Leonard Ncube, Victoria Falls Reporter
THE new look Lookout Café in Victoria Falls opened its doors to the public yesterday following completion of refurbishment work after the Wild Horizons-owned facility was burnt down last year.
There is excitement in the country’s prime resort with the tourism executives describing the new facility as the best eatery and a ratification of investor confidence in the country after Wild Horizon channelled US$900 000 towards refurbishment.
One would be forgiven for suggesting that the inferno, which occurred on the Eve of Christmas last year, was a blessing in disguise as the facility came back more than double its capacity and beautiful.
The facility now can take 200 sitting clients at any given time up from between 80 and 100 it accommodated previously. Besides being bigger and spacious, with a top and lower deck, what welcomes the visitor is a high hanging front entrance while the sitting area faces the gorge, giving clients a rare view from the cliff, obviously comfortably with the safety provided by the one-metre high pole and metal perimeter.
It is sitting on a composite deck made of plastic and bamboo imported from China via South Africa, Wild Horizons chief executive, Mr Gary Archer, said.
While it took a year to re-open the café, the actual construction took only five months.
“Lookout Café was burnt down on 24 December last year and it’s been a long process getting plans drawn and getting approvals from authorities. The actual construction took five months and we invested US$900 000 as we tried to keep a similar concept,” said Mr Archer.
He said they changed the flooring to include a step up so there is an upper and lower deck both facing the gorge at Rapid Number 4.
“Today we just opened to the people but the official opening will be done sometime this month.
“We will be doing lunches and dinners daily and the sitting capacity is now 200 while the previous facility used to take between 80 and 100 clients,” said Mr Archer.
He said Lookout Café, in its new look, will no doubt meet everyone’s expectations. It was a hive of activity yesterday as local and international tourists thronged the facility for a meal as well as have a glance, spiced up with photo moments.
Mr Archer said last Friday they hosted 150 local agents and expect 75 more from South Africa in two weeks’ time as a marketing drive to help put the café back on the map.
He said Lookout Café is unique as it does not only offer restaurant services but is an adventure through high wire activities conducted on site where clients enjoy a 70-metre free fall down the gorge.
Mr Archer said they embraced the green tourism concept while measures were put in place to avert any more fire outbreaks.
“We maintained environmental conservation and cut no trees to build this facility as we used imported plastic and bamboo composite deck.
“We chose this design and colour of roof to remain friendly to the environment and not to impact negatively on our neighbours but most importantly the kitchen and all electricals were redone while we also moved away from thatched roofs hence we are confident we are unlikely to have a similar experience,” he said.
The facility employed 60 locals in addition to 600 employees already on Wild Horizons books.
Tourism stakeholders from across the country visited the facility yesterday morning at the end of a three-day Team Tourism retreat that was held at Robins Camp in the Hwange National Park and gave a thumbs up to the new facility.
Tourism executive Mr Blessing Munyenyiwa, who is also Zimbabwe Tourism Authority board member, said the re-opening of Lookout Café was a confirmation of brighter things to come to Victoria Falls.
“We are at the new Lookout Café and it’s an amazing spectacular restaurant with a nice view.
“This shows the investor confidence in the country as Victoria Falls continues to show the world that we are doing a lot for tourism.
“This restaurant is without doubt the best we have in Victoria Falls and everyone looks forward to have a meal here,” he said. — @ncubeleon