This sponsored post is brought to you thanks to my friends at Hills of Africa. Founder Sandy Salle was born & raised in Zimbabwe and her love for Africa shows with the adventures that she and her team plan as well as her in-person enthusiasm. This trip was in collaboration with GIFTE – the Global Institute for Travel Entrepreneurs – I can’t think of a better way travel to halfway around the world than with a travel company founder as well as a group of expert Travel Advisors?!
All opinionated opinions, photos (unless otherwise noted) and observations are 100% my very own.
Click here to read all about South Africa & Cape Town
What a transition – we flew from Cape Town on a 3+ hour flight to Victoria Falls International Airport located at the northwest tip of Zimbabwe, close near the borders of Zambia & Botswana and just north of Hwange National Park.
Zimbabwe is officially now my sister country – the people, landscape, animals & environment dug deep into my soul so consider this the first trip of many.
More about Zimbabwe: A beautiful landlocked country in southern Africa known for its dramatic landscape and diverse wildlife, much of it within parks, reserves and safari areas. The wildlife diversity is unbelievable! What did I see while I was there? EVERYTHING (except a honey badger and rhinos).
Victoria Falls aka: “The Smoke That Thunders”
Located in the middle of Zambezi River at the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe, it boasts some super impressive facts:
- Length: 1,700 meters
- Height: between 80 and 108 meters depending on the season
- It is one of the seven natural wonders of the world.
- The locals called it Mosi-o-Tunya “The smoke that thunders” because of its noise and water splashes. The waterfalls were named after Queen Victoria of Great Britain by a Scottish missionary. (go figure, folks like to meddle and change up names, right?
- Victoria Falls is in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. A World Heritage Site is a landmark or area which is chosen by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as having cultural, historical, or scientific significance and is legally protected by international treaties
- Victoria Falls attracts millions of tourists per year but it is also very important economically: The waterfall supplies energy to several cities in Zimbabwe and Zambia.
Victoria Falls Pro-Tip
Even visiting in early spring (Mid-November) prior to the rains hitting the region, Victoria Falls is unbelievable. While the water flow is not at its full capacity, you can see quite a bit of the surround region. “The Smoke that Thunders” isn’t just a cute name – it’s literally like a smoky fogbank during the high water flow season which is February to June.
Speaking of which… Victoria Falls is NOT drying up.
Yes, global warming is a threat to the world in general, but the stories circulating that the Falls are going dry does nothing but hurt the local economy & tourism. So don’t believe the hype!
The Zambezi is the fourth-longest river in Africa, the longest east-flowing river in Africa and the largest flowing into the Indian Ocean from Africa. The area of its basin is 1,390,000 square kilometres, slightly less than half of the Nile’s. And, of course, it feeds Victoria Falls! It’s an absolutely gorgeous river, teeming with life.
This lovely luxury lodge & camp is a Wild Horizons property located a quick 25-minute drive north of VF Airport but once you hit the turn from the main road, you’ll feel like you are in the middle of nowhere, in a really good way. Located right on the Zambezi River, this luxurious camp resort has individual “tents” that are so swanky and fancy and… (get ready for it) have an outside tub as well as your own wading pool.
The main lodge area has 360 degree views, North facing onto the Zambezi & South facing onto a water hole. A 7 kilometre stretch of river flows between the camp and the town of Victoria Falls, making Old Drift Lodge the closest lodge within the National Park to Victoria Falls.
Within 5 minutes of entering the property, we saw buffalo, giraffes, and elephants, much to our delight! We also came across a herd of elephants when returning to the lodge after a lovely riverboat cruise (where we saw hippos, giraffes & more!). How fun to be stuck on the porch with cocktails while we waited for the mama elephants & their babies to finish their early evening snack.
One special experience we had before leaving – the Lodge let us plant trees at the front entrance so, when you visit, look for lush lovely trees planted by the Hills of Africa tour group and Global Institute for Travel Entrepreneurs:
Collaborative Sustainable Travel & Tourism in Zimbabwe
Shelley Cox, Director of Sales & Marketing for Africa Conservation Travel was an essential part of our boots-on-the ground team that organized amazing tours with all of their trusted associates & collaborative partners (super crucial when it comes to Sustainable Travel)
Sustainable tourism is the concept of visiting somewhere as a tourist and trying to make a positive impact on the environment, society, and economy. Tourism can involve primary transportation to the general location, local transportation, accommodations, entertainment, recreation, nourishment and shopping.”
Through Shelley we also had a chance to meet local organizations that are walking the talk & making change happen as well as support the local economy. Here are all of the local organizations we met during our stay in Victoria Falls
Headed by Charlene Hewat (the founder of the rhino rescue organization) Charlene founded Environment Africa in 1988 and ran an amazing organization before handing it over in 2018. Her “Second Act” is the comprehensive Greenline Africa Trust, a local community-based organization working with conservation and communities in and around Victoria Falls. This organization focuses on creating a better life for marginalized women, children & youth through sustainable projects focusing on livelihoods, health, education and biodiversity management. Be still my heart! We got to see one of the projects firsthand which was a local recycling center that also turned glass into art and glassware. I loved the wall made of wine bottles – definitely, a personal affinity felt for that project!
We also got meet some of the brave folks on the front lines of protecting animals in the Victoria Falls Area – the presentation was not for the faint of heart when it comes to the horrors of poaching but you need to see the reality and then also hear about the amazing work being done. Interestingly enough, the team had to cut their visit short due to an emergency call regarding a poaching incident. We were relieved to hear the person was apprehended & their animals were saved!
Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust & Wild Horizons Wildlife Sanctuary
We also got to meet with this amazing group during a visit to the Wild Horizons Wildlife Sanctuary. These folks are boots on the ground when it comes to rehabilitation, scientific research, and rehabilitation. We got to meet Judge, the resident vulture who lives at the Sanctuary permanently due to an injury. His caretakers are his favorite people but only those two – the rest of world, he JUDGES (hence his name).\
Packing & Travel Tips for Zimbabwe:
- Clothing: Pack neutral colors like khaki, olive green, tan and brown. Avoid wearing white and bright colors because when animals see them, they think of danger and may run off.
- For optimal sun and insect protection, long sleeves and long pants are best, along with a good hat, sunglasses, sunscreen and insect repellant with at least 30% deet.
- Shorts and short sleeve shirts will be comfortable for daytime wear, but long pants, hat, gloves, and jackets can be useful for early morning or nighttime weather
- Comfortable walking or hiking shoes are a necessity. Leave the heels and wedges home for another trip.
- Binoculars are a must! Pro Tip – plan on leaving them with the Anti Poaching Units – they can always use extra equipment and what a great way to show them support!
- Pack light but also bring a lightweight dufflebag for gifts to bring back – nothing better than supporting the country’s economy by supporting local artisans!
- Rainy Season: November to April
- Summer: November to April – warm, pleasant days (77-81°F), and cooler evenings (54-59°F)
- Dry Season: May to July
- Winter: May to July – pleasant, sunny days (70-73°F), chilly evenings/ mornings (45-49°F)
- Early Summer: August to October – very hot and dry during the day (up to 84°F)
Electrical current is 220 volts AC. United States uses 110 volts AC and most European countries use 220 volts AC. African countries have both round and rectangular pronged plugs, ranging from two to three prongs.
Currency in Zimbabwe:
Definitely check with your travel advisor before you go! As of last year, the Zimbabwe dollar was the sole legal tender in the country. The Zimbabwe dollar is comprised of bond notes, coins, electronic balances and the RTGS dollar.
Old Drift Lodge is at the top of the list! The 2nd top hotel is Ilala which we also had a chance to tour – this lovely spot is set closer into town and is centrally located near Victoria Falls.
Hills of Africa Travel:
What an absolute delight to travel with Founder Sandy Salle and work with her team. My entire trip from door to door was over 22,000 miles total and each step of the way was carefully planned and orchestrated. We began the planning in March of 2019 for a trip in November so I was fully prepared when it came to documents, what to pack, vaccinations, timing, etc. Our accommodations and excursions in both South Africa and Zimbabwe were top notch and high-end but also very personalized. Working with Sandy and her group gave me an incredible appreciation for the Power of Relationships when it comes to travel planning. Imagine traveling halfway across the world to find you were treated as family – that’s what happened while traveling with Hills of Africa.
For more information – click here and get your trip to Africa planned ASAP!
ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE RATING: B+
(aka: Your ability to survive in a specific area should the Zombie Apocalypse occur)
The fast moving Zambezi river and Victoria Falls will ensure that you can get away from zombies easily (depending on if they are the type that can swim!) Oo, also, the fact that scouts are heavily armed means that folks know how to defend themselves. The open safari trucks aren’t that safe for crowds of zombies but you can sure get away fast, even over rough terrain!!
Next up – we headed to Bush Country in Hwange National Park!
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