What did set the excitement rolling was a thrilling ride in a water taxi on the Zambezi to our resort, The Royal Livingstone. Before I alighted on to the resort’s bank, I could spot small islands strewn along the length of the river that was home to hippos and elephants. Some 300 metres away was a huge cloud of smoke arising from what looked like the end of the river. I was wrong; it wasn’t smoke but the spray from the famed Victoria Falls.
The term ‘holiday rush’ took on a whole new meaning when I had seven days to do three cities in two countries. And adding to this was the fact that all the three cities had on offer an experience each different from the another.
Our first stop, Cape Town, was pure bliss. I am not sure if it was because of the nine-hour flight from Mumbai to Johannesburg and a two-hour flight thereon to Cape Town after a few hours wait in the airport, or if it was genuinely because of the clean air, organised traffic, Aston Martin and Lamborghini showrooms, neatly stacked imposing buildings in the backdrop of the Table Bay mountain that were a sight to behold during our drive to the Table Bay Hotel.
Let’s go shopping
The hotel was beautifully and, I must say, wisely constructed, overlooking the Table Bay Mountain. Yet, I was unfortunate to have not been able to visit that very sight during my stay in Cape Town, courtesy the Weather Gods who decided to send in some thick fog to cover the mountain. A chilly drive around the city to have a glimpse of the Peace Fort, Town Hall, Parliament House, Company Gardens and a drive to the Lion’s Head was all I had to make do within the time I had, and, of course, shopping at the local Green Market. It is a good place to buy those little and big souvenirs, memorabilia and local art work. After having raided the Green Market enough, we were let loose in the Crafts Market by the bay. If you have enough time, it’s good to compare prices and then make your choices.
While Cape Town was a place for the typical tourist, Sun City was a place to revel in the opulence for souls who love luxury. Rightfully called the Las Vegas of South Africa, the property, which is a two-hour drive from Johannesburg airport, has rolled out its carpet for Miss Worlds, IIFAs and many Bollywood shoots. So it wasn’t surprising to find the hotel staff discussing Akshay Kumar and Aishwarya Rai. I stayed at the Palace of the Lost City, the newest addition, the others being the original Sun City, Cascade and Cabanas. The resort has a wide variety of things to do and you will have a hard time finding a reason to get out for anything. From sight-seeing at the neighbouring Pilanesberg National Park, playing a round of golf at the championship golf course, soaking at the Valley of Waves, shaking a leg with the tribes at the Cultural Village, to betting at their casinos, you can do it all. But the best that I got to do was quad-biking at the Outdoor Adventure Centre and the one I didn’t get to do was the much-talked about, nerve-testing Zipslide where you just slide down from a hill suspended on a wire that’s at 180 metres above the ground and 2 km in length!
But little did I realise that a visit to a dry little city in Zambia would prove to be the best part of the trip. An airport that was quite a contrast to the ones in Cape Town and Johannesburg in size and the hustle and bustle of passengers, followed by a 20-minute journey on what looked like rural Indian roads and scenery didn’t give us much to hope for.
What did set the excitement rolling was a thrilling ride in a water taxi on the Zambezi to our resort, The Royal Livingstone. Before I alighted on to the resort’s bank, I could spot small islands strewn along the length of the river that was home to hippos and elephants. Some 300 metres away was a huge cloud of smoke arising from what looked like the end of the river. I was wrong; it wasn’t smoke but the spray from the famed Victoria Falls. That’s why it was earlier called Mosi-o-tunia — ‘the smoke that thunders’. I learnt that on high-season (that’s after the rainy season in November-December and till about June) the height of the spray can reach up to 500 metres above sea level. And that you have to visit the falls twice — once in high season for a breath-taking view of the falls in its entirety and once in low-season when you can actually walk along some stretches of the river, take a look down into the gorge into which the river dives and also dangerously soak in the devil’s pool by the edge of the falls.
A dizzying peek into the depths of the gorge, a breath-taking look at the gushing waters plummeting into the rocky bottom and a tasty high-tea at the island by the edge of the falls later, the holiday bliss was settling in right on the first day. The next day, a walk to get a view of the falls from the other side was followed by a river safari along the Zambezi, complete with a drink in hand which the guide promised would bring us good luck in spotting animals.
The group in the boat was trying hard to spot the big-fives, but only succeeded in spotting one — the majestic African elephants, at ease with the cameras clicking away their every move. We also spotted a lot of hippos with only their noses out of water, native birds, deer and alligators — our luck was good we were told. After a relaxing Swedish massage by the banks of the river and a dinner aboard the Royal Livingstone Express, I was ready to hit the sack with the satisfaction of having made most of the time on hand. There was more though — Batoka Sky — Microlighting and helicopter flights to get an aerial view of the falls, white water rafting, bungee jumping, river cruises, watch the “moonbow” on a full moon night, go on a elephant back safari… But it was time to head back home.
The excitement of this short-packed trip was so intense that I wondered what it would really be like if I took my own time to discover all that the continent has to offer?
Not to be missed…
Cape Town, SA:
The Cape Winelands
Chapman’s Peak Drive
Cape Point Nature Reserve
Boulders beach Penguin Colony
Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens
Microlighting over the falls
White water rafting
Rainbow and Moonbow sights over the falls
Royal Livingstone Express