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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!

Victoria Falls Canopy Tour and High Wire Activities!

We met our guides Michael and Bright at The Lookout Café. The venue is spectacular and the views give you a tantalizing taste of what’s to come. Our guides kitted us each with full body harness, pulley and safety helmet and there was plenty of laughter about the flattering fit of the harnesses!

We then walked a short distance to the first slide on the Victoria Falls Canopy Tour and our guides demonstrated how to slide on the cables and the safety procedures.

The Victoria Falls Canopy Tour offers everyone an exhilarating opportunity to soar through the rain forest in the Batoka Gorge with spectacular views of the mighty Zambezi River and the Victoria Falls Bridge. It is an unforgettable adventure as you slide from one platform to the next along a series of steel cables set amongst magnificent natural surroundings.

You are in another world from the moment you step off the first platform and slide through the tree-tops… there’s simply nothing to prepare you for the magnificence of the view across the gorge you glimpse as you first whizz across it. As you continue on the tour it appears that each slide offers something more and you can feel the groups’ confidence build.

At first some of us were very unsure and there was much nervous giggling but by the third slide whoops of sheer delight were reverberating through the gorge. We soon realize that with the combination of the safety line and the knowledge and expertise of Michael and Bright who are calm, confident and encouraging, we were totally safe.

SAFETY:

All groups are escorted by a lead guide and safety guide at all times. The guides are friendly, professional and reassuring. Your safety is paramount and Wild Horizons have strict procedures in place to ensure that you are constantly connected to either the cable or the platform.

The scenery high up within the forest canopy is spectacular. We enjoyed spotting birdlife amongst the surrounding trees and canyon walls and were lucky enough to have a Verreaux’s eagle soaring above us and periodically landing in trees on the canyon wall to watch us inquisitively. I can only imagine he thought we were learning to fly! Each tour lasts between 1 to 1.5 hours, depending on how many people are in your group and the speed you choose to go. We had a much-needed cold drink as we walked out of the gorge still smiling from the adventure.

Next up was the Flying Fox. We were re-harnessed so that we were suspended from our backs. The Flying Fox consists of a cable over the width of the gorge and with the harness facing down you literally ‘fly’ through the air over the turmoil of the Zambezi below. With our confidence soaring from the Canopy Tour we all stepped off into the abyss. The view is unbelievable!

Similarly to the Canopy Tours escalation of excitement and adrenaline, so the order we did the other activities in scaled up in order of excitement. Accordingly we moved on to the Zip Line- this is an activity we chose to do in tandem. Our harnesses were re-adjusted and we were seated for the activity. The platform it leaves from offers an exciting view of what you are about to embark upon- a very steep descent that has you travelling at up to 105 km an hour whilst travelling across the gorge with the Zambezi below.

My friend perfectly described the feeling of hurtling downwards and across the gorge as a ‘rush of joy’!

The final and most adrenalin inducing activity is the Gorge Swing. Not for the faint of heart this includes a whopping 70 metre free-fall before you are ‘caught’ by the harness and begin swinging across the gorge. This is an incredible experience as you swing in a huge arc with the Zambezi churning below you. It’s impossible not to appreciate the feeling of hanging over the mighty Zambezi by a cord!

And suddenly we were done! Buoyed up by adrenaline and the indescribable feeling of feeling more alive we headed back to the Lookout Café for a celebratory beer. We were all thrilled at the end of a great day and the shared memories we had created.

TIPS:

  • Wear comfortable clothing and closed-toe footwear. Open sandals are not suitable as they will simply fall off. Wear shorts or long pants and not a skirt as you will be in a harness. Running shoes are perfect and strap-on sandals will do.
  • Take an easy to use camera with a strap that can attach around your neck or to your hand. There are plenty of great photo opportunities!
  • The Canopy Tour experience is an excellent corporate and team building event.
  • There is a safe box at The Lookout Café where you can leave your belongings and any valuables- however I suggest packing lightly.

Wild Horizons introduces daily Spanish and French tours of the Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.

Wild Horizons is introducing with immediate effect daily scheduled tours of the Victoria Falls; guided in both Spanish and French. These tours take place on the Zimbabwean side of the Falls. They aim to help our many foreign language guests to experience the mighty Victoria Falls and learn about it in their native tongue.
The Spanish and French language tours of Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe are conducted daily throughout the year on a scheduled basis. En route, clients may be taken past the ‘Big Tree’, an impressive baobab, where they may stop and take photos. Clients will be accompanied through the Rainforest by one of our qualified Foreign Language Guides who will give a detailed history of the Falls as well as detailing the flora, fauna, bird & wildlife and other points of interest. 

Guides are happy to assist clients with photographs whilst visiting. Raincoats are provided when needed.

The Victoria Falls – Now In Its 150 Millionth Fantastic Year – Reaches Its Zenith In About May each year. It’s a truly awe-inspiring experience. The sight, the sound, the smell; the humbling feeling that here indeed is Nature’s Supreme Masterpiece. No photograph can begin to depict the reality… and nothing prepares you for your first sight.

  • DEPART: Daily
  • COSTS: No additional cost normal Tour of Falls rates apply
  • DURATION: 2 hours
  • DEPARTURE: 08h00 to 08h30 from hotels and B&B’s in Victoria Falls Town
  • MINIMUM 1 MAXIMUM 20 pax per tour
  • LANGUAGE: French or Spanish
  • PLEASE NOTE: * Child Policies are available upon request

Zimbabwe Relaxes Visa Regulations

The Zimbabwean government has relaxed the visa regime for 37 countries including China while it has removed visa requirements for all visitors from the Southern African Development Community. This should greatly boost tourism to the country and is welcomed by all in the sector.

Zimbabwe uses a three tier visa model. The model is classified into categories A, B and C. Category A nationals are exempt from visas, category B  nationals can obtain visas at the port of entry on arrival and Category C nationals must apply for visas prior to travel.

With immediate effect China, along with 36 other countries, had been moved from Category C to B. All SADC countries have now been migrated to Category A.

 Immigration principal director Clemence Masango said

This new position is in response to the voice of players and interest groups in the tourism and hospitality industry who want to see more facilitation of movement of persons than control

Masango further said the Visa regime revision is part of an ongoing process and consultations will continue with a view to further relax visa controls in order to make travel easier and Zimbabwe a more favourable and accessible destination.

Masango also said consultations are ongoing to re-institute the KAZA-UNIVISA project which stopped in December last year with a view of resuming the system in this month. (source: AllAfrica.com)

Shane White, Marketing director of Wild Horizons said the relaxation of visa regulations is welcomed by the company.

We are delighted to see a relaxing of the Visa regime and are confident that this will lead to an increase in tourism numbers from the affected countries

Eagerly awaiting the Green Season in Zimbabwe

As the end of a very long and hot dry season, I am filled with anticipation at the thought of the upcoming rains and the abundance they will bring. This is my favourite time of the year- when the landscape is transformed and the animals drop their young when the skies darken with storm clouds and the ground turns green with new shoots.

The green season runs from November through to March and apart from being my favourite time of year the ‘Green Season’ as it is known is a fantastic time to visit Zimbabwe.

During the green season, most lodges offer lower prices- and travellers can have huge savings, especially on luxury lodges. Many also no longer charge a single supplement so if you are travelling solo the green season is the time to visit. For couples, there’s also the opportunity to spend the most romantic day of the year in one of the world’s most romantic locations. Take your loved one on a spectacular Zambezi cruise while the sun sets or cocoon yourself in the romantic suites at The Elephant Camp- with canopy beds, private plunge pools and large freestanding tubs with spectacular views the setting cannot be beaten.

Zimbabwe’s greatest attraction the Victoria Falls is at its Zenith around April but the waters start rising in February. At this time a breathtaking volume of water flows over them and clouds of spray rising hundreds of metres above. It is now that the reason behind its local name of ‘Mosi-oa-Tunya’ or the smoke that thunders becomes apparent. As you stand on the lip of the chasm the ground beneath your feet truly seems to tremble and it is impossible not to feel awed. The large amounts of spray driven up by the falling water also result in beautiful rainbows above the Victoria Falls.

The rainy season is typical of a tropical system with clouds building in the morning, usually resulting in an afternoon or evening downpour. These can clear up with the suddenness with which they begin- leaving you standing in dazzling sunshine moments after they end. The weather is still warm and the rains should not deter travellers. The dramatic cloud formations make the perfect backdrop for photography, adding drama to landscapes that are missing in southern Africa in the winter.

The green landscape, with its backdrop of clouds, is punctuated by riotous colour. These splashes of colour dart from tree to tree and are the vibrant plumages of the many bird species. Zimbabwe offers the best bird watching in the wet season from November to April. Migratory birds are present and all species are in full breeding plumage. For any serious birder this is a spectacular show and not to be missed.

I also find that the lower amount of travellers at this time of year adds to the experience- staff at hotels and restaurants are more attentive as they are quieter and you often get amazing experiences like being alone at a special game sighting. Try visiting Zimbabwe between February and March when you will truly discover the delights of the Green Season and the warmth of Zimbabwe’s hospitality.

For specials and rates in Victoria Falls, Chobe and Livingstone contact lodges@wildhorizons.co.zw

 

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