The drive from Bulawayo to Victoria Falls seems like one long, straight roads. We set off at about 10am and stopped off in Hwange town to get fuel. Some people stop off at Hwange Safari Lodge for lunch (which means a small diversion), but we were too eager to get to the falls! I had been to Victoria Falls just once before, when I was about 12, so I was looking forward to seeing this adrenalin-seekers’ paradise with fresh eyes.
Arrival in Victoria Falls Town:
We passed the Victoria Falls Airport on the left, and drove down a tree-lined avenue towards the town of Victoria Falls. We had a competition to see who would spot the spray of the falls first – Ben won. There it was, to our right, looking for the all world like a fluffy, candy-floss-white cloud, sitting low in the sky. The water and the spray is at its highest when we were there (May). I’m so glad that we went at this time to see just how awesome the it can be.
As we drove into Victoria Falls town, I kept my eyes open for animals that might be wandering around – elephants are known to cause traffic jams here! Unfortunately we didn’t have any animal-jams, although a troop of monkeys greeted us on the road, as well as some warthogs who were nibbling the grass near the “Wimpy corner”. (The Wimpy corner seems to be a landmark for many directions around Victoria Falls town, but we couldn’t actually find a Wimpy! We took it to be the area where most of the tour company booking offices are, and truth be told, it would be very difficult to get lost in that town anyway.)
Lokuthula – place of peace:
We stayed at Lokuthula Lodges, which is a collection of 37 self-catering, thatched lodges, reasonably spaced out from each other, all with open fronts. You pronounce it ‘Lok-oo-too-la’, and it means ‘Place of Peace’ in siNdebele. It’s a little way out of the main town, which I liked because it felt like we could really get closer to the beautiful Zimbabwean bush. As we drove in, a bushbuck peered out from behind a tree, flicking its ear in curiosity. About ten warthogs were on the green lawn, munching on the grass. It was idyllic. As we signed in at the lodge reception, we were given tall glasses of iced Mazowe orange juice – just what we needed!
There was a power outage when we arrived, which wasn’t a problem because it was daytime, and there was a backup light in the lounge area. We didn’t have any other power problems for the rest of our stay in Victoria Falls, so I would say that where we were, they we well on top of this aspect of things. There is an hourly shuttle to and from the town (only about a 5 minute drive), so transport is never a problem either.
Our lodge, which slept 4, had everything we needed in a simple but stylish layout. The whole front of the lodge was open – no wall – so we had a view of the trees in the valley below. The front side is closed up at night with a big canvas blind as if it were a big tent, which also keeps the monkeys out during the day when everyone is sightseeing elsewhere. Like most wild places in Zimbabwe, monkeys are curious and very brave, and if they even have the slightest clue that there’s something for them to eat, they will try and get it. The monkeys weren’t a big problem here and kept to themselves when we were in our lodge (unlike the mischievous ones at Mana Pools), so it looks like guests and staff are doing a good job of not encouraging them with human food!
There was a kitchen to the side of the lounge, equipped with a stove, fridge, cutlery, braai equipment and anything we would need for our short stay. The whole place was clean, and serviced each morning, so even though it was self-catering, we didn’t have to worry about washing dishes after our meals (my idea of heaven!). There were 2 single beds on a mezzanine floor, and a big double bedroom on the ground floor, along with a nice bathroom with a bath and shower. In the area in front of our lodge was a braai (barbeque) stand, to cook those famed Zimbabwean steaks! The decor was in Ndebele African style without being too O.T.T. or contrived.
The lodges are *comparatively* free from dangerous animals, so it’s quite safe to walk around the complex during the day, enjoy the swimming pool (yes, there’s a gorgeous one) during the day. At night, if you want to go to the main lodge or The Boma restaurant, a member of staff will accompany you around the complex for safety (from animals). We didn’t do this, but the idea of it sounds exciting!
The lodges on either side of us weren’t occupied, which we appreciated for the quietness, although we did make friends with some German visitors. They had worked in Zimbabwe in the early 2000s, and are now addicted – they have to come back every year! I love hearing stories like that! They had rented a 4×4 truck from Johannesburg and driven it to Zimbabwe.
There was a bit of noise that afternoon as there was renovation going on. I would have liked it if our welcome-pack at Lokuthula had mentioned something about the building works as a courtesy, but we took it as a positive sign that development was going on at this already lovely complex.
Victoria Falls Safari Lodge:
One of the best things about Lokuthula is that the lodges are on the same complex as Victoria Falls Safari Lodge, which is bigger and more like a hotel; as well as The Boma, which is a separate restaurant. After we’d unpacked the car and freshened up, Ben and I walked the five minutes to Victoria Falls Safari Lodge, or SafLodge, as people call it.
As we walked in the entrance, we were blown away. A tall wooden staircase rose before us, and we felt like we were in a luxury version of Swiss Family Robinson. The lodge is constructed from natural materials like wood and thatch, and is in a more interesting layout than the usual rondavel-type structures that are found throughout Zimbabwe. We went out onto the main deck/bar area, and were greeted by a magnificent, very Zimbabwean, view: golden trees, a blue waterhole, and animals drinking on its bank.
We immediately ordered a sundowner from the jovial barman and sat down to soak in the air, the sunset, and the panorama. Ben had a Long Island iced tea and I had a Malawi shandy (I had to have something African, after all), and we immediately felt like we were truly on holiday. We looked at many other hotels in the area over the next few days, but I was glad we were staying in the same complex as Victoria Falls Safari Lodge. It fits into its surroundings perfectly, and it doesn’t pretend it’s a Las Vegas hotel. It has the warmth and personality that perfectly suits Zimbabwe. They were building a luxury ‘safari club’ wing at the time, and my only hope is that it keeps that warmth.
We had our first view of the sunset from that balcony (of the trip) – the sun went down so quickly in the last stages and we could literally see it moving. As we looked down at the panorama, 9 elephants emerged from a clump of trees, walked down to the water hole to drink. A baby elephant of 2 or 3 months jauntily trotted between their legs. Their silent activity against the backdrop of the open Zimbabwean bush, filled us with a sense of peaceful contentment.
Back at our own lodge, we had another drink, made supper, and had an early night. We heard the drums of the Boma beating at around 8 o’clock and looked forward to seeing them in person.
When the sound of the drums faded away, all we could hear was a distant rumbling roar, the sound of the ever-moving Victoria Falls. Tomorrow we would see this roaring cloud up close!
Read about it in the next post
Previous post in series: The roadtrip that roared: #2
Return to first post of series: The roadtrip that roared: intro