Tourist attractions at the Victoria Falls
The Victoria Falls are considered one of the top ten wonders of the world and are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. They act as a barrier that divides the upper and lower sections of river Zambezi. The Zambezi river helps define the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe although the river itself remains in a “no man’s land”. David Livingstone (Explorer and missionary) was the first European to discover these Victoria falls in 1855. It was Livingstone who named the falls Victoria after the Queen of England at the time. It is important to note that African tribes had been living in the area for thousands of years before the arrival of Livingstone. Archaeologists have discovered fossils and tools which show that the first ape-like humans (homo habilis) lived close to the falls about 3 million years ago. These stone age people where replaced by the Batoka. The Batoka were later joined by the Matebele and Makolo tribesmen whose descendants occupy the area to this day.
The local tribes had a great fear of the falls and few dared approach them closely. Of all the local soldiers escorting David Livingstone, only two were brave enough to go with him close to the falls. It is because of this fear that the falls remained relatively unexplored by the local tribes. It was only after a railway line was constructed to pass close to the falls that they became very popular among the local people.
How long are the Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe and Zambia?
The Victoria Falls are the largest mass of falling water on earth. The Victoria falls are twice as high as the Niagara falls in North America. The closest in size to the Victoria falls are the Iguazu Falls in Brazil and Argentina. The mist from the falls can be seen from a distance of over about fifty kilometers while the noise from the thundering water can be heard from a distance of forty kilometers. It is for this reason that the locals call it Mosi-oa-Tunya – meaning smoke that thunders. The combined width of the falls are 5,604 feet while the height is 354 feet.
Activities in and around Victoria falls During the rainy season, the water and spray (from the falls) increase in intensity and it becomes difficult to see its whole face and foot. Once the dry season kicks in and the floods subside, it becomes possible to observe the rocky face more clearly and to also check out the bottom gorges. One of the most famous sections of the falls is the “Devil’s Pool” – located at the edge and where the water begins to drop. Countless tourists take the risk of swimming in this particular section despite the risk of falling over the edge. This pool is only accessible between September and December (dry season) when the force of the water current has reduced. During the rainy season, all activities above the falls are suspended as the current becomes too dangerous.
The Victoria fall receives over one million visitors each year. A safari in Africa must include visiting this mighty work of nature. There are some who think the Zimbabwean side of the falls offers better sighting but that is open to debate. Political tensions and international sanctions during the reign of Robert Mugabe made many tourists to go to the Zambian side as the starting point for a tour of the falls.
Things to do in Victoria Falls Zambia and Zimbabwe
Apart from visiting the falls, there are interesting activities that one can choose to do in the area. The falls are found in national parks from both the Zambian and Zimbabwean side. Other national parks are found close to the falls which offer opportunities to spot Africa’s famous mammals like antelopes, lions, How to visit Victoria Falls elephants, giraffes, buffaloes, cheetahs, crocodiles, hippopotamus, leopards, zebra, primates and birds. Regardless of whether you are staying on the Zambian or Zimbabwean side, you can also combine viewing the waterfalls with bungee jumping, whitewater rafting, zip lining, kayaking, fishing, boat cruises, canoeing, horseback riding, nature walks and so much more. Remember that the activities you choose depend on the season you are visiting. The activities in river Zambezi are best done when the water levels are low and the current not so strong. If you are only planning to visit the falls, then we recommend that you visit during the wet season so that you witness the full force of the waterfalls. Here are the activities: –
Seeing the waterfalls and walking along their footpaths:
This is obviously the biggest draw in the area. The opportunity to see the largest waterfall on earth can be done from both the Zimbabwe and Zambian side. In Zimbabwe, the falls are located at the Victoria Falls National Park while on the Things to do at Victoria Falls Zambian side, the park is known as Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park. Although both sides offer you a chance to see the falls, there is a slight difference in experience viewing from each side. The Zimbabwean side offers the best views of the falls and has better scenery. While on the Zimbabwean side, you can walk along the beautiful rain-forests along the different viewpoints. The Zimbabwean side offers an opportunity to see four of the main sections of he falls – Horseshoes Falls, Main Falls, Rainbow Falls and the Devil’s Cataract. The second deepest falls is known as Eastern Cataract and is found on the Zambian side. It is important to note that one can easily cross the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia via the Victoria Falls Bridge – just don’t forget your passport and prepare to pay a Visa fee.
Best times to visit Victoria fallsLearn about the history of the Victoria Falls Bridge: This is the bridge that connects Zambia to Zimbabwe. This iconic bridge took fourteen months to be built. It was completed in 1905 and since then has undergone several renovations. The bridge has a fascinating history that you will learn from an official Guide while on an activity known as the “The Historic Bridge Tour”. Depending on the season, you could even get an opportunity to walk under the bridge to see the full depth of the Botoka Gorge or see the rainbow formed by the mist/spray from the Victoria falls.
The Knife Edge Bridge: This Bridge is found on the Zambian side of the border. It is an excellent place to visit during the rainy season as it takes you above the deepest gorge on the Zambian side. You will get an opportunity to get close to the flowing water and feel the spray right into your body (face).
Livingstone Island and the Devil’s Pool: The Livingstone Island is found on the river Zambezi – just before the falls. The trip to the Devil’s Pool begins with an adventurous boat ride through channels with rocky edges. Once you are on the small island, you can take a tour as you marvel at the beautiful falls and speed of the river. The Livingstone Island offers completely different view of the amazing falls. Your Guides should be able to explain for you the history of he falls and how it was formed. You will then be taken to the exact spot where Livingstone stood when he first visited in 1855.
After touring the island, the next thing is to take a dip at the famous Devil’s pool. To get to the pool from the island, you need to swim upstream and then come out through some rocky patches leading to the pool. The pool is deep and was created naturally through a slow erosion process that took thousands of years. A rocky edge is found just at the lip of the falls which acts as a barrier so that you are not swept away by the current. Ropes that are tied to swimmers as an extra precaution. This particular activity can only be done during the dry season (late June or early March) when the water current and floods have reduced and its safe.
Chobe National Park:
If you want to include an African safari experience along with your tour of the Victoria falls, then you should consider Chobe National Park in nearby Botswana. A safari in Chobe national park is an excellent choice after spending time at the falls. The park has the highest number of Elephants in Africa. A tour of the park includes a safari along a river and another on land to see the big five animals of African in a standard tour van.
Go to the Market in Shearwater Village:
This is an excellent place to go on the Zimbabwean side if you are interested in buying local souvenirs. It is built to high standards with the intention of attracting as many tourists as possible.
Hwange National Park:
This is the largest national park in Zimbabwe and covers an area of about 15,000 square kilometers. The park is home to over 29,000 elephants (second only to Chobe National Park). Tourists can also spot buffaloes, leopards, rhinos, lions, roan antelopes, sable antelopes and the endangered wild dogs. To reach Hwange, you will have to prepare for two hours of driving.
Best things to see at Victoria Falls Whitewater rafting:
River Zambezi is home to several grade 5 rapids which offer adrenaline junkies an opportunity to have close encounters with the might falls. Whitewater rafting is a thrilling and adventurous activity that you will remember for the rest of your life. How long the activity takes depends on the season of the year. The rainy/wet season brings with it large volumes of water which implies that some of the rapids become too dangerous. However, if you come at the right time, expect to have an amazing experience and more prolonged experience. You will be able to get beautiful views of the gorge and surrounding areas as you rest at the calmer stretches of water.
Interesting facts about Victoria falls Helicopter Flights on top of the falls:
This 15 minutes’ flight may be expensive but will offer you a bird’s view of the falls and help you appreciate the magnitude of the falls. You will be able to see the soaring cascades, mist, Batoka gorge and wildlife further down the Zambezi. You can opt for a longer 25 minutes’ flight to see more of the waterfalls and the Zambezi National Park. The Helicopter flight option is especially interesting during the wet season when close visibility from the ground becomes a challenge.
Sunset Tours by boat:
A Sunset boat cruise is an excellent way of completing your tour of the falls. This tour is done on a cruise boat down the River Zambezi at sunset. There is a lot of snacks, booze and other drinks and al for a reasonable cost of about $30. The boat cruise is a great way to experience the tranquility of the river Zambezi. Expect to encounter several creatures like baboons, crocodiles, elephants, hippos, Vervet monkeys and birds. Prepare to take amazing photos of the Zambezi river as you marvel at its natural beauty.
History of the Victoria falls Bungee Jumping:
Bungee jumping at the Victoria Falls bridge is believed to be one of the best out there. It involves jumping 111 meters from the bridge towards the mighty Zambezi river with the waterfalls nearby. Body and ankle harnesses are attached to jumpers by instructors after which you will be encouraged to take the leap in calm way. After jumping, you will have a free fall for about 4 seconds. After the 4 seconds, the elastic harness/rope will hold you back firmly but gently until you are picked and taken away on a boat downstream. The jumping point provides great views of the river and the surrounding areas. Bungee jumping the Victoria Falls Bridge costs $120 and needs to be booked in advance.
Accommodation in Victoria Falls and where to stay
Take a steam train across the bridge: For the best views of the waterfalls, you can take a ride on a restored steam train. After restoration, the train was furnished with comfortable chairs, lounge areas and dining facilities. The train takes you across the falls and all the way to the Zambezi National Park. While on the train, use the opportunity to take nice photos of the falls.
Gliding by the Victoria Falls Bridge:
If you are not brave enough to do bungee jumping, then this is the one for you. The activity involves gently sliding along a 300-meter zip line starting from a platform on the Zambian side of the bridge all the way to the Zimbabwean side. You will get beautiful views of the falls as you slide close to the gorge. This activity can be done by young children under the watchful eyes of an adult.
Best time to visit Victoria Falls Tour the towns close to the waterfalls:
After completing your tour of the waterfalls, you can go check out of the town of Livingstone on the Zambia side or Victoria Falls town on the Zimbabwean side. Livingstone city is found about 10 km away from the Victoria Falls. The colonial architecture in the town has been preserved to give tourists an idea of how things were decades ago. While Livingstone town, one can go to the coffee shops, cafes, local markets, souvenir shops and nightclubs. The Livingstone Museum is a must visit for those who want to learn more about the famous Scottish missionary and explorer.
During you tour of the towns in both the Zambian and Zimbabwean side, you might want to taste the local traditional dishes. From the Zimbabwean side, you visit the Boma restaurant. They serve game meat including that of Impala and warthog. They even prepare Mopani worms which is a local delicacy. Boma restaurant also prepares a wide variety of vegetarian dishes, chicken, beef, fish and pork. The restaurant invites traditional performers to entertain guests through dance, storytelling and African traditional drumming.
This is best done from the Zimbabwean side of the falls. The biking route passes through the small towns, the border bridge and the great river Zambezi itself. It is an excellent way to tour the countryside and costs about $80. The amount includes a bike, helmet and a local biker to escort you around.
Walk by the river Zambezi:
This particular activity is also best done from the Zimbabwean side of the waterfall. The purpose of the walk is to allow you appreciate the natural beauty of the Zambezi River and surrounding areas. The walk starts above the Devils Cataract and into the Victoria Falls National Park. While taking the walk, you will spot buffaloes, antelopes, elephants, warthogs, hippos and other primates near the river banks.
Facts about Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe and Zambia
Why you should visit Victoria Falls Visas between Zimbabwe and Zambia: To cross to any of the two countries, you will need to show your passport to the officers at immigration. You need to let them know if you are crossing over for a day or a few more. If you are planning on going for only a day and coming back to the country of origin, you will be required to have a double entry visa. After all is set, you will receive an exit stamp on your visa and proceed to the no man’s land. You can hire a taxi after crossing but most prefer to walk the 1.6 kilometer stretch over the bridge to the border post of the other country. Here, you will be asked for your passport once again by the second country and you will need to pay for the one-day visa at a cost of about $20. Always remember to travel with small bills.
Transport around the falls:
You can hire private vans or taxis if you are planning to travel from your accommodation facility to the falls or to the main towns. The hotels may help with a vehicle or give you the contacts of individuals who can hire one. If you are planning to cross borders, you will most likely need to hire another one once you enter the other country. This is because there are restrictions on vehicle crossings between the two borders. Changing cars near the bridge can be inconveniencing especially if you are visiting the falls during the wet season.
The recent decline in value of the Zimbabwean dollar has made it complicated to use the currency while visiting the country. It is better to have enough US Dollars to make thing easier and to avoid carrying large local bills. You should also move with smaller US dollar bills for tipping and buying less expensive things. You can also use your credit card to pay most of the time (but not always).
Different falls and viewing points:
It is important to note that the Victoria falls are made up of five different falls – The Devil’s cataract, main falls, horseshoe falls, rainbow falls and the eastern cataract falls. The Victoria falls has nineteen viewing points. Fifteen of them are found on the Zimbabwean side.
You will get wet:
If you are planning to view the falls from the two countries or visiting during the rainy season (When the water levels are high), know that you will get wet. The path along the waterfalls has so much water (from the mist) coming down that you might think you are caught up in a heavy downpour. Do not forget to bring a raincoat and umbrella.
The falls are located in national parks:
Expect to encounter wild animals especially if you are visiting the Zimbabwean side. Elephants, baboons, mongooses and other wild animals roam freely close to and sometimes up to the falls. There is no fence to separate tourists from the park animals. This can mean very exciting wildlife encounters but it is great to be prepared in advance.
You will need to take several shots:
To visit Zimbabwe and Zambia, you will be required to present a yellow fever vaccination certificate. It is also important to be vaccinated against Tetanus, Hepatitis A and B. Without a yellow fever vaccinations card, you may not be allowed in the two countries.
The best time to Visit the Victoria Falls
There is really no best time to visit the Victoria falls. It all depends on what you would like to experience. If you wish to swim in the Devil’s pool or take walks along the top of the falls, then you should visit during the peak dry season between September and November. During the dry season, everything is more visible and you can actually see the foot of the falls. The dry months between June and August is perfect for those who desire to go for a safari in one of the nearby national parks or those in Botswana.
The rainy season like the dry season has pros and cons. It is during the rainy season that one can witness the full force and flow of the waterfalls. However, expect to get soaked with water (mist falling as rain) as Best tourist attractions in Victoria Falls you go to the different viewing points. Visibility is poor and it is more difficult to take good photos. Swimming or walking close to the edge of the falls is dangerous. However, the rainy season has its advantages too. It offers one an opportunity to witness a moon bow. Moon bows are formed when mist and the light coming from the full moon bounce off each other to create a unique rainbow on the water spray. This is different from the normal rainbow caused by the sun. The Victoria Falls is one of the few places where one can witness a moon bow in the world.
Note: For the best experience, we recommend that you visit between June and July. During this time, the rains would have stopped and water levels still impressive enough not to affect overall visibility.
How to reach the Victoria Falls
If you are already in Africa, you should be able to get direct flights to Zimbabwe or Zambia. International travelers from Asia, Europe or America will most likely require connection flights. Taxis can be arranged once you arrive in any of the two countries but your hotel should be the one to arrange airport transfers.
Things to do in Victoria Falls once at your hotel, you can ask for guidance on how to hire a taxi to the falls. It is important to note that that you will be required to have a visa before entering any of the countries unless you are from a country where VISAs are waived. If you are planning to view the falls from both Zimbabwe and Zambia, you will need to acquire multiple visas or a special VISA (Known as the Kaza Univisa) which allows you access to both countries for 30 days. The change in government recently has made the process of acquiring the Zimbabwean VISA a little more relaxed. Even then, we think it’s important to check with your embassy website to see the current VISA requirements of Zimbabwe and Zambia.
Victoria Falls Packing List
The right clothing: This is particularly important if you are traveling during the wet season. A waterproof jacket is important to help protect you from the mist coming from the falls. You can acquire a good jacket from the visitor’s centers but we advise that you acquire a good one before traveling into the two countries.
Shoes with good grip:
A pair of good converse may be okay during the dry season but water proof boats may be a better alternative during the wet season or if you are planning to get so close to the falls but you don’t want to get your feet wet.
This is important during the drier months as temperatures can get high. If you are too used to the cold winters in Europe or North America, then you will need a good sunscreen to help protect you from the direct rays from the sun.
Zambia and Zimbabwe are all malaria zones. Like in most tropical countries, expect to see more insects than usual. Most of the insects are harmless but should be very concerned about mosquitoes. Mosquitoes cause malaria and are very active during the months of August and June. Although you may be safe from malaria because you took anti-malaria drugs, you will still need to deal with mosquito bites – which can be very annoying. You therefore need to have a good insect repellent, long-sleeved trousers and shirts.
This will ensure that your electronic gadgets like phones, laptops and music players do not get socked by the dropping water (mist).
In order to take the best photos of the falls, you will need a good quality camera. It can be difficult to take good photos during the rainy season with mist all over the place.
Accommodation at the Victoria Falls
As a popular travel destination, there are several accommodation facilities close to the Victoria Falls offering both budget and luxury suites. The rooms are mostly built in form of cottages, huts, chalets or villas. Most of the accommodation facilities are within walking distance to the Victoria falls itself and provide amazing (romantic) views of the River Zambezi. Because they receive thousands of international tourists each year, the hotels have mastered the art of offering high quality services with very professional staff. The rates can be all inclusive with a visit to the falls and games drives in the national parks. Some of the hotels include:
Shoestrings Backpacker Lodge:
This lodge offers budget facilities in form of dorms and private tents. Don’t expect high-end facilities here but enough quality rooms to satisfy the budget travelers and particularly backpackers. What makes it special is the atmosphere. During weekends, the bars are frequented by tourists and local folks who want to party. If you are traveling on a budget and want to stay in a place full of fun and offering opportunities to mingle with the locals, then we recommend this lodge.
Shearwater’s Explorer Village:
This facility provides various types of accommodation facilities to cater for budget, mid-range and luxury travelers. There are camping spots for backpackers, self-contained tented rooms and cottages of high quality. The hotel has a bar, restaurant and swimming pool.
Victoria Falls Hotel:
This is also found on the Zimbabwe side and was the first hotel to be built in the area – 1904 to be specific. It is an opulent and ultra-luxury hotel that has hosted prominent guests How to visit the world’s largest waterfall including royals. It was built during the colonial era but has that modern comfort with beautiful settings. The recent renovation in 2013 has taken quality a step further and the hotel now has over 200 luxurious rooms of different categories (standard deluxe, honeymoon and executive rooms). Families can choose the stable signature rooms with their own private wings, lounge and courtyard. All rooms have air conditioning, excellent Wi-Fi and guests have their own private path to the waterfalls. The hotel also has a fitness Centre, spa, excellent cafes, a bar and a poolside restaurant. If you are traveling with toddlers and children, the hotel will provide you with babysitting services.
Victoria Falls Safari Lodge:
The great thing about staying at Victoria Falls Safari Lodge is the opportunity to spot wild animals like elephants and antelopes considering that it is built close to a major animal watering hole in Zambezi National Park. The rooms are comfortable, spacious and caters for children too. Victoria Falls Safari lodge is very close to the waterfalls and is an excellent choice for those who love nature.
Zambezi River Lodge:
This lodge is found on the Zimbabwean side and at the banks of the river Zambezi. The lodge has 83 rooms with amazing views of the river and a giant swimming pool. As you eat from the outside dining deck close to the river, expect to see warthogs, hippos, elephants, crocodiles and vervet monkeys roaming near the hotel lawns or the river banks.
Other hotels in the area:
Apart for the above hotels, you can also check out The Kingdom at Victoria Falls for their striking African style cottages or Elephant camp for their private plunge pools and visiting elephants. Other options include Imbabala Zambezi Safari Lodge, Victoria Falls Safari Lodge, Elephant Hills Resort, Rainbow Hotel Victoria Falls, Masuwe Lodge, Ilala Lodge Hotel, Batonka Guest Lodge, Gorges, Cresta Sprayview Hotel and Little Gorges Lodge.