Our guide to
A Victoria Falls Holiday
Victoria Falls Holiday: Visit this natural wonder of the world
One of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World and a UNESCO World Heritage site, Victoria Falls is the stuff of legends, romance and myth. An iconic draw card that features prominently on the “must see list” of our guests heading to Southern Africa, the sheer size, sight and sound of this magnificent spectacle never fails to inspire.
Thousands of years ago water gouged out soft sandstone in the harder basalt base to form what Victoria Falls is today. Victoria Falls itself forms the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. The Falls shares the same name as the town on the Zimbabwe side whilst on the Zambian side you stay in Livingstone.
This page will talk about the Falls and then share insight into the differences between staying on the Zambian side versus the Zimbabwe side.
Stretching over a width of 1700 metres and over 100 metres in height you cannot fail to be inspired and amazed by the sheer size, power and beauty of this magnificent curtain of thundering water. The Zambezi River and Falls pulse with an annual flood cycle of high and low water that create completely different viewing experiences depending on the time of year.
To put it in perspective, it’s enormous and impressive at twice the height and width of Niagara Falls that many people rave about. At full waters Victoria Falls is an overwhelmingly impressive spectacle that leaves you breathless and wet! The locals refer to Victoria Falls as Mosi-oa-Tunya, meaning the smoke that thunders.
The mighty Zambezi River hurls itself off the top of a 300-foot cliff into a gorge below—becoming one of the most fantastic sights of the natural world. Nothing can compare to the sight of the roaring water, the white mist dancing in the air, and a shimmering rainbow of light above the land.
There is so much to see and do at Victoria Falls. You have multiple ways to experience the thrill of the falls. Adventure lovers will enjoy bungee jumps, gorge leaps and swings, jet boating, white water rafting and Devil’s Pool plunges.
Water lovers can savour sunset cruises on the Zambezi, day canoeing trails, boating and fishing. History buffs can follow in the footsteps of many with high tea at the Victoria Falls Hotel, a ride on the steam train, Royal Livingstone Express over the Victoria Falls Bridge and a visit to the David Livingstone bronze monument.
Whilst many guests question and certainly fear the politics in Zimbabwe, the bottom line is that Victoria Falls is safe, relatively inexpensive and absolutely a must see, especially when water levels are high.
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Victoria Falls & Livingstone – All you need to know
Lying on either side of the mighty Zambezi River are the towns of Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe) and Livingstone (Zambia). The tourism capitals of their respective countries Victoria Falls and Livingstone share many similarities and yet in other ways are so very different.
The centre of Victoria Falls is essentially still a village surrounded by African bush. On the rare occasion an elephant may be spotted ambling along the main street and during the dry season it’s not unusual for them to wander through the suburbs. Victoria Falls depends on tourism and as a result there is a great spirit and a genuinely warm and welcoming atmosphere. The local population appreciate and understand the importance of tourism and the benefit it brings to the local community.
The capital of the Southern Province of Zambia until 2012, Livingstone is a bustling town that nowadays depends on tourism and to a lesser extent agriculture and some manufacturing.
The centre of Victoria Falls village is one kilometre from the entrance to the Rainforest and the Falls whereas Livingstone town is eight kilometres away from the entrance of the Falls on the Zambian side. There are properties really close and indeed on the border of the national park so you don’t really stay in town if you’re on the Zambian side.
On the Zimbabwe side visitors can view 70% of the Falls and the landmark Victoria Falls Bridge from 16 spectacular viewing points along a network of trails that wind through the lush rain forest. Even during the low water months of October and November when the Falls become dry for much of their length the view from the Zimbabwe side won’t disappoint as the section known as the Main Falls and Devil’s Cataract still has water plummeting over the lip.
The Zambian side of the Falls is known as the Eastern Cataract. From mid-October until early December the view is of a massive exposed basalt rock face.
Victoria Falls accommodation
There is something for everyone when it comes to accommodation. Victoria Falls is home to a number of well-known and much loved hotels, a couple of lodges, boutique B&Bs and larger chain hotels. Our favourites are Victoria Falls Hotel for colonial flashback, Ilala Lodge well located and again quite colonial, The RiverClub for luxury down on the river and the ultimate host, Gorges for an out of town awesome location right on the Gorge cliffs where you’ll want for nothing as it’s fully inclusive covering meals, drinks, activities.
On the Livingstone side there is a decent diversity of riverside luxury lodges, a few hotels and smaller boutique properties. Our favourites are recently opened Thorntree Lodge with luxury not spared nor conservation and sustainability. Tongabezi is honeymoon heaven and Waterberry is ideal for a more relaxed experience. There are others so just ask us.
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Victoria Falls activities
There is so much to see and do in and around the Falls, so we always recommend at least 1 full day to explore. The Falls can be seen on foot from the national park and you can either wander yourself or book a private guide. It is also quite spectacular seeing the Falls from above – be that helicopter or microlight.
Adrenalin seekers will have fun bungee jumping, gorge swinging (see pictures of Jonathon and Danica below), white water rafting (seasonal) through to time in Devil’s Pool on the Livingstone side (seasonal).
Explore local markets, the village, museums, Snake Park or enjoy sunset on a boat with cocktail in hand.
Victoria Falls has an 18 hole golf course at Elephant Hills Hotel which was designed by Gary Player. Within earshot of the Falls the lush fairways and cropped greens are the domain of a variety of plains game (no predators for obvious reasons).
Essentially not a big game destination Victoria Falls and the surrounding area on both sides of the Zambezi River are National Parks that remain protected as part of the World Heritage Site. Zimbabwe boasts the Zambezi National Park as well as the Stanley & Livingstone Private Game Reserve and Zambia the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park.
Chobe National Park is a mere 2 hours drive from Victoria Falls with a border crossing into Botswana and about 2hrs 50 minutes from Livingstone. Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe’s largest national park is a three hour road transfer or 50 minute light aircraft flight from Victoria Falls.
When to visit The Falls
March and May river levels are high and the plume of spray is a magnificent sight that may be visible from up to 20 kilometres away. You will get wet on foot as you near the Falls and the mist and spray obliterate many opportunities for photos. At this time of year it’s essential to get up in a helicopter to see the enormity of the Falls. June to August is better for photography as water spans the entire 1.7 kilometre width of the Zambezi River yet the spray is not as intense.
Towards the end of August the Falls are in transition from a flooded state to a low flow state. From October waters ease right back and it becomes possible to walk across to Livingstone Island and swim in Devil’s Pool. December to February is rainy season and whilst water levels are low, it starts to rise with rains from the local catchment areas and kick starts the cycle all over again.Get in Touch