Joseph Bunga, the founder of Area 46, a Harare-based video production company, has returned to his home in Harare after a three month long stay in Victoria Falls at Lokuthula Lodges where he lived and worked, along with his children, Jared, 18, and Rebecca, 15. Africa Albida Tourism caught up with the producer of reality television series Battle of the Chefs, which spawned Zimbabwe’s first Netflix movie, Cook Off, during his stay. Here’s what he had to say about his experience:
Why did you do a long stay in Victoria Falls for three months?
I came firstly to research a television series I’m planning, whose working title is Vic Falls in Love, which, set in Victoria Falls, is about a Zimbabwean game guide who returns from London and takes tourists on safari. So, I came to familiarise myself with Victoria Falls and learn about the life of a game guide. Secondly, I wanted to spend time with my teenage kids Jared and Rebecca, who are getting ready to go to the next stage in their lives, which is tertiary education. It’s likely that they won’t do that from home, so I wanted this time to spend with them to prepare them for that. We are so spoilt at home with the help we get so we needed to get away from the security of that routine, to be in a different space, and Lokuthula provides an excellent safe space for that. Because it’s self-catering, we have to look after our own shopping, so that’s a great experience to learn how to do. We’ve asked for a long stay arrangement here, where staff don’t clean for us, and we’ve learnt the day to day things about life.
What do you like most about being in your “home away from home”?
I love that there’s good quality internet here, I’m in the bush surrounded by beautiful trees, sitting in the garden, I love that I have all the comforts I could want, so all the familiarity of home but away from it all. In Harare the number of day-to-day interruptions that happen in my life are huge, and here I am totally able to focus in the moment. I think even sitting with my kids I’ve been able to have very focused conversations which are largely uninterrupted. I think the interruption can come from having good quality internet, but that’s a problem I’ve already solved, where I don’t respond to WhatsApp messages as frequently. So, I’ve loved being here because it’s comfortable, yet I’m able to get all the work I want to get done but in a very focused way. So, I am picking the jobs I want to do rather than what comes across my desk.
What do you love most about Vic Falls?
I never knew how beautiful the Zambezi River is. I’ve been on a cruise before, I’ve seen the Falls before, but I’ve had two experiences this time on the river itself that have totally blown my mind. They have been a trip down the gorges of the lower Zambezi and exploring the islands of the upper Zambezi. The contrast between the upper and lower Zambezi is phenomenal. Every time we’ve come here it’s always been on a short trip, so you focus on the tourist stuff, on getting that list checked off. This time we’ve had the luxury of taking our time and spending time. We are staying here, finding out what is there and then going with that.
Are there any negatives with the setup?
Being here from September to December, so during the hottest months of the year, I don’t think I realised how important air conditioning is. My bedroom has air-conditioning, so it ended up also becoming the office. So, I think if you are not acclimatised to this, area air-conditioning becomes quite important at that time of the year for productivity. It’s hard to come up with any other negatives. You must learn to live in less space, and I’ve had to do my own laundry for the first time in 20 years. But I don’t know if that’s a negative – I was thrilled as it was a brilliant opportunity to share with the kids because now, they’ve learnt how to do it. So, it’s been interesting to factor in these things that would normally be done for me at home. I’m talking about this from a long stay perspective, all these chores can be done by the staff at Lokuthula Lodges if you want them to be done.
Is there anything else you’d like to throw in?
My favourite part of this trip has been spending time with Jared and Bex and I think that if there’s any parents out there who want to spend some focused time with their kids, this is definitely the best experience I’ve had a chance to do. I’ve wanted to spend focused time like this, and I think being away from home really does help you get into a focused zone. We are building memories that I know we are going to look back at for years to come. So, doing this is an excellent investment of time.
What have you come to love about Vic Falls during your time here?
One of the skills that I’ve seen really grow has been landscape and wildlife photography. I think both Jared and Becky have had a chance to practice their photographic skills and the Victoria Falls and the surrounding areas provides huge opportunities for photographic experimentation. A great opportunity to get out and take some shots.
For those who can work remotely, is this something you would recommend?
Absolutely, I think in fact I would go further to say before you think you can’t work remotely, have a look at your job and ask yourself, what parts of this can I get done remotely? I have managed to work remotely, but I’ve also been doing location research. I would recommend a long stay in Victoria Falls at Lokuthula Lodges for anyone who wants to work remotely, and I think that you will find new levels of creativity. While I’ve been working, I’ve had the opportunity to see warthogs walking past, or bushbuck, and those are things that make you stop. We have a resident squirrel that just happens to pop out every now and then, and it’s wonderful to see – that’s the interruption I am looking for, these are interruptions that are so, so welcome because it gives me time to decompress. The other day we found a bush baby and, the first time I saw a bush baby I was a teenager, and that was 30 years ago, and to be able to see that again just brought back memories of the beauty we have in this fascinating country and to be able to live so close to this beauty … it’s magical!