Zimbabwe: Victoria Falls and Safari in the Zambezi National Park

Victoria Falls.
The smoke that thunders. That’s what the locals call the Victoria Falls. If you want, you can admire the force of nature at a tea time – and later go on a safari.

The rumbling can be heard clearly from several kilometers away. The water masses of the Zambezi swell immensely in the rainy season. In the borderland between Zimbabwe and Zambia, they fall almost two kilometers wide with concentrated force over the cliff edges.

The Victoria Falls are considered to be the widest continuous waterfalls in the world. After the official discovery in 1855, the Englishman David Livingstone named it after the then British Queen Victoria. Locals have a more apt name for the force of nature: Mosi-oa-Tunya, “the smoke that thunders.”

Dream destination Victoria Falls

The afternoon sun and the rising spray conjure up a double rainbow on the falling water on this summer’s day. On some viewing platforms, the water drops from the air pelt down like heavy land rain. The path along the falls leads through a small green rainforest created by the spray.

Victoria Falls has long been a dream destination for travelers to southern Africa. Then the corona pandemic came and ruined many travel plans – including to Zimbabwe.

In the meantime, travel into the country is easier again due to relaxed corona regulations. Getting there has also become less complicated: since this spring, the Lufthansa subsidiary Eurowings Discover has been offering direct flights from Frankfurt via Windhoek in Namibia to Victoria Falls. Otherwise it is only possible to change.

Railway panorama at “High Tea”

Annett Müller also arrived on the Eurowings flight. “Our journey from Germany was much shorter and easier than before at just over 13 hours,” says the travel agency employee.

She looks out over the spray from the terrace of The Victoria Falls Hotel. Like white steam, the water clouds rise towards the sky. Depending on the season and wind direction, some of them float as far as the railway bridge that has spanned the Zambezi for more than a hundred years.

The famous historic bridge is the perfect place to marvel at the “high tea” in the early evening hours on the hotel terrace. In the hotel, which opened in 1904 on the then planned railway line from Cape Town to Cairo, tea time is still celebrated today.

Served stylishly on silver etageres, an international group of guests from Denmark, Germany, Asia and America, among others, enjoy the servings with the tea. It is possible that the then English princesses Elizabeth and Margaret were served scones, cream, strawberry jam and salmon canapés in this form during their visit to the Victoria Falls in 1947.

Hippos, elephants and lolling crocodiles

The Zambezi is not only the border river between Zimbabwe and neighboring Zambia. The longest river in southern Africa is also the habitat of many wild animals and a paradise for bird lovers. A trip to the Victoria Falls can easily be combined with a few days of safari experience.

If you like it adventurous, you can drive yourself from the city of Victoria Falls to the Zambezi National Park (Zambezi National Park) in around 40 minutes in a suitably equipped vehicle.

As in all national parks, in addition to a good sense of direction, driving skills are required in order to find your way independently on the relatively sparsely signposted gravel and sand tracks. This is rewarded with surprising encounters: Just a few minutes behind the park entrance, more than 20 elephants are cavorting in a water hole. On the way to the Mpala Jena Camp, dainty impalas dash in zigzags in front of the car.

“We pick up most of our guests from Victoria Falls by boat tour,” says ranger Blessing Mpofu. This is the fastest connection to the camp on the Zambezi shore. “We often spot hippos,” says the ranger.

During our stay we see a horde of monkeys circling through the trees, during a sunset tour on the Zambezi crocodiles loll on small islands, herds of buffalo and elephants come to the water to drink, hippos trudge ashore to graze at night.

Robinson feeling in the national park

The Mpala Jena Camp is just starting up again in terms of tourism. “Everything was set up here from March to November 2021,” says Blessing. In December 2021 the camp opened its doors to the first guests. Demand has increased significantly over the past few months.

The Mpala Jena Camp with a total of five house tents for a maximum of 14 guests brings that Robinson Crusoe feeling to the Zambezi National Park: Sand from the river has been piled up in the entire lounge area, there are swings around the bar and if you want, you can relax in the hammocks after the safari or breakfast barefoot with your feet in the sand.

“Our evening meeting by the crackling fire is our bush TV,” says Blessing and laughs. He points to tonight’s performance: the night-dark sky, in which an unbelievable number of other stars twinkle around the prominent Southern Cross. (dpa)

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