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Vic Falls Bush Telegraph issue 11
July 02, 2013
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Welcome to the latest edition of our Victoria Falls Guide Bush Telegraph, your periodic tourism update on the Victoria Falls and surrounding region.
The Victoria Falls in June - still lots of water and lots of spray
Once again the waters of the Zambezi River have pulsed with their annual rhythm of seasonal flood, and now that the rains have long passed the water levels are steadily dropping. Fears of record floods subsided as the rains evaporated, although in mid March the Kariba Dam floodgates had to be opened to release water from the Lake, an impressive spectacle for those lucky enough to see it.
Nights along the river are getting colder – with misty mornings on the river for those keen enough to get up at dawn. Visitors at this time of year are often surprised how cold it can be overnight - and we really do mean bring a fleece or similar warm layers for those chilly evenings and extra cold mornings!
Early morning mists on the Zambezi River upstream of the Victoria Falls
Rains across much of the region appeared to dry up quite early, despite a good start at the beginning of the year, and the bush has dried out quickly and early, with the threat of bush fires an ever present problem.
As the bush dries wildlife becomes concentrated along the river and other water sources. Elephant and buffalo are regular sights along Zambezi Drive, and with hippo are present all year round care should be taken visiting Big Tree and the river above the Falls. Whilst seeing these big beasts is part of the thrill of visiting the region for tourists, locals living in the town bemoan their broken walls and damaged gardens (see our previous article here), but in truth these animals are doing what they have been doing for centuries, being drawn to the lush grazing under the spray shadow of the Falls. However, since the Falls Park was first fenced in the mid 1900s wildlife has been excluded from the richest grazing areas - and well watered gardens obviously make an attractive substitute. A team of experts recently visited town to investigate the installation of a light-based system which has been successful in Kenya in deterring elephants and lions. Let's hope something is done to help us live in harmony with the gentle, but slightly clumsy, giants.
Both sides of the river, in the towns of Livingstone and Victoria Falls, preparations are well underway for the hosting in August of the UNWTO General Assembly, an event to be attended by tourism delegates from around the world. Roads are being repaired and resurfaced, shops and buildings renovated – see UNWTO Preparations Continue for more information.
Make sure if you are planning to visit Victoria Falls at the end of August you book your accommodation and activities in advance with us, as the town is sure to busy!
Rafting re-opens on the Zambezi
After several weeks of postponed announcements, the 28th season of white water rafting opened on the Zambezi River below the Victoria Falls on the 14 May. Originally it was hoped that rafting would open towards the end of April, but river levels were slow to subside to the required levels for safe resumption of rafting, and it took a few weeks before levels were reached. The high water trip from rapid 11 to 24 is currently being run with the longer and more exciting low water trip set to start some time in August. See our website for more on Zambezi White Water Rafting.
Mid-May saw the arrival in town of the Zambezi Explorer, a new luxury boat – and one of the biggest to ever cruise this section of the river. The main part of the boat was built in Harare and was then transported to Victoria Falls by road - no simple task, involving the removal of power-lines and trees along the route. The 1,000km journey took a total of 10 days, after which the boat was docked close to the river whilst the upper decks, furnishings, fittings and final touches are made. In early June the boat was launched with great fanfare and celebration.
The Zambezi Explorer on her maiden voyage
In August Victoria Falls and her sister town of Livingstone will host the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) General Assembly. Preparations are well under way to ensure that Victoria Falls has the capacity to cater for the thousands of delegates anticipated to attend. Developments road and airport infrastructure, medical treatment facilities, construction of a new electricity substation, installation of a new water pipeline, improvements to fibre-optic links and bandwidth availability.
The roads in and around Victoria Falls are being resurfaced, including the road running up from the Victoria Falls Bridge and into town, and the 22 kilometre stretch from town to the airport is being widened. Victoria Falls Airport is undergoing major ongoing renovations that will see it upgraded to an International Airport, including construction of a four kilometre runway, a new international terminal building and upgraded domestic terminal building, control tower and fire-station. The Victoria Falls Hospital has also undergone a facelift and re-fitting with new equipment.
An estimated total of US$16 million is being spent by hotel groups on refurbishment of hotels in and around town – see Hotel & Lodge News for more information.
The national airline Air Zimbabwe has made some bold moves recently in a bid to regain some market share for domestic and regional flights. The acquisition of two new aircraft has enabled them to resume flights from Harare to Johannesburg and Harare to Bulawayo and Victoria Falls. This was indeed good news for travellers who were finding it impossible to get around the country, the only alternative being lengthy coach journeys or expensive plane charters. But that's not all Air Zimbabwe have now slashed their prices by 60% in some cases as well as introducing two additional flights per week from Harare to Bulawayo and Victoria Falls to cope with the increased demand.
Making a booking from outside the country appears to still be quite a challenge as their online booking facility doesn't work. Reservations can be made over the phone +263 4 575111 but unfortunately card payments cannot be processed over the phone. Bank transfers can be made or cash or card payments are accepted onsite. I'm assured they will hold your booking until you get there.
Just when you think it's all been done, the tour operators come up with a new ideas keeping Victoria Falls as surely one of the most adventure packed destinations in the world.
Activity operator Wild Horizons has announced the launch of a new product – the Batoka Gorge Canopy Tour – a network of slides, trails and rope bridge walkways within the forested gorges of the gorge below the Victoria Falls Hotel. The tour is suitable for all ages, including families and groups. Click on this link Canopy Tours for details and bookings.
Jet Boat Safaris
A sunset cruise with a difference has just been launched by Jet boat safaris. Smaller than the standard sunset cruise (16 people max) the 28ft long twin aluminium pontoon is powered by aqua jet engines which can go places the bigger sunset cruise boats just can't go.
The term jet boat conjures up visions of being hurtled around at very high speeds and getting thoroughly wet, this couldn't be further from the experience you get on this cruise which is more like a gentle safari, meandering between the islands taking in the flora and fauna on the Zambezi River above Victoria Falls. Most importantly this cruise gets away from the myriad other cruise boats and it gets you closer to the Falls themselves giving you a marvellous opportunity to see the rising column of spray while enjoying a sundowner. Priced at just US$10 more than a standard sunset cruise, this should be a winner
Batoka Gorge Update
Energy and Power Development secretary Mr Partson Mbiriri said recently that six companies had been shortlisted after bidding for the construction of the Batoka Gorge hydropower station.
Sources close to the development said that a local Zambian company, Khanyisa Energy and Treasfin Securities, has partnered with one of the world’s leading energy companies, China Gezhouba Group CorSources close to the development said that a local Zambian company, Khanyisa Energy and Treasfin Securities, has partnered with one of the world’s leading energy companies, China Gezhouba Group Corporation, in the race to win the contract. CGGC are renowned for constructing the world’s largest hydropower station, the Three Gorges Project, at a cost of more than US$50 billion in China. The consortium, known as Batoka Hydro Energy Power Company, has joined other companies from China, Brazil, Europe and the Middle East to land the lucrative deal.
The two governments of Zambia and Zimbabwe have ordered an updated environmental impact assessment study and are in discussions with the World Bank to finance study. See our previous reports on the Batoka Dam proposal.
The Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust
The Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust (formerly the Wild Horizons Wildlife Trust) is dedicated to protecting the area’s unique indigenous fauna and flora in collaboration with appropriate Authorities, local communities and other stakeholders. One of the core objectives of the Trust is the care and rehabilitation of injured wildlife and to support the treatment of snared and injured animals in the field the Trust has, with the help of a generous private donation, developed a state of the art Wildlife Laboratory and Clinic on the Wild Horizons Sanctuary.
First conceptualised in 2009, the Victoria Falls Trust's Wildlife Laboratory and Clinic is now complete, and will take in wildlife that is injured, abandoned, orphaned or maimed by human interference. The main objective will be for treatment of the animal and its release back into the wild once it has recovered. For wildlife that has injuries that are long-term or permanent the Trust aims to look after the animal with the hope of providing a soft-release into the Sanctuary where possible.
Read the full story here
Victoria Falls Hotel
The Victoria Falls Hotel is currently undergoing a major US$3 million refurbishment, the General Manager of the hotel, Giulio Togni assured me that the project has been very carefully planned to cause as little disruption as possible to bookings and guests. The refurbishment aims to bring the Victoria Falls Hotel to the standard of a modern Luxury 5 Star destination and includes the redevelopment and improvement to the Hotel’s rooms, lounges, terraces and pool pavilion.
For full details see our website Victoria Falls Hotel Refurbishment
Cresta Sprayview Hotel
Cresta Hotels have announced their arrival in Victoria Falls with a US$1.5 million refurbishment and rebranding of the Sprayview Hotel. The end product will be 64 rooms, 2 restaurants, 2 bars and 3 conference rooms aimed at the mid-budget traveller and all within 2km of the mighty Victoria Falls. The Cresta Hotel group have hotels in Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe, which we hope will mean some competitive accommodation packages for those wishing to travel across different countries We will be updating our current Sprayview page once the refurbishment is complete.
Tue Mar 19 2013 - Sat Nov 16 2013
Livingstone will be hosting a series of international sporting, cultural and musical events and festivals running from 19 March (Livingstone's actual birthday) through to 16 November, the date when David Livingstone first viewed The Victoria Falls back in 1855. The programme is part of a global chain of events celebration of Livingstone’s birth. Read more Livingstone 2013 (external link, opens in a new window).
Run in conjunction with the National Athletics Association of Zimbabwe, the Victoria Falls Marathon race is an AIMS (Association of International Marathon and Distance Races) registered event. The marathon race route is fast and relatively flat and is well supported by regular water points and cooling down sections, all ably managed by the sponsors. A full 42.2km marathon race, 21.2km half marathon run and a 5km fun run is available. The marathon race route starts at the Kingdom Hotel then crosses over the Victoria Falls Bridge, briefly into Zambia offering the social runner some of the most spectacular scenery in Africa and ends at the Victoria Falls Primary School.
From July 2013 until the end of August 2013, The Ndau Collection Gallery at Elephant’s Walk Shopping and Artist’s Village, Victoria Falls will host a collaborative exhibition between local designers Christie Halsted and Godwill Ruona.
27, 28 & 29 September
Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust (formerly Wild Horizons Wildlife Trust) will be hosting the Victoria Falls Enduro Motorbike Fun Ride. 27th will be an ~80km ride 28th will be ~150km ride, 29th will be a fun day for everyone to enjoy. The ride is open to any motorcycle or quad normally used for off road events. Course marked for novice, intermediate and experienced riders. More details coming soon!
Feel free to contact us with any questions, queries, ideas or criticisms.
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