Tourists can explore the more than |100-year-old Victoria Falls bridge on a narrow walkway below the road surface. INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS

By Kamini Padayachee
September 10 2011

Seated under an umbrella sipping on a lemonade a few metres from the tranquil Zambezi River, I relaxed and soaked up the silence.

The only sound was a distant roaring noise, which I was later told was Victoria Falls or the Mosi-oa-Tunya (the smoke that thunders), as the locals call it.

For two days I dined in the lap of luxury at the David Livingstone Safari Sodge and Spa, just 5km from the Zambian tourist city of Livingstone.

The colonial styled four-star resort hotel, which is near the Mosi-oa-Tunya national park, has 72 spacious en-suite rooms and five suites with private jacuzzis, all overlooking the Zambezi.

Huge wooden doors that grab your attention as you drive up to the hotel give the place a distinctly welcoming feel.

At the hotel, guests can also treat themselves to a wide variety of massages and other treatments at the Camelot Spa or buy curios from the gift shop.

One of the luxury en-suite rooms at the safari lodge. INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS

At sunset on the first day, I joined a bunch of tourists on a leisurely cruise on the stately three-decker Lady Livingstone, hoping to spot wildlife in the Zambezi.

I was not disappointed as the first hippo was quickly spotted peering out from under the water.

As more hippos, crocodiles, elephants and birdlife were seen, we hopped from one side of the boat to the other like crazed paparazzi.

I quickly realised that unlike other safari experiences, on the Zambezi it was not a case of if you would see wildlife but when.

After the cruise, a dinner buffet was served in African style under the stars and accompanied by rhythmic drum beats at the lodge’s Kalai restaurant.

The “hard work” continued the next day as I was treated to breakfast at the Thorntree River Lodge, a few kilometres away.

The “home of the elephants” lodge, which is in the Mosi-oa Tunya national park, has nine spacious and cosy suites, all with private en-suite bathrooms and thatched verandas overlooking the Zambezi.

For those who want a more rustic experience, some of the rooms come with an outdoor shower.

After Thorntree, I travelled back in time to meet Frenchman Georges Imbault, the chief engineer who oversaw the construction of the Victoria Falls Bridge in the 1900s, and to take a walking tour of the magnificent structure.

The bridge, which is more than 100 years old, was built in England, shipped to Africa in pieces and then reassembled.

The grand entrance of the David Livingstone Safari Lodge. INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS

Local actor Gabriel Siavwapa, who played the part of Imbault, described in humorous detail the trials and tribulations faced by the bridge’s builders and how many believed the bridge would never be finished.

As soon as his story was over, one of his team whipped out climbing harnesses and we set off to tour the underbelly of the bridge, several metres below the road surface.

While manoeuvering my harness along the narrow catwalk took practice, I soon got the hang of it and stopped to watch a bungee jumper take the plunge.

The man, one of the many bungee jumpers who seek out the bridge to get their adrenaline fix, looked shaky but thrilled as he was pulled back to the top.

After the tour, we walked back to Zambia from the Zimbabwean side.

I left the bridge tour convinced that it was the perfect option for those who, like me, want to take in the views without taking the plunge.

The next stop was a walk in the Victoria Falls Park at sunset. The winding pathway is so close to the cliff that you are showered with the spray from the falls.

A trip to Zambia to witness the awesome sight and sound spectacular should be on everyone’s bucket list. – The Mercury

l Kamini Padayachee’s trip was organised by Three Cities Group and Safpar via 1time Airlines. The airline flies to Livingstone five times a week from Joburg.

See 1time call centre: 011 086 8000