DESPITE Covid-19 taking a toll on the country’s prime tourist destination Victoria Falls, one of the seven natural wonders of the world, it undoubtedly remains the attraction many holidaymakers are enchanted by.
The Victoria Falls rainforest reopened to domestic visitors in July after being shut for 100 days due to a national lockdown in response to the global pandemic. With Covid-19-induced difficulties in travelling still persisting, the rainforest has, however, seen only a few visitors, according to Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZimParks) officials.
“The river is roaring and inviting, but there are very few people to share these moments with it,” ZimParks spokesperson Tinashe Farawo noted.
“Our domestic visitors are very low in numbers because of the challenges they face, including Covid-19.
“Yearly, according to our calendar, 60% or more of our visitors there are drawn from the international market while the other percentage is derived from our domestic market, so with the closure of the site due to Covid-19, global lockdown and travel restrictions, this meant that our numbers drastically fell and we can say we are at a very low percent because even people locally are not travelling much to the site.”
The NewsHawks caught up with one of the nature guides in Victoria Falls, Irvine Ndlovu, who has been guiding tours for more than five years, and he says the Covid-19 phase has been felt at the rainforest, despite the alluring scenery.
“The flora and fauna of the river is magnificent to look at, be it from the smallest insect to the smoke (misty spray) itself, and throughout the year the river has been roaring with few rocks, which are equally beautiful, being exposed,” says Ndlovu.
“Tourists love this place, and narrating its history, flora and fauna and its mysteries has been one of my favourite things to do.
“Being deprived of that has taken a toll on me because for the past five years, this place had become my second home.”
This publication also caught up with visitors from Harare enjoying a stroll through the Victoria Falls rainforest. They said the World Heritage site remains majestic despite the absence of visitors.
“It’s been quite weird although fun just being here almost alone.
“The only sounds l can hear are of the birds and small insects, and that feels good,” the domestic tourist said.
“The river is equally beautiful. Nothing has changed and I just hope Covid-19 will soon be over so that people come and witness these moments too.”
The Victoria Falls is the world’s largest waterfall. Bordering Zimbabwe and Zambia, is was formed when the Zambezi River tumbles majestically across 1.7 kilometres and down 108 metres into the Batoka Gorge.
Alongside the falls is a path through a unique rainforest with 16 viewing points on the Zimbabwean side, from the Devil’s Cataract to the Main Falls, the Horseshoe Falls, the Rainbow Falls and finally the Eastern Cataract in Zambia.
A stroll beneath the towering water-berry, fig, ebony and milkwood trees, among others, will often give the visitor a glimpse of bushbuck, monkeys, baboons, warthog, as well as banded or slender mongoose and sometimes even a snake.
There is also a rich variety of birds in the rainforest, including endemic species such as the schalow’s turaco, green pigeon, green sandpiper, emerald cuckoo, Senegal coucal, African wag-tail and the red-faced mousebird among others, Ndlovu says.
The plants endemic to the Victoria Falls rainforest include wild date palms, African gladiolus, the fireball lily, Dr Kirk’s aloe, a type of lip fern and the pepper elder, while rare plants include the red milkwood, lowveld milk-berry, tassel-berry, river nuxia, small-leaved kiaat and river-climbing acacia.
The falls are much clearer during the drier months, but they also have to be seen in high water season.