December 09, 2013

Back to Africa for Golden Anniversary



David Ellis


AWAY back in the 1960s when my proposal of marriage to a young blonde and beautiful Gwenda Ross was, happily accepted, our wedding became more than an event, it evolved into a marvellous 50 year adventure.


And it began in then somewhat wild and woolly Port Moresby where Gwenda worked in the Accounts Department of the ABC's then Port Moresby radio studios, while I was running their newly-established New Guinea Islands News Service at further-off Rabaul.


But because I had proposed by mail and Gwenda had accepted by mail (in those days a phone call as short as 3-minutes was around the equivalent of a week's salary,) and as I had been refused leave to get married in Sydney from whence we both originated, I flew to Moresby on the Friday, we were married on the Saturday, and we flew back to Rabaul on the Sunday.


And to our late surprise, discovered we would be accompanied by a senior ABC News executive, who'd decided he was flying to Rabaul with us "for an inspection of the Newsroom" on the Monday morning...


I will not put in writing what we, family and mates had to say about that – the more so as I had schemed with a Rabaul journo colleague to unofficially look after the 9RB News shop for a couple of days, while Gwenda and I slipped away to the remote plantation of yet another mate for a quiet retreat…


And little did we think then that 50 years on we would celebrate 50 years married life in an equally "wild" destination, but certainly a far more salubrious one than Port Moresby and Rabaul offered back in those distant 1960s.


Having tossed-in the ABC after 20 years and gone into the PR game, taking to writing travel on the side, I'd been to Africa a number of times and always loved the place.


Thus we decided on Victoria Falls for our anniversary as it would allow Gwenda to see Southern Africa and its wildlife up-close and personal, something she'd yearned to do since a teenager, while I could indulge my love of train-travel by us doing a 12-night Cape Town to Johannesburg trip on the Shongololo Express tourist train (hugely recommended.)


And we would finish with a flight to Victoria Falls with a couple of nights there at its magnificent Victoria Falls Safari Lodge, voted "Best Safari Lodge" in Zimbabwe for 17 consecutive years, and Gold Listed by Conde Nast Traveller as well, suggesting they must have been doing something right all those years….


Having booked ourselves into the main Lodge, we upgraded on arrival to the just-opened Safari Club, a separate accommodation precinct with just 16 Club Rooms and 4 Club Suites – all vast in size and unadulteratedly luxurious in indulgence. But hey, it's not every day you've been married 50 years...


Here in the Club you have private check-in, Butler Service if you want it, complimentary Afternoon Tea and Pastries from 3.30-4.30pm, complimentary Cocktails and Snacks 5pm-6pm, free Wifi in the lounge, free shuttle service to Victoria Falls and township 4km away, a private viewing deck overlooking the game corridor to the Zambezi River, and a Club Guests-only bar from 11am to late.


For dining, guests choose from the Safari Lodge's open-air Boma Eating Place with campfire soup starters, traditional Zimbabwean dishes (Warthog fillet, game stews or for bravery fried Mopani Worms,) barbecued Western- and Zimbabwean-style beef, pork, fish and chicken dishes, and decadent desserts, all to the wild beat of African music and dancing.


We chose, however, the Lodge's MaKuwa-Kuwa Restaurant for our Anniversary Dinner – being given a table at the vast open window overlooking the at-first sunset, then floodlit, private waterhole to which elephant, warthog, buffalo, antelope and myriad birds arrived, drank, and then sauntered or flew off into the blackest African night...


Dining was superb 5-star-plus Western/African, with a resident acapella group whose harmonious traditional melodies will be long, long remembered.


By day Lodge and Club guests can book everything from a visit to the Falls, white-water rafting, an elephant ride, a day-safari, go catching tigerfish on the Zambezi… or simply take-in the bushveld and waterhole's game activity from the Lodge deck.


For more details Bench International on toll-free 1300AFRICA or go to






[] VICTORIA Falls Safari lodge, with spectacular private game watering hole.

[] FRONT of the Lodge's super-luxury Club Wing for that special-occasion escape.

[] GWENDA and David Ellis celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary in style with dinner

   overlooking the watering hole and African bushveld.

[] MAGNIFICENT Club Suite at Victoria Falls Safari Lodge – unadulteratedly luxurious.

[] SUNDOWNER drinks on the Club deck overlooking the private game watering hole.


(All images Victoria Falls Safari Lodge)


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