Mahlatini Luxury Travel (028 9073 6050; mahlatini. com) offers a six-night Zimbabwe holiday from £2,140 per person for a family of four (two children under 12) staying three nights in a suite at Africa Albida Tourism’s Victoria Falls Safari Suites and three nights at Wilderness Safaris’ Linkwasha Camp, Hwange. Includes road and light aircraft transfers and activities, but not international flights. British Airways (0844 493 0787; ba.com) flies daily from Heathrow to Victoria Falls (via Johannesburg) from £850 per person. view of the gorge between Zimbabwe and Zambia. None of us fancied the 230ft-drop “Gorge Swing” (everyone who did it screamed madly) or the facedown “Flying Fox” over the gorge, but we had a go at the zip wires back and forth across the gorge. There are nine wires in all, with a steep climb at the end. Somehow we managed to control our nerves – and I was delighted we did. Flying over the gorge from side to side was one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life (and after 30 years in television I’m lucky enough to have tried some amazing and ridiculous things).
We returned to Victoria Falls Safari Suites to get ready for our evening at “The Boma”, where we had a joyful experience. I urge you to go to relish the delicious food (Mopane worms, a local delicacy, are available too; if you eat one you get a certificate), watch the dancing and singing, and learn to play African drums. It’s a wonderful evening, albeit one aimed squarely at tourists. Just leave your inhibitions at the door and join in.
Our last evening was spent on a sundowner cruise. The Zambezi at sunset is utterly magical. Myriad colours spread out over the majestic waters and the wildlife along the river’s banks provides an extra visual treat. We saw crocodiles, elephants and hippos wallowing while we sipped our cocktails. No photographs can ever really do it justice. The colours of Africa are, to me, the colours of life.
We then took a six-seater Cessna light aircraft over the vast Hwange National Park, flying for nearly an hour to what seemed like an opening in the middle of nowhere. Having cleared the runway of elephants, our guide, called Honest, was waiting to greet us with a table laid out with vodka and tonics (mango juice for the girls), olives and crisps. Welcome, he said, to the safari of your lives. And it really was.
Our drive through the bush to Linkwasha Camp culminated in seeing lionesses devouring a recent kill, just 200ft from the camp. Linkwasha is the type of place you see in films, a luxurious oasis in the middle of the African bush. Our “tent” had showers, loos, a sitting room and, more importantly, views. These were breathtaking throughout, of the waterhole by the camp and beyond.
The staff were warm and friendly, and the food was incredible. How they managed to cook cuisine like that in the middle of nowhere is beyond me. They even managed gluten-free! But it’s the game drives that make a safari, and our journeys with Honest at sunrise and sunset brought us closer to wild animals than I ever remember being before.
We found ourselves just 3ft from elegant elephants, then just 20ft from a pair of balletic cheetahs. There were giraffes, zebras and the critically endangered Roan deer, baboons, wildebeest, warthogs and jackals. Hyenas screeched as they ran past our camp. There wasn’t a moment when we became blasé about those beasts. This was their territory and we were privileged to be able to watch them.
One of the best moments was seeing Xander, son of Cecil, the lion whose killing last year by US trophy hunter Walter Palmer sickened the world. How any man or woman can destroy and slaughter one of these animals for pleasure is totally beyond me. We are truly blessed to share the planet with these magnificent creatures.
The stillness of living out in the bush with nothing to hear but the wind and the calls of the animals was blissful. And at night, the sky transforms into an explosion of stars which transport you to another paradise altogether. The girls were full of wonder, amazed the sky could be so unbelievably full.
Now, back in London, I know that the part of me that I’d left behind in Zimbabwe is still there. Those weekly dreams had become a reality for 10 short days. And I can smell it still.