The Traveller's Friend : Travel the Zambezi - Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Friday, 29 August 2014



Shearwater launches fully refurbished vessels.

It was with due pomp and ceremony that Shearwater last week launched its newly refurbished signature boats to take us into an anticipated busy season of soothing sunset cruises.  The often unsung land crew who work in the Shearwater shipyard on Teak Road, have been labouring away to ensure all guests who forthwith slip anchor, do so with increasing comfort, indulgence and safety.

Lower and upper decks have been freshly carpeted so that Hugh Heffner himself could smooch about in dressing gown, pipe and slippers and feel at home.  The ceiling of the upper deck has been finished with eco friendly iso board as opposed to roughly hewn fibre glass.  Tables have now been enriched with white linen table cloths, adding a little touch of grandeur as guests await the clink clink fizz of a refreshing gin and tonic or ice cold Zambezi beer.  On leaving the jetty, the brand new 4 stroke engines and latest hydraulic steering ensure a quieter and smoother cruise as the craft and crew head downstream. 

Once midstream the advantages of having a highly rated restaurant in town (Rainforest Cafe) becomes self evident, as the delicious snacks that are served,  are prepared by the same chefs and  are of a quality way beyond the expectations of most customers

It’s not just hardware and hors d’oeuvres though.  The entire crew have undergone extensive training to really enhance levels of service, facilitate interaction with guests, and animate the whole nature of the cruise with commentary and insights where appropriate.  They have also undergone comprehensive first aid training.  And finally of course - a useful barometer of comfort and convenience is so often the basic ones – the facilities.  Separate ladies and gents loos –2 for each, and no unseemly hand pumps for flushing – all fully automatic.

The serenity and tranquillity of those sublime Zambezi  sunset cruises just got a whole lot better.


Wednesday, 13 August 2014

African Bush Camps – The Safari Act Special


Three exceptional packages offering travellers a once in a lifetime safari experience of two unique Destinations – Botswana and Zimbabwe. Book your preferred package now for travel between 1st November and 30th November 2014 and receive an unbelievable 20% discount.

Zimbabwe in 3 Acts
ONLY: USD 3 823*

Enjoy 8 nights in Zimbabwe exploring Hwange National Park and the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Mana Pools.

Includes: 3 nights at Somalisa Camp in Hwange National Park, 2 nights at Zambezi Life Styles and 3 nights at Kanga Camp in Mana Pools

Botswana in 3 Acts
ONLY: USD 4 347*

Enjoy 8 nights in Botswana exploring the remote areas of Khwai, and Linyanti. Includes: 3 nights Khwai Tented Camp, 2 nights Saile Tented Camp and 3 nights Linyanti Bush Camp

The Double Act
ONLY: USD 8 825*

Enjoy 16 nights combining both Botswana and Zimbabwe and get two nights for FREE in Victoria Falls.

Includes: Zimbabwe in 3 Acts, Botswana in 3 Acts and two free nights in Victoria Falls at Victoria Falls Safari Lodge.

The 20% discount applies to the African Bush Camps properties included in the package. Transfers included in the package are not discounted. Each safari has to be booked in its entirety for the discounted rates to apply and cannot be separated or substituted for alternative options. The packages are subject to availability at all camps incorporated.

Standard Terms and Conditions apply.

For further enquiries please enquire direct at

Zambezi Traveller Directory:
African Bush Camps

Monday, 11 August 2014

Feeling Blue

By Evelyn Roe, Botanist with North-West Naturalists' Society of Zambia

Does Lobelia feel blue? Is Wahlen bergia ringing a sad note from its bell-like flower? Maybe they’re a little lonesome because blue is rare in the plant kingdom, occurring in less than 10% of the world’s 350,000 flowering plant species.

Aptosimum decumbens

In the Livingstone area, we seem to have our fair share of floral blueness, from the delicate petals of Lobelia kirkii which grace the paths at the Victoria Falls, to the dense hairs in which the stamens of Cyanotis longifolia are enmeshed; and from the creeping Aptosimum to the climbing Evolvulus, both of which bear blue-hued tubular flowers.

Cyanotis longifolia

However, some plant families cannot produce blue flowers, not even under duress! Horticulturalists have been trying for decades to produce a blue rose, but the latest genetic technology has managed only a pale imitation - a lilac rose.


So, what is the secret of the blue-flowering plant?

Certain families are capable of performing a kind of floral magic. First, they make red anthocyanins, which are found commonly in the plant kingdom, and store them in the watery vacuoles of their cells. Later, they transform them into blue pigments when they have the right conditions of light, acidity, a supply of particular metal ions, and a stack of other essential plant chemicals. The complexity of the transformation has been noted by scientists, but exactly how it happens remains a mystery.

Evolvulus alsinoides

We might ask, is flower colour significant for the plant? Many birds and insects are attracted to blue flowers and harvest their nectar, helping with pollination on such feeding forays. However, they also visit flowers with red and yellow hues, so it’s difficult for researchers to work out what it means to be blue. Perhaps it’s not the outward appearance of blueness that makes a difference; it could be that other qualities of the pigments– such as their metallic nature - influence the plant’s development and wellbeing.

Commelina forskaolii

In Tradescantia, which is a close relative of Commelina and Cyanotis, the blue stamen hairs mutate to pink in the presence of nuclear or chemical pollution. Experiments over the past 40 years have shown that spiderwort, as Tradescantia is commonly known, can be used as a reliable detector of such environmental contaminants.

Lobelia kirkii

In some cultures, the blue flower is a symbol of inspiration, hope and love. It can also represent the striving for the divine, and the merging of the self with nature. How does this tie in with our association of the colour blue with feelings of sadness, I wonder? Perhaps the coolness and spaciousness of the Earth’s azure skies and deep-blue seas create feelings of alone-ness; or maybe our human striving for union with the divine and the infinite is simply unreachable and unobtainable...just like the blue rose.

More from this issue:
ZT17 (June 2014) - Main Menu
ZT17 (June 2014) - Full Content Listing

More from the Zambezi Traveller:
Livingstone News

More articles in this series:

Silent Trumpets (ZT, Issue 16, Mar 2014)
Christmas crackers (ZT, Issue 15, Dec 2013)
Don't eat the daffodils (ZT, Issue 14, Sept 2013)
Rainforest Riches (ZT, Issue 13, June 2013)
Berry banquet (ZT, Issue 12, March 2013)
Marvellous Mangoes (ZT, Issue 11, December 2012)
Underground Forests (ZT, Issue 10, September 2012)
The healing powers of Aloes (ZT, Issue 09, June 2012)
Dogbane Drugs (ZT, Issue 08, March 2012)
Devil’s Claw (ZT, Issue 07, December 2011)
Elephant Toothpicks (ZT, Issue 06, Sept 2011)

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Yellow Fever Regulations, Botswana


All travellers from or through the countries which have been declared yellow fever infected areas must provide an international health certificate of vaccination for yellow fever upon arrival into Botswana - with immediate effect.

African Yellow Fever Declared Countries:

Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo (Democratic Republic), Congo (Republic of the), Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sao Tome Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia.

For further information:
Botswana Tourism Entry Requirements 

Saturday, 19 July 2014

VFAPU Golf Fundraiser - Barrowdale

Africa Albida Tourism is hosting their 14th year annual golf tournament in aid of VFAPU on the 5th of September. We look forward to another fun event where we can count on your support for this great cause.

Borrowdale Golf Club, Harare



Zambezi Traveller Directory
Victoria Falls Anti-Poaching Unit

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Kariba Moon Row

In August 2014 a combined Zambian/UK team will row the length of Lake Kariba, the world’s largest man-made lake, nonstop through the day and night under the light of a full moon dodging crocs, hippos and forests of dead trees finishing at Siavonga. They will then row from Kariba to Luangwa Boma through the Lower Zambezi game Reserve covering 500km in total in 7 days.

The 12 person team of athletes include Zambia’s top rower Desmond Nanchengwa as well as Iza Nalondwa and Wonga Silondwa from the Zambian Amateur Rowing and Canoing Association (ZARCA). Also in the team are international athletes from Great Britain’s rowing squad, including the head of Women’s rowing at Oxford University, Anastasia Chitty, and Alex Wood who has raced several times in the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race. The team includes members of the successful 2011 Row Zambezi Expedition which took rowing boats 1000km along the Upper Zambezi from Chavuma to Livingstone, including 300km through the Barotse during which time they were granted an audience with the Litunga.

The Moon Row is a charity event that will raise money for two Zambian charities: Village Water has put fresh water into 650 Zambian villages so far and wants to do much more; Conservation Lower Zambezi is raising awareness and funds to deal with anti-poaching activities on the Lower Zambezi. The Moon Row is being done in 2014 to coincide with Zambia’s Jubilee celebrations, and is an official event in the Jubilee Calendar.

The Moon Row is a very tough event, with rowers swopping over every 90 minutes for up to 36 hours and only a short time to rest, drink, stretch and grab some food before starting again. The boats will carry GPS transmitters that will show in real time their exact location via the website.

The Moon Row will be the world’s longest non-stop rowing event. The Moon Row is sponsored by exclusive Swiss watch maker Parmigiani Fleurier, and supported by several high quality operators in Zambia including Lake Kariba Inns; Kariba Bush Club; Tamarind Camp; Kanyemba Lodge; Kasaka River Lodge; Anabezi and Redcliff Lodge. In addition ZAWA and ZTB are providing advice and guidance for an adventure that will help promote the “Let’s Explore Zambia” initiative.

The Moon Row has three specially made rowing boats which are painted in Zambian colours, these beautiful boats will arrive in Siavonga on the 11th August after rowing across Lake Kariba.

Moon Row Expedition Leader Tim Cook said: “This is a very exciting challenge with a fantastic young joint Zambian and UK rowing team. Our motto is “Time For Water”. We are doing this On Water… For Water. Without water there are no sports like rowing and without clean water there is no hope for the children in these villages”

Monday, 7 July 2014

The Victoria Falls Hotel – the history

The Victoria Falls Hotel owes its existence to the arrival of the railway line; when it reached Victoria Falls the development of tourism on the south bank of the Zambezi started in earnest.

Cecil Rhodes planned for a Cape to Cairo railway and although this was never achieved, the remarkable penetration of rail into the heart of Africa brought development to the region. Once the first steam train arrived in Victoria Falls, plans for the construction of the bridge turned into reality, all of which meant accommodation was needed.

The hotel opened its doors in June 1904 as a simple building of wood with a corrugated iron roof, well raised from the ground to afford ventilation and freedom from damp and pests. It consisted of 12 single rooms and four doubles, a dining room, a bar and offices. The manager was a colourful hotelier named Pierre Gavuzzi and the lowest tariff was 12/6d per day.

New brick building

By 1913, excursion trains from Cape Town to the Falls were operating at around five a year and with the increased volumes of tourists, a decision was taken to rebuild the hotel in brick. The new building consisted of 24 bedrooms, two suites and five public rooms, which were the lounge, the writing room, the drawing and music room, the smoking room and the dining room.

Office accommodation to the left and right of the main entrance was also included and there was a small private bar. The original hotel buildings were dismantled and re-assembled to the south of the hotel, approximately where the laundry is now.

After the First World War, tourism levels began to pick up again in the early 1920s - visitors then numbered around 3,000 per year. Many of the guests staying at the hotel were elderly and had found the walk to the Falls tiring in the heat; the rickshaw rides were not too comfortable either - so in 1920 a trolley service was introduced.

Staff pushed trolleys

A two-foot gauge track was laid, which ran from the hotel along the line of the original railway track, down to what was then the Southern Rhodesian end of the bridge, with a spur line continuing to a point near where the Livingstone statue stands today. Gravity propelled the trolleys downhill to the Falls, but for uphill sections the hotel employed staff to push them.

This service continued for the next 37 years and during that period it is estimated that over two million passengers travelled on these trolleys. One has been preserved and today stands in the courtyard of The Victoria Falls Hotel.

In 1926 ‘hammerhead’ shaped wings were added on to the north of the hotel and this gave an extra capacity of 50 rooms and four suites. Almost every room now had a private bathroom and those baths previously provided for communal use are remembered as being so large that no child was permitted to use them unaccompanied.

Saturday dinner dances

At this time, the only developments on the Southern Rhodesia side of the bridge were The Victoria Falls Hotel and the railway station with the post office and curio shops. The main development was in Livingstone in Northern Rhodesia. The bridge only had a rail track and no roadway, so the Railways started a service known as the ‘Weekender’ which ran from Livingstone to the Falls Hotel. Many people came over on a Saturday night to enjoy the dinner dances at The Victoria Falls Hotel and returned the next day.

In 1928 the swimming pool was added, and for privacy, walls were erected. For many years there was no mixed bathing, as it appears that a visiting Maharajah had made a request to the Administrator in Livingstone not to allow this. Apparently, this was upheld for some time.

The addition of the court wing followed in 1929. This runs from the main reception area, where some of the offices are now. Of special importance was the inclusion of the chapel in this extension. This was consecrated on 28 February, 1932, by the Bishop of Southern Rhodesia, the Rt Reverend E F Paget. The altar is made of Indian teak and the cross and candlesticks were specially designed in London, similar to those used in St-Martins-in-the-Field church in Trafalgar Square, London. The seating capacity is 40, and Anglican services are still held in the chapel at 7.30am every Sunday.

The Royal Visit

T. G. Colquhoun took over the management of the hotel in 1937 and he played host to many Allied soldiers travelling north, and to the many airmen receiving their basic training, during the Second World War, in the then Southern Rhodesia. Vincent Tones took over from Colquhoun after the war, and he remained until 1961.

Almost immediately on arrival, Tones was involved in preparations for the Royal Visit of his Majesty King George VI, Queen Elizabeth and the two princesses, Elizabeth and Margaret. This took place in 1947 and the royal party took over the whole hotel. The Queen occupied the suite in the south hammerhead, which for many years was named the Queen’s Suite, but now is called the Livingstone Suite.

At around this time, the Solent flying boat service was started from London to South Africa. The flying boats landed on the Zambezi and passengers disembarked, to spend a night or two at The Victoria Falls Hotel before their onward journey either by road or air. Food rationing still existed in England after the war – and passengers were always impressed by the sumptuous catering on board, which was provided by the hotel.

Tourism flourishes

Tourist levels continued to increase and by the end of 1947 more than 11,000 visitors had been accommodated by The Victoria Falls Hotel. Decisions were taken to increase the size of the hotel once more.

In 1950 the second floor was added to the court wing, which included a conference room – then called the Pullman Suite. Many conferences were held here for government, railways and private businesses. Southern Africa, including the Rhodesias (now Zambia and Zimbabwe), was promoted heavily overseas, and tourism continued to flourish.

In 1961 a section of the lounge was modified to make a new cocktail bar. This was air-conditioned – the first in the country - and the bar was called the Rainbow Room. The 60s also saw the addition of a bank, a hairdressing salon and a curio shop in the foyer.

One of the most notable government conferences held in The Victoria Falls Hotel was the one convened to work out the break-up of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland in 1963.

Flame Lily Holidays

Although the numbers of visitors had shown a slight decline in 1961, luxury liner and air travel soon reversed this. Groups of passengers from exotic cruise liners arriving in South Africa flew up to the Falls, and with the advent of the Flame Lily air holiday packages, linking Wankie (now Hwange), Kariba and the Falls, the number of arrivals increased to almost 22,000 visitors in the year ending June 1967.

1970 was an important year in the history of The Victoria Falls Hotel. For the second time only since 1904, the railways leased out the hotel - to Rhodesia Breweries. This provided capital for essential extensions and refurbishments to the hotel. Pounds, shillings and pence were replaced by dollars and cents and the Breweries provided funding in the sum of $580,000 for essential modernisation, such as air-conditioning in all rooms, with the exception of the Livingstone Room, and construction of the rooms above the lounge was completed.

Many smaller rooms were converted into bathrooms and at the end the hotel was awarded three stars. However, the closure of the border with Zambia and ensuing isolation of Rhodesia impacted greatly on tourism, while Victoria Falls was once again the scene of much military activity.

Tourism boom period

Every room in the hotel had a sign detailing the action to be taken in the event of an attack, but the grand old hotel survived unscathed; the only incident appears to have been a mistake when a mortar fired from the Zambian side of the river landed near the laundry.

With the emergence of Zimbabwe as a nation in April 1980, came Zimbabwe Sun Hotels – the successors to Southern Sun. Business levels remained low until the late 1980s, when Zimbabwe’s tourism boom period started, lasting right through to 1999.

On 15 January,1996, for the first time in the history of The Victoria Falls Hotel, it closed its doors, to allow for the largest yet refurbishment and expansion. During the ten weeks of closure, with staff working 18 hours a day, the hot and cold water pipes were replaced; the old coal-fired boilers removed and replaced with environmentally friendly electric geysers; the steam operated laundry was replaced with electric equipment and a new electricity sub-station was built, equipped and commissioned. The entire building was fitted with smoke detectors, fire alarms and a water sprinkler system.

Meticulous restoration

At the same time, the front entrance of the hotel was demolished and rebuilt using original pictures and plans, to bring it back to its former grandeur. The same meticulous restoration work was done to the reception area, main lounge and the terrace.

The nightly barbecue which used to take place below the terrace was removed. The concrete paving was taken away and that area has now once more reverted to verdant lawns, adorned with flowers, shrubs and indigenous trees. Wooden benches are now in place under the trees for guests to relax and look out across the gardens to the bridge. The hotel introduced a new restaurant called Jungle Junction, named after the reach of water on the Zambezi where the flying boats were serviced in the old days. Luncheon and dinner are served there.

A new look out point below the terrace, facing directly on to the Victoria Falls Bridge and the Batoka Gorge, is another classic addition to the landscaped gardens and lower terrace. The famous Livingstone Room, re-decorated in 1994, now with gold walls replacing the previous sugar pink, had the welcome addition of air-conditioning during the 1996 closure, whilst still retaining the old-fashioned ceiling fans.

Edwardian period

All public areas were tastefully refurbished in keeping with the Edwardian period. The lofty ceilings, with fans gently tempering the heat of summer days,encourage guests to walk around the wide corridors in comfort, each one an art gallery,showing in pictures the long history of the hotel.

The swimming pool has been enlarged, a fountain added and the Edwardian arches of yesteryear restored. All bedrooms now have multi-channel satellite television and access to broadband wifi connectivity– both essential services for modern travellers.

The Stables Wing was added in 1997 with 44 new rooms, comprising42 executive twin-rooms and two honeymoon suites. Built around a similar courtyard and joined to the existing hotel, this wing was constructed in the same Edwardian style.

The bathrooms in the Sables Wing have free-standing baths with ball and claw feet and walk-in showers; a bygone age re-captured. All existing bedrooms in the main hotel were totally refurbished during late 1997 and early 1998, returned in style to the Edwardian era, in keeping with the rest of the hotel.

Leading Hotels of the World

In mid 1998 another exciting development took place when Meikles Africa Hotels bought a 50%stake in The Victoria Falls Hotel, and since then the hotel has been jointly run by African Sun, formerly Zimbabwe Sun, and by Meikles.For some time Meikles Hotel in Harare had been a member of The Leading Hotels of the World, a prestigious groupingthat includes some of the best hotels on each continent. The Victoria Falls Hotel was approved amember of this exclusive group in 1999 and these two are still the only members in Zimbabwe of The Leading Hotels of the World.

The 2000s brought a decline in tourism. During the past decade, however, strenuous efforts by the Victoria Falls travel and tourism community brought about a campaign to restore the fortunes of the area, and this has been successful in reviving visitor levels considerably.

Major refurbishment of The Victoria Falls Hotel has taken place in recent years, ranging from substantial improvements to behind-the-scenes plant and equipment to the upgrading of public areas, bedrooms and suites. This is all necessary to prepare the hotel for the likely steady improvement in visitor numbers in coming years.

More from this issue:
ZT17 (June 2014) - Main Menu
ZT17 (June 2014) - Full Content Listing

More from the Zambezi Traveller:
The Victoria Falls Hotel
Victoria Falls Destination Profile

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Zambezi Traveller Issue 17 (June 2014) Full Content Listing

Zambezi Traveller Issue 17 (June 2014) Full Content Listing

The June 2014 issue of the Zambezi Traveller is now online to browse on our website - - you can also download a pdf version of the whole issue here.

Cover Story

Image credit: Brent Staplecamp

Towards ‘One Health’

Special Feature - Victoria Falls Hotel 110 Anniversary

The Victoria Falls Hotel – the history

One Century Plus Ten

Meeting in the Pullman Suite

Leader of an excellent team

Kariba & Middle Zambezi

Image credit: Christopher Scott

Matusadona madness

Lion survey starts in the valley

Camping with kids made easy

Fragile, threatened paradise

Uniting people and wildlife


Image credit: Mana Meadows

Zim upcycling goes global

1,200 artists perform in Harare

Who’s who at the gathering

Cahora Bass & Tete

Image credit: Antony Alexander

After the fences came down

Step by step through Africa


Bulawayo at 120

Bulawayo Market Square 1899

Victoria Falls

Image credit: Charles Brightman

‘World’s Best Destination’

Hoteliers tour the new airport

In search of large predators

One vulnerable vulture

Ding! Ding! Tickets please!

Are you a born survivor?

Cresta Sprayview - one year on

Luxury cruise boat ordered

Baobab – the tree of life

Between man and nature

Upgrade gets into gear at ‘Saf Lodge’

Fun Enduro in Vic Falls now annual event


Image credit: Mike Myers

Wilderness and conservation

Pumping legs for water

Solutions for conflict with lions

Running for lion

Well off the beaten track


New brand weaves the magic

New events centre sets the standard

Image credit: Fawlty Towers

Steampunking and upcycling

Connections from collections

Feeling Blue

Pomp and ceremony at KAZA event

Safpar’s Sarah ties the knot

The true story of the African Queen


Image credit: Game Rangers International

One elephant problem solved

Bush bike challenge

Airline raises the bar on corporate responsibility


Image credit: Norman Carr Safaris

Planning your Safari

Unlocking the potential of youth


Image credit: Mark Atkinson

Tourism, beef or both?

The Ghost of Chobe Park

Autumn at the tree nursery

Work and play for HATAB 2014

Francistown Investment Forum 2014


High tech vultures

Image credit: Krystyna Golabek

Wild dogs making their mark


Simalaha gains momentum

Learning skills for life

Looking to the future

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Okavango Delta finally listed as a World Heritage Site

The 38th Session of the World Heritage Committee, which has been meeting in Doha this week, has agreed to the Inscription of the Okavango Delta as a Natural World Heritage Site. Below is the text of the Minister of Environement, Wildlife and Tourism, the Honourable Tshedkedi Khama’s, acceptance speech following the announcement.

"On behalf of His Excellency, the President of the Republic of Botswana Lt. Gen. SKI Khama, the government and the people of Botswana, I am happy to accept the status bestowed on our Okavango Delta, Natural World Heritage Site. This is evidence that the international community recognizes and acknowledges the natural outstanding universal values of the Okavango Delta.

"...Let me assure you that the government of Botswana is committed to the protection of all its natural and cultural heritage, regardless of whether it is a World Heritage site or not. We therefore assure the committee that we will continue to work with relevant stakeholders, most importantly the communities living in and around the Okavango Delta, and the riparian States of Angola and Namibia to maintain the integrity of the Okavango Delta.

"We are very honored to have the Okavango Delta as one of the World Heritage sites after Tsodilo Hills which was inscribed in 2001. The success of this nomination is attributed to the support of the African World Heritage Fund (AWHF), the World Heritage Centre, IUCN, ICOMOS, through the Nomination Training Programme for Africa dedicated to the training of heritage professionals in Africa in the development of nomination dossiers with the aim of increasing the number of World Heritage Sites in Africa in the World Heritage List.

Source: Okavango Delta Listed as a Natural World Heritage Site - Okavango Research Insitute (21 June 2014)
Botswana’s Okavango Delta becomes World Heritage Site - StarAfrica (21 June 2014)

More from the Zambezi Traveller