TRAVEL: Ultimate luxury on the Zambezi River

Zambezi Explorer
Zambezi Explorer

THERE is a mystique to the Victoria Falls, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.

No matter how many times you have been to the World Heritage Site, a visit to the resort town is incomplete without a two-hour soak in the perennial showers of the rainforest.

Being in Victoria Falls always brings that temptation to take the walk along the more famous side of the falls and soak all you want – some argue that the waters have a soothing effect, what with the waters having flowed through all those countries, all those many tributaries, hence it has to have that healing effect. You will believe that, if you are traditionally inclined.

Some enjoy the showers merely because of the humid atmosphere that is Victoria Falls, where temperatures can rise above 40 degrees Celsius, with the soaking in the rains giving an hour-and-half, or two if you want, of some relief from the high temperatures.

Whatever reason that compels one to see the falls over and over again, reality is that one can never brag about having gone to the mighty Mosi-a-Tunya (the smoke that thunders) without taking a visit to the rainforest.

Though one can enjoy the rainforest for as much as they want during the day, on a single entry, experience has shown that one cannot, possibly, spend more than three hours mingling with monkeys in that rainforest.

Which leaves one with the headache on what to do with the rest of the day, or visit to Victoria Falls.

There are activities aplenty within and around Victoria Falls, from the world-famous game drives, the flight of angels (that would be the helicopter rides) to enjoying cuisine in any of the several restaurants dotted around the resort, cuisine which often competes for international honours.

Sunset cruise
Sunset cruise

If you are not an animal freak, or rather are scared by that drive in the wild, meeting the Big Five from as up close as 5m, and probably are not cut for adrenalin-pumping rides like the helicopter rides or bungee jumping or white water rafting, you could be wondering what else you could do, if for instance, you have a couple of hours to kill, in Victoria Falls.

Over the past 15 years I have been to Victoria Falls countless times and I bet on each of those times I have visited the rainforest without fail.

And of those countless times, I have had the opportunity to do the sunset cruise, probably more times that I can remember.

So when I was invited for a sunset boat cruise last week, I almost turned it down: been there, done that.

But I was persuaded – this was not just a sunset cruise but a sunset cruise on the Zambezi Explorer, the biggest baby on the waters that surround the Victoria Falls, from either side. That being the Zimbabwe and Zambian sides.

“And not only that,” explained Jonathan Baker, the manager for the luxury cruise, “there is an extra incentive when you take our cruise because we are probably the greenest cruise you will ever find on the Zambezi River. Most of the power we use on the boat is green energy; we would like the wildlife in and around the Zambezi River, and indeed Victoria Falls, to remain as untainted as ever.”

He went on to explain some bit of history about the Zambezi Explorer, the two-and-half years it took to build the boat in Harare, the 11-day journey it took from Harare and finally have docked on the shores of the Zambezi River, which has since become its home. And of course, he had to add the cost of building it, to make sure I was really convinced that this is luxury in every sense of the word.

But looking at the monster that was before us, I needed little or no convincing, the boat has luxury, comfort, splendour and extravagance written all over it.

Sectioned into three decks, the lower two decks provide a luxury service where guests can choose from an exciting range of beverages and cocktails as well as a selection of delicious snacks, whilst the “Signature Deck” is the uppermost level and it is pure extravagance with gourmet hors d’oeuvres and premium beverages served from a private bar.

Patience, who happened to be our hostess for that cruise, was very candid, that though she was not promising us to see any wildlife during the cruise, she was, indeed, promising us a sunset. Tongue-in-cheek, you might say, for she knew that come what may, the sun was gonna set.

What a romantic and lovely scene the setting of the sun turned out to be. The romanticism must have been greatly aided by the wise waters that were flowing, seemingly to no end, from the private bar. It being a mid-week cruise, admittedly there were few people on board, as the resort town usually picks ups towards the weekends or during the weekends.

“But,” explained Patience, “even if only two people booked, that will not stop us from taking on our cruise, we have a standard to maintain. We would not cancel because we have only two, in fact, it gives us a chance to shower and show all that we can.”

Contrary to her disclaimer, we managed to come across a couple (that is if four qualifies for couple) of hippos and plenty of giraffe and zebras on the Zambian side. Setting sail on the first channel, which is the Zimbabwean side, we entered the second channel and then the third (the latter two being the Zambian side of the Zambezi River).

The sun went down as we were navigating in the third channel and the usual sun set that we are accustomed to each and every day, takes a new dimension given the background of the mighty Zambezi, which looks deceivingly calm, yet just a stone’s throw away, it rumbles away as the mighty Victoria Falls.

That Wednesday sunset has somehow attained archival status and will take a time, or an experience of a better nature, to erase. Indeed the Zambezi Explorer brought a new meaning to my travels to Victoria Falls and come my next visit, I will make sure I tie in the (soothing) rainforest visit with the (exhilarating) sunset cruise. That’s a sure bet!

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