The most magical waterfall in the world can be found on the Zambian/Zimbabwe border and is a breathtaking sight to behold. Victoria falls. Not only is it the most mesmerising but it also claims the title of the largest waterfall in the world. Not by height, that goes to Angel Falls in Venezuela. And not by width, that award goes to Chutes De Khone in Laos. But by height multiplied width creates one of the most powerful bodies of water on this Earth.
As Victoria Falls provides the imaginary line of a border between two countries, there are two ways you can see the Falls. From the Zambian side and from the Zimbabwean side. When I visited the Falls in 2014, I approached it from the Zambian side. There is an option of crossing the bridge and going through a border crossing, but you will need to get a multiple entry visa to do so.
The closest airport to the falls on the Zambian side is Livingstone (LVI). This is a small airport located about 10 minutes away from the town itself. You will most likely require a visa to enter the country and these are available on the border only. The cost for a single visa is $50 American dollars. Get this visa if you only want to see the Falls from the Zambian side only. To cross the bridge and marvel at Victoria Falls from the other side, you will need to get a multiple entry visa for $80 American dollars. Be aware the visa process can take up to 5 minutes per person with not many tourist gates open at the airport. Waits of up to an hour and a half are not uncommon.
The closest airport from the Zimbabwean side is named after the falls, Victoria Falls Airport (VFA). At the port of entry, you can purchase a ‘Univisa’ which allows multiple entries to Zimbabwe and Zambia for $50 US dollars. Always check the most up to date information on visa status for each country as they can likely change without notice.
There are a few accommodation choices on the Zambian side with most of the hotels backing right onto the Zambezi river. There are two hotels which are within walking distance from the falls - The ‘Zambezi Sun’ hotel and the ‘Royal Livingstone’ hotel. As these were a little outside my budget, I decided to stay at the ‘Zambezi waterfront’. This hotel is in a superb location as it is about 5 minutes out of town and 5 minutes’ drive to Victoria Falls. The grounds have multiple types of rooms with the doubles being more than enough space for two people. The grounds are home to families of baboons and monkeys and you are able to view the mischief each one gets up to from a close but safe distance.
The main reception area offers a bar and restaurant which is right on the banks of the river. Enjoy an ice cold beer and watch the sun set in the distance as it is eaten up by the African country side. A top tip is to ensure a transfer is included in your stay or at least arrange one before you arrive.
Seeing the falls up close
The date you visit the falls will most likely depend on when you are in Africa but seeing the falls at different times of the year will have different experiences. Rainy season is November to March – the water level is higher and you may not see the falls due to the spray. Dry season is April to October – the water level is lower but it’s still as spectacular as ever. Either way, be prepared to see something magical when you visit the Falls.
From the hotel you can either book a tour which will take you to the national park and guide you around the falls, walking up and down the trails and getting some more information behind the history of the area. The other way is to hire a taxi and discover the falls by yourself. Order a taxi through the hotel and they will be there for whatever time you wish. They will also wait for your return. For a return transfer from your hotel and the falls will cost approximately $20 US dollars including a tip ($15 for the fare and $5 for a tip). From the carpark, you will be greeted by not only the cheeky baboon families but also the small shop owners. They will offer you souvenirs and also ponchos for rent. You will need the poncho. It is much cheaper to rent one here than it is in the falls. Even with the poncho, be prepared to get soaked as the mist transforms into heavy rain. There is one entrance to the falls area and it will cost approximately $10 US dollars. Head to the right to look at the top of the falls and to the left to see the Victoria Bridge and walking track to the bottom of the falls.
Activities in the region
It is quite a sight to see Victoria Falls from the ground, but to witness the falls from the air will in need be mesmerising and leaving you wanting more. Microlight flights are offered by Batoka Skies at a cost of $170 US dollars for 15 minutes. You will start off from the nearby dirt runway before you make your way over to the falls and complete two laps around the water vapour clouds. Keep an eye out for any bathing animals which may be in the area. If you have uneasy thoughts about flying in the Microlight there is no reason. I sometimes feel queasy after flying in light aircrafts but this one felt as smooth as peanut butter. It felt like sitting in a chair with a fan blowing in your face. Batoka Skies also offer a helicopter option for $180 pp (minimum 2 people). Click here for more information.
Throughout the day, multiple river cruise companies offer trips up the Zambezi River. Most of these will start at the Zambezi waterfront – another great reason to stay there. The prices start from $65 for a breakfast, lunch, afternoon cruise (minimum 10 people) and $75 for a sunset cruise (no minimum). Witness the animals in their natural location along the river banks. The water provides life to all of its inhabitants.
In the area, you will be offered the chance for an animal encounter. Please be aware of these. Companies’ say they offer conservation for wild animals, but are more of a con. One example is the Lion walk encounter. Started in 1999, they promote themselves as a rehabilitation centre to prepare kept lions for release into the wild. Unfortunately no lions have ever been released. I have made the mistake of attending this as an activity, not knowing how the animals were treated or where they end up. If I could take back that day, I would. It’s the naivety of travelling.
There are other activities which can be done within the region. White water rafting runs when the water is high enough (wet season). I would recommend not taking on the big rapids if you haven’t paddled before. The water is unpredictable but having said that, prepare for the thrill of your life as you navigate through the tumultuous rapids. Bundu Adventures offers rafting trips throughout most of the year starting from $150. Be sure to check if you are heading in the high water level or low water level season. For more information click here.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact myself!