Wild Horizons is pleased to report that the Jameson Vic Falls Carnival, with Wild Horizons as the official activity partner, brought in 2015 with a bang, attracting thousands of tourists to the town for the 3 day festival. The festivities commenced on December 29th 2014, with the departure of the long-sold-out party-train journey to a secret bush location, where Capetonian ‘Toby2Shoes’, rocked the stage for the 500+ lucky ticket holders.
The second day of the festival was themed around the world-famous ‘Holi One Colour Festival’. Festival-goers sport bags of multi-coloured powder paint to throw up into the air above the crowds at regular timed countdowns, creating a stunning eruption of multi-coloured haze above the jubilant crowd, which is a sight to behold! Local and International DJ’s, including Harare’s Rob Macson, kept the crowds bouncing throughout the afternoon and into the early evening, which led on to a host of various official after-parties at renowned locations in Victoria Falls town.
The final day of the festival was held on New Year’s Eve. The 5000+ crowd was undeterred by showers of warm rain as it glittered above the crowd in the foreground of an impressive lighting setup, which created a sublime electric atmosphere on a scale never before seen in Victoria Falls!
Long-time Zimbabwean folk legend, Oliver ‘Tuku’ Mtukudzi, attracted thousands of followers to the Carnival to witness his truly original Zimbabwean sound. Oliver, at 62 years of age, had the entire crowd in the palm of his hand as fans sang along to every word of his set of well-known local hits. The festival headliners ‘Goldfish’, the vibrant band-come-DJ duo from Cape Town, brought in the New Year with their unique and classic sound of vintage fusion with modern electro beats. All had a fantastically unforgettable time, and we look forward to watching this Festival continue to grow from strength to strength in the years to come!
Last week we asked some brave, (and some not-so-brave) souls to volunteer their services in the name of marketing to throw themselves off our infamous Gorge Swing platform, so that we could film their reactions and compile an acitivty feature video showcasing the swing, how it works, and the screams!
It was rather hilarious watching the fear on some of the first-time jumpers’ faces as they mounted the platform for the first time and start processing the sheer enormity of the
simple, yet terrifying task ahead of them – to jump!
The Gorge Swing is a giant, pendulum-type swing that launches the rider into a 90m wide swing across the chasm of the gorge – AFTER a 70m freefall! It is 110% pure adrenalin, and only for those with nerves of steel! Two of the jumpers could not keep sure footing once on the platform and ended up crawling right back off in disbelief and horror. After some coaxing and encouragement from the spectators though, they were able to pluck up the courage to try again and succeed.
After the swing, the feeling of conquering such an un-natural act simply has to be experienced to be believed. Check out the video below for the results of the shoot. You can book a Wild Horizons Gorge Swing by contacting us through our website here.
I recently had the pleasure of checking out the Siduli Hide with Proffessional Guide Charles Brightman. Situated on the edge of the waterhole at the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge, the Siduli Hide offers guests a chance observe wildlife in a unique, and very close-up way. A Professional Guide escorts guests into the hide, which is designed to look like a termite mound. This involves a short walk (5 minutes) from the lodge to the hide. Once hidden within, guests wait for a variety of mammal, reptile and bird species to visit the waterhole to quench their thirsts or to sample minerals at the nearby salt-lick.
It is truly an exhilarating way to see the array of wildlife getting on with their waterside antics – absolutely fascinating to observe! There are around 5 small crocodiles that are currently resident to the waterhole, and it is so interesting watching the water birds such as the Yellow Billed Stalk, and the Great Egret skirting around the waterthole, catching fish, whilst actually working hand in hand with the crocs! We also observed impala, elephant, warthog and baboons. Sitting in the hide truly does provide for excellent photographic opportunities, as the animals come very close up, completely un-aware that there are humans clicking away at their cameras inside the “termite mound”.
The hide ‘sits’ take place at early morning, and late afternoon. Times will vary slightly with the seasons. Sits are usually around 2 hours, but may vary according the presence of wildlife, as of course you cannot just up and leave after 2 hours whilst surrounded by a herd of buffalo or elephant! The activity requires a minimum of 2 guests, and currently can take a maximum of 4 guests. Siduli Hide will undergo alterations next year to accommodate a max of 6 guests. No children under 16 years are allowed (unless special permission is granted).
In the morning, clients will be offered tea/coffee at Vic Falls Safari Lodge, before going into the hide. The afternoon/evening sits include soft drinks, mineral water and a limited amount of beer (people need to be in a sober state due to close wildlife interactions).
Guests should know however that this is an authentic wild experience, and so they cannot guarantee wildlife sightings. Saying this, the drier it gets, the more chance there is of having some very good close up encounters!
This is a must-do activity for any brid/wildlife enthusiast and offers something so much more than the traditional game drive experience from the back of a safari vehicle.
The Zambezi River, which borders Zimbabwe and Zambia, is widely acclaimed as offering the world’s best white-water rafting run in the world. With a large number of its turbulent rapids which occur in the Batoka Gorge (below the Victoria Falls) achieving a high ‘Grade-5’ status or higher, adventure enthusiasts revere its reputation across the globe. Even the rapid names are enough to get the adrenalin pumping – from “Stairway to Heaven”(Rapid no.5), to “The Gnashing Jaws Of Death” (Rapid no.10), and “The Overland Truck Eater” (Rapid no.11).
A ‘Grade-5’, or ‘Class 5’ rapid, as outlined by the International Scale of River Difficulty, is the grade given to the most dangerous and difficult rapids that are commercially passable by raft or kayak. ‘Grade 6’ rapids are not commercially passable, and only the most experienced of rafters/kayakers attempt this scale of rapid at extremely high risk. An example of a ‘Grade 6’ rapid on the Zambezi is the infamous Rapid no.9 – “Commercial Suicide”.
Whilst the Wild Horizons one-day rafting trip is by far the most popular with tourists and adventurers who usually have limited time in Victoria Falls town – there is one relatively unknown, yet a breathtakingly beautiful product that is also on offer from Wild Horizons for the more adventurous thrill seeker and explorer: Multi-day Rafting. Over the last thirty years, adventurers the world over have been seeking the challenge and serenity that this famous five-day long Zambezi white water rafting quest provides. These days, adventure-seekers may choose between a two-night, two-day trip, or for the more enduring, a four-night, five-day trip.
Multi-day rafting guests start off with the standard one-day trip, which either starts at rapid no. 11 (during high water) or rapid no. 1 during the low water season. It should be noted that multi-day rafting trips only operate during low water rafting (usually around mid-September to mid-December). Low water rafting starts at “The Boiling Pot”, right below the magnificent Victoria Falls. The view of the Falls from down here, just beneath it, is truly unforgettable. You’ll know you won’t forget it when you feel the immense changes in air pressure, and water vapour erratically bursting through the canyons; obscuring your view of the 3,000 tons of water that fall out of the Zambezi River into the boiling pot every second. The thundering roar is deafening, and it reverberates loudly in the chest cavity! It is truly one of the most humbling, magnificent and powerful spots on Earth.
The gorge is over 100 meters deep at the Falls and slowly increases to over 200 meters by the end of a full day rafting trip. The glistening basalt rock walls form a series of sharp hairpin bends, which meander some 120km down the course of the Zambezi River, thus bestowing a beautiful gift from Mother Nature – the course for the world’s best white water rafting!
Rapids are interceded by calm stretches of crystal clear water, where you can take a break from the adrenaline, relax and marvel at the spectacular gorges – thick with vegetation. At the end of the first day of the 120km journey, multi-day rafters bid farewell to the single-day companions that they have made on the river, and set up camp for the night on the white sandy beach below rapid number 21.
Late afternoon at the beach-camp sees some casual beach volleyball, cold beers, and the opportunity to throw out a line and catch some bonus bar snacks before dinner. A significant drop in temperature is felt as the shadows of the gorge encroach rapidly up the river and onto the beach as the sun sinks behind the lips of the basalt cliffs high above. After nightfall, a beach bonfire provides warmth and visual entertainment (affectionately known as “Bush TV”) to guests as they settle into their first night of camping in the belly of the beautiful Batoka Gorge. A dinner table is set under the luminous corridor of stars above, and after a hearty stew or braai, guests are sure to get a good night’s sleep in the tents and sleeping bags provided; snoring to the watery lullaby of the rapids!
On day-two, the beautiful cycle of adventure, adrenalin, endurance, and river exploration repeats itself once again. The first big rapid of the day – “Morning Shave” (no.23), is the perfect wake-up call! On center-left of the rapid, there is an easy wave train to wet you down. “Closed Season” (rapid no. 25) is the last of the numbered rapids, the rest are now referred to by name only. “Closed Season” is closely followed by “Open Season” – one of the biggest rapids on the Zambezi, and pure Grade Five fun! There is a large hole on the river-left and some rocks towards the middle of the run.
From here on in, the gradient of the river starts to level out, and rapids become further interspersed. This is not to say, though, that they get any tamer – as “Ghostrider” – the biggest and best rapid on the Zambezi River, is still to come on Day 3! Towards the end of day 2, guests will raft through the Narrows 1, 2, 3 & 4 – the fourth comprising of a technical rock garden, featuring “Beer Eddy”, whereby as the name suggests, if your guide goes into the eddy, the first round of post-trip drinks will be on him/her!
After a second night of camping under the stars below the Moemba Falls, the start of day three brings the infamous “Ghostrider”. Known only by the exclusive few that have ventured this far; this is Class Five, big water at its best! Three enormous waves, with drops that make rafts disappear; only to re-appear on top of the next wave – this is the biggest, and best commercially runnable rapid that the Mighty Zambezi has to offer. Wild Horizons ensures that only the most seasoned of river guides lead guests through this one. Proper equipment, extensive experience, and practised rescue drills are essential. Still, for a true adventure seeker, this rapid is worth the journey!
Day-three, and “Ghostrider” sees-out the last of the higher-grade rapids as the gradient of the river continues to level out in anticipation of the Matetsi River mouth, and the start of Lake Kariba’s Western basin.
Multiple smaller rapids frequent the rest of the course for the last two days, providing much-needed relief to those who have ventured thus far. All of a sudden one finds themselves immersed deep inside the heart of the Zambezi. Serene beauty in a unique wilderness that is far, far away from the tourism-fuelled hustle and bustle of Victoria Falls town. The sense of being so far down river, so far removed from civilisation, and so deeply swallowed by mother nature herself – is something which simply has to be felt to be described. Sheer rock walls arise hundreds of meters above the river and the roar of the rapids resound up the narrow canyons. It is here where one may catch a glimpse of the highly endangered Taita Falcon as its soars above you. Vertical walls give way to wider valleys at times, and white sandy beaches dazzle in the sunshine. This is the lower Batoka Gorge at it’s best!
On the morning of the fifth day, all that remains is a relatively smooth two-hour paddle down to the mouth of the Matetsi, where the gorges that have been strictly hugging the river start to give way to the beginnings of Lake Kariba, yet another dimension of this magnificent river’s character. At this point a truck awaits, and after packing up and loading all the rafts and camping equipment, guests are transported the 180km journey back to Victoria Falls town; stopping for lunch and refreshments on the Deka Bridge on the way home.
A multi-day rafting trip is one of the best ways to connect with the spirit of the Zambezi, and truly experience a journey that is both self-challenging and spectacularly beautiful. Wild Horizons operates multi-day rafting trips for groups of 4 or more at a cost of USD$545 per person for the 2-day/2-night, and USD$1,132 per person for the 5 days. Rafting the mighty Zambezi, even if just the thrill of experiencing the one-day run – is an unforgettable experience and should definitely be on your bucket list! Contact Wild Horizons for more information (www.wildhorizons.co.za)
The concept of the ‘canopy tour’ is a relatively new product in the tourism industry, with the first canopy tour operation opening around 5 years ago in South America. Since then there have been several other operations launched in various parts of the world, including quite a number across South Africa. Wikipedia describes a canopy tour as “an established route through a wooded and often mountainous landscape making primary use of zip-lines and aerial bridges between platforms built in trees”.
In our case, the Vic Falls Canopy Tour is a series of 9 zip-lines, or ‘slides’, which zigzags across the Batoka Gorge in amongst the thick vegetation which grows on the edges of this spectacular natural canyon. The tour is operated from the Wild Horizons Lookout, and takes place within the cove that is formed by the first bend in the river below the Falls – directly beneath the Victoria Falls Hotel. Apart from the 9 cable slides, (or ‘foofy’ slides), the route also comprises a series of boarded walkways and rope bridges, all of which have safety lines to which guests are fastened at all times. The course from start to finish will take around 60 – 90 minutes, depending on the size of the group.
Of-course one of the factors that makes this activity so popular is the breathtaking views of the Batoka Gorge, the Zambezi River and it’s turbulent rapids, and the Victoria Falls Bridge! This is not to mention the awe-inspiring flora and fauna which thrives in the canopy of the Batoka Gorge! It is also a treat for bird watchers, as they are likely to spot Trumpeter Hornbill, Schalow’sTuraco and Peregrine Falcon – and if you are extremely lucky, the rare Taita Falcon.
The slides vary in speed and length, but are all relatively low-speed and are more than suitable for those who don’t consider themselves as adrenalin junkies. The activity is perfect for families with young kids who are looking for that little bit of excitement, but might be too young to take part in the more adrenalin-demanding activities such as the gorge swing or bungeejump. (The same goes for the parents, who on the contrary might be “a little too old” for the bigger adrenalin-demanders!). It is the perfect ‘in-between’ activity, which there is not much choice for when it comes to the plethora of Victoria Falls activities on offer by the many various tour operators. The tour is also suitable for those who don’t like heights as for the most part the slides traverse through trees and thick vegetation.
The canopy tour is growing in popularity when it comes to adventure tourism around the world because of its mild, safe and family-friendly nature. The Vic Falls Canopy Tour is undoubtedly one of the world’s most spectacular courses and is an industry leader when it comes to safety and equipment, as well the training of their staff and guides. The Vic Falls Canopy Tour is a highly recommended activity, which has repeatedly been described as excellent value for money.
The Vic Falls Canopy Tour sells for USD$50 per person, and can be booked by contacting the Wild Horizons reservations team through their website, www.wildhorizons.co.za – or through the main booking office located at 310 Parkway Drive, Victoria Falls.