Victoria Falls is the natural border between Zimbabwe and Zambia. It is also one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World and my Victoria Falls travel guide will show you how to make the most of your visit.
The falls are neither the highest, nor the widest, but they are the largest due to the sheer volume of water, estimated at around 500 million litres of water a minute, that comes crashing over the precipice. It is twice as high as Niagara Falls and around 1 and a half times as wide. The spray can be seen from up to 70 km (43 miles) away and hence the apt name of the Smoke That Thunders.
Standing near the edge, in rainy season, the noise is deafening and the spray soaks you in seconds so come prepared with either a raincoat or an umbrella. If you’re brave, take the 73 steps down into the gorge at the Cataract Viewpoint , but be careful as it is very slippery. The thundering water cascading over the cliff face is an awesome sight.
Don’t be pressured into using a guide as it is quite easy to visit on your own.
Current entrance fees : Approx $ 20.00 (USD)
Victoria Falls Travel Guide
The bridge was designed in England by Sir Ralph Freeman who would later go on to design the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The contract was awarded in 1903 at a cost of £72,000. which was a huge amount of money then. For a more detailed account of the building of the bridge this site is a wealth of information. If you do decide to walk across it remember to take your passport with you.
Best time to visit
The falls are spectacular to visit at any time of the year and each month has a different kind of beauty.
- The summer months (November to March) are hot and humid
- Peak season when there are the most visitors is from May to November
- The water is at its highest and most powerful March – May
- The rapids are best for white water rafting between August and early January when the water is at its lowest levels.
- Around New Year the town comes alive with a carnival like atmosphere with bands and entertainment all over town. If you want to party then this is the best time to visit.
Victoria Falls travel guide : Where to stay
There is a huge variety of accommodation available on both sides of the falls suitable for all budgets. I have stayed at a number of different hotels over the years, but these two are my favourites.
The accommodation at Victoria Falls Safari Lodge is swish and luxurious. The breakfast area upstairs has a fabulous view of the water hole. It is rather special to be having a gourmet breakfast while you watch the coming and goings of the animals on the plain below. There is also a wrap around veranda to have a sundowner and watch a big, bold African sunset .
Vulture conservation project
A highlight of our stay at the hotel was the Vulture Culture experience. It is a supplementary feeding program that helps with the survival of endangered birds. It is a fascinating educational experience that you should not miss. There is information available at the reception so be sure to ask about it when you check in.
If you are on the Zambian side then I recommend the David Livingston Safari Lodge on the banks of the Zambezi River. They offer a range of activities, including helicopter flights, rafting and sunset cruises. The Zambian side of the falls has a totally different feel to it because most of the hotels have the river running through the properties. It is a matter of preference as to what you want as an experience, but the best views of the falls are from the Zimbabwean side.
Eat & Drink
You obviously have the option of eating at your hotel, but there are a variety of other spots available to tickle the taste buds.
The Lookout Cafe is located on the gorge overlooking the bridge and the high wire activities. It’s a casual spot for a lazy breakfast, lunch or even a cocktail or two. From the craft market at the Falls, head back towards town and look for the sign pointing down to the railway line. Don’t miss stopping by or you will regret it!
Living in Africa one can become a bit jaded with the “African Experience” normally laid on for tourists. I was hesitant when I heard about the Boma being an authentic African evening, but oh boy was I glad that my husband dragged me to dinner.
The meal is a barbecue buffet. The choice is astounding. There really is something for everyone, including an opportunity to try a mopani worm. In fact this is not a worm at all but a caterpillar larvae of the Emperor Moth. You can find these treats in markets throughout Southern Africa and it really is not as bad as it sounds. If anyone offers you African popcorn there is a good chance it will be mopani worms.
Apart from an amazing selection of food, the highlight of the evening was learning to play an African style drum. We drummed until our hands ached.
Shearwarer Cafe is a perfect place to sit and have a cappuccino , freshly squeezed juice, or even a cold local beer. It is in the main street and is a cool, chic spot. I loved the jazzy laidback music.If you are looking for cafe style food then look no further.
Last, but not least, is the Grand Old Lady, the Victoria Falls Hotel built in 1904. It is one of the oldest hotels in Africa, and a visit is like stepping back in time to a bygone era. The views from the terrace are some of the best around looking towards the bridge. It is not unusual to see warthogs strolling across the lawn or enjoying the sprinkler.
We started the afternoon with a couple of ice cold G & T’s, just to quench our thirst. Then we decided that high tea looked too good to miss. There were generous servings of sandwiches, scones, tarts and cakes all of which were delicious. What a fabulous way to spend a couple of hours.
If you are an adrenaline junkie then Victoria Falls won’t disappoint you.
How about dropping off the bridge spanning the gorge between Zimbabwe and Zambia? You won’t catch me doing this, but I have been told that it is great fun.
Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman ( Long Way Down) tried it ! This video clip is worth watching.
White water rafting
Rafting on the Zambezi, racing through the gorge, is claimed to be the wildest one day run in the world. It is also listed as one of the top 10 rivers in the world by National Geographic for white water rafting. Bear in mind that there is a steep path out of the gorge and a climb of approx 225 m ( 750 ft) which takes around 20 minutes depending on your level of fitness.
There are a number of tour operators who offer this cruise, with options of dinner, or just drinks and snacks. They will collect you from your hotel and drop you off after the cruise. It’s extremely relaxing, with the added advantage of seeing various animals that come to drink at the water’s edge at the end of the day. On our trip we were lucky enough to see elephants, giraffe, hippos, baboons, and a variety of buck, but every day differs. I found it a bit too slow for my liking, but the sunset was magnificent and seen from the water it is rather magical.
- Zip Line – the Flying Fox- across a 425m high gorge at over 100km per hour
- Gorge Swing – Swing across the gorge
- Elephant Back Safari – Stanley and Livingstone Private Game Reserve, a few kilometres outside of Victoria Falls.
- There are a number of craft markets in town as well as vendors all over trying to sell you curios. Don’t feel guilty about bargaining as it is expected.
Zimbabwe uses the US dollar so all prices are quoted in dollars. You may have some problems with your bank cards drawing money from ATM machines but with a bit of trial and error you will usually find the correct one for your card, then it works.
There is also a local form of currency referred to as bond notes. These come in $2 and $5 denominations and are on a 1:1 ratio with the US dollar. Don’t get caught with any bond notes when you leave as they are useless outside of Zimbabwe.
You can pay for most things with a card, but it is advisable to bring some cash to have available on your arrival.
Be sure to negotiate with the taxi drivers before starting your journey and agree a price up front. Check an approximate price at your accommodation before you head out to give you an idea of what you should be paying.
Visiting Victoria Falls should be on your bucket list. It is not the easiest place to get to, but it is definitely worth the effort.
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