Inviting Zimbabwean friends to eat sadza, draped in a traditional colorful “intsaru” (literally wrap-up cloth) under a thatched roof hut is the kind of experience that could go horribly wrong. What if it is super-cheesy and we’re all embarrassed and stuck inside some made-for-tourist show for three hours? I was nervous upon entering Boma, very aware I may be committing a cultural faux pas, and watching my friends’ faces closely as we were seated just as a group of scantily clad “native” dancers began whooping it up on the floor. To my surprise, however, my friends were electrified rather than mortified. And as soon as I had a chance to relax I quickly understood why: There is nothing cheesy about the Boma experience. And while nearly everyone here is a tourist – this is Victoria Falls after all — they aren’t all of the white foreign variety. There was plenty of Shona and Ndebele being spoken at the tables surrounding us, my friends informed me. This was, I realized, a crowd from around Zimbabwe, not just the world, and they were all smiling and clapping and visibly enjoying the multi-hour visual and eating experience as much as the out-of-towners.
A night at the Boma, which is located on the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge grounds about a mile from town, is a special experience. And while the entry price of $44 per person initially seems steep, this is more than just an all-you-can-eat buffet – although admittedly it is a major component featuring a line-up of traditional Zimbabwean fare plus cooked to order game meat. It is also an interactive cultural experience that includes lessons in dance and drumming, roving traditional fortune-tellers and serenading singers. The Boma hosts three nightly seatings, but guests are never rushed out – come for the first seating and stay through the last, no one will object. Note that alcoholic beverages are not included, but can be purchased. Tipping is also expected at around 15 percent.