Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe: The Falls and the Victoria Falls Hotel.
Forty something years ago when Scouts were Scouts and most everything cost very little I visited Victoria Falls on a Boy Scouts tour. It was magical. The bus we travelled in had seen better days, we roughed it in tents we pitched at night and the food was mostly canned or stale, but it didn’t matter. It was an adventure.
The “smoke that thunders”, as locals call the Victoria Falls, left an indelible image in my mind and coming back has been something of a bucket list item especially as my long-suffering, travel-addicted wife had never seen the falls.
Was it worth returning? A thousand times over.
No matter how many photos or films you may have seen, the Victoria Falls are bigger, better, louder and more majestic than you could imagine.
Where to stay? It all depends on your budget, but we gritted our teeth and booked at the “Old Lady of Africa”, the Victoria Falls Hotel, built in 1904 and still one of Africa’s iconic hotels. There may be less expensive options, but none grander. The laughter of long-departed guests echoes through the corridors and history oozes from every carefully looked-after nook and cranny. The staff are wonderful, the table superb (the White Chocolate Crème Brule they serve in the Livingstone Dining Room is to die for), and you can see the spray of the falls from the Terrace. Be careful when you order a drink though. Unless you tell them what brand of gin or whiskey you want, the barman will send you the most expensive one they have.
Everything in Vic Falls is commercialised these days. Hardly a surprise! My advice to first time visitors would be to find an operator (or hotel) to arrange your activities. That means they take care of bookings, transfers, entrance fees and whatever else needs looking after.
We only had three days so we crammed in as much as we could. I’ll get to everything over the next few posts.
Needless to say, you have to see the falls. Get yourself a guide and something to keep your camera dry. For the rest, your hair and clothes dry out quickly enough and the schlep of raincoats and umbrellas is for the touts to make money. On a first visit a guide adds huge value. Once you have walked with someone to fill you in, the falls, the history, the route, the lookout points and the names make sense.
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