Wild Horizons is a multi-faceted tour company that provides a large array of activities, operates out of multiple locations, has a huge fleet of vehicles, 2 luxury bush camps, employs over 400 people and operates at full tilt, 24/7. So you can imagine, that as a new employee arriving on day one of the job, the introduction is both hugely exciting and somewhat overwhelming. For my first blog post, I thought I would recount what my first couple of weeks in the Wild Horizons marketing department has been like!
One of the things that struck me first and foremost was the friendliness of absolutely everyone. From the gate-guards to the mechanics, to the camp managers and the directors – I was instantly made to feel welcome. I started off with a tour of the main HQ in the industrial sites of Victoria Falls, the size of which blew me away. Four large wings of offices surrounding a big courtyard with lush green buffalo lawn and teeming flower beds around the sides. A large workshop at the back and ample room to park the large fleet of vehicles and luxury transfer busses. My tour of the HQ was accompanied by mass introductions to all the staff in every department – around 100 people in total would be my guess. I admitted to myself that it would be pointless to stress too much about everyone’s names as I would never remember them first time round. No doubt I would pick them up one by one as I deal with each department in due course.
One of my first tasks is to join the marketing team in coming up with a marketing campaign for one of Wild Horizons’ many products – the Vic Falls CanopyTour – the newest of 4 products which Wild Horizons offers from its jump site – “The Lookout”.
The Lookout (#wildhorizonslookout) is a thatched deck structure, which is perched right on the lip of the Batoka Gorge, just downstream of the Vic Falls Bridge on the Zimbabwean side. It has a spectacular view of the bridge and sits overlooking the first ‘bend’ in the zig-zagging gorge which occurs below the Victoria Falls. There is even a tame wild goat called Dixon who hangs out there like all the time!
The other 3 products which operate from The Lookout are the ‘Flying Fox’ – a foofie slide which extends across the width of the entire gorge; the ‘Gorge Swing’, which is a death-defying free-fall off a platform into the gorge attached to a rope, which then ‘swings’ you as you reach the bottom; and the ‘zip-line’ – which is a dual-cabled foofie slide that makes a rather steep downward parabola, but without quite putting you into freefall. Finally, the Vic Falls Canopy Tour is a series of 9 shorter, low-speed cable-slides that crisscross the inside of the first bend of the gorge (below the Victoria Falls Hotel) where the vegetation is thick and very jungle like – with vines and steep drops galore. It offers a very mild adrenaline rush and is the perfect ‘in-between’ activity for those who can’t quite bring themselves to do the more intense adrenalin activities such as the gorge swing, whitewater rafting or the bungee jump.
So off I go with a group of paying clients on the Vic Falls Canopy Tour. We harness up and set off on a path down the side of the gorge, and it’s not far before we get to slide no.1. The guide hooks our safety lines up to a safety rope that runs along the entirety of the course – all the walkways, bridges and even on the actual foofie slides where is a second steel safety cable which we are attached to whilst sliding. My first impression is that the safety is being taken very seriously.
We step up onto a box/platform that overlooks a cliff and the guide hooks our main & safety lines to the respective cables, and upon hearing a whistle through the trees from another guide indicating that he is ready to receive us – we step off the platform and start whizzing down the slide. Now we have been given thick leather gloves for our hands, and we have been instructed to hold our harness line which connects us to the cable with our left hand, and then loosely hold the cable with our other hand, BEHIND the pulley. This allows for us to squeeze the cable with our hand to slow ourselves down when we start reaching the end of the slide. It took a few go’s to get the timing right, but before long I was timing my hand-braking perfectly and was landing gracefully on the box as is required for the guide to dismount you from the pulley and hook you back up to the ground safety line.
This carried on for 8 more slides of varying lengths and speeds, and I looked forward to each slide more than the last – the views were just spectacular and the ambience of being in the Batoka Gorge canopy, with the view of the bridge right in front of you, and the Zambezi roaring beneath you – was just incredible. A really great product indeed, and it even had really nice boarded walkways and rope bridges for the more difficult parts. So far, I’m thinking I love my job!