Vic­to­ria Falls Is­land Lodge, Zim­babwe, Africa

Set on a pri­vate is­land be­tween the wa­ter­ways sep­a­rat­ing Zim­babwe and Zam­bia, Vic­to­ria Falls Is­land Lodge is a bea­con of eco-friendly in­dul­gence.

Upscale Living Magazine - - Contents - | By Heléne Ra­mack­ers

Bright and early on a Wed­nes­day morn­ing, I board the Air­link Em­braer 135 from Cape Town In­ter­na­tional Air­port with a di­rect flight to Vic­to­ria Falls In­ter­na­tional Air­port. Since the in­cep­tion of Air­link’s di­rect flights be­tween Cape Town and Zim­babwe in July 2017, it has proven to be a huge suc­cess with the fly­ing time of only 2 hours and 55 min­utes.

Com­ing in to land, my eyes fix­ate on the tapestry of green that un­folds in front of me, in­di­cat­ing that the sum­mer rains oblit­er­ated the other­wise bar­ren land­scape into an over­whelm­ing dis­play of lush­ness.

Af­ter mak­ing my way through cus­toms, adding an­other stamp to my pass­port by a friendly im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cial, I am col­lected by Sipho Moyo at Vic­to­ria Falls In­ter­na­tional Air­port and driven to the Zam­bezi Cres­cent prop­er­ties jetty where the wa­ter trans­port is moored. I am handed over to my guide and boat cap­tain, Po­lite Mpofu, who pro­pels us in the very lux­u­ri­ous Sun Tracker pon­toon up­wards on the great Zam­bezi to­wards Kan­da­har Is­land, where the magic of Vic­to­ria Falls Is­land Lodge awaits. A wel­com­ing com­mit­tee is on the deck to make me feel at home, wav­ing us in with the friendli­est of faces and the bright­est smiles. Zam­bezi Cres­cent Gen­eral Man­ager, Roddy Meir­ing takes me through the for­mal­i­ties while my but­ler Nkany­iso Moyo is at hand to see that my lug­gage is stored in my room and that I am well taken care of for the du­ra­tion of my stay.

It is time for lunch and chef Leo Mz­izi has whipped up the most de­li­cious chicken wraps with fries. I sit, trans­fixed as my view­ing win­dow is framed by trees and the Zam­bezi and its rush­ing wa­ters house crit­ters great and small. A croc­o­dile in­con­spic­u­ously floats past and to my right on the deck, a banded mon­goose has come to greet me and has brought the whole fam­ily. A very col­or­ful lizard is sun­ning him­self and finds a lady friend who he chases af­ter.

My room is wait­ing, and it feels as though I’m float­ing in the tree­tops as the wooden walk­way leads me to my tree­house. The elevation of the path to my room makes me feel like I’ve en­tered a rain­for­est with the in­crease in hu­mid­ity and the bird­song that is mu­sic to my ears.

With the ex­per­tise of ar­chi­tect Bobby El­lis of El­lis Ar­chi­tec­ture and in­te­rior de­signer Jayne Botha of Clas­sic Frank, Vic­to­ria Falls Is­land Lodge’s con­cept of ‘touch the earth lightly’ came to fruition in 2016. Not a sin­gle tree on the is­land was cut down dur­ing the con­struc­tion process and the ab­so­lute min­i­mal foot­print was en­sured by caus­ing as lit­tle da­m­age as pos­si­ble dur­ing the build­ing process. No indige­nous trees were uti­lized for the var­i­ous con­struc­tions with only im­ported tim­ber used.

The build­ing process had its fair share of chal­lenges, such as get­ting sixty treated gum poles of 6 me­ters in length, need­ing twenty peo­ple per pole to carry them, planted within a month be­fore the rains came. An­other ob­sta­cle was trans­port­ing around 300 tonnes of treated pine across the river by barge, not an easy task. It was of paramount im­por­tance that the raised walk­ways con­nect­ing the Tree­house Suites to the main ar­eas and jetty were all built in such a way as not to im­pede the nat­u­ral move­ment and mi­gra­tion of the lo­cal wildlife liv­ing on Kan­da­har Is­land. The build­ing process was com­pleted within ten months with the main area, view­ing bar area and five Tree­house suites per­fected. The of­fi­cial open­ing of Vic­to­ria Falls Is­land Lodge took place in Au­gust 2017 with three Tree­house Suites and the re­main­ing two rooms com­pleted shortly there­after. My room is a haven of bliss­ful tran­quil­ity. When I step into my air- con­di­tioned abode, the vista of the Zam­bezi is enough to take my breath away. My bed is po­si­tioned to max­i­mize the views over the river and the sun­rise each morn­ing from the van­tage point on my deck is a sight to be­hold. Even my bath­room al­lows me un­sur­passed sights of the sur­round­ing river life.

Po­lite is wait­ing to take me on a sun­set cruise to show­case the abun­dant birdlife that only the mag­i­cal Zam­bezi can of­fer. We see a great egret, a wire-tailed swal­low, an African ja­cana, a wa­ter thick-knee and white fronted lap­winger. A baobab flour­ishes in the wa­ter and in the dis­tance, the moody storm clouds are rush­ing in and as I

glance up­wards, the rain­bow to the left of the Vic­to­ria Falls adds to the magic of ‘the smoke that thun­ders’.

I freshen up be­fore din­ing on the deck where the dark­ness of the river holds a mys­te­ri­ous eeri­ness. Chef Leo has proven his culi­nary prow­ess with his mas­ter­fully crafted cala­mari starter, cooked to per­fec­tion beef fil­let and mouth-wa­ter­ing white choco­late mousse.

It is time to re­tire for the night and I have a choice be­tween tak­ing a deep-bath-tub soak or a cleans­ing shower. I opt for the shower and use the won­der­fully fra­grant Eco Diva prod­ucts Vic­to­ria Falls Is­land Lodge has on of­fer – I love the anti-ag­ing body wash as well as the gen­tle calm­ing sham­poo and the gen­tle calm­ing con­di­tioner. The white bed­ding is soft to the touch and I fall asleep to the sound of thun­der and rain­drops on the roof.

Be­fore the sun has made its ap­pear­ance on day 2, Po­lite and I set off on our game drive through the Zam­bezi Na­tional Park. The 150,000 acres makes it the ideal spot­ting place for sa­fari crea­tures of all shapes and sizes. As the ris­ing sun her­alds the on­set of a new day, we sit in quiet amaze­ment as the col­or­ful hues paints the can­vas for a mag­nif­i­cent day in the bush. Po­lite stops at the base of a baobab, show­ing me that an ele­phant tried to de­bark the tree, but much to our amuse­ment, the tree ‘won’ as the ele­phant lost a piece of his tusk. A white-backed vul­ture is perched in a tree, wait­ing for the day to warm up enough to en­able it to soar on the ther­mals.

It is ev­i­dent from the over­flow of young mam­mals that the breed­ing process was suc­cess­ful – ze­bra, gi­raffe, im­palas, warthogs, ba­boons and vervet mon­keys are show­ing off their ba­bies. As we ap­proach a stream, a ba­boon is en­joy­ing a groom­ing ses­sion from his lady to such an ex­tent that he falls over, fast asleep while she metic­u­lously picks off ev­ery­thing that shouldn’t be present on his furry body.

Three Euro­pean bee-eaters are sit­ting on a bare tree branch, seem­ingly le­vi­tat­ing. Po­lite finds a nice stop along the river for us to stretch our legs and have that much-needed morn­ing re­fresh­ment with home-made rusks and crunchies.

I spend the re­main­der of my day en­joy­ing all the of­fer­ings at Vic­to­ria Falls Is­land Lodge, ap­pre­ci­at­ing the most in­cred­i­ble meals, lov­ingly pre­pared by Leo. Nkyaniso is al­ways at hand with­out be­ing in­tru­sive and his ever-present smile is con­ta­gious. My suite is the best place to take respite from the heat and never nap­ping

in the af­ter­noon, I in­dulge in what seems like the log­i­cal thing to do in such a won­der­ous lo­ca­tion. Af­ter a quick dip in my plunge pool, I set out for the af­ter­noon ac­tiv­ity.

In­stead of go­ing on a river cruise, I am of­fered by Po­lite to go on an­other game drive. Some very muddy warthogs are for­ag­ing at Vic­to­ria Falls River Lodge in search of food. Try­ing to find ele­phants seems like a fu­tile ex­er­cise as Po­lite ex­plains to me that Zam­bezi Na­tional Park shares un­fenced bor­ders with Chobe, so an­i­mals are free to roam wher­ever they want to go. He had hardly ut­tered the words, when in a dense area, two ele­phant bulls walk be­tween the fo­liage, a case of ‘now you see me … now you don’t’.

A very vo­cal red-necked spur­fowl scur­ries across the path and on our way back to the lodge; we en­counter a grey horn­bill, a lilac-breasted roller and a white-fronted bee eater. The most in­cred­i­ble elec­tric storm is brew­ing over the Zam­bezi and we make it back to the lodge just in time be­fore the rain starts.

Af­ter a great night’s sleep, our fi­nal game drive looks like it might be rained out, but we per­se­vere and spot loads of ze­bra, gi­raffe, a wa­ter­buck fam­ily and some naughty ba­boons strip­ping the bark off the base of a tree in search of gum. Back at the lodge, it is time for me to start pack­ing up, but not be­fore promis­ing to re­turn with my fam­ily, very soon.

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