Falling for Africa

Falling for Africa

Gary Boyd enjoys an enticing taste of the Dark Continent with specialist tour operator Africa Collection and the excellent Desert & Delta Safaris.

There’s nothing quite like starting a holiday on a high note and there are few high points more dramatic or exciting than Victoria Falls. Known by local tribesman as ‘Mosi-oa-Tunya’ (the Smoke that Thunders), the Falls are a spectacular sight and deservedly ranked amongst the natural wonders of the world. The curtain of tumbling water stretches across almost two kilometres and almost 550 million cubic meters of water per minute cascade over the edge, at the height of the flood season, into the gorge 100 metres below. The noise is immense and the perpetual spray from the teeming waters has created a mini rain forest along the opposite banks.  You can walk here, but don’t expect to stay dry!

Follow that!

I visited in the Victoria Falls Hotel which boasts wonderful views of the Falls and the pretty railway bridge nearby.  I can just imagine War Veterans dining at this hotel in full dress uniform, the hotel is something of an institution in the region and staff make up for any perceived lack of high tech modern facilities with cheerfully friendly service. If you want something a little more upscale another great option is the Royal Livingstone in Zambia, also on the on the banks of the Zambezi River, just upstream from the mighty Victoria Falls, is excellent.

Most people come to this part of Africa for the wildlife experiences and my favourite Attenborough moment was just ahead.  When I checked into the Old Drift Lodge, also in Zimbabwe, I was delighted to find myself in a modern, well-equipped and luxuriously designed villa with indoor and outdoor shower and a bath overlooking the Zambezi River, but my abiding memory of this resort will be getting up on my first morning to see an elephant drinking from my private pool!

After two nights and several fascinating game drives we transferred by road (around 75 minutes’ drive time) and passed through via immigration at the Botswana border heading towards our next stop; to Chobe Game Lodge in the Chobe National Park, Serondela. This was the only road transfer on the trip – all others were by private plane which seems very glamorous, but is a practical option considering the large distances between our destinations.

This is a stunning base from which to explore the wonders of this huge national park and fantastic ‘up close and personal’ views of all sorts of big game and wildlife are almost guaranteed.

Chobe Game Lodge is an elegant, five-star, fully Ecotourism-certified safari lodge and the only property located inside the world-renowned park and set on the banks of the famous Chobe River.  Guests are encouraged to immerse themselves in an all-encompassing safari on land and water in one of Africa’s primary wildlife destinations as the Chobe Game Lodge staff share their passion and knowledge about the diversity of Botswana’s Chobe National Park.

Accommodation is excellent throughout, with rooms, suites and villas all well-equipped and tastefully designed.  Every one of the 44 elegantly designed guest rooms are air-conditioned, with en-suite bathroom and a large terrace facing the Chobe River. The Chobe Game Lodge is the Largest of the Desert And Delta properties in Botswana, but also had a certain charm, that is difficult to describe until you are actually there !

Creature comforts well catered for, most guests are delighted to explore the national park in the company of the Chobe Lodge guides.  Game drives and languid river cruises provide ample opportunities to see thrilling wildlife in their natural habitat, while the evident enthusiasm and expertise of the guides mean that, on this holiday, every day is a school day.  We saw all of the “Big 5” and some added extras – we even spotted the elusive Honey Badger which, we are told, is pound for pound the toughest animal in the wild

There are so many properties it is difficult to update on them all !

We flew with South African Airways via Johannesburg which proved an easy connection with Aer Lingus in Terminal at London Heathrow. On arrival in Victoria Falls you have to purchase a visa at $35 – a slow and slightly antiquated process, but this is Africa, and who’s in a rush anyway?