Stand completely still. Listen carefully. Gather your heightened senses; see, hear, smell, taste.
Red desert dust escapes skyward. Rustling and grunting ensue. Scratching and snorting. Your eyes dart around, trying to lock eyes on the target. Through the pamplemousse grass, past the ornamental pots and exotic flowers. Breathing slows. Sweat trickles.
Suddenly, without hesitation, and with fervent clumsiness, out rushes Pumbaa, let’s call him that, a warthog. Lion King extraordinaire without his side kick, Timon the meerkat. Snoot down, he bashes, stumbles and scrapes, tail flicking excitedly in the arid heat. He is on a mission. A food mission. No one will get in his way. This is his territory. Casually step aside and let him past.
Whether or not Victoria Falls Safari Club was here first or he was, makes no difference. He will continue his voyage, furiously foraging.
And so, your African adventure begins.
Well not quite. When you fly into the newly developed Victoria Falls Airport, a traditional African band awaits, serenading you into the soul inspiring country of Zimbabwe. The Safari Club is approximately 20 minutes’ drive from the airport, through the town of Victoria Falls and out to the vast land beyond. The town has every amenity needed; restaurants, souvenir shops and tour companies are geared up and ready, ready for people who come, bucket list in hand, to experience the thunder of the falls.
The drive up to the entrance is long and winding, passing elephants swaying by the road side, gently stripping bark with their trunks. The tree lined drive meanders through the canopy trees, arriving at the gate, where men in traditional dress greet you. Once through the gates, the intensity of your experience thus far hits you. Here is Pumbaa. Get used to him and his family, get used to hearing the elephants wash, the giraffe stretch, the monkeys swinging. The wings of vultures flapping overhead, the chirping of crickets and baying of zebras.
The cacophony of sound is a mesmerising engagement with nature. Perhaps the most exhilarating of all is the thunder of the Falls in the distance. You can hear it. You can feel it. The deep, dark rumble that never ends. Victoria Falls, one of the Wonders of the World.
Slightly floating, you alight and enter the private reception of the Safari Club, you can’t help but feel extremely smug. You have one of the most specular views in Zimbabwe, I would even argue, Africa.
The open reception area, hangs perilously on stilts over the open planes of the Zambezi National Park. Views for miles of tree tops, birds, and watering holes. There are comfy large sofas and binoculars in which to indulge your David Attenborough fetish. Attention to detail is paramount, monkeys adorn the cushions, African beaded statues surround the restaurant, warding off stray warthogs.
And this is just at check-in.
Chandeliers swing, the wooden roof and beams add to the rustic safari feel. You are greeted with a much needed frosty cold face towel and local juice, all placed on a wooden tray surrounded by silver crocodiles. Your butler swiftly checks you in, and shows you to the room that will be your own tree house for your stay.
There are nine butlers in total, four for every shift, so you are well catered for. There are only twenty rooms in Safari Club, discreet and special. Complementary drinks and afternoon tea are in the reception every day from 17:30. There is also a cocktail hour, imbibe ad cool down, watching the elephants and giraffes cool down too at their watering hole just below.
The rooms are luxurious, African themed delights. The mud hut feel to the white washed walls is authentic. The king size bed faces the balcony, it is surrounded by white nets, practical yet bewitching. The wooden chandelier made from local sticks is a centre piece that simply can’t be ignored. As is the free standing bath and vibrant colourful, African art on the walls and on the cushions.
There is a selection of pillows for the more delicate amongst us, one named ‘peach skin’. It isn’t actually made from peach skin, mind you feeling it against your face, you could close your eyes and imagine. A lamp rests in the corner, with a snake slithering up into the burnt orange lampshade, you keep catching glimpses of it as you look over your shoulder while running to the door to escape, before you realise for the one hundredth time that it isn’t real.
The bar is complementary, the laundry is complementary, there are sun lotions and sun creams and importantly insect repellent spray. A Nespresso machine is fully loaded and ready to go, and local delicacies such as nuts, dried fruits and dried meat are there to nibble when you are peckish. Remember, make sure the monkeys don’t get to them first. Fresh milk and Zambezi beer are replenished every day in the fridge as are the local wines.
The Club has its own pool, two pools actually, one more of a hot tub. Complete with rest area, sunbeds and a butler service so you don’t have to leave the enjoyment of basking in the sun. Ring 501 and they shall bring you whatever you need. The pool playfully has a crocodile, itself basking by the pool, hard to tell at first if this is real or not. Again as you look hastily over your shoulder you realise it isn’t.
Conservationism is very important to the Africa Abida Tourism who manage the Victoria Safari Club and Lodge. Not one tree was destroyed when they were building the Lodge, and they planted 6,000 trees around the estate. They have won the Best Resort for the 21 year in a row at the Association of Zimbabwe Travel Agents, they are awarding winning for a reason.
Part of this drive is the Vulture Culture. An experienced handler feeds the vultures at 1pm every day. From 12pm onwards you can begin to see the vultures gather, circling and swooping, perching on branches surrounding the ‘restaurant’, waiting patiently to be fed.
The Vulture Restaurant is a conservation project to protect vultures while also educating tourists. Eight of Africa’s eleven vulture’s species have declined over the last thirty years. More is needed to stop this decline, most of which is by human hand; poisoning, poaching and power lines.
Two of the most common visitors to the vulture restaurants are the hooded vulture and the white backed one, both endangered species. We can all help by becoming more aware of how important they are to the ecosystem and ad how desperately needed they are for the health of the environment.
Speaking of feeding, having breakfast overlooking the planes is phenomenal. Dine at the award winning MaKuwa-Kuwa Restaurant in the evening, or enjoy the Boma, a legendary braai or barbeque buffet and drum show, that people staying all over Victoria Falls come to experience. Those staying in the Safari Club can dine at the private restaurant, seductively by starlight.
A shuttle bus can take you into town, a mere 10 minutes away. See if you can stop by the Baobab Tree, or the Big Tree as it’s known. Standing at 23 metres it is between 1000-1500 years old. Well worth a touch. The Club can organise other activities if you wish, sunset cruise on the Zambezi, game drives or a helicopter ride over the majestic Falls.
The world beneath a Zimbabwe sun is magical. The burning skies and dust make way for the lakes, mountains and national parks with a breath-taking variety of wildlife. Sample it all here, at Victoria Safari Club. Leaving the Falls, I met a wonderful young man named ‘Tendai’, he told me that it is African Shona meaning ‘thankful’. How thankful you will feel when you come here, and when tipping your hat to Pumbaa feels like a normal part of your day.
Nightly rates at Victoria Falls Safari Club start from $298pp per night in a Club Room on a bed & breakfast basis. For more information or to book, please visit: www.africaalbidatourism.com
More information: Victoria Falls Safari Club