Introduction and Background
The Gorges Lodge is a joint venture photographic tourism project between Matupula Safaris ( a private safari company ) and the local communities of Chisuma Village (under Ward 2) in Hwange District. The lodge is strategically situated within communal land 22 kilometers from the world-famous majestic Victoria Falls. The project was conceived, developed and operates under the auspicies and principles of the CAMPFIRE project. The project aim is to involve local communities in the conservation of natural resources that attract tourists to the area while simultaneously generating financial and social benefits from activities taking place locally and within the general environs of Victoria Falls.
The Tourism Product and Location
Gorges Lodge is situated on the boundary of Hwange communal land and Victoria Falls National Park-a world Heritage Site.
The lodge buildings are perched on the edge of the unique Batoka Gorge and offer magnificent and breathtaking views to the 100metre deep gorge and the Zambezi River below. The sight of the mighty Zambezi river as it meanders through the deep gorge below as well as the distant and natural sound of the swift flow of the river combine to provide the mythical picture so often associated with this great African river.
The Gorge is an attractive geological feature which in turn provides a unique habitat and home to such rare bird species such as the taita and peregrine falcons. The Batoka Gorges are on record as providing some of the worlds biggest concentration of birds of prey in Africa. Such species as the gymnogen, the fish, and the black and brown snake eagles are common sight in the area as they engage in their daily hunting expeditions up and down the gorge. Many other varieties of bird species also occur in the gorge area.
The location of the lodge on communal land offers the tourist a good opportunity to interact with local people and understand the local culture in real life situations in the village through organized village tours conducted by local guides. Proximity of the lodge to Victoria Falls ensures that local people receive a share of the financial benefits derived from tourist entertainment activities based at Vic. Falls such as viewing the Falls, rafting, sundown boat cruise, bunji-jumping, game drives, casino, etc.
Community Benefits Derived From the Lodge Project
The lodge employs a total of 35 staff members all from the adjacent village, from the Assistant Manager, Chefs, Waiters, Barman, Workshop Handyman, Drivers/Guides, Bedroom/Laundry Hands, Night Watchman to Groundsman.
The lodge pays an annual lease fee (fixed in US Dollars) for the land set aside for the project by the local community measuring about 250 000 square metres. This land was formerly used for grazing livestock.
Every tourist booked for accommodation or visiting the lodge for meals pays a levy ( fixed in US Dollars) that goes directly into the local community’s bank account.
Tourists going on guided village tours pay a levy (fixed in US Dollars) that goes directly into the local community’s account.
All tourists booked on an all inclusive accommodation and activity plan have three Vic Falls based activities included into their itinerary. A portion of the fees charged for these activities is paid as a levy (fixed in US Dollars) to local communities.
Many tourists who have visited the place and toured the village have donated generously towards community development projects in the village. These donations have ranged from cash amounts to purchase school stationery and to pay for children’s school fees; to big twinning projects spending thousands of US Dollars amounts in the that have involved the construction of new double-classroom blocks for pupils ,teacher’s houses, toilet facilities, and drilling of boreholes, etc. in the local village.
The lodge also makes annual donations in cash or kind for community functions at the village including money to buy furniture for school children at the local schools.
Other spin-off benefits from this project include access to telephone and electricity services by local community members who have been able to tap into the supply lines to the lodge.