As of July 2017, Peter Dunning has been a part of the Zambezi Crescent Collection’s “Dream Team” as Manager of Vitoria Falls River Lodge’s new & exclusive Island Treehouse Suites – set upon the private Kandahar Island & surrounded by the mighty Zambezi River.
His passion for his work, the bush and “The Island” he calls home has inspired Peter to share some of his ponderings, unique encounters, and general updates on the everyday happenings at the Lodge and its environs with you; our readers a& guests.
So, sit back, relax and get lost in the stories straight from PJ’s Pen…
It is hard to believe that we are in the month of June already. The year is passing by so quickly. The temperatures in May were warmer than usual and it feels like autumn is a long time coming, or that summer is a long time ending. I am yet to wear a sweater or fleece at night. May has also been the busiest month on the Island since we opened our doors on 30th July 2017, and the season ahead looks very promising.
Having said that, it will be a winter full of challenges for Zimbabwe and Victoria Falls.
The Zambezi at Victoria Falls is now in recession having peaked at 1,175m3/s on 8th May 2019 (the 2017/18 peak was 4,675m3/s on 16th May 2018). The Zambezi River Authority, jointly shared and administered by Zambia and Zimbabwe, has forecast that the volume of the river, which was recorded at The Big Tree just upstream of Victoria Falls, is trending towards a forty-year low.
So, we remain – for now – at about a quarter of the volume recorded at the same time last year.
The 2017/18 season produced a ten-year high here, so the very short-term snapshot is that we are moving into a cycle of extremes, which is what the believers in human-made climate change are predicting, especially in Southern Africa.
Reports, coming to us from our guests who have been in the Okavango Delta, are that the situation in the Delta is worrying. Sadly, a lodge, Xudum, burned down due to a bush fire, which is completely unheard of in May. Many operators in the Delta are asking permission to drill new boreholes to help supply both animals and guests with water. By October, the end of the dry season, it’s predicted that the herbivores here are going to be very short of food. At least the flow of the Zambezi will keep them from thirst.
The construction of the new bridge across the Zambezi just 100km upstream of us, at Kasane, is progressing well. President Mnangagwa recently toured the bridge alongside President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi (Botswana), President Edgar Lungu (Zambia) and President Hage Geingob (Namibia).
The 932-metre long infrastructure over the Zambezi River is about 78 percent complete. It will be only the third bridge across the river ever built, after the bridge at Chirundu and the beautiful old and famous bridge just below The Falls completed in 1904.
A big benefit for our little community in Victoria Falls is that the new bridge will help alleviate the heavy truck traffic currently crossing our iconic bridge.
The representative from the contractor, Daewoo E & C, is optimistic that they will complete the project as scheduled in 2020.
Once completed, the bridge will not only boost trade and commerce but further enhance the economic activities and prospects of other land-locked countries, like Zimbabwe, such as Malawi, Namibia, Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The remaining three banded mongooses are holding their own and give me, and our guests, much pleasure with their presence near the deck daily. We are considering bringing two males across from the mainland in an attempt to boost the size of the much-diminished troop.
Bull and breeding herds of elephants are now on the Island most days and have given our guests some very special moments.
I learnt recently that the Northern Ilala Palm takes two years to produce its fruit. This might explain why the herds swimming to us now tend to stop briefly on the northern tip and continue to swim on to Palm Island in Zambia.
I suspect they know that they will have to wait until next year for the abundant harvest they love so much, which is why they don’t stay as long on the island as they did last dry season.