A visit to the magnificent Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe has been sitting on my travel bucket list for longer than I can remember. With the recent change in political structures in Zimbabwe, this is definitely an emerging destination, so the timing of my trip felt opportune.
A business class upgrade on my flight to Addis was a good omen for the trip that lay ahead – setting the tone for the attentive service and fantastic food that I enjoyed throughout my wonderful week in Zimbabwe. On arrival at Matetsi, we were greeted by the entire staff, waving warmly, with the broadest smiles, and I felt instantly relaxed in my ‘home’ for the next week. The suites at Matetsi are just beautiful, each with its own private plunge pool and outside patio space.
No time to relax yet! I was eager for my first glimpse of the mighty Zambezi. This river has always enthralled me, since first learning about it in school, so to see it in full flow was a memorable moment. The Zambezi is the fourth largest river in Africa, at over 2500 kms long starting with its source in Zambia, travelling through Angola, connecting with the Chobe River and then bordering Zambia and Zimbabwe as it snakes its way over the mighty Victoria Falls, carrying on towards the Indian Ocean through Mozambique. With over nine miles of private Zambezi River frontage, Matetsi Victoria Falls is the perfect retreat to relax and enjoy the magnitude of its mighty force, with the magnificent Victoria Falls less than an hour away.
Water is the essence of life and wildlife is a permanent fixture by the Zambezi. During our first lunch, we were treated to a mini-safari show with little bush bucks wandering past, some crocodiles basking in the afternoon sunshine on the river banks, and our soundtrack for lunch was a chorus of hippos bathing in nearby shallows.
Early evening, we set off on a sunset cruise on the Zambezi, crossing to the islands in the middle of the river, to spot wildlife and have a look at the Zambian side. We cruised up and down the river at a very leisurely pace, savouring the moment, the warmth of the evening and the amazing sunset colours in the majestic Africa sky. Our first dinner back at the lodge was magical – set in a dreamy ambience of lanterns in trees, with the most amazing starscape in the velvet sky overhead.
Our next few days were packed with activities including game drives over the 55,000 hectares of the private reserve where we saw lion, leopard, honey badger, wild dog, hyena and the largest gathering of giraffe I have ever seen. Zimbabwe has the second largest elephant population in the world and this was in evidence as there were always ellies in camp, eating trees and drinking from pools. We captured many glorious moments including an elephant making its way through the season stream and a mother protecting her baby. The birdlife here is also incredible, but as our visit was during winter in Zimbabwe, much of the birdlife had migrated to warmer climes. We still spotted some beauties, including two magnificent Bataleur Eagles.
One of my favourite safari activities is going for a bush walk. As well as tuning in to the sights and sounds of the bush more acutely than a ame drive affords, I loved learning how to track animals and also picked up a few bush survival tactics. At the end of our walk we were surprised by an amazing bush breakfast, now ranking in my top all-time favourite dining experiences. A full English breakfast, washed down with mimosas, served at a beautiful table in the middle of the bush, with stunning views across the Zambezi…Sunday brunch is never going to be the same again?
Naturally, the main event was always going to be the Falls – and she didn’t disappoint. There are many ways to experience Victoria Falls, including an aerial tour by helicopter, but our walking tour was ideal to get up close and interact with the Falls. I was a little puzzled by the offer of an umbrella and a waterproof poncho from our guide given the dry heat of the day. However, as you get closer, you quickly feel the immense power of those waterfalls, and experience the strength of its shooting spray. The waters were nearly at full height which explains the name given to the Falls by the Kalolo-Lozi people – the ‘smoke that thunders’. I was completely mesmerised by her beauty and managed to capture the iconic image of Victoria Falls with its myriad of magical rainbows. No professional photographer could ever capture an image that would do this ‘wonder of the world’ justice. It’s a natural phenomenon that I would recommend everyone experiences first hand.
After our exhilarating tour of the Falls, we were treated to an afternoon tea at the colonial Victoria Falls hotel. With views of the iconic Victorian bridge which runs along the border of Zimbabwe and Zambia, it was an elegant way to end my memorable trip. Reflecting on my wonderful week at Matetsi, I would recommend a minimum stay of three nights, allowing you to fully experience the reserve, enjoy all the bush and water-based activities and appreciate the mighty Zambezi and the Victoria Falls. It’s an ideal start or end to the holiday of a lifetime and an experience that I will cherish for years to come.