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Falling for the natural wonders

WE SEEM to be constantly reading about trouble in Africa. So is it still safe to visit there? The answer is “yes” and “no”, depending on where you go.

Victoria Falls is one of the world’s seven natural wonders and a magnificent destination that should be on every dedicated traveller’s list of “must-sees”. But lately, and not surprisingly, the tourism trade in the area has been suffering because of security worries.

Many tourists think the Victoria Falls are in South Africa, somewhere near Johannesburg. But they are nowhere near Jo’burg. They are 1,300 km north across the border in Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia).

Admittedly Zimbabwe is having its fair share of difficulties and you’d be wise to avoid the capital city of Harare (formerly Salisbury).

But the falls are 850 km away, northwest of Harare on the border between Zimbabwe and neigh-bouring Zambia. Tour operators who take people in and out all the time say Vic Falls is as safe as houses, and several travellers we know have just returned and they all had a wonderful – and peaceful – time.

If you do decide to go, you’ll enjoy one of the best holidays of your life.

What makes Victoria Falls so spectacular is the mighty Zambezi River. This powerful river plunges from its flood plain in Zambia into a 150-million-year-old fault which, at the falls, is over 1,700 metres wide and over 100 metres deep.

The river then makes its way to the east coast of Africa entering the Indian Ocean in Mozambique.

At the falls, giant clouds of spray fill the air and are visible for miles. For this reason the falls are known to the local people as “the smoke that thunders”.

Victoria Falls is one of Africa’s major tourist attractions. Known as the “Adventure Capital of Africa”, it’s a haven for white-water rafting, joy flights, kayaking, canoeing, wildlife viewing, game drives, game walks, bird-watching, and even big game hunting in some areas.

There are more than 40 different resorts, safari lodges, and up-market hotels to choose from, as well as camp grounds and backpacker-style accommodation, and a wide choice of restaurants.

More than 10,000 adventurous souls go white-water rafting on the Zambezi each year.

Not for the faint-hearted or unfit, rafting on this river is guaranteed to get your adrenalin pumping.

There is also bungee jumping from one of the highest commercial jumps in the world.

Trussed up like a turkey, thrill-seekers queue up to leap off the bridge between Zambia and Zimbabwe, diving into space and screaming with terror and delight.

Their plummet into the Batoka Gorge is halted only by the full stretch of the latex cord as their fingertips touch the wild and swirling Zambezi a stomach-churning 111-metres below.

But you don’t have to be a hero to enjoy this river. How about a gentle cruise in a canoe at sunset? All you have to do is drink wine and nibble savouries while an experienced paddler does all the work.

As you float down a peaceful section of the river you may see elephant, buffalo, crocs, hippos or exotic birds while admiring an amazing African sunset.

Or enjoy a five-star lunch served with style and lashings of champagne on Livingstone Island, right at the edge of the falls.

You can also fly over the falls on the “Flight of Angels”. Take your pick from a variety of aircraft – Cessnas, helicopters, seaplanes, even a microlight that takes you buzzing above the tumbling waters at an altitude of 500 metres.

The walks around the falls are exquisite, too, and the views quite different from the Zimbabwe and Zambian sides.

Allow two or three days there and squeeze in as much as you can.

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