Shauna

 

15 minute read05 Feb 2019

Mighty Victoria Falls

 


Aerial View of the Falls

The Curtain of Water Showing the 'Smoke the Thunders'.

Victoria Falls also known as "Mosi oa-Tunya" ("the smoke that thunders") is one for your “Bucket List” of ‘must do sometime soon’.  The Zambezi river divides the countries of Zambia and Zimbabwe with the falls accessible on both sides.  An historic bridge spans the falls, and at the half-way point you can stand with one foot in each country. Gazing down into the churning chasm below is a heart-stopping experience.

View Down into the Chasm at the Bottom of the Falls

The power of the falls is awesome. This constant pounding by the currents of the mighty Zambezi has, over the millennium, cut through the rock faults and fissures and carved out not one but eight successive precipices which zigzag behind the gorge, (and now the ninth has begun).

When our early ancestors inhabited this area some 1.5 million years ago, they would have seen a different Victoria falls to the one we see today.

The Zig Zag of Falls Showing Both Zambia and Zimbabwe From the Air.

 

The first European to set eyes on this spectacle was the intrepid Dr. David Livingstone in 1855.   He had heard of this natural wonder four years before he arrived there. The area was a sacred site for the Batoka and other local tribes.  Chief Sekeletu of the Makololo paddled Livingstone to an island in the Zambezi, known as Goat Island.  You can still visit the island, now called Livingstone Island, from the Zambian side during the dry season and take a dip in Devil’s Pool at the edge of the precipice.  This is not for the faint hearted!!  Although the water was low at the time, Livingstone still felt a "tremor of fear" as he approached the wall of spray.  He famously wrote is his diary explaining this experience, “...scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight."  He loyally named the falls Victoria after his queen.

Cecil John Rhodes had a vision of building a railway line from the Cape [Cape Town] to Cairo.  He tasked his friend and colleague Sir Charles Metcalfe with overseeing the development of the railway system. Metcalfe took heed of Rhodes’ dreams, and the first bridge across the mighty Zambezi was built. Rhodes was insistent that the bridge should be built in a place that the spray from the falls would fall on the passing trains, which is why the site was chosen just a little below the Boiling Pot, at almost right angles and in very close proximity to the falls.  Great news for us!  We can now stand on this bridge between two steep cliffs of granite and gaze at this truly amazing spectacle from a unique perspective.

 

The falls form the divide between the two countries of Zimbabwe and Zambia.  

 

Zimbabwe Side of the Falls

You enter the falls through the Victoria Falls National Park where you will be charged an entrance fee. Take an umbrella and rain coat.  The spray from the falls will drench you in no time.  Especially in the rainy season when the water is high.

The Walkway Along the Length of the Falls On the Zimbabwe Side of the Falls 

A Shy Bushbuck on the Zimbabwe Walk Along the Falls

This is a most extraordinary 1.5km walk.  As you meander along the pathway with a massive, parallel gorge between you and a torrent of cascading water, you are at eye level with this extraordinary spectacle. The thundering noise will remind you that this place was known as the ‘Smoke that Thunders’. An awesome sight. There are many view-points all worth giving some time.  A side steep decent down the 73 steps of Chain Walk, give you some of the best views of rainbows at the Falls.  You get breathtaking views of Devils Cataract exploding into the base of the gorge.  It is slippery but well worth the physical exertion.

In the Wet Season You will Get Drenched as You Walk Along the Falls Width

The wet paths take you along the face of the falls. You may even be lucky and encounter a shy bush buck or mongoose in the tropical vegetation.  At the far end of the walk you will have the bridge in view and the dizzying display of the Boiling Pot below where the full mass of water over the falls is channeled into a narrow gorge. Breathtaking and powerful to behold!!

Looking Down into the  Gorge From the Zambian Side of the Falls

If you look further down this raging mass of water, you will more than likely see people scaling down the adjacent cliff and climbing into rubber ducks [boats] to brave the challenge of White Water Rafting down the Mighty Zambezi at this turbulent point in its journey.  Some people can’t resist a challenge and a chance to ‘tick off’ this serious adrenaline rush.

White Water Rafting is an Adrenaline Rush at the Bottom of the Falls

From this vantage point you will also see intrepid people taking a dive off the Victoria Falls Bridge on a highly charged adrenaline Bungee Jump.  There is also a Swing and a Bridge Slide.  Not for the faint hearted these wild adventures.

Bungee Jump Off the Victoria Falls Bridge

Then not to be outdone, and equally spectacular you can take a helicopter flight, or a small plane flight or the most amazing, a microlite flight over the falls then up the river.  The ever present ‘smoke’ of the falls will help you to orientate yourself.  The broad lazy river upstream is home to many hippopotami, crocodile and different species of birds, but to gaze down and see elephant, buck and giraffe amble down to the water’s edge to drink and bathe is to know that you are in Africa.

Hippo Spotting on the Sunset Cruise

Most of the hotels and lodges in the area offer a Sunset Booze Cruise.  This is not to be missed.  If your accommodation does not have their own facility there are companies that offer this experience, will fetch and return you to your hotel or lodge in the area and take you down to the launching spot.  To cruise above the falls and see the animal and bird life up close is to feel fully alive.   As you relax with a chilled drink of choice, with the African sun setting over the Zambezi, will hear the hippopotami grunt in hippo language and frolic, see crocodiles slide into the water and see elephant families come down to drink and play in the shallows at the banks of the river.  I love Africa!!!

Cruising Above the Falls is Really a Water Safari.

 

WHAT TO DO:

Helicopter flight or Small Aircraft Over Falls

For an amazing perspective of Victoria Falls this is it.   A friendly driver will collect you from your hotel approximately 30 minutes before takeoff and transport you in air-conditioned comfort to the helipad, about 5 kilometers outside of town. After a safety briefing you'll take off for an epic journey over one of the continent's most spectacular attractions. See the thundering falls from above and catch a glimpse of the raging Zambezi River from the sky.   Wild Horizons Helicopter Flight    Victoria Falls Helicopter Flights

A Helicopter Flight Over the Falls is an Extraordinary Experience

White Water Rafting

For those adrenalin junkies this is a must.  Rafting Victoria Falls lets you connect more with the Zambezi River than any other touring option. Class IV and V rapids and a 650-foot-deep (182- meter) gorge make for a thrilling ride, while your guide ensures your safety throughout—regardless of your experience level. An included lunch with an open bar and round-trip hotel transfer, bring you to the end of your adventure.  There is an early morning pickup with breakfast then a Jeep drive to the Zambezi River. You can choose a 3h or 7h trip.  Go for it!! 

White Water Rafting Down the Batoga Gorge Below the Falls

Bridge Swing, Bungee Jump and Bridge Slide

Adrenalin junkies this is for you.  From the bridge, that crosses the mighty Zambesi river from Zimbabwe to Zambia right above the Boiling Pot, you can dive into a free fall Bridge Swing Bridge Swing off Victoria Falls Bridge  that arches back and forth between the cliff faces with the roiling waters below.   Any bungee jump   World's Greatest Bungee Jump  is not for the faint hearted, but this one is epic.  Then you can enjoy a Bridge Slide across from one country to another from the bridge.  These activities are not for people with faint hearts. 

Bridge Slide From Zambia to Zimbabwe

So Many Ways to See the Falls.  How About Taking a Microlite?

The little town of Victoria Falls in a hub of activity and the main tourist attraction for Zimbabwe.  You may very well meet an elephant or warthog on the road travelling around the little town.  You will find many exciting and innovative craft stores to wander into and select items to cart home with you.  There are some master craftsmen/women amongst the Zimbabweans so you might get something really great. 

Elephant in the Main Road of the Village of Victoria Falls

Where to Stay

Many different hotels, lodges, and bungalows proliferate in this tourist area.  Anything from 5-star to backpackers.

The Victorian Grandeur Of the Victoria Falls Hotel

A Suite At the Victoria Falls Hotel

Victoria Falls Hotel, built by the British in 1904, is a glorious, gracious Victorian Hotel within walking distance of the falls.  Sitting on the terrace you can enjoy High Tea or a chilled gin and tonic and contemplate the misty falls at the bottom of the manicured lawn.  It was originally conceived as accommodation for workers on the Cape-to-Cairo railway and today it is a famous luxury brand hotel. If you don’t stay here it is worth dropping in to spend some time on the terrace.  Victoria Falls Hotel

A Deck Out Over the Zambezi at the Old Drift Lodge

Old Drift Lodge: This is an ideal quiet safari experience a mere 7 kilometers from the mighty Victoria Falls.  Your luxury accommodation is meters from the banks of the Zambezi River. Old Drift Lodge is nestled within a wild paradise frequented by elephant, buffalo, herds of sable, eland, zebra, giraffe, kudu, waterbuck and impala. 

Evenings Around the Boma at the Imbabala Zambezi Safari Lodge

Imbabala Zambezi Safari Lodge:  Imbabala Lodge is approximately 87 kilometres from of Victoria Falls town.  It is located on a 5000 acre concession, bordering the Chobe Forest Reserve and boasting 14 kilometers of private Zambezi river frontage.  This lodge offers game drives and river safaris and is an easy drive from Victoria Falls.  If you fly into Livingstone on the Zambia side the lodge offers a visit the falls on your way to the lodge. You get the best of both worlds.  Wild Africa safari and mighty Victoria Falls.

 

The A Zambezi River Lodge

A Zambezi River Lodge is right on the Zambezi River above the falls.  Their Kuzhe Bush Dinner is a treat where guests learn more about the Tonga people.  Each night guests are treated to the rhythms and music of African dancers and musicians. The Amulonga Restaurant at the a’Zambezi River Lodge is famous for its interesting menu – a delicious variety of international favorites and African traditional food. Each night guests are treated to the rhythms and music of African dancers and musicians. They offer their own sunset cruise on the Zambezi River which leaves from the Lodge.

The Kingdom Hotel

Kingdom Hotel:  It may look like the city of a lost civilisation but the Kingdom Hotel is one of Victoria Falls’ best known family hotels. It is comfortable and modern and within walking distance of the Victoria Falls rainforest.

Shearwater Backpackers 

Camping at the Shearwater Backpackers

Shearwater Backpackers in Shearwater Explorers Village.  They offer chalets and tented accommodation.   It is a less expensive, comfortable and vibey place to stay and only a half kilometer from the falls.  They also run many of the activities in Victoria Falls.  Shearwater Backpackers

The Elephant Hills Hotel

Elephant Hills Hotel is situated on a small hill overlooking the river and is only 4 kilometers from the falls. Luxury accommodation with good food and transfers are included in the cost.  Is has the only golf course in Victoria Falls so great for golfers.

 

World Class Safari Options

Having seen, marveled and tried some of the amazing adventure activities on offer at the falls, it is time to venture further out and experience what the area has to offer.   

 

Open Vehicle Drive in Hwange Game Reserve

Hwange reserve for a Safari

Just over 100km away, a drive of 1.30h, and you can visit Zimbabwe’s largest national park.  This elephant stronghold of Hwange National Park is a game-rich area roughly the size of the Bahamas that was once the royal hunting grounds of the Ndebele warrior king Mzilikazi.  There are day tours and multi day tours that you can arrange from Victoria Fall. 

Safari to Chobe Game Reserve in Botswana with a Cruise on the River

Day Trip to Chobe in Botswana

Botswana, is renowned for being world class safari country.  It is 88km away and is well-worth a visit. Begin your Chobe National Park safari with a pickup from your Victoria Falls or Livingstone hotel. Crossing the Botswana border at the Kazangula border post [the only spot on earth where four countries meet at one point - Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana and the Caprivi Strip of Namibia] is a breeze with the help of your guide; once you cross, another guide will meet you.  You get to see the Big Five [Lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhino] and enjoy a views of the savanna and insight into the local wildlife and culture you might miss on your own.  On the Chobe River you board a game viewing boat for a wildlife cruise. Look out for animals like hippos, flamingos, and aquatic birds in their natural environment. 
Eat lunch at a riverfront restaurant (included), and then hop on a safari vehicle for an afternoon game drive in Chobe National Park. Your guide helps you spot animals like elephants, lions, and more during the drive.
Return to your Victoria Falls or Livingstone hotel at the end of the tour.  A day to remember. Africa Zim Travel Day Trip to Chobe

 

Bushtracts Africa offer flights and steam trains over the falls and safari tours in Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botwana.

The Bushtracks Express: A Steam Train Journey Over the Bridge

The Bushtracks Express

Step back in time and ride the luxury steam train, with gourmet meal over the Victoria Falls.  This 4 and a half hour gracious activity runs from one country to the other – and in reverse. Leave from the Bushtracks Station in Livingstone and journeys to the Jafuta conservancy siding in Zimbabwe.  Or the reverse train, the Royal Livingstone Express leaves from the Victoria Falls Station and transports guests to the Palm Grove siding in Zambia.  Both trains stop on the iconic Victoria Falls bridge for 20 minutes at sunset where you can get off and take pictures. The cavernous gorge has a rough wild beauty that, when bathed in the golden glow of a descending sun, it is truly enchanting.  

You will be collected from your hotels in winter at 4.30pm and summer at 5.00pm and returned to your hotels at between 9-9.30pm.  The different trains leave on alternate days from Zambia and Zimbabwe.  Check to make sure you get the one you want.   Steam Train Safari Bushtrack

Zambia Side of the Falls

The falls are 11 kilometers outside Livingstone. The Falls can be approached from the town of Livingstone by traveling south on Mosi-oa-Tunya Road for some 11 kilometers. Just before the border, there is a turning to the right which leads to a parking area. Walks all around the Falls are accessible from this point. If approaching from Zimbabwe, cross the border at the town of Victoria Falls and watch for the left turning just after the Zambian customs post.

Columns of spray can be seen from miles away on both Zambia and Zimbabwe sides of the falls. At the height of the rainy season, more than five hundred million cubic meters of water per minute plummet over the edge, over a width of nearly two kilometers, into a gorge over one hundred meters below.

 

Facing the Falls is another sheer wall of basalt, rising to the same height, and capped by mist-soaked rain forest. A path along the edge of the forest provides the visitor prepared to brave the tremendous spray, with an unparalleled series of views of the Falls.

One special vantage point is across the Knife-edge Bridge, where visitors can have the finest view of the Eastern Cataract and the Main Falls as well as the Boiling Pot, where the river turns and heads down the Batoka Gorge. Other vantage points include the Falls Bridge, Devils Pool and the Lookout Tree, both of which command panoramic views across the Main Falls.

What to do

If action, adventure and a small pump of adrenalin are your thing, then why not experience it all while visiting the adventure capital of southern Africa?

The Zambezi River is a unique attraction that offers both big cats and big adventures!

The wide, basalt cliff of the falls transforms the placid Zambezi River into a ferocious torrent, cutting through a series of dramatic gorges. This allows for a multitude of adventures from aerial to death-defying, or up-close-and-personal.

Kayaking Above the Fall on the Zambezi River

White-water Kayaking.  Another way to experience the incredible power of the Zambezi below the Falls is to paddle the rapids with seasoned white-water kayakers. Kayaking The Falls in Zambia.  An experienced white-water kayaker will steer the boat through the rapids with you adding your support.

 

The gorge itself varies from 140 metres to 250 metres deep, making for striking views to compliment the high level of raw excitement.

For a full day trip, breakfast and picnic lunch will be provided, and at the end of the day, after climbing back out of the gorge, there is a full braai with ice-cold beers and soft drinks.

Try a Canoe Zambezi Safari above the falls for a tranquil and wonderful experience.  After collection from your hotel you will be transferred to the river and set off for a half day, full day or multi day tour with game viewing and bird watching as you travel up the great swathe of water.  Canoe the Zambezi River from Zambia

Camping at the Rivers Edge On a Multi Day Canoe Safari

Helicopter Flights over the falls, lasting 15 or 25 minutes, are a once in a lifetime adventure. After collection from your hotel and transfer to the helipad you fly out over the Falls where you'll have the most incredible viewing and photographic opportunity of this World Heritage Site. Continuing your flight downstream over the Batoka Gorge, experience the natural beauty of this awe-inspiring dramatic feature, following the mighty Zambezi.  Helicopter Flights over Victoria Falls from Zambia

Microlight. The ultimate flying experience in my opinion is to take a Microlight over the falls.  To fly like bird and encounter this massive force of nature from this vantage is truly incredible and not to be missed.  Microlights Over Victoria Falls

The Ultimate Experience is to Microlight Over the Falls

Corporate Air operate a fleet of light aircraft on a charter basis.  A flight over the falls is a once in a lifetime experience.   Flight Over the Falls   Flights and Safaris From Zambia.

A Sunset Cruise or even a Breakfast Cruise is a must when visiting this area.  Leaving from the Royal Landing Jetty you cruise up the river and sip a drink of choice while relaxing as the African wild unfolds around you.  Hippo burb to the surface, crocodiles swim lazily past, heron swoop down to catch their dinner and, elephant, buck and giraffe congregate for a drink on the river banks.   Cruise Victoria Falls From Zambia

The Royal Livingstone Hotel Offer and Luxury Breakfast Cruise.

Bridge Swing. For adrenalin shot try some of these activities.  A bridge swing over the gorge between Zambia and Zimbabwe with the raging waters below.  Bridge Swing off Victoria Falls Bridge.  

A bungee jump off the bridge suspended between two granite walls with rushing waters clashing frantically a few feet below your head before you are hauled back up to the bridge platform.  World's Greatest Bungee Jump 

White water rafting just below the falls is a huge adrenaline rush.  Low Water Rafting at Victoria Falls  or   High Water Rafting Victoria Falls

Bridge Tour. A great way to see down into gorge from a point between the two countries is on the Victoria Falls Bridge and you can take an Historic Bridge Tour across the bridge and enjoy the story of Sir Cecil John Rhodes and his vision of a Cape to Cairo railway.  Historic Bridge Tour Zambia

Swimming in Devils Pool at the Very Edge of the Falls

Devils Pool is a natural infinity pool, is on the edge of a sheer drop.  It's like no other view of the Falls and gives a completely different perspective to the views one gets from the path through the Rainforest on the other side of the canyon. You can walk to this spot from Livingstone Island when the waters are low and take a swim right at the edge of the falls.  It is a most amazing experience to sit on a natural ledge in a pool and enjoy a swim with the mighty power of rushing water just inches away!!  You can book a tour through the Royal Livingstone Hotel.

 

Where to stay

From fabulously luxurious riverside lodges, 5 star hotels, stylish tented safari camps, rustic and remote bush camps, to homely guesthouses and B&B’s, self catering chalets, backpackers, campsites, perhaps a houseboat or even a mud hut in a rural village where you can experience true Zambian village life and fare.

Aerial View of the Royal Livingstone Hotel

Zebra Grazing While You Enjoy Cocktails Over the Zambezi at the Royal Livingston Hotel

Royal Livingstone Victoria Falls Hotel:  The Anantara Royal Livingstone Victoria Falls Zambia Hotel is a mouthful,  but is the most luxurious hotel in Livingstone right on the banks of the Mighty Zambizi and only 15minutes walk from the falls.  This colonial gem offers luxurious comfort from high tea to popping champagne in your room as the sun sets over the falls.  It is in the Mosi-Oa-Tunya National Park and gives you unlimited and free access to the falls.  This is a big plus!   There are choices of restaurants with International Cuisine, but you need to try the Bush Boma for some local colour and flavour.

Aerial View of the Avani Victoria Falls Resort

Avani Victoria Falls Resort: A 5-minute walk from “Mosi-oa-Tunya” (the Smoke that Thunders – Victoria Falls), the Avani Victoria Falls Resort provides guests with affordable luxury, family-oriented accommodation. This 3-star hotel is vibrant and colourful, which is reflective of the Zambian people themselves.

While as a guest of the Avani Victoria Falls Resort, you enjoy the privilege of complimentary access to Victoria Falls via our private entrance. There is WIFI access in all rooms. Traditional Marimba Band performs during lunch at the poolside and a Resident Band perform at the poolside every evening. Stunning wildlife around the resort; zebra, Giraffe, Impalas and Monkeys.  

 

The David Livingstone Safari Lodge and Spa is situated on the banks of the river on the Zambia side. It is a four star hotel, comfortable and only 5km from the falls.  The hotel offers transfers to the falls and Sunset Cruise on the river.  They have a special rate with airfares and three nights accommodation with breakfast daily and two dinners.  David Livingstone Safari Lodge and Spa

Dinner Al Fresco at the David Livingston Safari Lodge and Spa

 

When to visit

The Victoria Falls Park and Rainforest on the Zimbabwe side,  and Mosi-Oa-Tunya National Park on the Zambia side, are open year-round, but you will enjoy a very different experience at various times.  There is no definite off-peak season. It depends on whether travelers who fly to Victoria Falls are looking to see the falls when water levels are at their highest or whether they would like to get better visibility.  Peak flood season is around March and April when the full power of the falls can be experienced in all its glory.


The Rainy Season
When the summer rains fall (December to March) the water volumes grow and the Falls become more and more dramatic. You are guaranteed to get wet if you cross the bridge or walk along the trails winding near the falls, especially in April/May/June when the Falls are at their majestic and awesome 1700m-wide zenith. Indeed the skies may be bright blue but in these peak months the view of the Falls is often obscured by the billowing spray and a helicopter flip is recommended in order to take in and feel the true wonder.

The Dry Season
In the dry season (June to mid-November) the water volume starts to dwindle and by October Victoria Falls is often just a trickle. You will get a clearer view of the rocky cliff beneath the falls, which is spectacular in itself, but the falls might be somewhat underwhelming.   The Busiest months are July and August which is winter but the temperatures still reach 30oC and weather conditions are sunny. 

View of the Falls into the Bataka Gorge from the Zambian Side of the Falls

How to Get There

There are many companies that run flights to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe and Livingstone in Zambia. Johannesburg is 1h40m direct flight and Cape Town is 2h45m to Victoria Falls.  Flights from other cities in South Africa go through OR Tambo Airport in Johannesburg. Prices vary.  It is less expensive to fly into Livingstone in Zambia than Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe.

Transfer from Airport to Hotel/Lodge

After you book your flights to Victoria Falls or Livingstone and secure your seats, it’s a good idea to consider how you’ll get from the airport to the city centre.  Many hotels provide for pre-arranged transfers. Alternatively, airport transfers can be booked through a travel agent. Taxis are also available at the airport and costs are negotiable.

Temperature

Average temperature for January in Victoria Falls

23.6 °C

Average  rainfall for January in Victoria Falls

90.0 mm

 

It is worth getting a Univisa at a cost of US$50 and allows entrance to Zimbabwe, Zambia and a day trip to Chobe in Botswana.  Well worth it to see the falls from both vantage points and take in an African Safari in Botswana.

 

Below is the Fish River Canyon between South Africa and Namibia on the 20 day Safari from Cape Town to Victoria Falls.  The best of four countries.!!

The Fish River Canyon on the 20 Day Tour: Cape Town to Victoria Falls

Cape Town to Victoria Falls 20 Day Tour

This tour sweeps you through the best of Southern Africa.  Our signature and most popular tour, the Cape Town to Victoria Falls in 20 Days.  Start in Cape Town and travel to the atmospheric Cedarberg Mountain where Rooibos Tea bush is grown, take in the highlights of Namibia.  Visit Etosha and Okavanga Delta Safaris world havens of wild life, take a canoe up the Fish River Canyon which is the 2nd largest canyon in the world,  climb 80m high Dune 45,  enjoy a sunset cruise on the Chobe River, Botswana and finish off at the awe inspiring Victoria Falls.   Cape Town to Victoria Falls 20 days

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