Victoria Falls is one of those must-see destinations in this world. Trust me, life doesn’t start until you’ve stood beside the falls, getting drenched with the spray and feeling small and insignificant. So if you’re planning on getting your worldview blown apart anytime soon, here’s our Victoria Falls guide to help you with all those
existential crises adventures you’ll have once there.
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Some Culture and History
The falls are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, partially because it’s one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World. Some of that has to do with the fact that it’s huge – in fact, the largest waterfall by combined height and width, standing at 108 meters high and 1708 meters wide. They sit on the Zambezi River, straddling the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia. To the north is the Zambian town of Living stone, and to the south, the Zimbabwean town of Victoria Falls.
David Livingstone, a Scottish missionary and explorer, is believed to be the first European that viewed Victoria Falls in 1855. He named the falls in honour of the Queen Victoria, and of course, being as Western-culture-centric as our world was and still is *insert eye-roll here*, the names Livingstone and Victoria Falls are both still in use. However, the indigenous Lozi language name, Mosi-oa-Tunya, “the smoke that thunders” is also coming into common use.
Zambia or Zimbabwe?
In the past, Zimbabwe was viewed as the best place to take in the Falls, but in recent years, Livingstone has also emerged as a premier tourist destination.
Both Livingstone and Victoria Falls have airports a short distance away. Flights to Zambia may be cheaper but other costs tend to be higher there as well. You can also opt for rail travel. The first option is the Luxury Rovos Rail that runs from Pretoria, South Africa to Victoria Falls, and is, you guessed it, an expensive luxury service. The second is a much less luxurious and expensive service that Botswana Rail runs. You can also go from one side of the Falls to the other through the train that runs over the Zambezi bridge. Then again, you could also walk or take a taxi. Finally, there are buses that run from Windhoek in Namibia to Victoria Falls, Harare in Zimbabwe to Victoria Falls, Johannesburg to Livingstone, and Windhoek to Livingstone.
Zimbabwe has the better viewing options, with tons of viewpoints allowing you to see up to 75% of the Falls. Game drives might be better in Zimbabwe, but you can only do Microlight flights, Devil’s swims, and Livingstone Island tours from Zambia. You’ll get better views from the town of Victoria Falls as well, and during the dry season, the Zambian side almost completely dries up.
If you want to see Victoria Falls from both the Zambian and Zimbabwean sides, the combined cost of visas will be less than 100 USD. Our Victoria Falls guide recomments you visit during rainy season, December to March, when there will be more water in the Falls. However, visiting in the dry season is also fine, as there is usually more than enough water in the Falls until October.
Time of Year?
There are essentially two seasons in the region: the dry and rainy season. The dry season runs from June to October, and the rainy season from January to April. The volume of water at the Falls tends to fluctuate according to this, so get ready to get soaked in April but witness an underwhelming sight in October.
As part of the Victoria Falls Guide, I personally recommend visiting around the beginning of the dry season, as there will still be plenty of water falling. We visited in July, and even though it was technically the dry season already, the falls were falling, and falling hard.
Victoria Falls Guide from the Zimbabwean Side
The Falls are a short distance north of the town of Victoria Falls. The best (and only) way to get close to the Falls from the Zimbabwean side is through the Victoria Falls National Park. Make sure to rent or buy a poncho (just outside the entrance to the park) or bring your own, unless you fancy getting a free shower (no judgement, we all like free things). Come to think of it, bring a change of clothes, because you probably will end up getting drenched anyways! At certain parts of the national park, the mist will leave you as wet as if you had been in a torrential rainstorm.
The Falls is not the only place you can visit in the town. There are Boma Dinners where you can learn about the local indigenous cuisine and culture. River cruises take you down the Zambezi river, and usually you can catch a glimpse of various animals like elephants, hippos, and crocodiles. A wide range of safaris and game drives exist early in the morning and late at night. In some cases, you may not even need to take a game drive to see a variety of wildlife; baboons, antelope, and wild boars can frequently be seen wandering the town or hotel grounds. Riding, fishing, and birding are also popular activities. If you’re here for adventure, you can also do whitewater rafting or bungee jumps. There are also a variety of crafts on sale at the flea markets and curio shops.
Victoria Falls Guide from the Zambian Side
You can walk down to below the falls on the Zambian side, over a footbridge that is showered with torrential rains during the rainy season, a big plus if you enjoy unique perspectives. You can also fly over Victoria Falls in a helicopter or a microlight, if you prefer not to get up close and personal with the mist.
Devil’s Pool is one of the most notable attractions of the falls and it is only accessible from the Zambian side. It is a natural formation in the geology where you can swim right up to the edge of the falls. Swimming in the Devil’s Pool is only available in the dry season, so keep that in mind when you are preparing for your visit.
Victoria Falls Guide: More Information
For more information, check out these links below