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Wednesday 13 June 2012

Victoria Falls home of true African hospitality, adventure

Not taking anything away from Old Trafford, for tour and adventure lovers, the actual Theatre of Dreams is Victoria Falls — the resort town built around the God-given natural wonder, the Victoria Falls Rainforest.

Victoria Falls is located on the Zambezi River, about 1000km from its source. To the Tonga people on the Zimbabwean and Zambian side of the river, the Victoria Falls, one of the seven natural wonders of the world, is referred to as Mosi-Oya-Tunya, literally meaning the “Cloud that Thunders.”

While it is neither the highest nor the widest waterfall in the world, it is claimed that it is the largest. This claim is based on a width of 1 708 metres and height of 108 metres, forming the largest sheet of falling water in the world. The falls’ maximum flow rate compares well with that of other major waterfalls.

The falls are formed as the full width of the river plummets in a single vertical drop into a transverse chasm 1708 metres wide, carved by its waters along a fracture zone in the basalt plateau.

The depth of the chasm, called the First Gorge, varies from 80 metres at its western end to 108 metres in the centre.

The only outlet to the First Gorge is 110 metres wide, about two-thirds of the way across the width of the falls from the western end, through which the whole volume of the river pours into the Victoria Falls gorges.

There are two islands on the crest of the falls that are large enough to divide the curtain of water even at full flood: Boaruka Island (or Cataract Island) near the western bank and Livingstone Island near the middle — the place that David Livingstone first saw the falls from Zambia.

At less than full flood, additional islets divide the curtain of water into separate parallel streams.
The main streams are named, in order from Zimbabwe (west) to Zambia (east): Devil’s Cataract (called Leaping Water by some), Main Falls, Rainbow Falls (the highest) and the Eastern Cataract.

So around this feature, described as an incomparable and exquisite feature by Reverend Paul Bayethe Damasane in his opening prayer at the signing ceremony of the co-hosting of the UNWTO General Assembly by Zambia and Zimbabwe held at the historic Victoria Falls Bridge in front of the mighty Victoria Falls which was spraying delegates, the Theatre of Dreams for the tourism sector was constructed.

European settlement in the Victoria Falls area started around 1900 in response to the desire by Cecil Rhodes’ British South Africa Company to get mineral rights and imperial rule north of the Zambezi and the exploitation of other natural resources such as timber north-east of the falls, and ivory and animal skins.

In 1904 the Victoria Falls hotel was opened to accommodate visitors arriving on the new railway.
From 1905 the railway offered accessible travel to whites from as far as the Cape in the south and from 1909, as far as the Belgian Congo in the north.

Victoria Falls today is an important tourist centre, providing varied accommodation and adrenalin activities to many foreign and local tourists.

And so Victoria Falls is the Theatre of Dreams for adrenalin “junkies” as there are more than 50 products offered by tour and adventure companies.

These include safari, backpacking photography, adventure, rafting, bungee jumping, jungle/rainforest, eco-tourism, historical, water sports, among others.

There are two national parks around the falls, namely Mosi-Oya-Tunya which is 66 square kilometers, and Victoria Falls National Park which is 23 square kilometers. Next to the Victoria Falls National Park on the southern bank is the Zambezi National Park extending 40 kilometres west along the river.

Animals can move between the two Zimbabwean parks and can also reach Matetsi Safari area, Kazuma Pan national park and Hwange National Park to the south.

Although Zimbabwe has had recent economic difficulties, Victoria Falls town has always been somewhat removed and the people are as welcoming and friendly as ever.

On vegetation, mopane woodland savannah is most dominant with smaller areas of miombo and Rhodesian Teak woodland and scrubland. Riverine forest with palm trees lines the banks and islands above the falls. The most notable aspect of the area’s vegetation though is the rainforest nurtured by the spray from the falls, containing plants rare for the area such as pod mahogany, ebony, ivory, palm, wild date palm and a number of creepers and lianas.

Unfortunately, vegetation has suffered in recent droughts, and so have the animals that depend on it, particularly antelope. In terms of wildlife, the national parks contain abundant wildlife including the elephant, buffalo, giraffe, zebra, and a variety of antelope. Lion and the leopard are also seen.
Monkeys and baboons are very common and so are the warthogs. The river above the falls contains large populations of hippopotamus and the crocodile and elephants cross the river in the dry season at particular crossing points.

Klipspringers and clawless otters can be glimpsed in the gorges, but they are mainly known for 35 species of raptors. The Taita, Black Eagle, Peregrine and Augur Buzzard breed there. Above the falls, herons, fish eagles and numerous kinds of waterfowl are common.

For fish lovers, the river is home to 39 species of fish below the falls and 89 species above it. This illustrates the effectiveness of the falls as a dividing barrier between the upper and lower Zambezi.
There is so much diversity of what one can do within a 150km radius of the bridge.

There are three countries within reach of Victoria Falls, namely Zambia, Namibia, Botswana and there are four major airports namely: Victoria Falls, Livingstone, Kasane and Katima Mulilo International airports.

Within 500km of Victoria Falls, there are 25 national parks, seven major airports and four countries which are Angola, Botswana, Namibia and Zambia and there is nowhere else in the world where a town can link to other countries in that short distance.

So this is a Theatre of Dreams.

All within a couple of hours drive, you can be in Katima Mulilo-Namibia, Kasane-Botswana all within reach of Victoria Falls town — the Theatre of Dreams.

Victoria Falls is also one of the safest destinations in the world.

To ensure Victoria Falls remains a safe and friendly environment, Tourism Police was started in 2004. They are there to look out for you, guide and assist you. The unit continues to operate seven days a week and you will see them in their smart uniforms with yellow reflective bibs in all the main tourist areas of the town.

Celebrities that include the late pop star, Michael Jackson, Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, heads of state and government, preachers like Joyce Meyer and millions of foreign and domestic tourists have been here — they have been to the Theatre of Dreams. As preparations for the co-hosting of the UNWTO general assembly next year gathers momentum, it means more activities, more structures to make the Theatre of Dreams more and more attractive. With the UNWTO Secretary-General, Mr Taleb Rifai endorsing the country as a safe tourism destination open for business and also urging the people from around the world to come to the country to see and feel for themselves the country’s splendor and hospitality — it can only be one’s figment of the imagination that the world will again fall for the tricks of the United States and her allies to refuse to visit a destination rich with theatre, history and adventure that awaits visitors with open arms.

“By coming here, it is recognition, an endorsement that the country is a safe destination,” said Mr Rifai recently.

“In view of the negative publicity Zimbabwe has been subjected to as a tourism destination, what I can only do is to urge all those to come and see for themselves. Zimbabwe is a safe destination, they should come and feel the land, the people’s warmth and hospitality,” he said.

Source: Victoria Falls home of true African hospitality, adventure (12/06/12)

Thursday 7 June 2012

Tour operators accused of trying to ‘sabotage’ VIP bridge event

In an interview in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) chief executive Mr Karikoga Kaseke said the actions by the operators almost led to Mr Rifai cancelling his trip to the country.

He, however, said while he understood that operators in Victoria Falls had not been officially told that the Victoria Falls Bridge will be closed before and during the signing ceremony of the Trilateral Host Agreement by President Mugabe and his Zambian counterpart Michael Sata, they had no right to tell the outside world that the signing ceremony was going to derail or stop tourism activities at the bridge and between Livingstone and Victoria Falls.

“We have heard that some players had written to the Secretary General complaining about his coming here. While we might not have communicated with them they should not have done that. We will do things and involve the people of Victoria Falls,” he said.

“We cannot blame them for trying to discourage the secretary general from coming but they should have come to us. This was an element of sabotage and we say no to that, it is a very bad behaviour and we need to rein them in,” said Mr Kaseke.

Meanwhile, Mr Kaseke said his authority was going to consider giving back another star to Elephant Hills resort after Mr Rifai commended the facility as first class.

The hotel had been downgraded to a four-star from a five-star after a fall in standards.
However, Mr Rifai described it as a first class facility after inspecting it.

“Yes they have impressed the secretary general and if they continue we will give them another star,” he said.

Source: Tour operators in ‘sabotage’ attempt (4/6/12)