Standing on the lip of the Victoria Falls and gazing with profound awe at the tumult of water cascading into the gorge below, you are not only experiencing the breath-taking beauty and power of one of the world’s most impressive world heritage sites, but you are also at the epicentre of the most extraordinary wildlife destination in the world.
If you think this is a sweeping statement, consider: you need travel no further than 500km from where the spray washes over you to access 22 National Parks spread over five countries, six World Heritage Sites and six Wetland Convention (Ramsar) sites including the Okavango Delta, which is indisputably the most impressive inland delta in the world and is also the largest Ramsar site in the world.
This region also boasts the vast salt pans of Makgadikgadi which equal Wales in size, and, in Kariba, at the time of its construction the largest man-made lake in the world. Culturally the region is rich and boasts one of the major surviving ancient festivals in Africa, the Kuomboka, as well as the remains of former cultures like the mysterious Great Zimbabwe and the rock art of the oldest surviving people on earth.
This wilderness is bisected and largely sustained by the 2,700km long Zambezi River which has a remarkable catchment area of 1.3 million km2, which is bigger than the Sahara Desert. Two World Heritage Sites, four Ramsar sites and a biosphere reserve lie along its length.
It is truly a land that offers a smorgasbord of tourist activities to cater for all tastes, from unparalleled game viewing by vehicle, horseback, elephant-back or on foot, to heart-stopping bungee jumps, wild gorge swings and the most exciting one-day white water rafting in the world. Serious twitchers will appreciate that there is no better birding on the continent, and skilled fishermen will pit their talents against the best – the razor-toothed tigerfish.
Accommodation, too, ranges from sleeping in the open on a rugged outdoor hike, or in elegant, timeless luxury; from inexpensive campsites to large modern hotels of international standard. While the wildlife enthusiast can find nirvana in this paradise, there is room too for those more interested in air-conditioned gambling halls than the wide outdoors. There is place too for those who fancy a round of golf, a helicopter flip or simply lazing about the pool. The choices are endlessly varied.
Read more articles from this issue:
Zambezi Traveller (Issue 13, June 2013)
Other articles in this series:
A short history of the Falls
The sacred hills of the Matopos
The smoke that thunders
Valley of abundance
Superlative and unexplored
The great enigmas
Africa’s grand anomaly
The Middle Zambezi
The Zambezi’s final triumph