Victoria Falls set to become a tourist hub for Southern Africa

Construction is on track for the completion of Victoria Falls new airport by the end of July 2015.Together with a brand new international terminal building and the transformation of the existing terminal to handle domestic flights only, a new 4km-long runway is under construction, which will cater for even the largest passenger craft, including the A380. This means that long haul flights from the Americas, Europe and Asia will have direct access to Victoria Falls.

According to airport manager, Mr Ronnie Masawi, a new control tower equipped with the latest technology, a new parking area with the capacity to accommodate 400 vehicles, and a new fire station are also on the cards.  “The new airport will accommodate three times more passengers than it currently handles.” says Masawi.

These improvements to the existing airport, which will have a capacity of 1.2 million international travellers and half a million domestic flights every year, are predicted to boost the already burgeoning Zimbabwean tourist market. With its wonderful game parks, excellent accommodation offerings and wide range of Victoria Falls activities, visitor numbers to Zimbabwe are ever on the increase, showing a climb of 8.7 % during 2014.

It is expected that the recent introduction of the Univisa will increase the appeal of Zimbabwe to foreign visitors, further boosting figures for Victoria Falls hotels and other accommodation establishments in the town.

Not only is the tourism industry set to take off with the completion of the new airport, it is also set for the area to come to the fore as a commercial hub, increasing revenue to Victoria Falls accommodation even more.

Located just 20 kilometres from the centre of Victoria Falls town, the new airport is conveniently placed to service both commercial and passenger flights into the region.

The recently launched Zimbabwean budget airline, FlyAfrica, has plans to add to its portfolio of flights to Beira (Mozambique), Durban, Kilimanjaro, Livingstone, Maputo, Luanda and Lubumbashi with an additional three offerings in 2014, to cope with the anticipated upswing in tourism to the Victoria Falls area.

Bucket List Botswana

A new year means new travel resolutions, and in 2015 we suggest a trip to Botswana. To simplify your travel plans, we’ve mapped out a ‘Bucket List’ for this gorgeous country; a list of destinations we recommend you check off when travelling to Bots.

Hot Air Balloon Safari by Jon Eickmeier1) Go on a Hot Air Balloon Safari

A hot air balloon is one of the best ways to enjoy a safari in Africa, and it is still a rarity in Botswana. With a hot air balloon safari adventurers have the unique opportunity to gaze upon the African wilderness from a fresh, extraordinary perspective. While often pricey, this means of safari will be the experience of a lifetime.

With the stillness of the balloon, numerous wildlife sightings are possible, including sightings of: elephant, wildebeest, giraffe, Kudu, sable, rhinos, and even the endangered African Wild Dog. What’s more, there is definitely something magical about the notion of experiencing a hot air balloon ride, with its panoramic views and open-air spirit of adventure.

To book this incredible safari experience, visit the reception/activities desk at your hotel/lodge. Makgadikgadi Pans Botswana 2) Bask in the unearthly beauty of the Makgadikgadi Pans

The Makgadikgadi Pans – comprising an area of 12 000² kilometres – are the largest salt pans in the world. Located in northeastern Botswana, they are the remnants of a massive lake (roughly the size of Switzerland), which dried up thousands of years ago. Now, the flat, dry terrain stretches to infinity, eventually fusing with a milky-blue horizon. The effect is mesmerising, and a reminder of the vastness of the African continent.

For most of the year the area remains extremely arid and waterless, however, in years of good rain, the two largest pans – Sowa and Ntwetwe – flood! This attracts hordes of wildlife, especially zebra and wildebeest. Excitingly, flamingos flock to the area, and their numbers often run into the tens, and sometimes hundreds of thousands.

While you’re in the area, make sure to visit Kubu Island – a dry granite rock island engulfed by a sea of white sand. The entire island has been declared a national monument and is sacred to local inhabitants of the area. Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson described the island as “just about the most astonishing place [he’s] ever been,” when they filmed there in 2007. Khami Rhino Sanctuary3) Camp Out at the Khama Rhino Sanctuary

Set up in 1992, the Khama Rhino Sanctuary was created to protect the highly endangered rhinos of the region, and simultaneously to re-introduce wildlife into an area, allowing the local community to benefit from tourism.

The sanctuary is centred around the Serwe Pan, a grassy depression complete with naturally occurring water holes. As well as black and white rhinos being protected, over 30 other animal species are protected, and 230 species of birds.

This is an eco-safari destinations, and sustainable tourism is encouraged. As such, accommodation in Khama is limited. However, there are basic campsite and chalets on offer to provide the opportunity for an uncomplicated, idyllic stay in this historic haven.Moremi Game Reserve4) Visit the Moremi Game Reserve

In 1962, the BaTawana people of Botswana set aside a third of the Okavango Delta for future protection. This, they called the Moremi Game Reserve.

With a high density and extraordinary variety of wildlife, the Moremi is a small reserve in the eastern Okavango, bordering Chobe National Park. With both Black and White Rhino having both been recently re-introduced into the reserve, it is now a ‘Big Five’ destination. Excitingly, the rarely-sighted African Wild Dogs are regularly spotted in the reserve!

The Moremi Game Reserve is an ideal destination for the self-drive camper seeking adventure, and a tranquil safari experience. The rustic Third Bridge campsite is a favourite for many, found near the Sekiri River. Chobe National Park5) Go on a game drive in the Chobe National Park

While this seems like an obvious choice, a trip to Botswana would no doubt be incomplete without a game drive in the incredible Chobe National Park. Proclaimed in 1968 and covering an area of 11700 km², the park gets its name from the mighty Chobe River, which forms its northern border. Located in north-east Botswana, this park is probably best known for its enormous elephant population, one of the largest in Africa. There are an estimated 70,000 Kalahari elephants in the Chobe National Park, and a game drive is more often than not complete with several elephant sightings.

The Chobe floodplains, in particular, are where hordes of wildlife congregate during the dry season. Incredibly, it is normal to see over 1000 elephants on the floodplains at any one time during the dry winter months. Apart from elephants, a drive along the river provides the chance for buffalo, giraffe, waterbuck, zebra, Kudu, sable and impala sightings. If you’re lucky, you might just catch a sight of a lion or leopard too!

For luxurious accommodation in the Chobe National Park, book a stay with Cresta Mowana Safari Resort & Spa. As well as offering top-class accommodation in gorgeous surrounds, booking with Cresta Mowana will also enable you to organise your game drive with ease.

Photo Credits
Jon Eickmeier
Andrew Ashton
Philip Milne
Mathias
Shelby Root

Spotlight On: Selebi-Phikwe

About

Located in Botswana’s Central District, Selebi-Phikwe is a small mining town most often visited as an overnight rest stop. Alternatively, on most nights you will also find Selebi-Phikwe hotels filled with adventurers en-route to the Okavango Delta, Chobe National Park or Tuli Block.

Cresta Hotels Selibe PhikweHistory

Selebi-Phikwe came into being when minerals were discovered in two neighbouring villages: Selebi and Phikwe. Nickel was unearthed in Selebi during 1963, and 1966 saw the discovery of copper in Phikwe.  When mining began in 1974, Selebi-Phikwe was established in order to service these two small mines.  Today Selebi-Phikwe has grown into a much larger town with its own small airport, shopping mall and technical college.   It is one of the fastest growing areas in Botswana and is also the scene for one of Botswana’s largest marathons, the Phikwe Marathon.

Letsibogo DamAccommodation

The Letsibogo dam provides the perfect opportunity to rough it, with level sites situated under indigenous trees, washing up facilities and a laundry.  The ablutions are spotless, the parking is secure and visitors can enjoyably make use of braai areas and outdoor fire pits.

Selebi Phikwe accommodation does not extend much further beyond the camping option, except for the Cresta Bosele Hotel located in Tshekedi Road, close to the town centre.  This three-star establishment offers 52 air conditioned bedrooms with en suite bathrooms, Wifi connectivity, room service and satellite television.  Onsite relaxation can be experienced in the swimming pool or at the cocktail bar. For those who would prefer to work up a sweat, visit the hotel’s gym. The Bosele Grill, located onsite, dishes up fulfilling breakfasts as well as an à la carte and buffet menu, while the Palm Terrace is the place to go if you are simply feeling peckish.

Tswapong HillsActivities

The Letsibogo Dam provides plenty of bird watching and bass fishing opportunities along with a sailing club, day visitor centre, boat links and barge trips. Nearby, the scenic Tswapong Hills are great for hiking and perhaps catching a lucky glimpse of a leopard, Cape vulture or the exceptionally-rare Jameson’s Red Rock Hare. Most of this land is sacred to the local people though, so always make sure that you are taking an approved route before setting out.  If you prefer the bright lights, the Menateng Casino offers a variety of slot machines and entertainment.

Photo Credits:

Rob Craigs and The African Experiences.

Top 5 Restaurants in Victoria Falls

For most travellers, eating out while on holiday and savouring the local cuisine is an important part of visiting a different country. Hotels usually have their own restaurants (with delicious offerings, no less) but, for the adventurous, there is always the lure of indigenous samplings further about in town!

Victoria Falls Hotels

Victoria Falls restaurants are many and varied, reflecting the diversity of cultures to be found in this part of the world. Most enjoy a reputation of providing superior dining with great service in relaxed settings; and are within easy commuting distance, often just a short walk or taxi ride away from your Victoria Falls accommodation. Home-baked cakes, hot stews, grill platters and authentic oriental dishes are popular menu items. However, dining out in Victoria Falls is an incomplete experience without tucking in to some uniquely Zimbabwean dishes!

The Boma

Not to be missed, The Boma – Place of Eating greets guests with a rich selection of game steaks including warthog (for which it is most renowned), eland, impala, and even crocodile! Hearty soup from the campfire and a barbeque buffet, served on cast iron plates, with a selection of salads ensure no guest is left unsatisfied. The diner with a penchant for unusual dishes has the chance to savour Mopani worms; while traditional beef, pork, fish and chicken or vegetarian meals are also available. Amakwezi traditional dancers, drummers, story- and fortune-tellers provide evening entertainment, making dining at The Boma a truly unique experience.

Restaurants in Victoria Falls

Mama Africa Eating House

Situated in central Victoria Falls, patrons frequent this contemporary township-style restaurant for hotpots, stews, and a standard grill menu. A resident jazz band provides live entertainment most nights at this venue, which is popular for its youthful casual atmosphere. The restaurant’s name befits the matronly, home-like service, and visitors looking to kick back with easy dining after a day out in town will find Mama Africa perfect.

Shearwater Café

Here, guests favouring western cuisine are well accommodated with a menu fusing European, Mediterranean, and local influences. This modern-style restaurant is ideal for mingling with local company in a bustling district, while soaking up the Victoria Falls atmosphere.

Rainforest Restaurant

At the Rainforest Restaurant, light meals, homemade cakes and cold drinks provide pleasant refreshment for visitors just inside the entrance to Victoria Falls National Park.

Victoria Falls Accommodation

Nam Took Thai Restaurant

Featuring a substantial menu of authentic Thai, Chinese and Indian-Pakistani dishes combined with vibrant African décor, Nam Took Thai Restaurant is a feast for the senses. Friendly staff and the option to dine in, or take out, round off a cheerful experience.

The accommodation in Victoria Falls promises to be pleasantly comfortable throughout you stay. Buffet breakfasts, a la carte lunches and dinners with excellent views of the surrounds add to the convenience in this popular tourist town with no shortage of exciting activities to pursue.

Photo Credits
Victoria Falls Guide
Hunt and Fish SA

Best Car Hire Options in Botswana

Car hire in Botswana allows travellers the freedom to explore the cities and fresh countryside at their leisure. Scenic drives (even safaris!) make journeying by car an ideal way to see the country’s offerings.

Car Hire Botswana

Renting a car at Francistown Airport is a convenient way to experience one of Botswana’s most fascinating cities. The second oldest city in the country, Francistown lies to the east, at the place where the Tati and Inchwe rivers adjoin.

Originally the centre of southern Africa’s first gold rush, numerous abandoned mines can still be found here. A few have quirky names which aptly reflect their past, such as Phoenix, Bonanza, Jim’s Luck, Lady Mary, and White Elephant.

There are many attractions worth a visit once you have collected your vehicle at the airport. Prominent sites in this region include:

  • The Supa Ngwao Museum – exhibitions on the culture and history of the Kalanga people, as well as historical photographs of early Francistown and Botswana;
  • The Tachila Nature Reserve – self-drive safaris, popular for viewing big game in this space of 8200 hectares of protected natural habitat;
  • 50km north of town lies the Domboshaba ruins of a settlement thought once to be part of Great Zimbabwe.

Accomoodation in Botswana There is a surprisingly wide variety of cuisines to be found in Francistown. From top-of-the-range steaks, Eastern dishes, to local delicacies such as the Mopane worm and Seswaa (the national dish of meat stew and pap), there is something to sate even the pickiest of eaters. Whatever your interests, Botswana culture offers plenty to see and do!

A simple and secure booking facility for car hire in Francistown will ensure a great start to the Botswana experience. Round-the-clock world-class service means instantly available travel support, from up-to-date country information to roadside assistance. Browse through vehicle types to find standard models, luxury vans, 4 x 4s, and SUVs fully stocked and equipped for multiday trips ‘into the bush’. Adventure is a part of each package!

Botswana Hotel

Long-time travellers can enjoy an array of benefits, including substantial discounts on dining, accommodation, and car rental. Whether it is a business trip, a holiday exploring the region or even a simple overnight transition, the accommodation in Francistown provides authentic comfort and an excellent option for recharging before moving on!

Photo Credits
Story of Bing
Skekek
Travelling Boy

Longer Stays at the Cresta Oasis

It is often assumed that an African safari getaway or a beach vacation would be far more enjoyable than a holiday in the city. However, these thoughts should be avoided, as cities are often filled with wondrous gems that go unexplored. One such city is Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe.Harare AccommodationHarare is an open city that is beautiful, light, and filled with modern buildings, luxurious parks and flourishing gardens. The streets are lined with trees and flower beds and the climate is warm and invigorating.

Harare is known as the commercial heart of Zimbabwe. It is the central point for doing business, especially when it involves the trade centre, telecommunications, banks and the manufacturing industry.

However, when business has been completed and there is a bit of time left for recreational activities then try and keep in mind that there are a few places that must be explored when visiting Harare. Some of these include the National Art Gallery, the Mbare Flea Market, the Queen Victoria Museum, and the National Library.

Accommodation in Harare is luxurious, stylish, and easily available. In the heart of the sunny and tranquil Harare, lies the Cresta Oasis. Here guests are treated like royalty and given a warm welcome and high-class service. It is definitely the right place to combine entertainment and business.Harare HotelIn 2012 Cresta Oasis was nominated as one of the key contributors to customer and management excellence by the Zimbabwe Institute of Management. In addition to this, Cresta Oasis was the second runner-up for the 2012 customer service excellence award for the Harare region. The Cresta Oasis hotel was also nominated for Zimbabwe’s Service Champion of the Year award in 2013 at the Megafest National Business Awards.

The Cresta Oasis is a hotel that recognises the business and recreational opportunities in Harare and has therefore created apartments for visitors to stay for longer periods, specifically for one week or more. These apartments are perfectly suited for migrating families, NGO visitors, project consultants, business travellers, or tourists who wish for a lengthy getaway.

These apartments are fully furnished and include free Wi-Fi, a 32” flat screen television, DSTV, electricity, a standard generator, secure parking, housekeeping services, security, kitchen utensils and appliances, a built in safe, air-conditioner, free weekly tea and coffee, and free accommodation for one guest per week.

Whether you want to visit Harare for one night or one month, the Cresta Oasis is definitely the right hotel for every type of tourist, businessman, or visitor.

Photo Credits:
David Glaves

Top Restaurants in Harare and Bulawayo

Harare

Amanzi is surrounded by beautifully landscaped gardens in the heart of the northern suburbs of Harare, and is regarded as one of the top restaurants in Harare. Housed in an elegantly-converted Colonial farmhouse, warm interiors flow through open arches, and a nearby garden waterfall and crackling fire brazier create a romantic ambience for enjoying delicious international food. Harare Hotel Perfectly situated in Eastlea and close to the most popular accommodation in Harare, as well as to the business hubs of Newlands and Msasa, and a tranquil haven from the hustle and bustle of the city, Garwe is highly recommended by locals. Here you can sample traditional Zimbabwean cuisine including guinea fowl, goat, and ox-tail, as well as various vegetable dishes. Food is also eaten in the traditional way – with the hands.

Exuding elegance and charm, Victoria 22 is housed in a beautifully restored Colonial house and is a favourite of the well-heeled locals. Quite formal and expensive by Harare standards, the restaurant offers a set menu with four choices and undoubtedly the best food in town. An evening of fine dining here is a must!

Of course, the Cresta Hotels range of restaurants are worth mentioning here too. Tiffany’s Restaurant, in Cresta Jameson Hotel is a beautiful feature restaurant with excellent service, outstanding cuisine and wine. and an elegant ambience. Cresta Jameson Hotel’s Sandawana Restaurant, serves delicious English buffet breakfasts and lunches, as well as buffet and á la carte dinners in a comfortable and informal setting. Amanzi Restaurant

Contemporary-chic décor, gourmet cuisine, a fine selection of imported wines and a relaxed ambience greet you upon arrival at Chatters Restaurant in Harare’s Cresta Lodge. The comprehensive menu offers delightful favourites, accompanied by excellent service with a smile.  Situated on the ground floor of the Cresta Oasis Hotel, Café Afrique also offers a wide selection of innovative and tempting Zimbabwean dishes, excellent wines and outstanding service.

Bulawayo

Exuding a cosy, old world charm with thick wooden ceiling beams and leaded-light windows, the Tudor-styled Inglenook, located in the Cresta Churchill Hotel, is one of best restaurants in Bulawayo. Upholstered ladder-back chairs and highly polished bench tables create a warm, English pub-type ambience with a comprehensive menu and wine list. Staff are friendly, service is excellent and meals are reasonably priced.Bulawayo Restaurants

Experience fine-dining at its best in the beautiful, long-standing Nesbitt Castle, surrounded by exquisitely landscaped gardens. Experience 21st century luxury, intertwined with the gothic, medieval feel of 12th century romance in Bulawayo’s most sought-after destination.

With glorious views over Bulawayo, Horizons is an upmarket and contemporary-chic eatery conveniently located in the heart of the city, close to your Bulawayo accommodation. Enjoy a drink at the sleek bar before dining on the outside terrace next to a tinkling waterfall and swimming pool.

Fine Dining in Botswana

There are a number of restaurants and eateries in Botswana that serve excellent cuisine, but the cream of the crop would have to be dining by candlelight in one of the many luxury game lodges in this exciting country.Botswana Restaurant

However, if you are simply passing through one of the big cities, there are a few upmarket establishments and hotels in Botswana that are worth a visit. Gaborone’s ‘The Mall,’ the central market district and the tourist town of Maun have the best selection of restaurants, with a varied choice of international and local cuisine.

The Beef Baron Grill and Rib Room (Grand Palm Hotel and Casino, Gaborone) is your best bet when it comes to fine dining in a luxury setting. This elegant eatery serves traditional Botswana cuisine, as well as steak and ribs, and is as opulent as it gets.

Rodizio (Riverwalk Shopping Centre, Gaborone) is another upscale eatery and meat-eater’s delight, with great service and catchy live music on weekends, while The Beijing Red Lantern Chinese Restaurant (5659 Legolo Road, Broadhurst, Gaborone) serves the best Asian cuisine in town.The small town of Maun, which is generally a hub for day-safari trips to the Okavango Delta and other north-eastern hotspots, offers a couple of good places to eat. Try Homey Hilary’s (Mathiba 1 St, Maun) for delicious vegetarian fare, which includes homemade bread, soups, salads and bean specialties. The well-known Sports Bar and Restaurant (Shorobe Road, Sedie, Maun) is a classy watering hole with chef-inspired dishes from an extensive Western menu, including pizza and pastas, while The Curry House Restaurant (The Mall, Maun) is unpretentious, inexpensive and serves delicious, authentic Indian curries.

Some of the best places to eat in Botswana are set in game lodges close to the major towns or in the national parks and wildlife reserves, the pride of Botswana Tourism. Serving mostly local cuisine with a nod towards meat-heavy Western dishes, settings range from simple to glamorous, depending on the accommodation itself.

Chobe Game Lodge (Chobe National Park) has a brilliant reputation regarding food, and famous names who’ve loved the place include Liz Taylor and Richard Burton, while the diminutive Tuli Safari Lodge (Northern Tuli National Park) is also beautiful and serves great food.

The Newly Refurbished Cresta Riley’s Hotel

The city of Maun, also known as ‘the ‘Gateway to the Okavango Swamps’ is fast becoming Botswana’s tourism capital, providing the perfect base and starting point for tours to the Okavango Delta and the Makgadikgadi Pans.

While the town offers a comfortable range of accommodation to suit every budget, the newly refurbished Cresta Riley’s Hotel should be on the top of the list, offering both business and leisure travellers a comfortable, home-away-from-home retreat in the heart of the city.Botswana Hotel Located on the banks of the Thamakalane River, the elegant hotel offers three-star accommodation in the form of suites, twin rooms and double rooms.  Boasting private balconies with beautiful views of the river and the hotel gardens, each room features modern amenities, including air-conditioning, multi-channel television, tea/ coffee making facilities and direct-dial telephones, to ensure a comfortable and relaxed stay.

A variety of convenient services are on offer, such as a 24-hour reception service, Internet access, modern conference facilities and room service.  A sparkling swimming pool is the ideal place to relax and unwind with a drink from the outdoor pool bar, and Riley’s Grill serves delicious continental and full breakfasts, a varied a la carte menu for lunch and delectable dinners.Maun Hotel Stylish and modern conference facilities cater for up to 80 guests, with state-of-the-art technology and spacious boardrooms to ensure all business guests are comfortable.

The warm and welcoming hotel staff are at the ready to cater for your every need, such as assisting with the arrangement trips in and around Maun, including game viewing, mokoro and boat trips, birding and visits to the local Crocodile Farm.  They can also book trips further afield to the Okavango Delta, Moremi, Chobe National Park and Savuti, leaving guests to worry about nothing except relaxing in style.

The Cresta brand is synonymous with luxurious style and service excellence and promises unrivalled attention to detail for a happy and comfortable stay.

Traditional SeTswana Cuisine

The Tswana migrated into central southern Africa in the 14th century. As hunters, herders and agriculturists, they found the land abundant in game, lush grazing for cattle, and fertile soil for the cultivation of sorghum, beans, pumpkins and sweet melons. Maize, introduced later by Portuguese explorers, was also highly productive. Over time, these came to form the foundation of Botswana traditional cuisines.

Botswana Cuisine
With the country among the most developed in Southern Africa, visitors will find contemporary Botswana food to be a blend of external influences and traditional cooking. Mozambique king prawns, smoked salmon and a variety of European and Eastern dishes can be found, but experiencing local foods is something not to be missed!

Botswana Food

Much like the rest of Botswana, Francistown traditional cuisine is based on lamb, mutton, chicken and other meats (beef being the most popular). Sorghum and maize are the main crops grown in Botswana and are popular for breakfast. The staple food is called Bogobe, made by pouring maize and sorghum flour into boiling water and cooking until a soft paste forms.

 

Francistown restaurants offer guests plenty of traditional dishes to choose from. Dried bean leaves are a popular SeTswana food. The national dish of Botswana is called Seswaa, a meat stew served over thick polenta or pap. The meat is boiled with onion and pepper (tradition mandates nothing else be added). Once the meat has cooked for about two hours, it is shredded and pounded with salt to add flavour. The final serving comes with thick maize meal and a leafy vegetable called Morogo.

For the more adventurous travellers, the Mopane worm, native to Southern Africa, is a common delicacy in Botswana restaurants. The caterpillar is cooked in hot ashes, boiled, or dried and fried.

 Cuisine in Botswana

The experience of dining in Francistown can be complemented by a sampling of traditionally brewed alcoholic drinks. Bojalwa ja Setswana (the beer of Batswana) is made from fermented sorghum seeds. A commercially produced and packaged beer, Chibuku, is a favourite drink in villages, towns, and in some parts of the city. Travellers staying overnight can look forward to tranquil accommodation, private space and evening entertainment after a day out experiencing the best traditional cuisine Botswana has to offer.

Photo Credits:
Travel Junction
Giornalettismo
Dorah Sitole