After a trip like this I wonder why we are so quick to leave the African continent when we say we want to travel the world. Africa truly is the most remarkable & unique place anyone can visit . . . It makes you feel ALIVE . . . Reminds you that mother nature holds all power & honestly makes you want to escape the extreme technological world we live in and just be . . .
A place where you want to switch off and the only sound you want to hear is that of the nature surrounding you, the fish eagles cry filling your soul more than any music could do at that very moment. The sound of the lake water breaking onto the boat. The sound of the world before man took over.
We left Durban the morning of the 4th of July and headed to OR Tambo in Johannesburg to meet up with the rest of the Kariba Kruisers and catch our flight to Harare. After a lengthy day waiting at the airport it was time to get the show on the road.
We flew Air Zimbabwe, now if you know me well enough you would know I am a bit of a pansy when it comes to flying. Smaller, older planes take my anxiety to a new level, yet I suck it up, knock back a few drinks for pre flight confidence and get on with it. So when I heard people in the queue say the plane was tiny & old . . . Well need I say more . . . Firstly flights to Zim are CRAZY expensive considering the distance you are covering. It’s the furthest boarding gate and the furthest located plane. So everything takes that much longer. Yes it was a small plane and yes it was very old but for a quick flight across the borders one can manage. However if I had to do the flight again I would choose to fly an alternative airline. So after the rather short and pleasant flight we landed safe & sound. Arriving at Harare International Airport was something I have never experienced, we were the only aeroplane at the airport, THE ONLY one, passport control was a breeze and luggage was ready and waiting as we got through. Empty airports definitely make transits THAT much more easier.
We were greeted by our driver, Admire, who was just such a gem. He was our driver throughout the trip as from Harare we were travelling around 350km across to Lake Kariba. Having a driver is honestly the way forward, as they are local they know the roads as they travel the route on a regular basis, they have made friends with policeman along the way (trust me this helps as there are more than enough road blocks on the way) I must just add that the policeman were never aggressive towards us and our driver, they didn’t carry weapons or reprimand the situation, they just smiled, did the necessary checks and off we went. Such a pleasing experience after having more negative altercations in other African countries. Having a driver also meant we could sit back & relax. Holiday mode on and stress levels out the window.
Our first night we spent at an amazing guesthouse in Harare, about 20 min from the airport. Demavilla. Deon & his wife Martha run this hidden gem and are honestly the most accommodating people one can meet. We arrived to a light dinner they had prepped for us . . . Light being the wrong choice of word, more a feast. Homemade soups, fresh breads, Salads, a roast & homemade Malva Pudding & Custard. It was DELICIOUS! To be fair EVERYTHING we ate in Zim was incredibly tasty and cooked with the heart, comfort food at its best. In the entertainment area was a wood fire blazing in the corner surrounded by comfy couches, a pool table, dart board, fast wifi and a bar area. However as we were all exhausted and had a very early start, so we ate and went straight to bed.
Bright and early the next morning, Admire came and picked us up for the journey to Lake Kariba where we would be climbing onto our houseboat. Even though it was about a 350km journey (which in any normal circumstance would take about 3 hours) It is about a 7 hour trip, as it’s a single lane highway which is also used by exporting trucks and the road quality is not the greatest which all adds time to your journey. However having Admire rule the road, we didn’t worry one bit. He knew the road like the back of his hand, where the bad bits were, where to slow down and where to be careful. Also being a tour guide along the way educating us about our surroundings. Admire was the saving grace.
About half way through our trip we did a stop off in Lions Den (Recommended by our Guest House owner Deon) If you ever do this trip you HAVE to stop here . . . It is a butchery & food stall stop (Apologies to the Vegan Veggies out there) BUT if you have a liking of the meat substance than this is a stop for you. They have an array of biltong (The Cabanossie was INCREDIBLE) and then a basic menu on offer. The Boerewors roll & the Steak roll are the winners. SO TASTY! They give you the roll with your meat choice and at a table all laid out are the condiments and toppings one will need to make a dream roll. All the staff were super friendly, the service was amazing and the turnaround time for you food, took faster than waiting at the queue in Mac D’s. . . .
Back on the road and a few hours of driving through many different terrains, seeing some game along the way and driving through rural local communities we reached our house boat, The Sundowner. Greeted by our friendly house boat staff Jo, Geoffery & Lovemore and one of the owners (Also our guest & family member) Ben. Bags thrown into our rooms and straight to the rooftop deck we went to start taking in all that Lake Kariba has to offer.
Before I carry on let me just add that Zimbabweans are if not the friendliest people I have yet to meet. Every person we dealt with always had the biggest smile on their face, nothing was ever a problem and they all gave you the time of day. We were all blown away by their accommodating nature and regardless of the hardship that has been dealt to majority of them, they all have a positive outlook and soothing nature towards each other and us as tourists.
But back to our trip . . . About the boat, it had 4 cabins downstairs, with large sliding doors that opened onto the lake which made waking up the most breathtaking site one could ask for. Aircons & fans in each room. There were 3 bathrooms with high pressure hot showers. A kitchen area and more than enough fridge space. Upstairs was the open deck which had more beds/lounge areas, that could sleep a further 8 people (They set up the beds after dinner with duvets & mozzie nets for the guests sleeping up top) There is a bar area, sun loungers, a jacuzzi size pool, table & chairs as well as a 16 seater long dining table. There are also 2 tender boats which are used for game viewing and fishing and to finish it off there is a cage which drops down into the lake for safe swimming. It honestly is perfection.
Lovemore was our captain, Jo was our host & Geoffery was our chef. We literally didn’t have to do a thing from the minute we stepped onto the boat other than pour a drink and relax. The bell would ring when a meal was served, your beds would be turned down in the evening and made up in the morning and Lovemore would educate us on all things fishing and our surroundings. Luxury. The staff were the BEST! We couldnt fault them for anything, only praise and I promise you the value they add to the trip is incredible.
Days were spent waking up at sunrise, sipping on your tea while we cruised the lake. Reading in the morning sunshine on one of the loungers until we reached our next spot where brunch would be served. A few of us would go off and fish and the rest would chill on the boat, reading, tanning, bird watching, looking out for game and playing card games. Where we played no music, but only listened to the beautiful sounds of nature whilst sipping on Aperol Spritz. Lunchtime snacks would be served such as cheese boards or the fish that had been caught and then we would pack a cooler and go off on the tender and go look at game while watching the sunset. Perfection.
There really isn’t anything better than an African sunset. It’s as if the world goes still as the sun touches the land and then disappears into the distance. Showing off all these beautiful colours as it says goodbye, while the moon rises on the opposite side. Bringing with it some unexplainable calmness.
We were also lucky that we timed our trip over the full moon, which brought the most amazing moonlight to the boat in the evenings and lighting up the lake as it sparkles in the waters reflection.
The evenings were spent listening to guitar playing and then feasting on the AMAZING dinner spread served up by the chef. We honestly ate like kings, from chicken stews to fillet & peppercorn sauce to a full roast. No one went hungry and we all walked off the boat a few kg’s heavier . . .
We unfortunately didn’t have time to travel as far South as one would like to as one of guests had to leave earlier. However we were still lucky enough to witness some incredible sightings. An elephant playing in the lake between the Kariba Weeds. Hippopotami were a regular, Crocs elegantly gliding past the boat, Buffalo, Impala and Baboons. Transporting you into an African dream.
I have never been one to be intrigued by birds however this trip I found a new love for them. I have never seen so many African Fish Eagle in my life, I always thought they were these lone ranger type of birds that you saw on a rare occasion. (Excuse my ignorance) However that wasn’t the story on the lake. At one point we counted 20 odd Fish Eagle in one area at the same time. Them pairing up as they flew around or perched on a tree. It was an incredible sight that we were lucky to see on a daily basis.
Before we knew it our magical trip was over and we had got back to the main land to start our long journey home. We had spent 3 full days on the lake and definitely could’ve done a few more, it was the most relaxing holiday I have ever been on. And one I will definitely come back and do again. This trip reminded me of sailing the med, a million stars at night and a new bay everyday to explore, just this time under the African sky.
For some touristy stops . . . On our way home we stopped at the Kariba Information Centre which is a viewpoint of the dam wall and which borders Zambia. We also stopped at Kariba Heights which is the highest point, giving you the most spectacular view of Lake Kariba. This gorgeous hippo carved out of a beautiful turquoise stone found a new home, I bought it from one of the local vendors. Thought it was only appropriate to bring home a piece of Zim, and as the hippos took over our trip, the animal choice was easy.
A BIG thank you must be given to Ben, who allowed us to join him on his allocated days using the House Boat. To Gert & my Mamma for making this trip possible for us and for the spoils and then of course to the team, Kevin, Lalani, Caileen, Neels & Ducky. You guys made the trip that much more awesome! So THANK YOU! We shall definitely be back!
Tips & Notes
- WEATHER was perfect, hot during the day and cool in the evenings. The hot meaning not the unbearable summer heat, can’t sit in the sun, I need aircon but the manageable winter sun. Sunblock definitely needed during the day. Which also means no mass mosquito swarms attacking you, so no tabard needed nor malaria pills taken.
- WARDROBE bikinis & sarong during the day and in the evenings comfy pants & a warm jacket. When you are moving on the lake during the day the wind is cold so that would mean covering up. You really don’t need to take much with you when packing. I always feel I over pack on trips as we always say “we might wear this” or “what if I need this” in the end no you don’t need that extra dress or the forty extra pairs of shorts . . . Think comfort, stick to more of the neutral “safari” colours, swimsuit, staple sarong, a few tee’s, jersey, comfy pants & a jacket. Hat & sunnies. You are barefoot on the boat ALL THE TIME so shoe worries go out the window. Comfy trainers aaaand tadaaa you are sorted.
- CURRENCY travel with US Dollars
- AIRPORT TAX is $50 per person paid in cash when leaving the country at the airport
- DUTY FREE definitely do a wine & spirit shop at duty free along with stocking up on all your chocolate & sugary treats for the trip. You might think Zim would be cheaper than SA but it is actually very expensive.
- If you can charter a small plane to Kariba Airport you will be saving yourself long travel times and gaining more time to spend on the lake. You would also be saving on accommodation for the nights in Harare as well as the transport needed for the days of travelling. So rather put that cash towards a charted flight.
- Houseboat name is SUNDOWNER based on Lake Kariba charters average about $600 per night for the boat (depending on time of year) Sleeps up to 16 pax.
- Pack a few good reads (I managed to finish a 500 page book in the 3 days) and for me that is a lot.
- Its never toooo early for Mimosa & GnT’s
If any of you would like further information or contacts regarding this trip please give me a shout. I am all about supporting the amazing people that made this trip so incredible . . . And if you are questioning a trip like this . . . DON’T! Just do it . . . It is a trip everyone should try and do at least once in their lives and I can promise you one thing it is definitely worth it!