The Victoria Falls Anti-Poaching Unit

Victoria Falls comprises of many wild and wonderful things, from the sprawling wilderness to the diverse wildlife population. However, poaching is a harsh reality, and if ignored, would cripple Africa’s eco-system.

While Victoria Falls may be home to a natural wonder, it is also the heritage and legacy for a community of people with indomitable strength. The Victoria Falls Anti Poaching Unit (VFAPU) have boots on the ground and eyes on the future. They are the unsung heroes of every game drive and safari in our National Parks areas, protecting the environment and its inhabitants for generations to come. Wild Horizons has been a proud supporter of VFAPU for 15 years, providing financial and operational aid to further their reach and impact. This meaningful partnership is rooted in a shared sense of purpose and appreciation for the remote wildlife areas that make Victoria Falls such a special, diverse space.

VFAPU comprises 15 high-performing scouts who are trained in the tracking and apprehension of poachers, many of whom pose a lethal threat not just to the animals, but the scouts themselves. It is a job that requires the utmost dedication as the days are long and the challenges daunting. Some patrols take place over several days, venturing deep into the National Park with the team covering up to 15km each day. Small details such as a footprint in the dust or trampled patch of grass can lead the scouts in the right direction. Their senses must remain on high alert for any small piece of evidence that might go unnoticed to the untrained eye.

When one thinks of wildlife poaching, images of poachers with high powered rifles may come to mind. However, this is just one approach. Snares are rudimentary pieces of wire fashioned into a loop, left (and often forgotten about) in areas of high animal traffic. They wrap around the neck or leg of an animal, and the more the animal tries to escape, the tighter the snare becomes. VFAPU have removed 22 500 snares from wildlife areas, saving as many lives in the process. To date, the scouts have rescued nearly 300 mammals who have been injured through poaching activities, all of which received veterinary attention and once recovered, were released back into the wild. A staggering 900 poachers have been apprehended, and the damage prevented through this alone is incomprehensible.

Funding remains one of the biggest challenges that VFAPU faces. Their invaluable work incurs massive costs and donations are vital to ensure the continued success of the organisation. Wild Horizons is a proud supporter of VFAPU, paying the salaries of three scouts each month and sponsoring the fund raising activities hosted by VFAPU.

By simply reading and sharing the work that VFAPU do, the call of the wild travels a little further. However, if you would like to donate to VFAPU, please visit their website at http://vfapu.com/donate/ where you can also discover more about their extensive projects. Financial help is always appreciated, but boots, green shirts, hats, flashlights, sleeping bags, raincoats and medical supplies will also make a difference.

VFAPU started as a team of three dedicated individuals. Now, they have given a global community the power to transform knowledge to action. Because of them, future generations will walk in an elephants footsteps, hear the haunting whoop of a hyena, find shade beneath a tangle of trees and watch a sunset over the pristine Zambezi River. It has been an honour to be part of their journey, and Wild Horizons will continue to be a proud supporter of the Victoria Falls Anti Poaching Unit for decades to come.

Zambezi River Report January 2020

Welcome to our first River Report of the new year, designed to give you regular updates on the Zambezi River levels and how this may impact various activities in Victoria Falls. We are happy to report the water levels are rising steadily and the following seasonal product changes should be noted.

 

Zambezi River Levels

The past few months have been a strife with alarmist reporting alleging that the Victoria Falls is drying up. Year after year, we see a natural fluctuation in the volume of water going over the waterfall; it is a normal and expected phenomenon that exposes a different yet equally beautiful perspective of this geological masterpiece. The only thing that has been unprecedented about the drop in water levels this year is the amount of negative media coverage it has received. As always, we remain at your disposal to dispel any queries or concerns.

 

Aerial view of Victoria Falls in January 2020

 

According to data captured by the Zambezi River Authority on 27 December 2019, 323 000 litres of water was going over the Victoria Falls per second. On the same date last year, this figure was 267 000 litres per second. To put this into perspective, we have drawn on Peter Jones’ example of the water supply to London and adapted it to accommodate the increase in water since his interview.

In a typical year, London uses around 30,092 litres of water per second.

Therefore, on 27 December, the 323, 000 litres of water going over the Victoria Falls could supply 10.7 cities the size of London.

High Water Rafting Season Begins

The high water run started on 10 January 2020 in line with the rising water levels of the Zambezi River. The expeditions will begin 10km downstream of the Falls, starting at the Overland Truck-eater (Rapid 11) through to The End (Rapid 24). This exciting section includes the Mother (Rapid 13) at its brooding best.

 

Hanging over Victoria Falls edge

 

Livingstone Island Update

Devil’s Pool will be closing shortly due to the rising water levels above the Victoria Falls.
However, Livingstone Island tours will remain open until the end of April/May. Angel’s Pool will close at a similar time to the Island.

 

Your Experts On The Ground

Wild Horizons endeavours to be your Victoria Falls experts on the ground and in some cases, from the sky too. Below is a series of aerial images taken on 7 January 2020. The video clip of Devil’s Cataract was taken on the same day. The water levels are on the rise and we look forward to sharing these beautiful views with our agents and guests when they visit Victoria Falls.
Please rest assured that even when the thunderous nature of the waterfall is somewhat tamed during the drier months, the Victoria Falls is a spectacular sight. It is, and always will be, a natural wonder.

If you have any questions or queries, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us.

 

Kind Regards,
The Wild Horizons Team

Victoria Falls throughout the year

From the relentless waves of mist that shoot up from the depths of the gorge, to the rugged rock face that breaks through a gentler flow, the Victoria Falls is magnificent in all her forms. Cloaked in chaotic white water or revealing the basalt that has been moulded by the elements over centuries, the raw power of this natural wonder will consume your imagination and leave you humbled and in awe. This is Victoria Falls throughout the year.

 

January

The height of the rainy season and the Victoria Falls is reaching towards peak flow, with a massive volume of water cascading into the lips of the gorge. You will undoubtedly get drenched and the thick, green vegetation is decorated with bursts of colour as rainforest flowers bloom.

February

The Smoke that Thunders reaches amazing heights during February, joining the clouds that languish above the rainforest. Almost every section of the rainforest is caught in a constant shower of vapour that swells up from the bottom of the gorge.

March

The dramatic rainy season starts to teeter out but the river levels remain high and the Victoria Falls continues to furiously pump the Zambezi into the gorge.

April

It is the end of the rainy season, but catchment areas upstream in the Zambezi continue to nourish the Victoria Falls. The waterfall reaches its highest flow with an average of 500 million liters of water crashing over every minute. The highest ever recorded was 700 million liters in 1958.

May

Autumn settles in, casting golden hues onto the trees. While the leaves slowly fall, Zambezi continues a strong and steady flow despite the advent of the dry season.

 

June

As autumn gives way to a crisp winter, the water levels begin to drop exposing the grass cover, creating great game viewing opportunities.

 

July

In the absence of rain, the Mopane leaves take on their distinct winter hue of burnt orange. The waterfall still boasts an impressive flow of water, and due to the diminished water sources in the bush, game viewing is excellent as wildlife begin to congregate around the river and larger water sources. The bush may be dry but the Victoria Falls still creates rain on these cloudless days.

August

A chill creeps into the night, but the days remain warm. Gradually, the rock face emerges as the water trickles to a gentle ebb on the Eastern Cataract on the Zambian side of the waterfall. However, Main Falls maintains an impressive curtain of falling water, and as the mist dies down, photo opportunities within the rainforest are exceptional. As the seasons shift, more elephant migrate to the islands, which are the feeding ground in the drier months.

 

September

The temperatures start to climb and the days get hotter, but white water rafting is excellent this time of year due to the low water levels, so you can escape the heat and spend the day racing through the gorge on a white water adventure.

 

October

This is the hottest month of the year as we build up to the rainy season. Occasionally, the sky cracks open with in a torrential African thunderstorm bringing some relief to the landscape in a short, dramatic burst. The Eastern Cataract is usually dry this time of year, but the view of the Victoria Falls from the Zimbabwean side is as beautiful as ever.

 

November

The water levels are their lowest this time of the year, and while the thunderous roar of the waterfall has been tamed, the natural wonder still inspires a sense of awe and incredulity.

Victoria Falls in November

 

December

The rainy season is approaching, and storm clouds loom ominously over Victoria Falls. The cloud cover brings some respite from the hot and humid days, and the waterfall begins to rise rapidly with rains from catchment areas. By now the Eastern cataract will no longer be exposed and there is a sense of anticipation and excitement as the promise of rainfall rumbles overhead.

Victoria Falls in December

The Last Straw

The world is facing a plastic problem, and it is snowballing- but so is awareness and determination to halt the crisis in its tracks. Wild Horizons has several strategies in place, and all of these have seen massive success.

Only a few years ago plastic bottled water was thought to be an inescapable essential on safari. Then, the world seemed to draw a collective breath as images of sea horses carrying earbuds emerged. A plastic bag was found thousands of feet below the ocean’s surface in the world’s deepest trench. Birds were seen nesting in shreds of shopping bags.

As heartbreaking as it is to think and see these images, our planet and our wildlife need us to realise the extent of the damage that is caused by these fickle, yet indestructible products.

 

Searching for solutions 

Our mission began when we joined the ”straw war”, banning the use of plastic straws at all of our lodges and on our activities. The next step was to address the use of plastic bottles. We installed water purification systems at each lodge and provided every guest a reusable water bottle that they could refill with fresh filtered water. We stopped serving plastic bottled water during meal times and instead we provide purified glass bottle of water. The initiative has been a massive success, and we are proud to report a 100% decline in plastic water bottle consumption in all three lodges, with not one plastic bottle of water being provided.

 

Nine million reasons to join the war on plastic

Victoria Falls has an average of almost 605, 000 international visitors every year. If each visitor stays an average of 4 days and consumes 2liters of bottled water per day, over 9 million plastic bottles will be discarded annually. Recycling programs in Africa are severely limited, and one plastic bottle can infest the earth for 450 years before the elements can decompose it. The enormity of the problem can not be ignored.

We need to change the way we think about plastic. When we ”throw it away”, where is it going? When plastic is buried, it does not nourish the earth. It leaches toxins into the soil, poisoning or ensnaring wildlife. The purpose of a safari is to appreciate the earth’s natural beauty, a pleasure and a privilege that we will go great lengths to protect.

Five tips to limit plastic waste on safari 

Most plastic products take centuries to decompose, which means almost every piece of plastic ever produced is still in existence… much of it in oceans or landfills. The small changes you make now could create a big difference for future generations.

  • Say no to bottled water, and refill a reusable one.
  • If you are concerned about water quality when you explore off the beaten track areas, take a Life Straw or Steripen with you to filter out harmful bacteria. Alternatively, do some research and purchase a water bottle that has a built-in filtration device.
  • When you go souvenir or grocery shopping at local markets, take an eco-friendly cotton bag with you. These are light and very easy to pack.
  • Many people who go into rural areas are tempted to give the local children sweets, but the wrappers from these are extremely harmful to the environment. Instead, take a box of fruit with you.
  • Avoid travel-sized toiletries and plastic-packaged toiletries when you pack. Instead buy a bar of shampoo, conditioner and soap with a steel tin to store it in.

If you have bought some new gear for your trip, remove any plastic packaging it may be wrapped in and send it to a nearby recycling station. Don’t bring it to the bush.

Chef Daisy: ‘I am vibrant’

There is something hypnotic about watching a chef preparing a meal. The soft hand that shook mine moments ago now confidently wields a butchers knife, swiftly slicing up ingredients like they are made of butter. I can hear the smile in Chef Daisy’s voice as rich aromas rise in warm waves from her frying pan. Her tone seems to be in tune with the sizzle, and her story emerges through the plumes of steam that have started to dance between us.

Daisy’s passion for cooking began in her modest family kitchen, where she watched Chef Daisy sitting on the deck of The Lookout Cafeher mother lovingly prepare traditional meals. Since then, she has worked at the Wild Horizons Lookout Café and now on the Malachite, a luxury dinner cruise boat.

These exciting kitchen environments have inspired Chef Daisy’s skills and become transferable to the taste of her cuisine. Her bold and fearless experimentation with flavours mirrors the dramatic landscape of the Lookout Café, an iconic restaurant perched on the edge of the Batoka Gorge. Today, as the Malachite slips along the surface of the Zambezi, Daisy plates up her popular Beef Mignon. “The Zambezi River is breath-taking and refreshing, so the environment on its own makes the brain fresh”, explains Daisy, as she trickles a decadent jus over her dish. The dots and squiggles of nouveau cuisine are artfully incorporated, but they are accompanied by hearty, wholesome ingredients that strike the delicate balance between home cooking and fine dining.

As in all kitchens, a sense of urgency buzzes through the atmosphere around us, but the calm smile never leaves Daisy’s lips. Her lightning-quick hands stir and sprinkle fresh herbs into the simmering pots, but there is no futuristic culinary chemistry or flamboyant tableside showmanship. The ingredients for the Malachite dining experience are simple- spectacular food, prepared and served by a spectacular team, in spectacular surroundings.

While Daisy favours fine dining when she cooks, her favourite meal is Mild Peri Chicken served with a parsnip puree, asparagus, baby carrots and chilli sauce. Like her, it is unpretentious yet inimitable- the kind of meal you would want to share with friends. Though Daisy may work like a machine, there is emotion in her food that resonates with all who taste it.

Chef Daisy describes herself as a “vibrant, energetic woman who is willing to go the extra mile” and she shows this in her food. An hour ago, we sat down at a table laden in fairly ordinary groceries. Under Daisy’s expert hands, the vegetables, herbs, spices and meat came together in a delicious dish that only someone who truly understands and appreciates good food could create.

At Wild Horizons, a spirit of empowerment, passion and positivity emanates from within. The women in our company shape our vision to make a difference, and their fierce sense of strength and leadership weaves a golden thread throughout the organisation. Keep an eye on our website for more blog posts about the many Wild Horizons Wonder Women.

Join Chef Daisy on a Malachite dinner cruise by booking here, or get in touch with us at info@wildhorizons.co.zw

An interview with guide and photographer, Vusa Sibanda

Vusa Sibanda’s journey to becoming a guide began in the Matetsi region of Zimbabwe, where he worked as a tracker for eight years. Roaming along animal superhighways, Vusa would use misplaced twigs, imprints in the sand and naked tree branches to draw a map in his mind, illustrating wildlife movements that would be indecipherable to the untrained eye. Recognizing his talent, recruiters for the FGASA program offered Vusa the opportunity to spend two months in South Africa to complete his guide-training course. Five years later, Vusa is a highly respected and valued guide at Old Drift Lodge. While his days as a tracker have drawn to a close, Vusa’s boundless knowledge of the bush and his acute attention to detail is reflected in his exquisite wildlife photography. Safari Guide and Photographer Vusa Sibanda

Vusa’s Instagram page resembles an archive of experiences and safari moments frozen in time through the lens of his Canon Camera. Scrolling through the images will take you on a sentimental journey back into some of the most wild and untouched places on earth. “One thing I have learned being in the bush, is that every animal, tree and stretch of landscape has its own character”, muses Vusa. “I am in the wilderness everyday and have been since I was young, but I am always excited to go on the river and on a game drive because I know that the wilderness will show me something I have never seen before”. While many people will scour the National Park looking for big game, Vusa believes that the subject of the photograph is not necessarily what determines a great shot. It is the moment that they spring into action, be this a bird in flight, a lion yawning, or a buck prancing through the trees. Outside his lens you might see a bird nesting or hippo wallowing, but the gentle click of his camera is reserved for the fleeting moment that they take off, or tear open the surface of the Zambezi River, leaving him with a hard copy of that powerful moment.

Vusa’s camera has been an ever-present companion on his ventures into the wilderness and his passion has become a vessel through which he shares his expertise with guests at Old Drift Lodge. In an increasingly digital world, memories of the present are scrolled instantly into the past. However, Vusa’s images will compel you to look closely, look twice and look slowly. Through the glass screen of your phone or desktop, you can peer into his wild world and understand what it looks like in a given moment.

@vusasibanda2002