Victoria Falls Trip Details and Advice
by Melanie Gorven
For withdrawing cash in Zim you need a Visa card with a pin number! It sounds ridiculously obvious but in our case our Visa cards were Diners Club cards which we do not use to withdraw cash from ATMs. The Visa card was fine for making payments but without the pin we couldn’t withdraw cash. We realised too late to organise a pin number so got some US dollars at the airport and used those.
Chobe Safari Lodge accepts Mastercard.
If you are last minute like us and organising cash at the airport it is good to know that there are two Bureau de Changes at OR Thambo – one before you check in and one after. We got our money at the latter and the teller informed us we would have got a better rate if we had exchanged it at the first Bureau de Change.
Regarding Malaria prevention we took Malanil. You begin taking it 24 hours before departure, during your trip and for a week afterwards. It is very expensive. We needed 13 tablets each for the two of us and the 26 tablets came to nearly R1000. Fortunately our Medical Aid paid for it. We didn’t want to take medicine for a prolonged period but also didn’t want to take a risk and do nothing.
From Thompsons we just had a printout of our itinerary and a reference number. This was fine when we flew into Zim but when we were flying out the computers were down. We didn’t have the E-ticket numbers so they had to phone through and get it from Thompsons. It wasn’t a big hassle but next time I will make sure I have E-ticket numbers.
Both hotels we stayed at provided hairdryers and adapters so no need to take either of these.
We put our cell phones onto roam while we were away but forgot to change our voice message. We couldn’t get any voicemail off our cells because you need to make a call to hear the message. We should have left a message telling people to sms us.
Reflections on Experiences and accommodation
Chobe Safari Lodge is a wonderful place! Really outstanding. We thoroughly enjoyed our stay there – the ambience, the activities, the comfort and the tranquillity. The place has been decorated so creatively using old dugout canoes which they have converted into benches, wine racks, bookshelves, etc. We recommend both the boat cruise and the game drives and, interestingly, one sees more on the afternoon outings. Our room had two double beds in – hence the confusion about the twin room.
The Kingdom Hotel at Vic Falls was not great. The fire alarm kept going off including in the middle of the night. Some things didn’t work properly (eg cupboard doors didn’t close) or were needing to be replaced (placemats in the dining room were worn out and a bit gross). However, the hotel was very conveniently situated and these things in no way detracted from our holiday. We did get a chance to see the Vic Falls Safari Lodge which we highly recommend. It is just out of town but with an hourly shuttle service in and out it is not inconvenient to stay there. The Lodge is built on several levels and overlooks a water hole. One can eat meals and relax on the deck whilst watching the animals. Every day the Lodge staff put food out for the vultures so that is added interest. It is a small more personal place and reminded us of Chobe Safari Lodge.
The Vic Falls Hotel is definitely worth a visit for the view it has of the Falls. We were glad not to have stayed there though as we found it to be rather colonial and snooty!
The Dinner Cruise was very special. There were just 6 clients on the boat and 3 staff. We ate at tables beautifully set whilst the staff prepared the food on board and served us attentively. For each of the three courses the boat was stopped and we were still while we ate. Then we got going again between courses. It was tranquil and not commercial. We were fortunate to be with really interesting people with whom we got along. We set off at dusk, watched the sun set and returned in the dark.
The Helicopter Flip was breathtakingly awesome and well worth the money. I was only scared initially when we took off – for a few seconds.
The guided tour of the falls was not necessary but very interesting. We enjoyed getting to know the locals so this gave us insight. It was particularly interesting to hear about the local vegetation – something we would not have learned about if we went alone. We did go again to the Falls on our own and also went to the Zambian side. The Zambian side costs $20 entry.
If I had to leave anything out it would be the Elephant Safari. It felt really strange and unnatural to be riding an elephant and I was a bit embarrassed to have supported the venture even though they assure us that the money goes towards elephant conservation etc. We did learn a lot about elephants though and I was amazed at how they ate constantly throughout the Safari.
The Boma Dinner was a great experience especially the interactive drumming that we all participated in. Definitely recommended.
Apparently Full Moon lasts for 3 nights per month and on each of these nights a Lunar Tour is conducted to the Falls which are beautifully lit by the moon. After these 3 nights there is one night when you get the Lunar Rainbow. We had worked out that we would miss the full moon but didn’t realise that we would arrive on the day of the lunar rainbow which is actually what we wanted to see. We were already booked on a Dinner Cruise that evening which couldn’t be changed but we were told that the lunar rainbow tour would be at 8.30 pm so we could go our dinner cruise and on the lunar tour. Sadly we were misinformed and when we returned from the dinner cruise we found out that the lunar rainbow tour had been at 7.30 pm. There was strangely little knowledge amongst Hotel staff and even Thompsons staff about the night tours of the Falls.
Curios and Markets. Although the goods are beautiful at the markets the experience of shopping there is traumatic and one big guilt trip. I suggest that people get an idea of the price of goods in a shop first as nothing has a fixed price and you never know the value of anything. We paid $10 for an item that sold for $3 in the airport shop! At least if you are ripped off you know that the people benefitting are extremely poor. On the bridge to Zambia I was almost mobbed by a group of guys all trying to get me to buy their bangles – grabbing my arm and putting them on me. Quite scary.
All in all we had a fantastic time and a good break. In the end I was glad to have gone to Chobe first as it meant our last day was not such a long one. Shearwater were excellent and in particular we had a lot ot do with a guide called Bheki who impressed us.
Thanks very much for your help. It made it much more accessible to have a human being to arrange things and not just do things electronically.