evident that even though the country is coming apart at the seams Zimbabweans in the tourism industry can still manage to organise the holiday of a lifetime.
We arrived in Kariba for our houseboat holiday on a chilly morning late in June but as the sun rose any thoughts of winter subsided as the layers of jerseys and scarves were quickly peeled off. Leaving the harbour for our destination, the Ume River, we were quickly on our way in a luxurious vessel carrying 23 people, with en-suite toilets and showers located in the 10 airy cabins. The house boat boasted a spacious dining area, plunge pool and lounge (from where the rugby would be watched later live off DSTV). Where the kitchen was we werenâ€™t quite sure but what was certain was that wherever the food came from would have made BBC chefs gasp in awe.
As we departed from the harbour, a toast (at nine in the morning nonetheless) was called for and the ice cold Castles came out (although for some they had been out since the baobab tree just past Makuti). With the methodical chug of the boat in the background came happy memories of childhood family holidays. The now familiar fumes of the diesel engine brought with it thoughts of â€˜catching that first tiger fish, those sunglasses now lying at the bottom of the lake and that favourite rod that snappedâ€™.
A Kariba virgin might ask what you do on a floating house for 5 days, but the first question after the trip is always â€˜where did the time go?â€™ Each day starts at the 5:30am. Despite the perfectly good air conditioned rooms downstairs, for some reason most Zimbabweans choose to sleep on a much thinner mattress on the top-most deck where the first rays of sunlight will herald the next dayâ€™s fishing and with it the competitions, the boating, the banter and the ice-cold beer. Always the beer.
June is not renowned for its fishing yet the commitment shown by all parties on board would rival any KITFT. Needless to say, the Ume River offered a few bream spots where good sized dinner snacks were caught and although June might not be the best time for fishing the weather certainly beats any English summer. The days are hot, yet not uncomfortable, with cool nights and more importantly mosquito free. In the evenings the generator thumps along like an African drum giving us more electricity than most of our Harare counterparts. Each night wound down with guitar playing, lively games and arbitrary chat about the dayâ€™s fishing, the stars, the country, the future and how unbelievably fortunate we were to enjoy a whole bay to ourselves with no other house boat in sight. And of course there was the ice-cold beer.
A Kariba house boat holiday is indescribably unique because it has no comparison. For five days our work worries were forgotten and being out of cell phone reach gave us a calm feeling of being well and truly on holiday. What the rate in Harare was for a US dollar or how much prices had gone up by would have to be forgotten for now and dealt with upon our return to Harareâ€™s harsh reality. Worth mention is Tiger Bay where relaxing drinks were had. The green lawns were immaculate and the staff more than eager to please. This Kariba legend has gone against the fray with its Bumi Hillsâ€™ brother and still offers an out of this world experience.
Behind every good house boat trip is a good crew and ours was no exception. Five crew members made our holiday hassle free and their willingness to please was not because they wanted a good tip but to actually make sure that guests had a good, relaxing and memorable time. These ambassadors of Kariba have a genuine love and respect for the lake and were only to happy to share their wealth of knowledge and experiences.
Thus, after five days 2,100 litres of fuel had been consumed, enough gourmet meals to last till next year and as for the ice-cold beers we lost count. The only down side was the wildlife, or lack thereof. When paying the National Parkâ€™s fees we had to drive to their base. They had no fuel or vehicle to come to us. Upon our enquiries, it was found out that there are twenty seven rangers who are asked to find their own way to the bush to patrol. The rangers are also asked to source their own food to take and all for $7,000 per day which amounts to, at todayâ€™s rate, about 2p or 4 US cents. Pence and cents is what the rangers are paid to guard Zimbabweâ€™s diverse wildlife heritage. Needless to say the experience was definitely good enough for us to ensure we book again next year and we hope our small contribution to Parks and Wildlife will see them head off on patrol.
Should you wish to book this trip, well not this one because there wonâ€™t be another like it, but your own house boat holiday on Kariba then please contact Amanda at [email protected] or call +2634706109.