NDANGWA MWITTAH and CHALI MULENGA, Livingstone
CHRISTIAN Werjefect, 44, and Stephanie Shipton, 32, are from Hawaii in the United States of America (USA).
Yes, Hawaii, the famed resort state in US, an isolated volcanic archipelago in the Central Pacific.
Its islands are renowned for their rugged landscapes of cliffs, waterfalls, tropical foliage and beaches with gold, red, black and even green sands.
Of the six main islands, Oahu has Hawaii’s biggest city and capital, Honolulu, home to the crescent Waikiki Beach and Pearl Harbour’s WWII memorials.
Despite all this, Christian and his spouse Stephanie, who were in Africa for the first time, decided their journey here would not be complete without viewing the Victoria Falls.
“We come from Hawaii and it is known for being a beautiful place and it is a beautiful place. But this is different and this is massive and bigger, and it’s just amazing to see it in person,” says Christian about the waterfalls.
In contemporary times, the Victoria Falls has been established as the greatest curtain of falling water in the world.
Little wonder it is one of the Seven Wonders of the World!
The Victoria Falls, described by the Kololo tribe living in the area in the 1800’s as musi o tunya now the Mosi-oa-Tunya – ‘The Smoke that Thunders’ – presents a spectacular sight of awe-inspiring beauty and grandeur on the Zambezi River.
It is a sight to see in one’s life time.
Columns of spray can be seen from miles away as, at the height of the rainy season, more than 500 million cubic metres of water per minute plummet over the edge, over a width of nearly two kilometres, into a gorge more than 100 metres below.
The wide, basalt cliff over which the falls thunder transforms the Zambezi from a docile river into a ferocious torrent cutting through a series of dramatic gorges.
Facing the water falls is another sheer wall of basalt, rising to the same height, and capped by mist-soaked rain forest.
“It’s a world landmark that is very inspiring to see Mother Nature at its best. Lots of water,” says Christian.
Stephanie adds, “We are both water people and we like to be in and around water. We have always been planning to see something big and unimaginable. We have a lot of waterfalls back home, but nothing close to this.”
Asked how they heard about it, the couple said they have seen many nature documentaries on television that have the Victoria Falls in them.
In fact, according to Stephanie, she learnt about it even in school, prompting her partner Christian to joke, “She went to a better school than I did, I didn’t learn about the Victoria Falls.”
However, according to them, seeing the falls in person is nothing close to what or how it is depicted in any of those documentaries.
“I didn’t realise how close you could get. I didn’t even realise how shear the cliffs are. It’s like a crack in the earth and the pictures don’t really show all that detail,” she says while her partner adds, “you can’t really tell from television how amazing it is.”
Christian says he can’t imagine seeing the falls at a time when the water is at its peak.
“That would be very amazing but even now it’s incredible,” he says.
Stephanie, on the other hand, is thrilled to have seen it during low water because it reveals the cracks and formation.
“I like to see what’s behind the water, like the cracks and the pools that form the way the water moves. So, I am happy even though water is not full,” she says.
“We’ve had an amazing trip, nothing negative at all,” says Christian. Stephanie adds: “Our guide, Petros, is the best guide. You have to see this in person, you have to experience it.”
Christian works for a company that produces aircraft safety equipment whereas Stephanie, on the other hand, works for Teach for America, a non-profit organisation which is all about educational equity and excellence.
“We have been together for three years but have known each other for like six years. We are happy to have come here to see the Victoria Falls,” says Christian.
Christian and Stephanie weren’t the only ones there.
There was also Francesco Pancaldi, 24, and Carolina Muratori, 24. They are both from Bologna, Italy, and first in time Zambia and Africa visitors.
They, too, were viewing the Victoria Falls for the first time.
Just like Christian and Stephanie, the young couple also learnt about the Victoria Falls from documentaries and magazines.
“The Victoria Falls is very famous worldwide. You can read about them everywhere,” says Francesco.
“Almost two kilometres of waterfalls is amazing. I have never seen such a huge waterfalls in any case, even if it’s during low water. It is very amazing.”
Carolina says she is looking forward to coming back because the falls “is too beautiful to only see once”.
“We decided to check out some websites to plan our holiday and we decided to come here and see the Victoria Falls. This is our last point here in Africa from the two weeks we have been in Africa.
“We have seen it when the water is at its lowest, which is not bad still, but we would definitely love to come back again because it has been a really different and beautiful experience altogether,” she says.
To the young couple, their perfect getaway would not have been any better without seeing the Victoria Falls, one of the seven natural wonders of the world.
Stretching back in time, the first European to visit the falls was David Livingstone, precisely on November 16, 1855.
He remarked: “The most wonderful sight I had witnessed in Africa. No-one can imagine the beauty of the view from anything witnessed in England. It had never been seen before by European eyes.”
He added that the beauty around where “scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight”.
Minister of Tourism and Arts Charles Banda recently projected that Zambia was expected to hit the 1.3 million tourist arrivals mark for 2018 going by the previous year’s record of 1.1 million foreign tourists that visited the country.
The Victoria Falls alone recorded an increase of domestic visitors of up to 61,268 compared to foreign tourists at 15,332 in June 2017, according to Ministry of Tourism and Arts development research officer Kambole Sikate.
Mr Sikate said 64,811 domestic tourists visited the Victoria Falls from January to June 2018 as compared to 23,463 for international tourists.
He said 149,630 local and international tourists visited the Victoria Falls in 2017 with 35,964 being foreign tourists while 113,666 were locals.
NDANGWA MWITTAH and CHALI MULENGA, Livingstone