The Gorges below the Victoria Falls

Written By: The Lowdown - Sep• 30•00

The gorges below the Victoria Falls provide some stunning views and magnificent picnic spots. But often, it seems to me, it is only the rafters and abseilers who get to enjoy them. The road which takes you for a tour around them is always quiet – few people seem to bother to visit them. The best way to enjoy nature’s architecture of the gorges, however, is to stay at one of the lodges which are perched on the edge of one of them. I can sit and just look at the view for hours. There are two lodges along the gorges – Songwe Village and Taita Falcon Lodge. Both offer a totally different lodge experience but both have a similar view.



Songwe Village

Songwe Village is a special lodge because it specialises in giving the visitor a taste of life in a Zambian village, with the necessary mod-cons to offer those essential comforts. As you drive up to Songwe, the lodge looks just like a local village. It is fenced in grass and the chalets look just like the local huts (but not deteriorated as many of our village huts are these days). Inside the compound there are chickens and goats running around. Sounds awful, doesn’t it. But it’s not. Our hosts took us on a tour around the ‘village’, first to see you huts and then to see the bathrooms. The huts are named after previous chiefs of Mukuni village; ours was called Sichechele, a chief who had been buried alive. Apparently he had got too old to be a good chief so the people decided to bury him anyway because they wanted a younger chief.

The bathrooms are one of Songwe’s claims to fame – they must have the best views in Zambia. The chalets do not have showers or baths – only a (flush) toilet. To have a shower visitors wrap themselves in a Songwe bathrobe and wander off to the very edge of the gorge to one of the bathrooms – there are four, all with different styles. The bathrooms are walled in except for a huge open ‘window’ onto the gorge.

That afternoon we were taken on an ox-cart ride to Songwe’s museum. The ox-cart was much more comfortable than we expected – looked like some Land Rover springs between us and the wheels. While constructing the lodge many stone-age and iron-age sites were found and the stone tools were carefully collected for display. The museum tells the story of how the gorges were formed over millions of years and how primitive man lived then. It is very thought-provoking and I could imagine the ghosts of our ancestors watching us in that stark landscape.

The evening meal is traditional and eaten in a traditional way. Men sit on stools together; ladies sit on mats on the floor. The Zambian stews and nshima are served in enamel bowls and we all used our hands to eat. It was a lot of fun. The evenings at Songwe are spent listening to stories and often the staff entertain visitors with drumming and dance. Songwe Village has a special rate for Zambian residents at US$60 per person. This includes all meals, drinks and local tours. Contact them on 03- 323-659.


Taita Falcon Lodge

A little bit further along the gorges you can find Taita Falcon Lodge. This is a ‘normal’ lodge with en-suite chalets, bar, restaurant and swimming pool. The owners, Faan, Annamarie and Andre, are excellent hosts full of stories and local gossip.

Again the lodge has spectacular views from the deck by the bar. There are always binoculars at hand to watch the bird life, or in the morning to watch the rafters as they tumble past in the rapids below – the rafts often upside down.

The food is cooked by Oscar, the chef. He makes the most delicious brown bread and other delights. The evening meal is served on the deck as you listen to the water rushing through the gorges below. On a moonlit night the gorges can be clearly seen in the eerie light. The breakfast is most welcome after a night with Faan and a whisky bottle.

The water for the lodge is pumped 200 metres up the side of the gorge but this has not stopped Andre from producing lush gardens throughout the lodge. Taita is like an oasis after the drive through the stunted trees and yellow grass of the scenery along the road. I could only marvel at the courage of Andre to consider planting the gardens on those rocks – but he has done it. Tel/Fax Livingstone 321850.

Both lodges are only a short drive from Livingstone on a dirt road. The road is OK for most of the year but if you don’t want to risk driving your vehicle, it can be parked safely in Livingstone and both lodges will transport you out.


by Gill Staden

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