Greatest Safari on Earth roars
Leonard Ncube–Victoria Falls Reporter
TEN chief executives of big corporates in America landed in Victoria Falls in an inaugural ROAR AFRICA Emirates Executive Private Jet trip dubbed “The Greatest Safari on Earth”.
The group was charmed by activities at one of the prime tourism destinations on earth.
They marvelled at the hospitable environment and relative safety from Covid-19 as Victoria Falls is one of the few places in the world that has achieved herd immunity through vaccination.
Zimbabwe-born and America-based Ms Deborah Calmeyer, who is ROAR Africa founder and CEO, is co-hosting the 12-day trip with two of Africa’s most prominent safari guides Dr Ian McCallum and Mr Humphrey Gumpo.
Ms Calmeyer said Zimbabwe is a model in Africa by being a pacesetter in rolling out vaccination and preparing for revival of world tourism hence it is playing host to the “Greatest Safari on Earth”.
“The Greatest Safari on Earth” trip which will end on August 29, with the aim of transforming the travellers into change agents for conservation and sustainability, is a partnership with leading local tour operator and hotelier, Love for Africa who are the local organisers.
The group landed at the Victoria Falls International Airport early yesterday morning aboard an A319 aircraft owned by Fly Emirates, which has been redesigned from its normal carrying capacity of 150 passengers to 10 executive cabins with lounge, dining, spa and bathrooms.
Ms Calmeyer said the selection of Victoria Falls as the first stop in the four-nation trip is no coincidence as Zimbabwe has set its own history as a pacesetter in hospitality while also being host to one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.
She said she designed the trip after years of planning a basket visit to “the most highlighted and top experience places in Africa in 12 days” and the trip is like “the Olympic torch for African tourism.”
“I put together the tour of Africa’s four most iconic destinations — Victoria Falls, Okavango Delta, Great Migration, and Gorillas and I see it as the Olympic torch for African tourism. The whole world is watching. It’s a very big symbol that an official airline like Emirates and American clients who are all CEOs are pioneer advocates for Africa coming at this time when there is this pandemic.
“Zimbabwe has led the way; they have been incredible in what they have been doing including vaccinating citizens and that is really fantastic. Everybody is feeling totally safe here, it’s a model for the rest of Africa,” said Ms Calmeyer.
She said local hospitality caps it all for the country as the visiting team quickly fell in love with the local environment.
She said Victoria Falls “is adrenalin junkies’ paradise and Zimbabwe has got it all” in tourism, “a top destination with an incredible future, the best people, where everyone speaks amazing English and has hospitality in their DNA.”
“I think Zimbabwe has set the stage with Covid-19 and has great potential for growth and getting people to come here because they feel confident in how Zimbabwe is handling it,” said Ms Calmeyer.
All the 10 travellers, five ROAR Africa staff and seven crew members followed World Health Organisation Covid-19 health protocols as they were all vaccinated prior to starting the trip and yesterday went through health checks at the airport.
Ms Calmeyer said the whole team commended the hospitality and procedures at the port of entry.
She said in this era of Covid-19 which has caused devastating effects on tourism, it is important to visit places where one can make a difference, like in Africa, the only place that she said remains natural.
Ms Calmeyer said she shed tears of emotion when she stepped out of the plane in Victoria Falls as she reconnected with her roots, while carrying the ambassadorial role of marketing the destination to the world.
She said Zimbabwe was the first stop because it’s her home country and is home to one of the Seven Wonders of the modern World- the Mighty Victoria Falls.
Soon after landing and undergoing procedural checks, the group was whisked away in three helicopters for an aerial tour of the Victoria Falls and gorges before landing at two helipads from where they were driven in first class Mercedes Benz vehicles passing through the Rainforest.
The group was flown to Matetsi where it had Gin tasting on a boat cruise while a dinner with wine tasting was set for last night.
Today they will split and go for tiger fishing, boating and game drives before flying out through the same airport to Botswana tomorrow morning.
Mr Emmanuel Tivatyi, Love for Africa representative, said the tour was a rubber stamp to the country’s tourism which is set for a bright future post lockdown.
He said the vaccination exercise had given confidence to travellers around the world to resume visiting Zimbabwe and commended Government for the successful programme which has seen more than 22 000 residents of Victoria Falls getting vaccinated thereby achieving herd immunity.
“This is an inaugural VIP flight coming to Africa and we negotiated with ZimParks to get entry through the VIP entrance. We need to commend authorities in Victoria Falls for making it very easy especially with this Covid-19 pandemic,” said Mr Tivatyi.
“Developments in Victoria Falls have created an image where there is a lot of confidence and numbers show that people are now coming. I applaud the Victoria Falls community as it goes to show that they appreciate tourism as their source of income and also commend the Government for realising and giving Victoria Falls confidence through opening of land borders,” he said.