Anyone who has visited Victoria Falls, intends to visit Victoria Falls or has an interest in visiting this seventh wonder of the world will by now probably have heard of the increasingly popular Lookout Café. It is well known and popular for a number of reasons ….. its delicious food, its stunning location above the Batoka Gorge and its friendly staff to name but a few. Diners at the Lookout Café can observe adrenaline junkies flinging themselves off the gorge on one of the many Wild Horizons High Wire activities, watch the Zambezi River surging below or take in the magnificent spectacle of the Batoka Gorge. What many people don’t realize is that there is also a wonderful opportunity to see Verreaux’s Eagle (also known as the Black Eagle in Southern Africa). This is a great treat for anyone with even the slightest interest in ornithology. This very large eagle (the 6th longest in the world) can often be seen swooping and gliding over the craggy rocks of the gorge in search of hapless hyraxes.
To those who are not too familiar with this magnificent bird of prey, Verreaux’s Eagle is one of the most specialized species of raptors. These birds typically live in hilly and mountainous regions of Southern and Eastern Africa, including our very own Batoka Gorge. The distribution and life history of these birds revolve solely around its favorite food, rock hyraxes, or ‘dassies’ as they are known as locally. When hyrax populations decline Verraux’s Eagles have been known to survive with mixed results on on other species, but considering their highly specialized tastes they have survived the test of time exceptionally well in terms of keeping up their numbers! Their successful survival rate can also be attributed to the fact that they prefer to live in rugged and remote areas. Fortunately it is difficult for humans to destroy rocks and mountains and these areas are generally not favorable to humans so the areas in which these Eagles live have stayed relatively unchanged!
Unlike other eagles with their haunting cries, Verreaux’s Eagles are largely silent, giving no clue to their prey about their whereabouts. The first indication of the presence of one of these incredible Eagles is a flash of black or an ominous shadow cruising past in your peripheral vision. These birds will often hunt in low level flight and catch the rock hyraxes in a fast, twisting dive a few seconds after ‘surprising’ the hyrax. Interestingly, cooperative hunting has also been seen with one eagle in a pair flying past and distracting the prey while the other strikes from behind. ‘Dassies’ are so well camouflaged in their natural environment that we often all we see of them is a brief flash or fur but these Eagles can fly out and return with a kill in just a few minutes.
So the next time you are sitting and relaxing over a delicious meal at the Lookout Café bear in mind that you are in the heart of Verreaux Eagle country. Keep watch amongst the craggy rocks and in the lower levels of the gorge for this large black eagle with its trademark white ‘V’ mark on its back and listen for the silent whoosh of its enormous wings as it too seeks out its own specialized lunch! Written by Libby White
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
Recently there has been strong concern over the apparent ‘drying up’ of the Victoria Falls- fuelled by sharing of the story on social media. An image taken in Zambia of the apparently dry Victoria Falls was widely circulated and purported to show the Falls as a whole.
However, the large fluctuation of the Zambezi River’s water levels are part of a normal annual occurrence. The huge variation at Victoria Falls is far more than in most of the world’s major waterfalls. The minimum flow, which occurs in November, is on average a mere tenth of the maximum April figure. Source- Wikipedia
Rough Guide to annual water levels showing the general trend of water levels in a typical year. (image courtesy Zambezi Helicopter Company).
This phenomenon means that viewing the waterfall at different times of the year produces vastly different experiences- and it’s definitely worth seeing both. In high flow the entire length of the Falls is a thundering wall of falling water whereas in low water the underlying structure can be seen and visibility is far better. Compare the images below of the Falls in October above and in May below.
The Victoria Falls in low flow
The Victoria Falls in high flow
The Zambezi river, upstream from the falls, experiences a rainy season from late November to early April, and a dry season the rest of the year. The river’s annual flood season is February to May with a peak in April.
The Zambezi River is at its lowest in approximately November or early December in most years. At times of low water the water of the Falls is concentrated mainly towards the Zimbabwean side as that side of the Falls is deeper. As the dry season takes effect up to half of the rocky face of the falls may become dry and the bottom of the First Gorge can be seen along most of its length.
The difference in flow at peak levels varies far more than the flow at low levels.
Currently in January 2016 we are about 15cm below the average water level of the Zambezi river at Victoria Falls at this time of the year. The river started rising on the 13/11/15 which is normal. Since Christmas the river has been rising 1/2cm a day.
In high flow the entire length of the Falls is a thundering wall of falling water. Compare the images below of the Falls in October above and in May below.
Below are some more images of the Falls in past years showing the vast difference in water levels that occur each year.
A barista is defined simply as ‘a person, usually a coffeehouse employee, who prepares and serves espresso-based coffee drinks.’ Tawanda Dube is one of the employees at The Lookout Café and the definition above does apply to him in the true sense.
However Tawanda also has something more- a real passion for the work he is doing. The Lookout Cafe’s espresso machine arrived a few months ago and Tawanda began learning the art of coffee making. He was immediately drawn to it and says he loves making art from coffee. After making me a perfectly delicious cappuccino Tawanda drew out his cell phone and showed me the only videos on it- of how to make coffee art, how to clean the machine and more. ‘One day’ he said proudly as he showed me a video of a man shaping a flower by pouring milk into espresso ‘I will make you a coffee like that!’
I don’t doubt he will with his passion to learn in his spare time and wanted to take the time to say that it doesn’t go unnoticed. Thank you Tawanda for your hard work!
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.
A 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 there from 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.