On the sidelines of the historic and recently held 20th edition of the United Nations World Tourism Organization’s General Assembly, the Zambia Tourism Board had commissioned eTN to cover the event on their behalf as well as put together feature stories on the some of the emerging destination’s various tourism attractions and facilities.
ZTB had put together an itinerary for a two-person crew that comprises me and award-winning photographer Christian Del Rosario. My job was to write about the General Assembly and the various tourist attractions, while Christian was tasked at documenting the experiences on film and in pictures.
The UNWTO event was of historic proportion for it marked the first time in the history of the tourism body that two neighboring countries were hosting its General Assembly. In this case, Zambia and Zimbabwe had the unique distinction as the first-ever joint co-host for the event, which is held every other year.
Pre-UNWTO General Assembly Activity One: Bungee-twirl
I’m quite well versed about Zambia and Zimbabwe, as I have had ample experiences in these countries from my visit in 2005 and 2008, respectively. This being the case, I have two Victoria Falls Bridge bungee-jumps under my belt. In 2005, when Zambia invited me to participate in the first African region conference for the International Institute for Peace through Tourism, a fellow journalist, who came from Canada, talked about the jump as being a “top priority” as he had said it was “second highest in the world.” Prior to that exchange on the flight from New York JFK to Johannesburg, South Africa, I had never thought of bungee-jumping, let alone know about this tourist attraction, which is shared by Livingstone (in Zambia) and Victoria Falls (in Zimbabwe) and is located right in the middle of the border/bridge called Victoria Falls Bridge. So, unlike my Canadian counterpart, bungee-jumping was not on my list.
The IIPT conference was held in Lusaka, but there were some events in Livingstone, which is Zambia’s tourism capital. This being the case, it was an opportune time for ZTB to showcase the area’s tourism products. So, the jump was offered to journalists who were interested. I may not have known about the bungee-jump prior, but I’m somewhat of an adrenaline junkie, so it was game on. A full account of my first jump was written by then-Travel Weekly journalist David Cogswell, who himself thought never thought of ever bungee jumping. My jump had inspired him to also take the leap. You can read his article here: http://www.travelweekly.com/print.aspx?id=118846
You can watch my first-ever bungee-jump via my YouTube channel here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sbZiiqX9n7g
Then, in 2008, I was part of a press corps and the lone non-Nigerian who had been invited to Zimbabwe to report about the current travel and tourism situation. That trip to Zimbabwe left me dwelling with many questions about travel and tourism and its role in today’s global socio-economic affairs. My 2008 trip to Zimbabwe left me with a conundrum: Should travel and tourism be supported in countries with less favor perceptions from the outside world? After much deliberations and after a chat with then-American Society of Travel Agents president Kathy Sudeikis, I have come to believe that under no circumstance should travel and tourism be ended in countries where infrastructure is in place and there are people depending on this sector for their livelihood.
UNWTO Secretary General Taleb Rifai said it best when he talked about contentions from certain parts of the world about Zimbabwe co-hosting the recently held 20th session of the organization’s General Assembly. He said: “You can find things to say about political systems around the world, but at the end of the day, where do we draw the line? We have an obligation to serve people wherever they are, under whichever political system that they are living under. I am happy about the General Assembly in Victoria Falls because of a young woman that works in a hotel in Zimbabwe or a young man who is a receptionist in Zambia. They are the ones who need to see that the world is with them; they are the ones that are yearning to see the international community come and be with them.”
However, I did take on the bungee-jump offer from the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority in October 2008 for a very specific reason: to break-free from the dire situation that Zimbabwe as a whole country had presented to me. The mood among the press corps had been one that was quite tense. We had been traveling through the country via land and had seen a nation that was very much at a crossroads. So, I had thought that by jumping, others would follow suit. A few did. To watch me take on Vic Falls Bungee a second time around, click on the YouTube link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CmpynGuw02k&feature=c4-overview-vl&list=PL77813B5162A13030
My 2008 jump was extra memorable in that it added the nuance of “holy crap, I think I’m dead” moment during my jump. If you have seen the video above, then you know what I’m talking about. That jump made me realize that if my death comes and I was aware of it, you can bet that I’ll make the most of it. “If it happens, it happens” were my precise thoughts.
Fast forward to August 2013, I was yet again offered to take the jump. This time around courtesy of Zambia Tourism Board, as part of the pre-UNWTO General Assembly tour offerings. With the absence of personal conundrums about the role of travel and tourism in macro and microeconomics, I simply wanted to jump to get my photographer, Christian Del Rosario, to take the adrenaline-induced plunge into inexplicable joyfulness and ultimately liberate himself from his fear of heights. The plan was for me to do the jump and Christian was to record it on HD film. I did my best to be as calm as possible throughout the entire process. I signed the disclosure form (yes, you do literally sign your life away), got all geared-up for the jump, and all the while smiling and chatting with the crew as I got prepped for the jump. I also talked to the crew about the woman who was injured last year when she took on jump because of “unusual circumstances.” I can be heard in the YouTube video for this jump saying, “You know the woman? She’s OK, right?” Of course, she is. I knew that.
Before long, it was my turn to jump. I heard my name being yelled out, then I turned to Christian and he was all of the sudden frantic. “I can’t get my camera to work,” he said. Well, guess what? Apparently his camera had malfunctioned and that he could not film my jump after all. I quickly gave him my iPhone, so he could record my jump for a behind-the-scenes footage.
In my head, I knew that this being my third jump and having my shoe fall off during my last jump, I needed to up the ante’ a little bit. Within that deliberation, which all took place in my head in matter of seconds before the jump, came the idea of bungee-twirl. Bungee-twirl? Yes, it’s my variation to the usual boring bungee jump. How is done exactly? Well, if you ever find yourself doing another, as I most certainly do not recommend doing this for first-timers, follow these simple steps—take the plunge with both arms wide open; when you feel the first impact, put your hands in parallel position over your chest and start twisting; control the twist by opening your arms again (like a spinning wheel) as you go downwards; on the next upwards, repeat the parallel hands over chest move; then return to spinning wheel on the next downward; and lastly, enjoy the jump! To see how this is done, check out my video by clicking on the YouTube link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R1EiR23-HcM&feature=c4-overview&list=UUm18u4Inv2kIezOj0vpSiUw
Editor’s Note: Only in Zambia is part of a series of articles on my recent trip to Zambia. Stay tuned!