The famed Victoria Falls is one of the most sought after travel destinations in Africa due to its size, romance and prime positioning. Tourists flock to the majestic falls year in and year out to get a little taste of
the grandiose scale of nature in this part of the world. For a very long time, the Zimbabwean side of the falls was considered a more ideal base for exploration of the area. However, this is slowly changing. Both countries are sought after destinations for different reasons.
Both countries have opened up a joint visa initiative called the UniVisa, valid for around 40 eligible countries. This gives travellers access to both countries on one visa within a 30 day period and makes it a lot easier to see both sides of the falls. But here the question remains, should you see the Victoria Falls in Zambia or Zimbabwe?
Below are some subtle differences between the two border countries:
Victoria Falls can be viewed in Zimbabwe all year round
In Zambia, the majestic falls will not be seen all year round but only during certain times of the year. Around October and November, the waterfall on the Zambian side almost completely dries up, creating an area where one can swim and gaze off the edge, with the help of guides so you don’t get pulled over the side and tumble down the treacherous falls.
Devil’s Pool in Zambia
This swimming area is called ‘Devil’s Pool’ and is perfect for brave, dare-devil travellers.
Accommodation and shopping
The Zimbabwe side is more geared around quality established hotels and lodges whilst the Zambian side is for people wanting to stay at quaint riverside tented camps within the heart of nature.
Zimbabwean curio market in Victoria Falls
The Zimbabwe side is more geared around quality established hotels and lodges whilst the Zambian side is for people wanting to stay at quaint riverside tented camps within the heart of nature. The Zimbabwe side is also better for people looking to do some shopping as it is more geared around this kind of curio tourism.
Zimbabwe has more viewpoints
Zimbabwe has more viewing points than the Zambian side including the main falls viewpoints.
However, many people say that the Knife-Edge Bridge is a great viewing area on the Zambian side.
Other wildlife areas near both sides of the waterfall
What’s also great about this part of the world is there are other areas in which one can enjoy wildlife and nature in abundance.
Elephants in the South Luangwa National Park
What’s also great about this part of the world is there are other areas in which one can enjoy wildlife and nature in abundance. They include the South Luangwa and Lower Zambezi on the Zambian side of the falls and Hwange and Mana Pools on the Zimbabwean side. Another noteworthy aspect is this part of Africa is also in close proximity to the famed Chobe National park in Botswana and now with the joint visa arrangement visitors can go to all three on the same visa provided one goes only on day trips to Chobe through the Kazungula Borders.
Which one to choose?
It would seem there really is so much to do and experience on both sides that it would serve one an injustice if you decided to only visit one country whilst in the region instead of both when choosing whether to see Victoria Falls in Zambia or Zimbabwe.
From the tourism hub of Livingstone on the Zambian side to the old colonial-style architecture and world-class hotels and lodges on the Zimbabwe side.
Victoria Falls keeps proving that’s it a mecca for any traveller and explorer wishing to experience Africa for its spectacular natural wonders and original animals and wildlife.
So, to sum it all up, we have created easy pros and cons list of visiting Victoria falls in Zambia vs Zimbabwe so that you can decide which would be better for you:
Zimbabwe Pros and Cons
An amazing 75% of the Falls are seen from the Zimbabwean side with a variety of 16 viewpoints through the rainforest. A network of paths allows you to thoroughly see the Falls from every angle.
The Victoria Falls Rainforest is a true rainforest where it rains 24hours/365 days a year – and this isn’t raining from the sky – but the falling spray created by the powerful Falls.
The Falls never ever dry up – even at the height of the dry season in October and November. The Main Falls and Devils Cataract will still have a magnitude of water flow.
Prices for accommodation and activities are lower than in Zambia which is due to lower government taxes and levies.
Most of the popular activities can be done in either country – except for Microlight flights, Devils Pool Swim and Livingstone Island Tour can only be done in Zambia. Excellent game viewing opportunities are offered from the Zimbabwe side
Almost the entire stretch of river from Victoria Falls to Kazangula (plus/minus 80km) is a pristine National Park filled with Wildlife.
The town of Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe is situated a few kilometres away from the Falls, meaning that Hotel and Lodges are within close proximity of the Falls.
Victoria Falls town in Zimbabwe is a quaint little tourist town with vibrant cafes and curio shops all conveniently located within walking distance from each other and has a wonderful atmosphere. Livingstone on the Zambia side is a sprawling industrial town with a population estimated to be 5 times that of Victoria Falls. Everything is spread out and it is quite difficult just to wander around the town and enjoy yourself.
Zambia Pros and Cons
Zambia has only 25% view of the Falls at the eastern cataract. There are paths and viewpoints covering this small section. The one advantage is that you can look right down the length of Falls at Sunset and still be close enough to the exit gate to get out quickly before closure.
There is no true rainforest on the Zambian side as there are times of the year when the water flow is very low or has completely stopped.
At the height of the dry season, the Zambian section – the Eastern Cataract – dries up completely.
Accommodation and activity prices are higher than in Zimbabwe due to higher government taxes and levies.
There are only two hotels close to the entrance of Victoria Falls – The Royal Livingstone Hotel and the Avani Resort.
The town of Livingstone is situated about 10kms from the entrance to the Falls. If you are staying in a lodge or hotel in Livingstone, you will incur extra costs in getting to the various activities or seeing the Falls.
Livingstone island tours are only available from the Zambian side, this is a highly recommended activity as you get to see the Falls from a completely different angle, right on the edge.
Most of the popular activities can be done in either country, however, Microlight flights, Devils Pool Swim, and Livingstone Island tour can only be done in Zambia. Game viewing opportunities are better in Zimbabwe.
Devil’s Pool edge
So there you have it – a few major differences between the two countries. In a nutshell, if you have the opportunity, time, and money to see Victoria Falls from both countries, that is obviously first prize as you get a different perspective from each side.
If you are only able to visit one country, undoubtedly Zimbabwe would be my first choice as it has a superior section of the Falls, better locality, and wildlife opportunities and is more budget-friendly. You can be confident that seeing the Falls from Zimbabwe side – You WILL see the BEST of the Falls.