Oftentimes people engage in the futile exercise of comparing Victoria Falls with Kariba as tourist destinations. These destinations are not in competition with each other as they offer totally different major attractions. If anything, they complement each other.
An informed person would know that Kariba is a much newer tourist destination, brought to life over just 50 years ago. Victoria Falls, on the other hand, has been there for ages – even David Livingstone gazed at the Falls. Kariba had not even been fathomed by then. That gives one an idea of the tourist products one is comparing and how long it has taken to either develop them or bring them to a discerning market’s attention.
Whilst the Falls are natural, Kariba had to be built by men. Kariba was not built for tourism; tourism is one of the major spin offs of the main hydro-electric power station envisioned for the then Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland (now independent Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe). Man battled against nature to come up with the gigantic project that has changed the face of Africa and livelihoods.
That Kariba became the biggest man-made lake in the world should be appreciated as a work of man’s genius. It is still the world’s largest man-made lake, by volume, over all these 50+ years. Over time, it has been developed into Zimbabwe’s own Riviera – the playground of the rich and famous international tourists as well as adventurous locals.
That man had to go to great lengths (and expense) to rescue drowning wildlife and constitute the present- day Matusadona National Park is no mean feat. Dubbed Operation Noah, it is an internationally-acclaimed historical event that should be celebrated.
Victoria Falls is celebrated as a natural wonder. Kariba is famed for highlighting man’s resolve to tame nature so that it can serve him well.
As for the tourism products themselves, Victoria Falls is reputed as a high-cost destination, priced beyond the reach of most domestic tourists. This is why locals tend to favour Kariba which is affordably packaged for the local market.
Products such as Bungee Jumping, averaging $160.00 per jump have little appeal to local tourists, who generally fear heights. A walk with the lions or elephants is quite appealing, but priced at around $150.00 per person, the appeal immediately flies out of the window for a domestic tourist heavily-weighed down by a declining economy. So, at the end of the day, a budget domestic tourist in Victoria Falls misses out on the Bungee jumping ($160.00), the fly over the Falls, the Bridge Swing ($160.00), full day river boarding and rafting ($195.00), a walk with the elephants ($150.00) or even the game drive ($100.00). The domestic tourist virtually becomes a spectator, watching foreign tourists enjoying the resort town and its products. Not a good way to spend a family holiday!
Kariba’s products average $35.00/person – game drive, leisurely lake cruise, highlight tours etc, etc. Admittedly Kariba needs to expand her offerings, but as a relatively young destination, she has time on her side. Constantly comparing her with the much older Victoria Falls puts unnecessary pressure on her and might lead to some hurried town planning blunders. Products should evolve with time and demand. In some instances, demand might be piqued up later, but the development of the products and services must still be measured be measured.
Having visited the Victoria Falls, most international tourists prefer to proceed to Kariba and enjoy her leisurely-paced life. Kariba completes that Zambezi Valley holiday; bring the natural and man-made together into a harmonious blend.
Kariba beckons. Get going and enjoy. Forget the comparisons, enjoy the differences. Kariba rocks!
By Laiton Kandawire
About the Author: Laiton is a Kariba-based Destination Planner, specialising in holiday packaging. He is also a member of the Kariba Publicity Association. He writes in his personal capacity and can be reached on: +263 772 817733; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.