Smoke that really thunders

WHEN I boarded a flight for Livingstone a few months ago, falling in love so many times with Zambian men was the last thing on my mind.

WHEN I boarded a flight for Livingstone a few months ago, falling in love so many times with Zambian men was the last thing on my mind.

I just wanted to see the Victoria Falls, the mighty Zambezi River and the Big Five. I wanted to walk and bless the land that fed and harboured the struggle heroes who liberated me, and go home. Little did I know that cupid had other ideas.

During my two-day stay in the historic colonial town of Livingstone, the tourism centre for Victoria Falls, l discovered that Zambian men are a different breed.

Not only do they look good, but their gentlemanly aloofness is appealing. They are not not arrogant bit sort of make you understand that, "I'm not there ... but I'm there".

I don't know how many times I fell in love with the men of Livingstone. But that is a story for other pages.

The town that is home to part of the Victoria Falls has a way with the heart. It ignites feelings of love in a way that is not easy to explain. Hundreds of men have proposed to their lovers while visiting Livingstone. Hundreds of others have spent their honeymoon in this small, plain town that is home to the Victoria Falls, one of the wonders of the world.

Known to locals as Mosi-oa-Tunya, "The smoke that thunders", the falls are what gives the otherwise dull town its charm.

Until only a few years ago the Victoria Falls were a major tourist destination on the Zimbabwe side. Today, because of the political situation in that country, most tourists have deserted it in favour of Livingstone.

To make your visit more attractive the Royal Livingstone Hotel is only a stone's throw from the falls. It is built seductively on the banks of the mighty Zambezi River.

From the Royal Livingstone Hotel you can hear the deafening roar of the Victoria Falls and also have a better view of the billowing mist rising up to the heavens.

Three nights' stay in this hotel can cost you from about R7713 a person sharing. This includes breakfast and unlimited access to the falls. It also includes flights and hotel and airport transfers.

The falls are not the only joy of the place. You can see giraffes and zebras grazing peacefully on the hotel lawns. You can walk down to the Zambezi River or enjoy an elephant-back safari, river safari or river cruise.

If that is too expensive, just nearby is the Zambezi Sun, which will cost you R5205 a person sharing.

The end of the wet season, April and May, is the best time to visit the great falls.

During this period the falls spray water more than 1000m into the air. But during the flood season it is impossible to see the foot of the falls and most of its face and the walks along the cliff opposite it are drenched in a constant shower and shrouded in mist.

Close to the edge of the cliff spray shoots upward like inverted rain, especially at Zambia's Knife-Edge Bridge.

As the dry season approaches the islets on the crest become wider and more numerous. From September to January up to half of the rocky face of the falls might become dry and the bottom of the First Gorge can be seen along most of its length.

The minimum flow, which occurs in November, is around a tenth of the April figure.

The best way to appreciate the enormity of the Victoria Falls is from the air, which provides a fabulous vista of the falls.

Another attraction is the Victoria Falls National Park in northwestern Zimbabwe . It covers 23,4km² extending from the larger Zambezi National Park about 6km above the falls to about 12km below the falls.

The national parks contain abundant wildlife, including sizable populations of elephant, buffalo, giraffe, zebra and a variety of antelope.