When british man first set eyes on the giant, he knew that there was no other name to give her except that of his queen. In 1855 David Livingstone called her Victoria Falls, now known as the largest of her kind in the world. With a drop of 110 meters, she roughly doubles the height of Niagara Falls. At 1,708-meters wide, she drains an average of 550,000 cubic meters of water every minute, producing thunderous reverberations and a thick cloud of spray visible 50 kilometers away.
The same spray can be seen from the grounds of the Royal Livingstone Hotel at the banks of the Zambezi River in Livingstone, Zambia. The name of the Scottish explorer, like that of Empress Victoria, has gone a long way indeed.
OLD-WORLD CHARM, MODERN AMENITIES
Before catching a glimpse of Victoria Falls, a few days stay at the Royal Livingstone can set the mood for expeditionary fervor. The sprawling resort has the old-world charm of a colonist’s villa. Like its handsome furnishings exemplifying mastery over bush and hunt, its public spaces and each of its 173 well-appointed suites embody modern deluxe hospitality touched by timeless attention to detail—because expedition can also be luxurious.
Butler and valet services are available at a moment’s notice. Hotel activities include the mundane and the exotic, from fishing, white-river rafting, quad biking, abseiling and jet boating, to helicopter flights over the Zambezi, its various river islands, and other nearby areas.
Meanwhile, back at the Royal Livingstone, dining options are numerous and reflect the myriad tastes and influences that the British have enjoyed, including regional, international and continental cuisine in many of the hotel’s casual open-air verandas and enclosed formal settings.
A PERSONAL JOURNAL ENTRY
But aside from these luxe accouterments lies the most important necessity of all. The Royal Livingstone is a place where one may recoup one’s spirits after wading through the river of life. Near the edge, there’s always a risk, but if one is careful, one can swim out of the river and stop chasing waterfalls. Alternatively, one can witness the sight without having to take the plunge.
As perhaps the world adventurer in any man would say, “To be a tourist is to be a spectator, but to be a traveler is to actually jump.” If such is the case, then at the threshold of Victoria Falls, in the lap of luxury that is the Royal Livingstone, we were mere tourists.
But what if you decide to jump?
PLAYING DICE BEYOND THE BARRIER
Braving the cascading waters of Victoria Falls has occurred in the past. A few tourists have taken the dive in the naturally formed “Devil’s Pool,” near the edge of the falls on Livingstone Island, one of the many islets cropping out of the Zambezi River. They lived to tell the tale despite the risk of going over the rock barrier. Tourists no longer, they are now travelers.
But even the most intrepid may be afraid to take a dip in water and perhaps see some ghost. They’d rather go chasing after the beast. Fortunately, such an opportunity was available near Mosi-oa-Tunya (in English, “the smoke that thunders”), the indigenous name of the falls. The Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park, a Unesco World Heritage site, offers various types of safari packages for viewing populations of elephant, buffalo, giraffe, zebra and antelope from jeep-style Land Rovers.
But we had already taken the plunge—not into Victoria Falls but in another game of dice. As an alternative, we opted for the grandest kind of safari, not in small Mosi-oa-Tunya but in a place more forbidding, more sprawling, more condusive to the hunt.
In Zambia’s largest game reserve—said by many to be the most exotic, wildest and most legendary of all natural parks in the planet—we commandeered open-type Land Rovers that brought us to night-time excursions in big-cat territory. We wanted animal fur. A day-time safari is not enough. Can you imagine fear? Perhaps you’ll see the photos soon.
Date: 11 September 2013