Gushing over the falls
From a distance, the torrential echo of falling water sounded lyrical – like it was following a pre-destined pattern. With every inch forward, the volume kept increasing, making me hasten my steps to see what the noise was all about. Located between Zambia and Zimbabwe, this is the latest addition to the seven natural wonders of the world and a world heritage site; must be marvelous, must be spectacular, I thought, but nothing prepared me for the sheer spectacle of the Victoria Falls. To call it gigantic would be an understatement because its volume is magnificent. Its beauty pulls you in, mesmerises you and haunts you long after the trip is over. So drawn was I to its magic, that I missed a step and fell on the ground, hurting my knee really badly.
This greatest mass of cascading water on earth plunges down into a chasm far below on a sheer rock face, splashing its mystical mist hundreds of metres in the air. Moving in towards the Falls, I walked on a bridge through the thick mist. It felt like someplace else. Like I’ve just perished in space and am passing through the gates of paradise. There was deafening silence caused by the thundering and I couldn’t see a thing. Through the thinner patches of the enveloping fog, I could see the massive Falls but not clearly. Large droplets of water kept spraying on me making it impossible to keep my eyes open. I shut them and lived the moment.
A little ahead, a 12-day-old baby hippo was trying to cross the stream. The splendour of Nature is that even at that tender age, the baby hippo understood that if it got caught in the force of the water, it would lose its life. Frightened and tired, it kept taking cautious steps forward. The local guide said he wasn’t sure if it would ever end up crossing and it could take days. At a distance, a family of monkeys was picnicking on tourist-fed meals, while a pack of vultures sat on a bare tree giving it a spooky look. In the pond, red-beaked storks were playing and nearby, a zebra was fed its young one. Not too far, a herd of elephants was crossing the street. A lone giraffe feasted on the tender leaves of a tree that looked tiny in comparison. Two impalas were head-butting while a third looked on. A few pretty-coloured birds including a hornbill were scattered in the area. Was this a dream or was it all really just another day at the Mosi-Oa-Tunya National Wildlife Park in Zambia? A land of such potent beauty that it is just waiting to be explored.
As I walked out of the mist towards a viewing point, I witnessed a rare phenomenon. The light reflected off the surface of the moon had fallen on the water creating a prism, forming a riot of colours. It was relatively faint, but extremely romantic. It’s called a moonbow or a lunar rainbow and they say it’s special because you can only see it on a full moon’s eve. When I walked back to The Royal Livingstone Hotel, I heard a familiar African tune. A young boy was playing the marimba. As he saw me approaching, he switched to playing Shakira’s Waka Waka. Nice I thought, but I preferred the first one.
Cushioned in the National Wildlife Park, on the lush riverine forested banks of the great Zambezi River, here, you become a part of the animal kingdom. As we dined on exotic game meat under the Monkey tree, a family of zebras was grazing close by. “We call them donkeys in pyjamas,” said our maître d’.
The ancient river has so many stories to tell – especially those of the many fearless explorers who came here at different times. One such was the Irish missionary, traveller and philanthropist, Dr David Livingstone who spent 30 years of his life here to evangelise the native races and abolish the slave trade. The town of Livingstone is named after him. You’ll encounter him in copper statues dotted all over the settlement.
The resort wears a classic Victorian mantle with colonial African influences. The cool lounges and shaded verandahs are a cordial retreat from the strong African sun and offer an uninterrupted view of the Zambezi River – perfect to just curl up with a book from the library and watch the sun go down through the spray of the Falls. The lounge is filled with original artwork depicting scenes of David Livingstone’s great African adventures and adds a nostalgic touch of grace and luxury of an earlier more courteous era.
Inside the suites in one of the colonial-style buildings, the Victorian theme blended, with African architectural style, extends to the décor in the form of pastel shades on the wall and soft earth tones of the bushveld for the furnishings, reminiscent of the elegance of days gone by. Natural light invades the luxurious-sized bathrooms through a milk-glass window. Enjoy a flute of champagne and hors d’oeuvre in your private verandah or patio, if the monkeys let you that is, looking over the spreading views of the river and Acacia forest. Each room comes with a butler on call for whatever you might need.
If you have the appetite for adventure, the Zambezi is Africa’s playground. The resort’s Activity Centre run by Bushtracks Africa personally recommends a variety of excursions and safaris to suit your whims and fancies as the innate heritage of the land offers guests gut-defying experiences. Go on a game drive to spot Africa’s Big Five on a cruise up the river or in a private Land Rover, take in the scenery from the elevated perspective of an Elephant’s back or test your nerves against the mighty rapids of the Batoka Gorge in a white water raft or a jet boat. Glide on a Segway scooter or opt for multi-terrain Quad biking. If you enjoy airborne escapades, you must try the helicopter flips or microlight flights. The view from above is something else. But if you are craving for more, then you must know this that the Vic Falls look stunning upside down – go for bungee jumping on the Victoria Fall Bridge, let go of your inhibitions and jump off to feel the adrenaline rush to your head as you get pulled by gravity and then against it.
On a quiet evening, spend time in one of the sophisticated bars on the cruise. A lesson in drumming or the marimba is possible as well. Enjoy the peace and tranquility of the mighty Zambezi River while having a luxurious outdoor body massage and binge on food inspired by the mixed influences of Africa. Try the cold mezze or the warm Kemia such as minced herbed kofta in capsicum and tomato sauce or chilli and polenta fritters, or a terrine of marinated wild boar with cumberland sauce if you are more daring.
Take a historic walk to the town and shop at the local market for some interesting souvenirs, postcards and clothing, some of which are really deserving of the Zambian Kwatcha. In the afternoon, step out to the lounge for some classic high tea with an extensive spread from pies to pastries, bite into macaroons, as you listen to the smoke that thunders and let the African air soothe the mind and the soul.