THE PIONEERING SPIRIT
SHEARWATER ADVENTURES NEWSLETTER APRIL 2017
As planned our brand new camping and chalet site opened in December 2016 – and it has been exceptionally well received. It was after much thought that a slight modification was made to the original name of Shearwater Village – christening it instead Shearwater Explorers Village. This is intended to promote the Village as a basecamp from which guests can truly encounter their inner adventurer and embark upon personal voyages of discovery: whether adrenaline fuelled rafting and bungee jumping, the serenity of sunset cruises or the exhilaration of wildlife adventures.
At time of writing It is with great delight we can report excellent levels of rainfall so far this year – always an enormous welcome for indigenous wildlife and landscape, and perhaps yet another indication of a great year ahead.
WATER: GET THE LOW & HIGH - DOWN
Having had the best rains for many years, allow us to elaborate on it’s implications.
Nothing seems to be as conflicting as to the pros and cons of high or low water – particularly when it is a boon for some and a bane for others, and can get a little confusing when you also have to factor in rainy/dry season, summer/winter. To explain:
Weather in Zimbabwe is great all year round with sunshine guaranteed almost daily. However rainy season is over the warmer summer/autumn period mid Nov- mid April (but temperatures always a balmy 25-35+). It is the winter months (May-August) when you get guaranteed clear sunshine all day and no rain, with a bit if chill in the evening (July-August only).
• HIGHWATER (end January – April) as it suggests is when water levels in the Zambezi are higher following rainy season. There can be a slight delay from the start of rainy season (end November), to levels being considered HIGH, this is because despite what can be heavy rains in December, it generally takes until the end of January for levels to have increased sufficiently to be considered high.
• PROS: The benefit of HIGH water, is that the Falls themselves are more spectacular with huge volumes of the Zambezi cascading into the gorge – probably peaking around April/May. This is great for those whose main focus is to see the falls (though visibility can sometimes be periodically obscured there is so much precipitation) – so the very best viewing is from the air on a ‘’Flight of Angels’’ helicopter trip when you can appreciate the full magnitude .
• CONS: The downside to highwater, is that with so much water volume, rapids get washed out, so the whitewater rafting can be reduced and ultimately curtailed (though at worst only for possibly a month – sometimes (as last year) it runs 365 days).
• LOW WATER (August-January). Though the rain stops around mid April, it takes some months for the water levels of the Zambezi to be considered low.
• PROS. Perfect white-water rafting and canoeing conditions. With water volumes lower, the rapids run much faster and with far greater turbulence over a greater distance. This is when you can do the best one day white-water rafting on the planet – 25 km covering 19 rapids (mostly grade 5). Canoe trips on the upper Zambezi are also far more manageable at low water – and a truly rewarding activity taking in the banks of the Zambezi, hippo pods, basking crocodiles, occasional elephants and birds of every type and variety.
What some find a little counterintuitive, Victoria Falls is at its wettest during the summer/autumn months of Nov-April, and at its driest over the winter/spring months of May-October (with October the hottest and driest).
It’s not just rafting and viewing the falls of course that is effected by rainfall, it has a huge impact on the local environment – as soon as it hits in volume, the parched landscape just explodes into vast oceans of greenery. Let’s not forget what makes our glorious part of the world extraordinarily unique is it remains one of the few destinations on earth, where there is still natural and abundant wildlife. Great rains are just – great, for the wildlife. But again it is mixed blessings. The rain makes the landscape all the more verdant and beautiful – but does make it harder to spot game due to ‘’foliage camouflage’’ and because the game no longer has to concentrate around small watering holes and the few areas of natural food provision. In contrast during the driest months, the landscape is parched and unyielding – but Shearwater game drives are at their most rewarding and day trips to Chobe fantastic for watching Elephant swim and all manner of teeming game, looking to get relief at the waters edge.
So in conclusion HIGH/LOW – it’s horses for courses, each to their own, one man’s meat is another man’s poison etc – best thing to do is come at least twice for both seasons.
SHEARWATER EXPLORERS VILLAGE
On Dec 20th the site of the Shearwater Explorers Village, as is often the case with such things, looked just that – a site, a building one. With guests due from Dec 23 and a full house for the Vic Falls Carnival over New Year, it was a little twitchy, but we always took reassurance from the best contractors in the business, who never wavered over completion in time. Sure enough our first guests came, followed by the carnival ravers, followed by the first of our series groups. Not a heartbeat missed, not a toilet failing to flush, not a shower without hot water – every bit of infrastructure passed the test with flying colours.
Feedback has been phenomenal. A Shearwater core value is to ‘’exceed expectations’’ – and this seems to have been achieved by a wide margin. It has always been, and continues, to be promoted as - affordable accommodation. Guests however have been simply effusive about the exceptional standard of the chalets to which they can book or upgrade – clinically clean, crisp linen on the beds, fantastic air conditioning, lovely tiled shower/wet room. Campsites are bespoke for the purpose – tailor made for overland trucks to pull in to a bay for 20+ - with shaded slabs for camping, covered dining area, kitchen, braii, charging points, fantastic ablutions. For those without their own tents, the village offers fully equipped dome tents, with camp beds, linen and side table.
What seems to be the most serendipitous aspect for all guests though is the boutique nature of the communal reception, bar and restaurant area. It is great for chilling in comfort and style, catching up with friends back home on the complimentary wifi, taking a dip in the lovely pool or enjoying delicious food or refreshing drinks from the fabulous Explorers Café and bar.
SHEARWATER EXPLORERS VILLAGE - camping from $15pp, Chalets from $60pp (inc breakfast).
BOTSWANA OVERNIGHT BUSH EXPERIENCES
Shearwater has long been at the forefront of organising fantastic trips to the unique Chobe river and game reserve in Botswana. This extraordinary area is special in every sense. It is the very geographical fingertip of the slender territory known as the ‘Caprivi Strip’ – the boundary of 4 iconic African countries: Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. It is also the confluence of 2 unique African rivers: The Chobe, and The mighty Zambezi. It was always destined therefore to be home to some of the most pristine wilderness and exceptional wildlife on the continent. Shearwater is now providing the greatest of all opportunities to experience this natural phenomenon at its best – as nature intended. A Chobe overnight trip encompasses the quite superb river safari, an afternoon game drive in the world class Chobe national park – followed by a night under the stars in the surrounds of the African bush at its superlative best. Its the greatest way to not just see nature, but to really FEEL it, smell it and hear it in all its glory.
SHEARWATER SESSIONS – UPDATE
Live music continues to play a highly important role in ensuring the best vibe in town when it comes to dining out in the evening. Shearwater Café is fast becoming a de facto automatic choice for those that want to enjoy great food, great atmosphere, fantastic entertainment and really catch the pulse of the town going about its daily routine. To add to our existing roster of musicians we have recently added Alistair – interesting character- originally from Bulawayo, Al is an ex Royal Marine turned Bob Dylanesque troubadour who is an exceptional entertainer blending humour with craft performing anything from Hendrix covers to songs about the Beitbridge border! A genuine Zim only gem. We have also had Andy Sax – a professional musician from the UK (Plan B’s touring Sax player for those in the know) – who literally blew us away with his astonishing Sax playing, and cant wait to have him back.
CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY
Shearwater is delighted to continue with its diverse commitment to various issues and projects. The company provided the entire investment to re house the antiquated Craft market into a purpose built weather proof construction, complete with a new ablution block for all vendors and brand new sign. The new craft market is now open and prospering, in what is a great innovation for the community. As below, Shearwater was the principal donor in the construction of the Elefence – a highly laudable project. We are currently investigating innovative ways to initiate a campaign of anti litter signs throughout the Victoria Falls Municipality as we seek to establish The Victoria Falls as one of the greenest spots on the planet.
It is with great delight that we can report the fence for dumpsite has been erected. For those unaware we had a serious problem with Elephants eating plastic from the municipality dumpsite – and in the worst case, dying as a result of asphyxiation. It fell to the business community and residents to raise the necessary funds. Shearwater committed 50% of the funds needed. Many locals contributed wherever they could, but 2 in particular went above and beyond. Guy Cockcroft for organising Elefence Festival – putting in a huge amount of work and not only raising significant funds, but also giving Vic Falls the Woodstock/Glastonbury vibe for great day for all residents. Tony Peel from Vic Falls Guide rallied fund raising support via a golf day, took it upon himself to work with Environment Africa raising awareness, chairing meetings and ensuring delivery of the electric fence – and then also marshalling volunteers to ensure it all works and Elephants are deterred – it does and they are. The best example of community in action we can think of.
KAZA COMES BACK
It is with great joy and relish that we welcome back the Kaza visa – the African Shengen! Basically this allows visitors to pay $50 for one visa which allows them limitless travel between Zambia and Zimbabwe for 30 days – exactly the same cost of a visa to one of these countries. A great triumph for common sense tourism strategy, allowing visitors easier access to so much more of what is on offer.
IS IT A BIRD? – NO IT’S A PLANE
We widely reported the prospects of the new airport would present – and now they are becoming reality. In recent months new airlines and aircraft have committed to Vic Falls:
1. Ethiopian Airways is starting to fly directly into Vic Falls as of 6th March 2017. Their flight will be directly from Abu Dhabi, into VFA, then Gaborone on their way back to Abu Dhabi.
2. Kenyan Airways will start offering direct flights into VFA as follows:
a. Nairobi to VFA
b. VFA to Cape Town
3. As of 1st of March 2017, South African Airways is now operating an Airbus A330-200, with a capacity of 222 passengers.
View the Shearwater website