, and Victoria Falls town on the other.

How many UNESCO World Heritage Sites are there in Africa?

UNESCO (The United Nation’s Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) runs a programme to protect and maintain places that are extremely important either for conservation of the environment or culturally important sites. These places are given UNESCO World Heritage Site status in order to protect them under international law and to be able to raise funds to help secure their protection for the future. There are currently 981 sites worldwide of which 759 are cultural and 193 are natural and 29 are both.

So how many are there in Africa? Well, there are an amazing 94 UNESCO World Heritage Sites and they range from all kinds of natural environment to incredible ancient cultural sites. Unsurprisingly really considering Africa is the birthplace of mankind and also home to some of the most diverse landscapes and wildlife on the planet.

In Southern Africa there are some incredible sites all worth visiting. In Zimbabwe you have Mana Pools National Park, the Great Zimbabwe Monument and of course shared with Zambia the world famous Mosi-oa-Tunya otherwise known as Victoria Falls. In South Africa you can visit various Humanid Fossil Sites or the stunning beautiful Drakensburg region. In Namibia there is the Namib Sand Sea with its enormous sand dunes and Twyfelfontein. In neighbouring Botswana its Tsodilo makes the list and in Malawi it’s the Lake Malawi National Park and the ancient rock art of Chongoni.

In Eastern Africa there are so many UNESCO World Heritage Sites you would have to return many times over to see them all. In Ethiopia there are the famous cultural sites of Lalibela, Aksum, the Omo Valley and Fasil Ghebbi in Gondar but did you know that the stunning Simien Mountains were also a world heritage site under UNESCO’s protection? Other cultural sites include Stone Town on Zanzibar, Fort Jesus in Mombasa, Lamu’s Old Town in Kenya and the rock art sites of Kondoa in Tanzania.

Of course East Africa is famous for its stunning scenery and much of this has world heritage status including the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Serengeti National Park, Selous Game Reserve and Kilimanjaro National Park – and that’s just Tanzania. In Kenya the Great Lake region of the Rift Valley, Lake Turkana National Park and Mount Kenya National Park are all protected with this status. Over in neighbouring Uganda the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park and the Rwenzori National Park are both world heritage sites as is the Virunga National Park in Rwanda. And last but not least one of our favourite destinations in Mozambique, the island of Mozambique itself has world heritage status.

In fact Africa has so many important sites that another umbrella group was set up to run the programme. The African World Heritage Fund (AWHF) is the first regional funding initiative within the framework of the UNESCO World Heritage Convention. Created in 2006 through a joint initiative by the Government of South Africa, the African Union and UNESCO, the African World Heritage Fund is an intergovernmental organization based in South Africa whose mission is to assist African countries in: increasing the number of African sites on the UNESCO World Heritage List, conserving and managing natural and cultural heritage, rehabilitating sites on the list of World Heritage in Danger, training heritage experts and site managers, and ensuring the participation of local communities in decisions concerning their heritage and to ensure that they receive tangible benefits from World Heritage. On Friday 31 January 2014, UNESCO joined forces with the African Union Commission to raise awareness and funds for the African World Heritage Fund (AWHF) during the African Union (AU) Heads of State luncheon at the AU Headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Participants pledged a total of three million US dollars in support of the AWHF Endowment Fund.

It is good to know that these amazing beautiful and historic places are being actively protected and that future generations will be able to enjoy them and learn from them as we have. The only problem I have is trying to decide which one to visit next……….

Posted by Ruth

Adrenaline junkies rush to do “the fall” at Victoria Falls

Victoria Falls has long been renowned for the adrenalin-fuelled activities on offer. You can leap from the bridge on one of the highest bungee jumps in the world. You can raft the white-water rapids, abseil and zip line through the sheer sided Bakota Gorge or jet boat the Zambezi. Now, however, a new craze is taking over, named simply “the fall”.

Pioneered on the Kawarau and Shotover rivers in New Zealand, it’s been brought to Zimbabwe by rafting specialists Wild White Water. “The idea came when I was on a roller-coaster ride at a park near Auckland,” WWW director Brad Haines explained. “I wondered whether I could combine the gut-wrenching excitement of the ride with the thrill of white water. It’s taken over three years to perfect, but it was worth the wait!”

So what is “the fall”? “It involved a high-tech piece of equipment called “the coffin”.“It’s a waterproof capsule, weighted at the bottom to float upright and with its own internal oxygen supply. The top is a high-impact Perspex dome. Inside it’s fitted with memory foam to fit itself exactly to the occupant’s body shape. We put you in and push you off.”

The ride starts just below the Falls when you are dropped into the water from a platform. The capsule is swept downstream, running three rapids before being recovered in a large river eddy where the current drops. The capsule is fitted with GPS so it can be tracked at all times in case it becomes snagged underwater or misses the recovery point.

“Its an awesome experience. You are underwater for about half the time, tossed and tumbled around and being so low in the water really gives you a feel for the speed and power of the water that surrounds you.”

The cost? Not cheap at US$395 per ride but a unique experience. And do they have any plans to ride the coffin over the Falls themselves?

“We’ve done the Christchurch Falls, but they are much smaller. There’s no reason not too, we just need the right conditions of enough water to give the depth but not too much to make it too turbulent. Watch this space, I’ll be the first to go.”

The Victoria Falls Bridge and the Zambezi Gorge

When’s the best time to see Victoria Falls and what is a Lunar Rainbow?

May to July is the best time to see Victoria Falls and the natural phenomenon, the Lunar Rainbow.

As far as natural spectacles go, you’d be hard pressed to beat seeing Victoria Falls in full flood.  One of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, and the largest waterfall in the world based on height and width, Victoria Falls is situated on the Zambezi River at the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe. May to July are considered to be the optimum months to see the Falls and to get a glimpse of the magical Lunar Rainbow.

Lunar Rainbow

A lunar rainbow or moonbow occurs when light from the full moon is refracted through the spray of the Falls. During full flood the spray can rise as much as 450 metres into the air. However it is not simply a case of viewing the Falls during full flood. To maximise your chances of glimpsing a moonbow you need to be even more precise. The optimum time is during early evening, just after moon rise, on either the night before, the night of, or the night after a full moon.
The Victoria Falls Rainforest opens specially on these nights to allow visitors to walk the pathways hugging the Falls and to view the lunar rainbow. It’s a magical experience.
Full moon dates in the coming months are as follows:

April 14-16

May 13-15

June 12-14

July 11-13

Best months to visit the Falls? That’s a tricky one. It depends on what you want to do. 

Victoria Falls is a year round destination. The main rainy season in this area stretches from November to March. Increased water means more spray which in turn means more rainbows and the chance to see a moonbow surely? That’s all true but be aware that in February and March when the volume of water and subsequent spray reaches a peak it creates a widespread mist sometimes to the extent that the base of the Falls disappears from view.  So although it is impressive to see the Falls in full flood, and the Falls do roar loudly at this time, adding to the overall drama, the downside is that photography can be challenging and walking the pathways can be a very wet affair! You have been warned!

This is why May to July are widely considered to be the best months to see the Falls. During these months, water levels though still exceptionally high, do not create quite so much mist as to obscure the view.

In the dry season months between August and November the water flow reduces as you would expect and you can see more of the dramatic rock face. More pathways and trails can be accessed. Game viewing is also excellent along the Zambezi and surrounding areas at this time as the grass is short and wildlife collects at watering holes and along the river.

Where to stay

There are some really incredible lodges around the Falls, benefiting from spectacular locations along the Zambezi River,  both on the Zambian side (Livingstone) and Zimbabwean side (Victoria Falls). We recommend a minimum stay of three nights to fully enjoy all that the area has to offer.

Some properties are within walking distance of the pathways surrounding the Falls, like the historic Victoria Falls Hotel or Ilala Lodge while others offer a regular shuttle bus service to the Falls, like the beautiful Victoria Falls Safari Lodge, in a commanding west-facing position on a plateau just four kilometres away. You’ll also find wonderful romantic hideaways like Tongabezi Lodge, upstream from the Falls, or Waterberry Lodge, great for families, with its beautiful cottages and a private safari house along the river.
An 11 night itinerary in Zimbabwe combining safari in Hwange National Park with time at Victoria Falls costs from £2,885 per person including international flights, taxes and transfers. To see a full sample itinerary click here.

Why not combine a safari in Kenya or South Africa with a stay at Victoria Falls? For further inspiration please see our website.

By Sara White