Recently, I was fortunate enough to visit Zimbabwe for the first time. Living in Zambia as a child, one would think it neighbourly to visit occasionally, to take over the odd cup of sugar. But it seems that Zimbabwe and Zambia aren’t “those” sorts of neighbours. Rather, there seems to be a school-ground tussle around whose view of the falls is better.
After my recent stay in Zimbabwe I have decided to put our differences aside. Zim has too much to offer to allow a petty quarrel get in the way of future visits.
So, you may be asking what lured me across the border to begin with? Well, after 3 weeks of camping in our trusty roof-top tent, the sound of being treated to a private sanctuary on an island in the middle of the Zambezi River was music to my ears! Don’t get me wrong. I love our mobile, canvas abode. But after almost a month of being a nomad I was happy to pack away our “Home, Sweet Home” sign to indulge in a permanently pitched tent with a real bed, cotton linen and an en-suite bathroom. To top it off, I knew a lingering, hot shower under the stars was in my future!
We began our journey into the Zambezi National Park, heading to our home for the next three nights, Chundu Island. A stay at Chundu means you begin your journey with an hour game drive through the national park, tracing the Zambezi River. Driving through the park, the effect of anti-poaching efforts and the reintroduction of certain animals into the area over the past two to three years is evident. Despite the difficulties they have faced over the past decade, the Victoria Falls Anti-Poaching Unit has worked closely with the National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority in an effort to restore Zimbabwe as one of the top safari destinations in Africa.
Along the river you are most likely to see game looking to quench their thirst, including elephant, wildebeest, giraffe and a number of antelope species. It didn’t take us long to spot the first game as we encountered an elephant road-block created by a herd of about 100 strong, taking refuge from the heat in the shade of roadside trees. This presented the first of many fantastic photographic opportunities during our stay.
Next on the agenda was a sunset boat ride. Armed with our cameras and a cooler box with a couple of “cold ones” we headed up the Zambezi. Keen birders take note! The birdlife on the Zambezi River is astonishing, to say the least! Various rare species are found around the island, depending on the time of year. We were fortunate enough to see the rock pratincole, African skimmers and a Livingstone’s turaco. We also got some great photos of kingfishers on the hunt; pied, brown-hooded and giant, as well as white-fronted bee-eaters returning to their nests in the evening light. On the island, we saw a very sleepy barn owl that had set up home in the sausage tree shading the deck.
Other highlights included watching a herd of 40 roan antelope descend on a waterhole for their evening drink and a visit to the mainland, which leads me to the crux of the story… the view of Victoria Falls… Well, unfortunately, I just can’t comment. What type of Zambian would I be if I did? (read: OMG, it was incredible!! Sooo many view points. Sooo much water.)
And now for a tip for which you will FOREVER be grateful; the restaurant at the falls serves real, delicious coffee. Here a flat white does not refer to a european tourist after an encounter with an angry elephant. No. Your order for a flat white will result in a smooth, velvety coffee that comes complete with latte art and is accompanied with a shot of Amarula. It’s my pleasure…
Needless to say, I will most certainly be visiting Zimbabwe again. Until then I will dream of the view of the Zambezi, sitting on the deck at Chundu while being serenaded by hippos and watching the thirsty elephants on the opposite bank.