As a regular business traveller to the southern regions of Africa, I have often picked up a fair share of magazines and travel brochures that describe how the Zambezi River is an oasis of happiness, beauty, and tranquillity that can wash away any worries. It is commonly described for its majesty, serenity, and mesmerizing aura, which captivates all who witness it. 

Could this be the perfect opportunity to reconnect with nature?

So, on my recent bustling business excursion to Victoria Falls, I made a conscious decision to take a well-deserved respite from work and explore this so-called majestic experience. After perusing numerous options, I eventually settled on booking one of the sunset cruises offered by Shearwater, an established, well-known local provider of accommodation and excursion activities for visitors to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe.  During the process of booking my trip with the team from Explorer’s Village Hotel, a member of their team inquired whether at last, the time had come to relax and enjoy the breathtaking surroundings. In response, I playfully and optimistically responded with, “Possibly it is”. 

Shortly after settling onto the comfortable surroundings on the top deck of Shearwater’s impressive “Riversong” cruise boat, and as I savoured the delectable canapes and refreshing welcome drink, I couldn’t help but wonder if my phone would stay connected to the outside world throughout our journey on the river. Whilst mulling over whether my digital connectivity would hold, my thought process jolted my memory back to some profound concepts I had recently discovered in a book that spoke about how the digital world is affecting our mental ability to focus and fully engage with our surroundings. As I sat back and embraced the tranquil nature, I relished the refreshing sensation of the ice cubes dissolving in my perfectly chilled drink. Deep in thought, I came to a realisation – I needed to switch my phone to aeroplane mode. Although seemingly insignificant, undoubtedly the best decision and one of the most important choices I made that evening. 

As we set off (with my phone perfectly disconnected from the outside world), the peaceful ambience of the river and the surrounding nature provided a tranquil setting as we manoeuvred away from the riverbank. Distraction-free, focusing on the all-embracing combination of smells, sounds and colours appearing on the horizon and reflecting on the water, I concentrated on the outlines of the trees, bushes, riverbank, and sky, and just like the boat, my mind set sail into a state of renewed reflection.

Serenity was the word I thought about. The very word often used in those countless publications to describe the often written about, Zambezi River.

The sunset cruise did not fail to impress. It was an enchanting experience that leaves you in awe of the natural world. The journey was a true sanctuary of happiness and beauty. The river’s magical energy was captivating. The peaceful beauty of the river, meandering its way through the picturesque landscape, was a sight to behold. As we ventured up the river, we were fortunate enough to come across a wide array of exotic wildlife, including magnificent hippos, formidable crocodiles, and a majestic elephant. The elephant was a sight to treasure as it gracefully swam across the river from one island to another, perhaps in search of its next meal. It was a humbling experience to witness these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat.

Throughout our journey, we were fortunate to have the guidance of an amiable crew led by Brian, a knowledgeable tour guide hailing from Shearwater. His captivating commentary on the area’s natural wonders, fauna, and river’s facts and history kept us engaged and eager to learn more. 

Chatting with Brian near the end of the cruise, it was evident that his enthusiasm and love for his job extended beyond the realms of getting to meet and interact with people from across the world. He had a genuine love and appreciation for the beauty that surrounded him day in and day out.  Listening to him describe the experience, you could easily forget this was something he did on a regular basis. 

As the evening drew on and having just been served another complimentary ice-cold refreshment, the highlight natural spectacle of the river cruise unfolded in front of us. The most remarkable of sunsets.  Its vibrant hues of orange, pink, and purple, filled the sky and reflected on the waters to create a most magical and memorable image. As we started our gentle passage back to base, the symphony of colours transformed the silky evening sky from dusk to night. 

As I observed the customers gazing at the breathtaking nightfall, my attention was drawn to a cluster of friends who seemed to be on some sort of celebratory vacation. They were discussing their attempts to connect to the network to upload the pictures they had just taken to their social media profiles. The “selfie moment” or the “short video posting craze” distracting from the very magic that was expanding in every direction, from the horizon across the calm waters that embraced our boat. 

As Brian and I looked over at the group, I shrugged my shoulders, thinking the marvel we were witnessing was fast disappearing into darkness, and thankfully my phone had not stolen a single moment away from this uplifting experience.

The next day as I flew with local airline fastjet from Victoria Falls to Kruger, Nelspruit, I reflected on the previous evening’s experience and on a quote from Francesca Marciano, the famous Italian novelist and filmmaker, who wrote, “Why is it you can never hope to describe the emotion Africa creates? You are lifted. Out of whatever pit, unbound from whatever tie, released from whatever fear. You are lifted, and you see it all from above.”

As I gazed out the window, I couldn’t help but feel renewed energy and reconnected joy in my soul. I was still savouring the benefits of digital detoxing whilst re-engaging with nature and thinking this was going to be the topic of many a dinner-time conversation over the coming weeks.  

And with that thought in my mind, thousands of feet in the air, thankfully with no inflight Wi-Fi or entertainment to distract, I sat back and enjoyed the incredible hospitality of the Zimbabwean inflight crew and the breathtaking beauty and truly awe-inspiring African scenery below us.