By Dorria Watt
The first thing that struck me as we approach the Victoria Falls is the thunderous noise. It is almost deafening but unsurprising, considering an average of 550 000 cubic metres of water flows continuously over the edge of this 1 708 metre wide natural wonder. It is said to be the largest curtain of water in the world, falling between 90 and 107m into the Gorge. Known as the ‘Mosi-oa-Tunya” or the smoke that thunders, you feel the power of the water reverberate through your body, a bit like the base of a song is turned up too high! It takes your breath away but you truly gasp at the magnitude of The Falls as they come into full view.
From afar you see the towering column of water spray, like clouds in the sky. Closer though the detail of the water gushing and dancing over the jagged rocks as it cascades is absolutely breath taking. A rainbow arcs across the chasm, colours brightening the sky, you feel another of your senses come alive as the cool spray rains down on you.
The ‘Vic Fall’s’ is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an asset shared between two countries: Zambia and Zimbabwe. I am in awe of Mother Nature.
As a guest at the Royal Livingstone Hotel by Anantara, situated in the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park in Zambia, we have free and unlimited access to the Falls, an easy 10 minute walk from our room. We are spoilt to be able to view them at sunrise, sunset and anytime in between, with each visit presenting a difference perspective, nuance and reflection.
The rainbow above the Falls is a constant but, depending on the time of day, it moves, sometimes becoming a double rainbow or a full arc. The Falls are in our backyard with the colonial style hotel, built in two-storey clusters, facing the river to take full advantage of the ‘smoke that thunders.’
The main attraction of the area is this natural wonder but there are a number of additional excursions to suit everyone, for the romantic or thrill seeker. These are easily arranged by the hotel staff with the colourful storyteller/guest experience guru as the ‘go to man’. Edward Minyoi, dressed in the traditional siziba of the Lozi tribe (reminds me of a kilt and bunnet), not only speaks multiple languages but has the broadest smile I have ever seen. Nothing is too much trouble.
There is much to see or do, or you can simply relax on the sundeck, at the pool or on your patio. We opted for a few experiential activities, my four favourites:
#1: Getting a bird’s eye view of the Falls from a microlight.
It’s the most exhilarating and surreal experience as you glide low over the fast flowing Zambezi River and the waterfall itself, taking in its entire length and breadth. You zigzag from Zambia into Zimbabwe and back across to Livingstone Island, over the National Park as you try to spot elephant and other animals – from giraffe to buffalo, zebra and a variety of antelope. The Park has no cats but is home to white rhino, under 24 hour guard.
#2: Sunset dinner aboard the luxurious Royal Livingstone Express.
This five-hour escape into a bygone era has you taking a slow journey, on a beautifully restored steam train, as you head onto the Vic Falls bridge the straddles Zambia and Zimbabwe. Pre-dinner drinks and canapes are served en route before you disembark in time to catch the sunset. Then it’s back on board the refurnished Pullman-style carriages for a five-course, fine dining experience. Complete with crystal, silver cutlery, fine china, crisp linen, leather seats, teak panelling and chandeliers. All this complemented with fine wines and rounded off by coffee and petit fours.
#3: A tranquil late afternoon Zambezi River cruise to get up close to the abundant bird life as well as hippo, crocodiles and elephant before you nibble on snacks and toast the end of a beautiful day, as the sun dips beneath the rainbow over the Falls.
#4: The outdoor Zambezi Massage, in a secluded gazebo, on the banks of the river. Inspired by the flow of the water the massage oils are African florals and it’s the ideal way to relieve tired and well-travelled muscles. Attention to detail is meticulous, down to the mirrors under the massage beds perfectly angled to get the best view of the Falls during this 90 minutes of bliss.
Walking around the beautifully renovated Royal Livingstone Hotel by Anantara, with all the facilities you expect from a 5-star+ establishment, you are struck at how easily you adapt to seeing zebra and giraffe meandering through the grounds, dining on the sweet grass outside your room, the restaurant or around the pool deck. Frequent visitors include buck and monkeys. In fact as we meander to the Falls for another viewing, we’re on our own personal walking safari!
I am sad to say goodbye to the Zambia and Falls, they have captivated me. I recall reading that it is the only place in the world where it ‘rains’ 24/7. Coming from drought stricken Cape Town I would happily trade. In fact, urban legend has it that five days of the flow over the Falls would fill all the dams in SA.
An acapella group, along with Edward, bid us farewell in song and dance as we transfer to the airport. It is a fitting farewell from the graceful Royal Livingstone Hotel by Anantara that has managed to get the cultural mix spot on as it showcases, with pride, this World Heritage Site.
For more information go to: https://www.anantara.com/en/royal-livingstone