Emma Soames's Zambia blog: magical memories of times past

In her latest blog from Africa for Saga's Charitable Foundation, Saga Magazine Editor-at-large Emma Soames is entranced by the beauty of Victoria Falls, more than 30 years since her last visit.

Almost exactly 24 hours later and suffering under only the thinnest veneer of jet lag, I am ensconced in the lovely Zambezi Sun Hotel after a seamlessly smooth journey via Johannesburg. Livingstone is in the south of Zambia and thanks to its position on the great river it was an outpost of Empire, with a riveting history still just visible in some of the surviving colonial architecture.

I had forgotten just how magical is Africa: the dry heat, the birdsong even in the middle of the day, the amazing sunsets and the wide great horizons that are peculiarly African. I have had barely time even to skim the surface of this interesting, lovely place and so far I have only seen what most European visitors see: lawns kept green by constant sprinkling and scattered with a light dusting of impala poo - and importunate monkeys who take food from your hand if you are foolish enough to feed them.

But apart from the comfort, the air conditioning (which you sorely need - it's 32 degrees) and the sympathetic adobe design of the Zambezi Sun, its great good fortune is to be right next to the Victoria Falls. It may be more than 150 years since David Livingstone first saw them, but you cannot but be entranced and excited by their majesty as you walk through a wood and suddenly come upon them so close you feel you could touch them, crashing off a sheer rock face thousands of feet into the Zambezi below. And they cannot have changed much since Livingstone first spied them. Indeed, he was understandably so excited by them on November 16, 1855, that the normally taciturn explorer entered in his journal: "It (The Falls) had never been seen by European eyes but scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight."

I last visited the Falls in 1981 when my father was the last governor of Southern Rhodesia, overseeing the country's move to independence. We used to come up to the falls quite often and my sister and I used to play the wet t-shirt competition, walking through the rain forest mists that fill the surrounding forests. So it has been quite a Proustian treat to revisit them more than 30 years later.

Tomorrow I leave the pampered spaces and green lawns of the tourist enclave that surround the falls and set off to visit the Butterfly Tree project, to see a very different view of this lovely but cruel part of Africa.

Butterfly Tree founder Jane Kaye-Bailey talks to Saga about the project

Share this page