9 days, 4 countries, and umpteen experiences – many outside my comfort zone. I was enchanted by the Victoria Falls , canoed in hippo and crocodile infested waters, rode a horse in a game reserve and was almost attacked by a massive baboon. Africa is wild .. and wonderful.
What started off as a simple trip to see the Victoria Falls turned out to be much more than that. I had last been to the Victoria Falls when I was in school – long enough for the memories to have faded. Besides, my husband had been wanting to go there for a long time too. So, we decided to use our British Airways miles to book our trip. There were no British Airways rewards flights to Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe) available but there were flights to Livingstone (Zambia). However, the earliest return flights were 9 days later – longer than we would have planned but we booked them nonetheless.
My initial thought was “what were we going to do for 9 days” because most people go there for three days only. I then began planning an itinerary. This is what we ended up with.
2 nights at Avani Victoria Falls Hotel in Livingstone (Zambia)
2 nights at Ichingo Chobe River Lodge in the Zambezi Region, previously known as the Caprivi Strip (Namibia via Botswana)
3 nights in Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe)
2 nights at Royal Chundu near Livingstone (Zambia)
Between the Namibia and Zimbabwe legs, we went for a game drive in Chobe National Park, Botswana.
In hindsight, the length of time we spent on this trip was perfect because we got to experience more of what the area has to offer.
- One of the seven natural wonders of the world, the Victoria Falls is the largest waterfall in the world by area. A whopping 1.7 kilometres wide and 108 metres high, it produces the world’s largest sheet of falling water.
- The falls are situated on the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe, in the towns of Livingstone and Victoria Falls respectively. To see the falls, you will need to travel to one of these two towns. South Africans do not need a visa to visit these countries. Other visitors may require a Kaza UniVisa.
- Scottish missionary and explorer, Dr David Livingstone was the first European to see the Victoria Falls in 1855. He named the falls after Queen Victoria in England.
- The local name for the waterfalls is Mosi oa Tunya (The Smoke Which Thunders). I find it so much more poetic than the English name.
Tips for visiting Victoria Falls
1. Which side to visit?
Although two-thirds of the waterfalls lie on the Zimbabwean side, do visit both sides. Each one has viewpoints that will provide you with unique views. Both sides offer extreme adventure activities, although some – like swimming in Devil’s Pool – can only be done on the Zambian side.
2. Entrance Fees
The entrance fee for the Falls are as follows:
Zimbabwe – SADC Residents – US $20 – International visitors – US $30
Zambia – International & SADC visitors – US $20
If you are staying at the Avani Victoria Falls Hotel or the Royal Livingstone Hotel, you get free entry.
Local residents get special rates on both sides.
3. When to visit
The best time of the year to see the waterfalls is between April and July. However certain activities are not available when the water levels are high so it is best to know what you want to do before you go.
Do wear non-slippery shoes as the pathways are usually wet from the spray of the waterfalls. Even then, you should be careful. I slipped on some moss despite my Adidas trail shoes.
We took rain ponchos with us because it was mentioned often in the research I did. However, we didn’t end up using them. We did get wet, but because the weather was so hot, we actually enjoyed being sprayed by the falls. They do hire out rain coats but it is cheaper to take your own.
6. Eating in the park
Whatever you do, do not take snacks with you. There are wild baboons everywhere. I opened up a packet of peanut sweets without thinking and a baboon started bounding towards me. Concerned about my personal safety, I threw the packet to one side and he grabbed it and disappeared promptly. ( I do not recommend feeding the wildlife unless your personal safety is at risk).
This is a malaria region, so it is advisable to take precautions. Speak to your doctor /pharmacist.
8. Getting around
We used taxis to get around as there is no Uber network. If you need a taxi or tour guide on the Zimbabwean side, contact Mthulisi on 263 77 287 1987. On the Zambian side, contact Owen on 260 97 9374937. For some reason, Zimbabwean taxis are not allowed on the Zambian side. However, Zambian taxis may drive in Zimbabwe.
There are several wildlife reserves in the area so do some game-viewing during your visit.
If you want to shop for curios, visit the town of Victoria Falls. It is rather touristy though and you can expect to get harassed by touts.
In Zambia, you can use Kwachas, the local currency or South African Rands. In Zimbabwe, because of hyper-inflation, US dollars are the most convenient currency to use. The old Zimbabwean notes are now sold as souvenirs on the streets. My husband bought over 70 billion dollars for R100 and gave them to my daughter, telling her that she was now a billionaire. She was amused.
We bought a coffee at The Rainforest Cafe and the price was shown in 12 different currencies! It was the first time I’d seen that.
12. The moonbow
During the full moon period, you can see a lunar rainbow over the Falls, which is caused by the refraction of the moon’slight. I was disappointed to have missed it by a day.
13. Day trips
Chobe National Park in Botswana and The Caprivi Strip in Namibia are just over an hour away from the Victoria Falls. They are accessible via an area called Kazungula where four countries meet. Try to visit them if you have time. Day trips are possible too. (Do check your visa requirements).
Other things to do in the Victoria Falls region
This area is known as the Adventure Capital of Africa and there are a multitude of activities available for the adventurous. Whatever you choose to do, ensure that you follow good principles for sustainable tourism . Here are some of the activities:
- Helicopter trips over the Falls
- Swimming in Devil’s Pool
- Sunset cruises on the Zambezi
- White-water rafting
- River Safaris
- Horse-riding in a game reserve
Where to stay
These hotels are close to the Falls.
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