VICTORIA FALLS, Zimbabwe, January 2020/ — Adventure is truly breath-taking, no matter where you go, hence why philosophers such as Dalai Lama avowed, “Once a year, go somewhere you have never been before.” This festive season, we packed our bags, cameras, shades, mosquito repellents and embarked on a journey of fulfilment to the gateway to Chobe National Park, Kasane – an important point of debarkation for the nearby Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe and Livingstone in Zambia, including Namibia’s Caprivi Strip.
Spread out along the banks of the Chobe River, Kasane presents an array of hotels, guest houses and campsites that accommodate all the visitors to the national park. Some are splendidly situated, with wonderful views of the river and its wildlife. Often visitors opt to have a morning game drive and an afternoon boat cruise with an afternoon game drive the following day as this is the time of day when elephants are usually spotted.
Another option is a day trip to Victoria Falls, which is about 80 kilometres from Kasane. Kasane now boasts small shopping malls where all basic commodities can be purchased, including arts and crafts shops. While its main attraction is the Chobe National Park that lies a mere 10 kilometres away, there are nevertheless attractions in and around the town.
Well, let’s flashback to Monday, December 30th 2019, when we embarked on a road trip to Kasane. Having left Gaborone at 0630am, we arrived in Kasane around 1630hrs, a grueling 10-hour drive. Kasane lies in a riverine woodland at the meeting point of four countries – Botswana, Zambia, Namibia and Zimbabwe – and the confluence of two major rivers, the Chobe and the Zambezi.
It’s also the northern gateway to Chobe National Park, and the jumping-off point for excursions to Victoria Falls. Although it’s nowhere near as large or developed as Maun, there’s certainly no shortage of lodges and safari companies, as well as petrol stations and supermarkets for those heading out into the wilds.
About 12km east of Kasane is the tiny settlement of Kazungula, which serves as the border crossing between Botswana and Zimbabwe; it’s also the landing point for the Kazungula ferry, which connects Botswana and Zambia. We checked in at Thebe River Safaris (https://theberiversafaris.com/) – ideally situated for visitors to Chobe National Park and the Chobe River area in Northern Botswana. The lodge and camp overlook the placid Chobe River and echo the surrounding bush with a rustic design.
The place seemed ideal simply because it is 12km from the Kazungula border and 5km from the entrance to Chobe National Park. Their restaurant and bar was bespoke too as they provided welcoming food, drinks and visitors can enjoy their sparkling swimming pool too. From the food menu, we would highly recommend the Thebe Carnivore pizza (a delectable, melts-in-your-mouth plateful with toppings including chicken strips, ground beef, bacon, salami, olives, onions and mushrooms).
Thebe River Safaris was started in 1994 by Jan Van Wyk with a single Land Cruiser. The business has expanded over the subsequent years into a bustling lodge and camp, and most recently a new luxury tented camp Jackalberry Chobe, all located in the heart of Kasane, Botswana. Jan’s original idea of sharing the wonders of Chobe National Park with visitors has continued with game drives, boat cruises and mobile safaris, taking guests into the true African wilderness. The operation now includes Jan’s sons Jannie and Louis and daughter Franci.
After quickly freshening up, we contacted a few of our Kasane connections, top in our minds was hoping they could assist and facilitate for us a trip to the Vic Falls Carnival which was already on day two – having started on 29th December 2019, with a TRAIN & SECRET BUSH PARTY, which we learnt sells out every year – a journey like no other, an escape from reality into a world of mystery and freedom with the beat of the African night beneath one’s feet.
Every year guests hop on board for this beautifully scenic trip with killer DJs both on and off the train. Surely, we didn’t want to miss out on day two of the Vic Falls Carnival festivities – an Electric Safari Concert featuring Botswana’s very own Sereetsi and the Natives, DJ Maphorisa, Sha Sha, Shekinah and many more. This has always been in our bucket list – and there was no way we were going to miss the 9th edition of the Vic Falls Carnival – an unforgettable experience at one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
Well, Lady Luck was definitely on our side as one Kempho Maphane made our wishes a reality. She speedily contacted her Zimbabwean connections who secured us some type of Airbnb accommodation in the town of Victoria Falls for $60 per person a night. Mind you, all the hotels were fully booked as it was peak season. She ferried us to the Kazungula Border Post, where we were met by a gentleman by the name of Simbarashe Chipanda from Footprints Africa Safaris (www.footprintsafricasafaris.com) who then drove us to Victoria Falls – a town in western Zimbabwe and a gateway to the massive waterfall of the same name. Here, the Zambezi River plummets over a cliff and into the Boiling Pot before flowing through a series of gorges. The Devil’s Pool, a natural infinity pool, is on the edge of a sheer drop. Spanning the river is 1905 Victoria Falls Bridge. Our drive to Victoria Falls took roughly an hour, through sheer darkness and winding thickets, where we occasionally spotted elephants and wild dogs.
We arrived safely in the bustling town of Victoria around 10pm, and found revellers milling about the Vic Falls Carnival venue, a sight to behold as almost the whole of SADC seemed to have converged all in one area for three nights of fun and vibes. We could spot Botswana license plate numbers, Lesotho, South Africa, Namibia, Zambia, and of course the host Zimbabwe. The venue was packed. Our minders advised we go check out where we will be sleeping first, and we did. It was a family home in a safe and secure neighbourhood who rented us two rooms at $60 a night.
After exchanging pleasantries, satisfied with our place of abode for the Vic Falls Carnival night, we left for the festival to find Botswana’s Blue-eyed boy band, Sereetsi and the Natives crooning the excited crowd with an eclectic array of his Setswana folklore songs.
This was truly a lionizing moment as everyone sang along, some waving Botswana flags high amidst the animated copious crowds. The ambiance and vibes were truly captivating and my patriotic essence was evoked. My mind ran amok and I was truly reminded of the slain Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi, who was captured and killed on 20th October 2011 – “We Can Build a United States of Africa,” and everything at the Vic Falls Carnival seemed to echo Gaddafi’s dream of uniting Africa.
Up next was one of the most sought-after live mix DJs in the country at the moment, Bass-queen DJ Doowap, officially known as Khetsiwe Morgan; a British-South African Academy of Sound Engineering graduate, stylist, hair artist and live mix DJ dabbling in Hip Hop, Trap, Grime and Gqom. The Swazi-born South African club and radio DJ is best known for hosting a show on YFM 99.2 which is heavily influenced by electronic bass music.
DJ Doowap relocated to South Africa in 2012 after living and studying sound engineering in London for four years. Her love for bass-driven music emerged whilst spending a lot time in the underground music scene, clubs, and various music studios.
The mood continued on a high note when The Djembe Monks Movement took to the lofty stage. This trio – a Tribal House music band from Bulawayo, Zimbabwe really know how to work a party. The act is popular for its inimitable and enthralling blend of house music and live percussion. So riveting is their sound, as they jag the traditional African drums and organic vocals with the modern wheel spinning hum, which threw the inebriated crowd into frenzied spasms of pure musical pleasure.
The night even got hotter when Amapiano’s First Lady, Sha Sha, who has elevated the genre with smooth vocals jumped on stage. Born in Mutare, Zimbabwe, Charmaine Mapimbiro aka Sha Sha was well received by her home crowd thanks to songs like “Nge Thanda Wena” and “Akulaleki” which has helped cement her name in the music industry.
The highlight of the night for us had to be Shekhinah, born Shekhinah Thandi Donnell, a Pop/R&B vocalist and songwriter born in Durban, South Africa. Shekhinah has established herself as an artist on a national scale by performing at a variety of corporate, government and public events since her stint on IDOLS. The award winning singer’s debut album Rose Gold was certified platinum by RiSA on 31 August 2018. A few songs into her set, the Heavens opened up, soaking everyone as they seemed unperturbed, dancing in the pouring rain, singing along to every song from the gifted artist.
The night’s festivities were capped off by Zafari – an expression of futuristic African electronic music and infusion of synthetic and organic sounds, which tell stories that ignite the audience with a progressive message. The band didn’t last long on stage due to annoying sound glitches. Everybody called it a night. Thank you Victoria Falls for a beautiful fun night! See you in 2020 for your 10th anniversary.