Victoria Falls Trip Report from Bassel Fares Part 1
by Bassel Fares
The hotel and activity bookings you made for Niki and I were a great success. The high level of service you provided was excellent.
Our stay at The Kingdom at Victoria Falls was completely satisfactory. Nearly every part of the schedule you designed actually happened as we hoped it would. Niki and I had enough stamina to keep up and enjoy it all.
Good job on sending the driver to Victoria Falls Airport when we got bumped from the flight to Livingstone Airport at the last minute. You answered the telephone and provided an immediate solution on the spot. Thompson Holidays had kept me on hold for a long time. We were about to board an airplane while our driver was headed to the wrong destination. You saved the situation.
The visa payments and arrivals at Victoria Falls Airport were a mob scene, not an orderly line or queue. It took nearly two hours, longer than the flight itself from Johannesburg to Victoria Falls. Our driver was waiting patiently to take us to The Kingdom. We made our helicopter sightseeing flight on time, a spectacular way to start our experience, and the airport changes and delays were quickly forgotten. I texted with you during the helicopter flight above the Falls.
A romantic dinner cruise followed the helicopter flight.
The next morning I did some of the flying of my microlight, which was good fun. Niki and I had simultaneous flights and we were in a loose formation for a brief time. This was my second time flying with Batoka Sky over Victoria Falls.
Our visit to Livingstone Island was beautiful. We were a couple of weeks too early to swim in the Devil’s Jacuzzi, but our guide found us another swimming hole a few meters away right on the lip of the Falls. It was absolutely thrilling to stand on the very edge and swim on the very edge surrounded by powerful, rushing water and dancing, floating mist, looking into the abyss, hearing and feeling the thunder. We called it Niki’s Jacuzzi. We retreated to the main area of Livingstone Island, had our feet washed, dried off, and then were served a fancy breakfast in a romantic tent with a spectacular view. It was the height of a glamorous and luxurious African safari straight from glossy travel magazines photos and nostalgic Hollywood movies.
I called you after this experience to ask about vouchers. It was only because the tour operator at the boat dock of the Royal Livingstone Hotel erroneously claimed he would have to pay for our tour out of his own pocket since we had no paper vouchers. Of course it’s not true, but that’s what he said and had been led to believe. In fact, the paper voucher system has been largely discontinued, but all the activity providers ask for vouchers out of long standing habit.
Following your transportation instructions, we did walking tours of the Falls from both the Zambian and Zimbabwean sides, taking our time, soaking in the splendor, literally retracing my family’s footsteps from 1968. I have clear memories of that first visit, aided by cherished photos and 8mm home movies.
It was nice to walk from the Zimbabwe side of Victoria Falls to our room at The Kingdom at our leisure, no bus or taxi needed, taking advantage of the hotel’s close proximity.
This was followed by a night game drive and dinner in the bush. Close up views of sable antelopes were a highlight of the game drive, with their dramatic ringed horns arching backward. Close up views of a family of rhinoceros were also fantastic.
Breakfast in the restaurant at The Kingdom starts at 7:00 AM. Since we had early activity schedules before the restaurant opened, the kitchen provided boxed breakfast meals each day at no extra cost. After missing the first day, which was fine, since it heightened our experience at Livingstone Island, we made the request each previous night.
The day trip to Chobe National Park was excellent. We had plenty of good game viewing, including large herds of elephants crossing the Chobe River single file, swimming and snorkeling with their trunks. Large crocodiles were resting on the riverbanks with their fearsome jaws gaping wide open. We watched prides of lions lounging in the bush and traveling from place to place.
The white water rafting on the Zambezi River was every bit as exciting as we expected. Niki and I were in a raft with a group of enthusiastic, energetic Zimbabwean and Australian teenagers. The Shearwater Rafting staff was highly trained, highly organized, and well equipped. They made it great fun. We loved it! In one section of the trip, we all jumped overboard and challenged the rapids with just our lifejacket, no raft. On two occasions, a black helicopter came roaring over our heads at high speed, deep in the canyon, flying just above the River, following the zigs and zags, banking sharply to avoid the canyon walls. It looked and sounded spectacular. Niki looked at me with big eyes and shouted, “Honey, did you sign us up for that?” Our rafting guide Makesh gave us an operational briefing prior to each rapid. The wildly humorous name of each Rapid gave a hint of the excitement ahead, Midnight Diner, Gnashing Jaws of Death, Overland Truck Eater, The Washing Machine, etc. The walk out of the gorge after the rafting was steep and hard, but we were rewarded by the delicious aroma of meat grilling on the barbeque and a satisfying lunch.
If I were to return to the mighty Zambezi River for more white water fun, I might try body boarding instead of rafting, and I would select an overnight trip. And I would sign up for the nap-of-the-earth, white water helicopter ride, which I didn’t even know existed at Victoria Falls.
After a short transition at out hotel, we transferred to the elephant back safari. Again, an excellent activity that we greatly enjoyed, especially feeding and petting our elephant Tusker after the ride.
The last morning we had our walk with lion cubs, fun, heart-warming, and unusual. The cubs were cute play wrestling with each other. Niki fell in love rubbing their backs and wanted to take them home.
Ten years ago I made a perfect swan dive bungee jump from Victoria Falls Bridge. I wanted to make a tandem jump with Niki on our current visit, but apparently tandem jumps are no longer an option at this location. Niki had no interest nor desire in bungee jumping so she didn’t jump. She chatted with jumpers gearing up, watched bungee jumping up close for the first time, and was terrified. I wanted to give her jump away to a young hanger on, a stylish, hip, black Zimbabwean who makes friends with tourists for fun and profit. But we were in a rush to get to Livingstone Airport and I couldn’t make it happen fast. For variety, this time I made a graceful back dive, crouching low and pushing off hard, to get as high and as far away as possible from the bridge. It felt great.
Since we paid for Niki’s jump far in advance and she declined to jump at the last minute, is it possible to get a refund? If you get me a refund, it would be even more spectacular than bungee jumping from Victoria Falls Bridge.
I’m glad I found your excellent web site by chance. Thank you again for excellent service and a great time at Victoria Falls.