Just before my flight left Nairobi, I sent my friend a quick note, “Pick me up 45 minutes after my landing time so that I have time to process through immigration and luggage lovey.”
She responds, “I will pick you up 15 minutes after you land, trust me- it will not take that long.”
I find this interesting, as even at major airports this process always takes time. I chalk it up to efficiencies that we are generally not aware of about Zimbabwe, wrap myself up in my travel blanket and soft fluffy slippers that I like for flights and sleep away my entire flight to Harare.
The flight leaves Nairobi and has a stop at Lusaka before departing to Harare, about three quarters of the flight disembarks at Lusaka and only 2 people or so get on board to head to Harare. This is fantastic for me because I get to stretch out and nap the remainder of the trip on the vacant seats. Fantastic value for the ticket which really did not cost a lot of money on Kenya Airways.
I land at Harare’s International Airport, shuffle in sleepy limbo to get all my carry on bags in order and head off to immigration. It then sinks in why my friend said it would not take long. Unfortunately, Zimbabwe has an unearned reputation that has tourists steering clear of Harare and instead opting to fly in directly to its ‘less affected’ tourist spots such as Victoria Falls.
I am alone in the immigration ‘line’ at the foreigners section. The immigration officer, looks at me up and down in suspicious incredulity, he asks. “Why are you coming into Zimbabwe?”
“I came to visit a close university friend and to explore your gorgeous country too! And go to Victoria Falls for the Vic Falls Carnival as well!”
Ticket wristbands for the Vic Falls Carnival
“Ah! Vic Falls Carnival! Makes sense now, you should have flown directly there, it is nicer than Harare.” he adds while laughing as he stamps my passport, “Usually people are trying to leave Zimbabwe not come into it.”
Having been brought up knowing that you should not laugh about other people’s problems just because they are laughing at them, I politely offer a small smile and thank him for processing my stamp so quickly and leave to get my luggage and meet my friend who has arrived to collect me.
Harare, I was honestly expecting much worse! The roads are clear of potholes, there are nice cars driving around (granted you cannot be in Harare and not notice the cars lined up all day for fuel) and life in general is on-going with several international brands still operational in the capital. Now this is not a flippant middle-class approval of the city while ignoring the massive poverty and inequalities in Harare, but it is just to say that, Zimbabwe is really just like any other African country. With things that work and things that don’t. Nothing special and disappointing really considering its ‘notoriety’ in international media. One thing I loved about Harare and Zimbabwe in general is how much people culturally tend to mind their own business-especially when it comes to how women dress. The sunny city was filled with women and in shorts, mini-skirts, maxi dresses, jeans, anything you wanted to wear with no scrutiny and harassment. Just folks enjoying the warm weather, sunny skies and general December joviality that seems to always sweep all of Africa.
I spent a night in Zimbabwe as the core of my trip was actually to head to Victoria Falls for the Vic Falls Carnival-one of Africa’s most prominent and largest music festivals. Lunch was at my friends house and this was followed with a nap. We then hit the town in the evening and partied at Maestro and Sankayi which are two of Zimbabwe’s hottest clubs in uptown and downtown respectively. Uptown and downtown signifying class divisions-but folks in Zimbabwe frequently cross over into both areas quite regularly and easily. Zimbos as they love to be called and as we love to call them as fellow Africans, are a lot of fun to party with. Open, friendly and eager to invite you to have drinks with them the moment they realise you left Kenya to come visit and explore their country. So suffice to say, it was love at first night with Harare and Zimbabwe.
The next afternoon, it was back to Harare’s airport to catch a flight into Victoria Falls and begin the adventures and festivities that Vic Falls Carnival and Victoria Falls offers as a destination.
The Vic Falls Carnival was coined Africa’s biggest and most famous New Year’s party by Huffington Post. The three day and night festival offers party goers a big explosion of fantastic artists both local and international. The festival is termed by HuffPo as a bucket list festival and it starts with a train party that hosts a resident International DJ for the day that moves you into the bush for an epic party with International and African DJs and musician acts who perform and entertain the guests all night.
There is a lot more to Victoria Falls than the festival however, and the organisers partner with several local agencies to allow revellers access to value priced tour offers that capture all there is to do at Victoria Falls. This combination of tourist activities available at Victoria Falls during the day and a fantastic festival party at night is what makes the New Years Eve party one of the best bucket list decisions you could ever make. What are some of the activities available at Victoria Falls? Everything from absailing, to ziplining of the falls stunning and somewhat intimidating heights.
To diving with crocodiles in a cage or spending the morning walking with elephants and feeding them breakfast. You can also have a walk with lions as well.
There is also a daytime cruise on the Zambezi that offers food and drinks as you enjoy peacefully floating across this magnificent river on a large boat with music and entertainment.
If you are not interested in all of these activities, Victoria Falls town offers a wide range of gorgeous cafes, restaurants and social spaces where you can eat great local and international food or join the daytime parties that dot this gorgeous town to entertain folks that have come in from all over the world for the festival.
Walking around is safe during the day or at night even if you are alone and walking around Victoria Falls town is enjoyable as not only is security tight, but also it is quite a romantically scenic little destination with a lot to look at and offer overall.
To wrap this up, I would definitely recommend Zimbabwe as a bucket list destination. If anything, I am hoping to go back and explore everything else that I did not have time for. Viva Zimbabwe!