At Victoria Falls, the earth splits open and swallows one of Africa’s greatest rivers, the mighty Zambezi, creating the largest sheet of falling water on earth. As the water hits the narrow depths of the Batoka Gorge beneath, it blasts a cloud of mist skywards, lending the falls their local name ‘mosi-oa-tunya’ (the smoke that thunders). When the Zambezi is its fullest, the mist hangs a permanent raincloud above the falls, showering visitors on even the sunniest of days and visible for miles around.
Above the falls on the upper Zambezi, boats cruise the tranquil water at sunset while the distant spray catches the fading light downstream. Below the falls, the Batoka Gorge’s rocky walls funnel the lower Zambezi into a chain of world-class rapids, prime for white water rafting.
Aside from being a UNESCO world heritage site and a natural world wonder, Victoria Falls also forms a natural border between Zimbabwe and Zambia. The falls can be seen from both countries, and for the most part the same activities are offered on both sides, from helicopter scenic flights to village visits and souvenir shopping.
Whether your idea of getting away from it all is a relaxed high tea in colonial grandeur or a heart-stopping bungee jump off a bridge, Victoria Falls keeps both the faint of heart and the most insatiable of adrenalin junkies busy for days.
From Zambia, a side on view of the falls is on offer with views into the Batoka Gorge, as well as the possibility of perching yourself at the edge of the falls on the vertigo-inducing Livingstone Island.
From Zimbabwe, you’ll get a full-frontal view of three quarters of the falls’ 1.7km wide curtain of water from viewpoints and footpaths meandering through a rainforest kept hot and humid by the spray of the falls.
The Victoria Falls normally reach their fullest from March to April, dropping to their lowest from October to December. The Zambian side of the falls mostly overlooks the Eastern Cataract, which dries up first when water levels start dropping. Travellers visiting the Zambian side of the falls during low water are recommended to visit the Zimbabwean side of the falls to make the most of their trip or, alternatively, a scenic flight over the falls to make the most of the experience. During high water, visitors to the falls are likely to get incredibly wet and certain parts of the falls might be hard to see at ground level due to the amount of water.
The most recommended activities for visitors to Victoria Falls (aside from a tour of the falls themselves) include sunset cruises on the Zambezi River and helicopter scenic flights over the falls. Sunset cruises on the river are mostly about enjoying the scenery, the birdlife and possibly spotting a hippo or two, rather than being about game viewing. A helicopter flight over the falls will help to give you the full perspective of this natural wonder and contrasts brilliantly with a close-up view at ground level. Other recommended activities include a colonial high tea at either the Victoria Falls Hotel (Zimbabwe) or Royal Livingstone (Zambia) as well as village tours, elephant interactions and, on the Zambian side only, visiting Livingstone Island on the edge of the falls (only accessible during low water). For the more adventurous, ziplines, canopy tours, bungee jumps, gorge/bridge swings and white water rafting are also on offer.