The Sunday News
Freedom Mupanedemo, Sunday Life Reporter
WHEN you talk of the Victoria Falls what quickly comes to mind are the mighty falls. The frothing waters plunging over 70 metres into a chasm, emitting clouds of mist that aptly earned this world’s renowned natural wonder the name “The Smoke that Thunders”.
And, it is at this time of the year when tourists have the best views of the falls as the Zambezi River — at almost half its distance to the Indian Ocean — violently drops into a cliff with an ear-poking din in a spectacular fashion. It is a violent water plunge that defies diction.
True, the Victoria Falls are awesome, pure natural grandeur, an unbelievable wonderment that even David Livingstone, the Scottish explorer who is claimed to have discovered the falls got overwhelmed by the sighting of these spectacular scenes describing the falls as, “So wonderful and must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight”.
To many, the resort town of Victoria Falls is about the falls, the rainforest and maybe sunset cruise and bungee jumping! But my recent visit to this world’s greatest natural splendour exuded the many different faces that this wonderment can offer.
Besides the falls, there is also the wildlife in the Zambezi National Park which borders the southern and eastern banks of the Zambezi River to look forward to.
There is Zimbabwe’s Zambezi National Park on one side and Zambia’s Zambezi National Park on the other.
With the vast wildlife concentration in the Zambezi National Park, one does not need to jam pack his or her to-do-list by enlisting the Hwange National Park, when in Victoria Falls.
The Hwange National Park, itself one of the largest national parks in the world straddling about 15 000 square kilometres — needs its own time to explore.
For wildlife enthusiasts on a mission to take a gaze of the mighty Victoria Falls, the Zambezi National Park is for sure a good inclusion on the list of activities if one is to enjoy and appreciate the other side of Victoria Falls.
On entering the park, dense and lush green forest, forever suckling from the banks of the Zambezi River welcome you.
Under the canopy of trees, velvet monkeys playfully leap from one tree branch to the other while fear-stricken warthog pop out of the thicket before disappearing into the greenery. A content herd of buffalos, exuding starch-full stomachs relax on the side of the road, chewing the cud, unperturbed by our slowly passing safari truck.
An alert water buck grazing on the side of the road raises its head taking cover before launching two, three, four strides into the bush, fleeing from an enemy. On the Zambezi River bank, a head of elephants plays in the water, nonchalantly splashing water all over using their all-rounder trunks.
It must be bathing time in these mighty waters of the Zambezi River for these huge and imposing mammals.
The park is a spectacle and it is home to many wildlife species. Unlike in the parched Hwange National Park where other fearful and human-shy wildlife see human presence from a distance before fleeing, in the dense Zambezi National Park tourists have greater chance for a startling up-and-close encounter with wildlife as most game, tired of foraging the thicket, retreat into drive ways. Tourists are at times forced to change route especially when dangerous animals like elephants or buffaloes block the road.
Most of the game is concentrated along the valley flow. There is an escarpment along the northern end which acts as a physical barrier to most of the park’s animal species. Enormous herd of elephants, some up to 100 strong, are often seen at the river’s edge. Buffaloes and waterbucks are common. The park also hosts good population of lion and leopard.
For birdies, there are over 100 bird species and one can listen too for the ubiquitous cry of the fish eagle.
There are beautiful Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority run chalets inside the park where one is serenaded into sleep by the roar of a lion, the laughing hyenas and the anxious cry of a fish eagle.
The Zambezi National Park is relatively undeveloped, its beauty lying in its wilderness state.
The River’s edge is overhung with a thick riverine fringe, including ebony and fig trees. Further inland is a floodplain fringed with mopane forest and interspersed with winter thorn trees and huge acacias. The hills which form the backdrop to the park are covered in broadleaf woodland.