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Sunset boat cruise: The activity that everyone yearns for

Life & Style
Sunset boat cruising in Kariba is a popular activity that no one would want to miss, but most of the residents cannot afford attending one every weekend.

IT is 1530hrs on a Saturday in the resort town of Kariba. The weather is chilly, but sunny at certain intervals and passengers are looking forward to a sunset boat cruise. Everyone should be at Cutty Sark Harbour before the boat, Lilly Trotter, takes off at 1600hrs.

Sunset boat cruising in Kariba is a popular activity that no one would want to miss, but most of the residents cannot afford attending one every weekend. It is a preserve of tourists-domestic and international — who flock to the resort town on daily basis to have a feel of the weather and to see the majestic Lake Kariba and other places of interests.

Each adult must fork out US$25 while kids under the age of 12, pay half of the adult’s price.

A big roasted wild bream costs US$5 while beverages depend on one’s choice.

Some passengers prefer self-provisioned beverages, citing issues of variety.

The time is 1600hrs and the captain hoots the boat to alert everyone that the vessel is leaving the harbour. The double deck vessel which accommodates a maximum of 100 passengers is taking off and everyone is guaranteed to have two hours full of adventure, pleasure and joy.

The captain cheerfully introduced his team to the passengers who cannot wait to have a life changing water ride.

“Good day ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for being aboard the Lilly Trotter cruises. My name is Captain Peter Mafweda and I am the captain of this boat. We are now taking off, but before we go any further, it is important that we share important aspects of safety.

The safety kits I am holding are very important thus you should listen attentively as I explain,” he said.

Mafweda holds a life jacket and a life ring as he explains fully on each and how passengers should respond in cases of emergency.

He begins by cracking a joke of and passengers on the top deck responds positively with a laughter.

“Please when you get drunk do not throw yourself in the lake, you will be devoured by the gods of this dam. Back to serious business, this one is called a life jacket. It helps you in case of an emergency and this is how you wear it. The life jacket protects you before you are rescued from drowning for 48 hours,” Mafweda said.

The captain continues with his safety talk and is done after five minutes and the gig starts.

An Amapiano song by a South African artiste Master KG boomed from the speaker and everyone jumped in response it.

Boating continued, the sun set and everyone seemed to be in love with the sunset as they took photos with their loved ones and friends.

“I travelled all the way from Ireland to see the sun setting and tell you what, I am enjoying the cruise. Kariba is a great place to be and I can’t wait to refer my friends here and enjoy their holiday,” Denny Scott said.

Scott travelled with his girlfriend Julian Winter and they have been in Zimbabwe for two weeks after visiting Victoria Falls, Manna Pools, Matopos and Eastern Highlands.

Another passenger Trish Moyo from Borrowdale in Harare said her visit to Kariba was life-changing.

“This is the first time being in Kariba and attending a boat cruise. I can now market Kariba as the destination of choice in Zimbabwe. I also enjoyed the marinated wild bream,” Moyo said.

As the time clocks 1730hours, the boat heads towards Cutty Sark Harbour where it should be docking in 30 minutes, but music continued and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves.

The boat docks, but passengers, mostly those who are now drunk, ask for more music from DJ Vocals who ended with a song from Bob Marley.

Sunset Safaris owner and director Washington Makhulumo who is the first local said to own and run cruise boats in Kariba said: “As you may be aware cruises were popular during the 80s and 90s during the United Tourism Company UTC era so in 2008 around about that time the business went down forcing those big companies to close and safari industry was heavily affected.

“Around 2010, we applied for an office at Caribbea Bay Hotel and managed to purchase a small dolphin houseboat for cruises and it was a trial run. Business started to pick and suddenly boat cruise was popular again.”

After realising the boom in the business, Sunset Safaris constructed an 80-seater steel pontoon cruise boat and their clientele shifted from international to local tourists bringing brisk business.

“Business was so good forcing us to construct a second boat. At first it was just sunset safaris with two boats. We operated a good few years alone then new players started to come into the industry,” he said.

“Over the years boats increased to five cruise boats and unfortunately business started to go down and obviously for a small town like Kariba and five boats for the same product, prices started to come down and operators began to undercut each other from US$35 per person to as low as US$10 per person.

Makhulumo added that operators should charge a uniform price and offer a good product.

“The clientele of these days prefers loud music, shisha and all that. However, boat cruises must be no or low music with a guide explaining history, animals, fauna and flora so as to give value for money.”

Kariba Tourism and Business Indaba coordinator, Cephas Shonhiwa, commended the cruise boats industry adding that they were contributing positively towards the growth of tourism and business sector in Kariba, despite the challenges they were facing.

“What we now need to support the boating industry is to work together in marketing the destination. The more tourists in Kariba, the better the numbers for boat cruises.

Kariba Urban Residents Association, Samson Coffee, said the coming in of the cruise boat industry was a blessing in disguise to Kariba residents.

“We should see a situation where even Kariba residents flock to the harbour for boat cruises on weekends. Cruises were not meant for tourists only, but for all of us including myself. The industry needs sustenance hence their numbers should increase,” he noted.


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