Dusty Road Victoria Falls

I started this blog with the words, “The first thing I noticed about Dusty Road..” and then my fingers froze over my keyboard. Because when I stepped through the rusty gate in the Chinotimba township, I was overwhelmed by an eclectic tidal way of colour and craft. There was no one thing to notice- in every corner an eccentrically beautiful feature jostles for your attention.

Spinach bursts from the ground, stretching its green arms towards the sky as though it is trying to escape from its sandy roots. Flowers pour down the wall from tin cans, looking and smelling like a field you want to get lost in. An old pick up truck, painted vivid blue, stands proudly against the wall. The metal goats and chickens on the roof seem to be patiently waiting for the robot lights to turn green. If you look away for a second, it seems as though another quirky creation organically springs from the earth so that no matter how many times you walk through, there is always something new to catch your attention.

Autentic Zimbabwean Restaurant

Every step down ‘Dusty Road’ feels like a walk down memory lane. A small market stall is tucked beneath a sheet of tarpaulin, and a table laden with hessian sacks spill their contents like jewels from a treasure chest. Oprah, a small lady with a big smile, warmly takes your hands in her as she explains how they source and use the traditional nuts and beans. We sat down at our table, and a platter of starters was brought over.

Indlubu and Indumba bean hummus on toasted Chimhodo bread is Zimbabwe’s superior equivalent to avo toast. The creamy texture of the beans put chickpeas to shame, and I couldn’t believe that it was my first introduction to the dip. It almost makes you want to march into the kitchen and start asking questions, but fortunately, there is a large assortment of spreads and nuts to distract you from any interrogations.

I have to devote some of this review to Dusty Roads glassware because anything that makes me pause with a glass of wine halfway to my lips is worth writing about. Protea wine and Roses Lime Cordial bottles have been repurposed, and cleverly cut into glasses. Dusty Road is a haven for anything and everything that can be redefined and more often than not, it is more beautiful this way that in its original form.

As someone who won’t do anything to an egg other than scrambling it for fear of what may happen, I found talking to Sarah Lilford, owner and chef, utterly enthralling. She crumbles a mongongo nut infused biscuit between her hands and explains how they have to experiment to get the textures and flavour balance right continually. She and her team are pioneers, artfully and passionately redefining the way ingredients are used. Their fusion of flavours celebrate local produce, but their ingenious techniques bring a modern twist to every bite.

The main course is served buffet style. Long before the bell dongs to let you know the food is ready, a deliciously rich and nutty aroma wafts over, embracing you in its warm arms and tugging you towards the grill. Sarah’s sous-chefs confidently pile your plate up, telling you that you will love it because they know without a doubt it is true. And it is. Flames slick up through the grate, licking the pots of peanut butter rice, flame-grilled chicken, kudu stew and crocodile kebabs. Enormous wooden bowls overflow with different salads, from samp coleslaw to minty greens. Lights hang like golden orbs from the tree branches, bathing the tables in a gentle glow and an aura of enchantment settles over diners.

To make some room for dessert, we took a stroll through the garden, before ducking into the curio shop. It was like we had stepped into an incubator for local artistic talent, with everything from chitenge earrings to homemade peanut butter. Dessert was a delicate assortment of chocolate, orange and mongongo nutballs, followed by baobab amasi cream with masawu and a mnyi berry drizzle.
With an endless jar of biscuits, pots of tanganda tea, and quirky things to discover while you unbutton your jeans, it is hard to find a reason to leave.

Zimbabweans will flock here because it feels like home. Tourists will come because Dusty Road epitomises what travelling is all about – experiencing a different culture through great food, people, traditions and décor. I also feel compelled to mention that I spent a lot of the evening fighting the urge to steal the glasses and plates. So book a table at Dusty Road now, before more people find out about this hidden gem and it the waiting list reads like a phone book. And also, don’t steal the plates.

Autentic Zimbabwean Restaurant in Victoria Falls

Wild Horizons Lookout Cafe – Update

Wild Horizons Lookout Cafe – Update (24 April 2019)

When flames engulfed and devastated the Wild Horizons Lookout Café, it was a searing loss for the town of Victoria Falls. While we have been working tirelessly on the reconstruction of this iconic restaurant, due to circumstances beyond our control, the process has encountered numerous hindrances along the way. For this reason, we have regretfully had to postpone the opening date to 1 December 2019.

 

Herewith please find a brief description of the new café as well as important quick facts:-
Perched on the rim of the Batoka Gorge, Wild Horizons Lookout Café is a fusion of spectacular views and exquisite food. The African Contemporary styled restaurant is designed to emphasise its unique panoramic view of the Victoria Falls Bridge and Batoka Gorges, which form part of the spectacular backdrop. Recycled and eco friendly material has been used throughout the rebuild of The Lookout ensuring it is infused with the Wild Horizons conservation ethos. With a mouthwatering menu, a lively selection of cocktails, and the best view in Victoria Falls, the dining experience promises to be a sensory overload.

AMBIENCE: Casual, Child-Friendly, Classic, Meal with a View
CUISINE: African / Local, Contemporary, International
FACILITIES: We only accept Visa and Mastercard, Bar, Licensed, Parking, Vegetarian, Wheelchair Access
WIFI: Free
SEATING: Outside terrace x 60; Indoor x 140; Lower deck (cocktail and canapé area) x 60
OPENING HOURS: Open daily from 08h00 to 22h00 (freshly baked muffins available daily from 08h00).
BREAKFAST: No breakfast during the week unless prebooked.
Saturday & Sunday 08h00 – 10h00
LUNCH: 10h00 to 16h00
SNACK MENU: 16h00 – 18h30
DINNER: 18h30 – 22h00 (last food orders at 21h00)

Aerial view of the rebuilt Lookout Cafe

A Day Trip to Chobe

A Day Trip to Chobe

Chobe National Park is renowned for its large herds of elephant that frequent the Chobe River on a daily basis. In the dry season an estimated 85,000 elephants make Chobe National Park their home, mainly in close proximity to the river. However, Chobe is also home to a plethora of other African wildlife. Game drives offer regular sightings of lion, leopard, buffalo and a whole host of antelope including sable, puku, kudu, eland and roan.

The river offers up its own incredible sightings of huge pods of hippo grazing on the swampy islands interspersed with some of the largest crocodiles in Africa basking  river offers up its own incredible sightings of huge pods of hippo grazing on the swampy islands interspersed with some of the largest crocodiles in Africathemselves on the extensive flood plain and open sand banks. Chobe National Park is also an ornithologist’s paradise – the banks of the river are lined with the nests and holes of some of the most colourful and spectacular birds in Africa and a myriad of birds of prey call Chobe their home.

This tour departs daily to the Chobe National Park in Botswana. Clients will be transferred by bus to the Kazungula border post. They will be assisted through customs formalities by the Wild Horizons driver before being handed over to their Botswana guide. Once they have been assisted through the Botswana border formalities, Chobe Marina Lodge is the next stop for a quick bathroom break and signing of indemnity forms. Guests will proceed straight to the morning cruise where they will spend the morning game viewing along the Chobe River. All the boats offer protection from the sun. The cruise will end at around 12h30 and clients will go back to the lodge for an extensive buffet lunch. The lodge is situated on the river banks overlooking the Chobe River and the Namibian shoreline. After lunch, guests will board safari vehicles for an afternoon game drive into Chobe National Park. After the drive guests will be taken back to the Kazungula Border where they will be met by their Zimbabwean guide for their return transfer to Victoria Falls.

When considering attractions in Victoria Falls, keep in mind the magnificent Chobe National Park is very easily accessible and makes for a fabulous fun filled day!

Important details:

Times:
• 07:00 to 07:30 – Guests will be picked up from their hotel, in a closed bus, and proceed on a 70km journey on a tar road through Zambezi National park and designated safari areas to the Kazungula border.
• 08:30 – Arrival at the Kazungula Border, where guests will exit Zimbabwe/Zambia and enter Botswana. At the border guests will change vehicles and are met by their Botswana guide.
• 08:45 – Once guests have gone through Botswana immigration, they will take a short drive to Chobe Marina Lodge.
• 09:00 to 09:15 – Arrival at the lodge, where guests will have a short bathroom break, and will also be required to fill out the Park Entry form.
• 09:30 – Depart on guests’ first activity; EITHER game drive or boat cruise. If guests would like to go on a specific activity first, then they should please specify. Soft drinks, local beer and bottled water are provided on all safaris and river cruises.
• 12:30 – Return to the hotel for lunch. This will be served a buffet style lunch, with a selection of traditional and modern day meals to choose from.
• 13:30 – Depart for guests’ second activity. This will be either a game drive or a boat cruise, depending on what activity the guests did in the morning.
• 16:00 – Return from the Park and head back to the Kazungula Border to proceed with border formalities.
• 16:30 – Guests will meet their Wild Horizons bus and are transported back to their hotel.
• 17:30 – Arrive at guests’ hotel.

Duration: 11 hours

Departures: between 07h10 and 07h30

Minimum: 1

Maximum: 9 per vehicle

Age Restrictions: Children 2-11 years are half price, over 12 pay full price.

IMPORTANT NOTE:
Botswana requires an unabridged birth certificate for all minors travelling to Botswana (this has been in effect since October 2016).

The following documents are required when travelling to Botswana with minors (18 years and below):

  1. Valid Passport
  2. Valid VISA, if required
  3. Unabridged Birth Certificate (Birth Certificate containing the particulars of a minor and those of the parents)
  4. A letter of consent from the other parent should the minor be travelling with one parent

*Please note that a normal birth certificate will not be accepted.

Minimum age: We accept children younger than 2 years but on a private trip basis.

Maximum age: N.A

Language: English (French, German, Italian & Spanish available on private tours, at supplement cost – subject to availability)

Transfers: Included from hotels in Victoria Falls Town

Please note: the order of the activities are subject to change without prior notice.

 

Guests on a morning cruise game viewing along the Chobe River. All the boats offer protection from the sun.

For Fun, Just Add Water

For Fun, Just Add Water (Low water vs High water rafting)

Richard Bangs once wrote that wild rivers are the earth’s renegades, defying gravity and dancing to their own tunes. Your first glimpse at the raging rapids that roll and churn down the Zambezi awaken the adventurer inside you, taunting you and seducing you. They beckon with their tremulous arms, teasing with their spurts of white water and daring you with their coiling waves.

The Zambezi is a moving, breathing part of the earth. It is the vein through which life flows and thrusts. Every stroke of your paddle takes you further than a vehicle on the road ever could. They say the first river you raft runs through the rest of your life. It bubbles up in you, the memories swirling like eddies in the pit of your stomach each time you remember it. The Zambezi morphs in shape and stature when the water levels drop or rise, yet each experience is exhilarating in its own way because life is simple- For fun, just add water.

When water levels drop, thrill levels soar. Between August and December, the river seems to be racing itself, plunging furiously between the lips of the gorge, cascading dramatically around very boulder and corner. It toys with the rafts with such precision, that every flip seems pre-meditated. During this time, expeditions begin at rapid number 1, the “Boiling Pot”. You take off from the white water rafting factory- the base of the Victoria Falls. The roar of the river diving down 100 meters of black basalt rock creates an ambience of adventure, purring at your inner adrenaline junkie. If you are after a heart racing, eye widening, and mind blowing rafting trip, then low water is what you need, and you have between August and December to get it.

During the high water seasons (January, February, March, May, June, July), gallons of water crash down the Victoria Falls, streaming into the thirsty gorge, and flooding the rocks and outcrops that form the rapids. When you dip your fingertips in to rippling water, you touch the last of what has gone before, and the first of what is still to come. At these times of the year, the river is more subdued, relaxing after a thunderous low water race. However, the sheer volume of water makes the first ten rapids unrunnable, and thus rafters will only tackle rapid 11 (The Over lander Eater) through to number 23 (The Morning Shave). As the water levels continue to creep higher and higher around March, rafters respectfully leave the Zambezi to her own devices, until they drop again around June.

Taking a tumble down the Zambezi

The Zambezi was designed by the dare devil in Mother Nature, and there is no theme park in the world that could ever compete. Contrary to popular belief, the river is not one long, frothing rapid. The “Devils Toilet Bowl”, “The Stairway to Heaven” and “Mothers Revenge” (just to name a few) spring before you in short, dramatic bursts.

The stretch of water between them is gentle and smooth- the calm before the storm. They are just long enough to allow you to drink in the incredible scenery and let the sun soak up the water on your skin. The soft slosh of water against the rafts is accompanied by exhilarated shouts and laughs that bounce off the walls of the gorge, as euphoric rafters share their stories and psych up for the next roller coaster. Cruising down this channel of water feels like cruising through a postcard. The most experienced photo editor in the world couldn’t enhance the beauty of the looming gorge stretching to meet the brilliant blue sky. Paddling through an exquisite crevice in the earth, flanked by indigenous flora and passing by inquisitive fauna, is humbling and breath taking in the same moment.
The Zambezi Low Water Rafting Season is finally here! LOW WATER rafting commenced 3 August 2017. Take on the Zambezi with Wild Horizons and the finest crew on the river – Africa’s Greatest Adventures!

A Game Drive at The Victoria Falls Private Game Reserve

The muggy afternoon heat was beginning to dissipate as Mike, our incredibly knowledgeable and charming guide, arrived to collect us from The Stanley and Livingstone. Almost immediately we saw a herd of zebra. This fairly common sighting suddenly became an interesting study in how zebra stripes act as a private air conditioning system, allowing them to stay blissfully cool in the heat of a Zimbabwean afternoon. Equally fascinating, although less romantic, we learnt that within the first few days of being born, baby zebras eat their mother’s dung. This provides them with roughage and ample bacteria to fight off infection during their vulnerable first days.

S&L game drive DSuddenly we were startled by a warthog whose impressive size and demeanor was somewhat diminished by the very obvious lack of his tail. Mike explained to us that it is common to see warthogs with no tails on the 6000-acre reserve, as there is fierce competition between warthogs and hyenas for the limited number of burrows. About 70% of the warthogs have lost their tails from reversing into a burrow and finding it occupied by sharp fanged rivals!

Alerted by the smell, we were thrilled to see a pile of rhino faeces on the road. Mike explained to us how rhino have a unique system of detecting the presence of other rhino in the area. Male rhino ensure that after defecating they leave traces of urine and faeces on their back legs. These ‘calling cards’  drop off as he walks, clearly demarcating his area for other would-be trespassers! Female rhino dung can indicate an increase in oestrogen for potential suitors in the area.

Much like we humans will sniff a glass of wine trying to discern different scents and notes, so a rhino employs a similar, albeit rudimentary method to glean information. So the next time you raise a glass of wine to your nose and inhale deeply, think of the rhinos, one of which could be doing exactly the same thing at the same time. Cheers to you both!

Our glorious afternoon was complete when suddenly we came across not one, but five Black Rhino! Unperturbed by our presence and obvious excitement, these magnificent creatures strolled leisurely up to our vehicle, sniffing (of course) the air inquisitively and coolly regarding their star struck visitors. We realized how supremely privileged we were to see these 5 rhino (the herd comprises 7 in total) when Mike pointed out that the total black rhino population in the world stands now at a mere 1500. Depressing news indeed! For this reason the rhino on the reserve are regularly de-horned to deter poachers.

After the privilege of watching these incredible creatures, we made our way to the dam. Progress was delayed firstly by a herd of elephants waiting patiently for the babies to stop gambolling on the road and then by an enormous herd of buffalo whose progress indicated that they too were feeling the lethargy and peacefulness of the early evening. After a  glorious sunset, accompanied by perfectly made gin and tonics, delicious nibbles and a myriad of bird activity, we reluctantly left this stunning display of nature to make our way home, all of us enriched by an incredible afternoon in the capable hands of Mike.

Stanley_and_Livingstone_by_Sarah_Kerr-8957

TIPS:

  • Wear neutral coloured clothing, a hat and sunglasses.
  • Take cameras and binoculars- there’s plenty to see!

‘The Elephant Camp furthers efforts & aims for Top Sustainable Tourism Award’

The Elephant Camp has recently been invited,  with other leading hospitality establishments in Victoria Falls, to spearhead a new project in Zimbabwe. This is to be part of Green Tourism, the largest and most established sustainable certification programme in the world, with the aim of achieving one of their respected awards.

Green Tourism Award means that a business works responsibly, ethically and sustainably; contributes to their community; reduces their impact on the environment and aims to be accessible and inclusive to all. Businesses that meet the required standard receive a Bronze, Silver or Gold award.

The Elephant Camp has worked tirelessly since its inception, to reduce the impact of the business on the environment and improve links with the local community and now feels the time is right to join the programme. We currently have the following initiatives in place and look forward to expanding upon these:

  • Solar Heating: All of our water heating systems are either solar or currently in the process of being converted to solar.
  • Worm Farm: All plant waste fromThe Elephant Camp, as well as most elephant dung from our resident herd, is fed into our worm farm, creating valuable compost for use in our organic vegetable garden.
  • Organic Garden: In order to supply as much organic produce to our guests as possible The Elephant Camp produces much of its own herbs, spices and vegetables for use in our kitchens.
  • Indigenous Tree Planting Program: To rehabilitate areas that were once denuded of trees by uncontrolled wood collection, we created an indigenous tree nursery. Trees are grown from seed and are transplanted once established, into areas in need of rehabilitation.
  • Biological Monitoring and Erosion Control: The Elephant Camp employs a qualified Environmental Officer to monitor the biology of the reserve and assists with mitigation. Bi-annual biological surveys are conducted, alien vegetation is eradicated and soil erosion is carefully managed in the reserve and on neighbouring communal areas.
  • Community Relations: We make every effort to employ staff from neighbouring areas, and work closely with the community on projects such as transporting thatch from neighbouring areas annually for roofing of homes in neighbouring areas annually for roofing of homes.
  • Education: The Elephant Camp frequently hosts school children on educational trips, teaching them about and allowing them to experience, the beautiful natural environment and the threats that face it today.

The Elephant Camp will be graded on-site by a qualified team of assessors against a rigorous set of criteria, covering a range of areas such as energy/water efficiency, waste management, biodiversity, social involvement and communication.

Craig White, Operations Director said:

Wild Horizons pride ourselves on being driven by a team that is passionate about our environment, and fully committed to sustainable environmental practices. The inclusion in Green Tourism is an exciting development to our business, as The Elephant Camp strives to be a leader in sustainable tourism practices. Whilst we have come a long way on our own initiatives, the inclusion in such a prestigious body gives us a host of new challenges which we are determined to meet in our quest to reach Gold Standard status.

It is also extremely exciting on a National level, to see that Zimbabwean Tourism has evolved to the stage where international bodies such as Green Tourism are keen to establish a foothold in the country. This inevitably encourages  local companies to strive toward sustainable environmental practices. International travellers are seeking out establishments that practise environmentally sustainable  tourism. This naturally encourages operators to look closely at their businesses from an environmental perspective, or risk being left behind as  tourists become more discerning in their holiday choices.

About The Elephant Camp

The Elephant Camp is a luxurious and intimate lodge under canvas within easy reach of Victoria Falls. Situated on a private concession with breathtaking views of the Victoria Falls’ spray, and the spectacular gorges which separate Zimbabwe from Zambia. We also cater to exclusive groups and families at The Elephant Camp West, which has exclusive suite accommodation for 8 guests in 4 luxury tents.

About Green Tourism

Green Tourism awards recognise places to visit that are taking action to support the local area and the environment in general. Green Tourism is the largest sustainable certification programme of its kind, assessing hundreds of fantastic places to stay and visit worldwide, with Zimbabwe being the latest addition to their portfolio.