Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe
Tumbling down 100-metre-high cliffs surrounded by lush forest, Victoria Falls is, without a doubt, one of Africa’s most astounding sights and one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World: the biggest sheet of falling water on the planet. Zimbabwe’s most popular tourist attraction is known as Mosi-oa-Tunya (the smoke that thunders) and the spray it sends up is visible from 50 kilometres away. Stretching 1.7 kilometres wide, the falls span both Zimbabwe and Zambia, and on each side of the border there are pathways that take you to the edge of cliffs where you can get dramatic views (and get soaking wet from the spray). On the Zimbabwean side, the town of Victoria Falls sits right by the falls themselves, and offers a huge array of adrenaline sports and safari activities including bungee jumping, abseiling, white-water rafting and wildlife spotting from horseback.
Seeing Victoria Falls for the first time from the cliffside paths that offer spectacular views of the cascading water is one of Africa’s bucket list experiences, but there are many other exciting ways to experience the falls. For an aerial perspective, you can do a helicopter flip which will get you some spectacular photos, or for a more adventurous flight, hop on the back of a microlight – a tiny light aircraft – to fly like a bird above the mist and spray.
There’s more to visiting Victoria Falls than just the falls – the town adjacent to the falls is a centre for activities that range from the sedate to the extreme. On the relaxing end of the spectrum, there are boat cruises and canoe trips along the Zambezi, dinner or high tea onboard an old-fashioned steam train as it chugs through a wildlife conservancy, as well as game drives, horseback rides and walks in the nearby Zambezi National Park, which is home to the Big Five animals. To get your adrenaline pumping, you can go bungee jumping off the 111-metre bridge between Zimbabwe and Zambia (said to be one of the best bungee jumps in the world), cage diving with crocodiles, swinging across the gorge, whizzing along a zip line, abseiling or get drenched tackling the rapids of the Zambezi River on a white-water rafting adventure.
You can visit Victoria Falls year-round, but depending on which time of year you go, you’ll get a very different experience. From February to May, after the summer rains, the Zambezi River is at its fullest and the view of the falls at their most intense is dramatic. However, the huge amount of mist and spray obscures the view of the falls, so if visibility is what you’re after, then visit between June and September when the river is lower – though not at its lowest – and your view of the cascading falls is clear. If you visit during February and May you will get soaking wet – be sure to wear a plastic poncho or raincoat and protect your camera with a waterproof bag. The paths can be extremely slippery so it’s essential to wear a good pair of walking shoes or hiking sandals.
As the falls span Zimbabwe and Zambia, there are benefits to seeing them from both sides of the border. Zimbabwe has the wider views of the falls, with most of the viewing points, but on the Zambian side – a short walk across a bridge – the viewing path takes you closer to the falls. When the river runs low (from October to December), you can also swim in the Devil’s Pool, a natural rockpool right on the edge of the falls in Zambia. If you’d like to visit the Zambian side, you’ll need to get a KAZA visa when you enter Zimbabwe, which costs $50 for 30 days of travel and allows you to enter both Zimbabwe and Zambia.