Every guest that walks onto the Zambezi Trader, a luxury ship located on one of Africa’s most beautiful lakes, Lake Kariba, cannot contain their excitement.
“Oh, my goodness! Is this real?” said Coco Muyenge, a Congolese youth who recently graduated from Africa University in Mutare.
She had come along with her father, Mawampanga Mwana Nanga, the DRC Ambassador to Zimbabwe, together with her mother and two siblings.
Most holidaymakers are accustomed to houseboats on Lake Kariba, but the size of the Zambezi Trader takes it out of that category.
“This is not a typical Kariba houseboat. It is in fact a ship that boasts large spaces for individual groups with guaranteed privacy,” said Zambezi Trader managing director Pete Drummond.
The ship was designed and built by the late Tony Turner who also built the Southern Belle, yet another ship that was sold to Protea Group of Hotels in Zambia.
Drummond said tourism has not been so good over the past few years, but noted that business was just beginning to pick up.
The Zambezi Trader offers scheduled cruises for couples and small groups to come together to make the trip affordable.
“Heroes’ holiday cruise, which ran from August 6 to 9, drew a local multi-racial group that included local Indians, Greeks and French,” he said.
“There is so much space on the ship, for individual purposes or to interact in either alone or in small groups. They would then join together as one large group, especially in the evenings for entertainment,” Drummond said.
You actually get the opportunity to get off board for fishing and game watching on four tender boats which can sit a total 50 people.
The ship boasts conference facilities with a fully-fledged cash bar where various refreshments are sold.
Bob and Listen Mazendame of Kadoma were also celebrating their 28th wedding anniversary. There was much entertainment every evening, with all kinds of music being played.
Rhumba was the favourite music that drew women to the dance floor, making the cruise a very exciting experience.
The Congolese ambassador’s wife and daughters stole the limelight as they danced in unison to Congolese tunes.
The South African Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Vusi Mavimbela, described the cruise as a serene and beautiful experience.
Angolan Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Filipe Felis Berto Monimambo, was also on the cruise and spent most of his holiday fishing.
He said this was the fifth time that he was spending holidays at Kariba since taking up his diplomatic posting.
“You Zimbabweans must be very proud to have such a wonderful tourist attraction. I am going back to my country with fond memories of this ship and cruise on Lake Kariba,” he said.
As you walk around the Zambezi Trader, memories flash to the Titanic, 1997 a fictionalised account of the RMS Titanic, which sank during its maiden voyage in 1912 with 1 500 people on board.
Although the Zambezi Trader may be a minute version of that ship, it offers the most unusual first-class service that surpasses most five star hotels.
In fact, the menu is so personalised that the Congolese ambassador Mwana Nanga had to go at the stove and demonstrate to the kitchen staff how good sadza is cooked.
“This is the second time I have come on board the Zambezi Trader and it is such a joy to eat kapenta from this lake, which was actually taken from Lake Tanganyika. Lake Kariba is famous for its kapenta industry and this pleases me so much,” he said.
Two Indian women, Jyoti and Priety Dullabh who are married to cousins, also cooked some very tasty fish meals for the guests.
“We had good company on the Heroes’ cruise. Facilities were fantastic and the staff was just super. We will no doubt be back shortly,” Priety said.
The craft is a moving hotel with ever-changing scenery, with sunset and sunrise glowing in all sorts of bright colours.
Nothing beats this kind of holiday. This is also the perfect venue for conflict resolution where feuding factions can discuss under the most tranquil and soothing conditions.
The climax of the Heroes’ holiday cruise was when a South African Broadcasting Corporation journalist, Sydney Katunga Phiri, fell into the pool on the second deck with both his camera and mobile phone.
He was walking backwards as he spoke with his ambassador when he suddenly plunged into the pool, drawing peals of good-natured laughter from the guests at the bar.
“For a moment, I thought I had fallen into the shallow waters of Kariba and what scared me most was the thought of being eaten by a crocodile,” he said.
Lake Kariba is rich in wildlife which can be viewed in the Matusadona Game Park along the lake shoreline and many other islands on the lake. Crocodiles are the most feared predators around the lake.
Meanwhile, the Zambezi Trader will provide accommodation to fishermen celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the International Tiger Tournament soon in Kariba.
It will also provide a facility for competitors to stop over for refreshments, lunch and to cool off in the on-board pool.