|Imagine a fast moving 1.7 kms wide river. Now imagine this river falling 108 metres down a massive hole in the ground at the rate of 3 million litres a second.By Sivamani|
Victoria Falls is situated in southern Africa, on the Zambezi River, with the Zimbabwe and Zambia international border cutting the river and the Falls. The interesting aspect is that there are no mountains or hills associated with Vic Falls – in fact you will only see plains for hundreds of kilometres around. The Zambezi River actually empties itself into a deep chasm in the middle of a plateau, a chasm created by centuries of water flowing through. The first European to discover Victoria Falls was David Livingstone in 1855, and he named it in honour of the Queen. The Falls can be accessed from either the Zambia side (Livingstone airport) or the Zimbabwe side (Victoria Falls airport).
The question in many people’s mind is, which country is better to see the falls? I don’t think there is one answer to this question. Up until about 10 years ago Zimbabwe was by the far the most popular country to visit the Victoria Falls from. There are plenty of luxury hotels and the infrastructure is good. You can walk to the falls from town along well marked paths and the view is certainly good from this side because you can stand opposite the falls and see them head on (you can do the same from Zambia side as well). But, the political situation in Zimbabwe has meant that tourists are opting to visit the falls from the Zambian side. In 2006, hotel occupancy on the Zimbabwean side hovered at around 30%, while the Zambian side was at near-capacity. As of 2011, Zimbabwe’s lodges are filling up, running smoothly, the town is safe and you get much better value on accommodation than on the Zambian side.
Visiting the falls from Zambia has some advantages, namely the tickets to enter the park are cheaper and accommodation in the town of Livingstone at least, is also traditionally less expensive. But note the town is about 10km from the Falls, so you have to get a ride down (unless you check in at Zambezi Sun, or the Royal Liningstone, which are situated 5 minutes walk from the Falls). You can see the falls from above as well as below in Zambia, and the surrounding forested areas are more pristine. At certain times of the year, you can even swim in a natural pool right before the edge of the upper falls. As a town, Livingstone is an interesting place. It used to be the capital of Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) and its streets are still lined with Victorian-era colonial buildings.
I would recommend visiting from both sides, there is a border post you can cross quite easily and day passes are given out so you don’t need to get a visa in advance. But as with all border formalities, check in advance since rules can change from day to day. The border is open from 8am to 6pm every day. Several hotels on either side offer packages which include a day pass to the other side as well as a night’s stay.
If you are at the falls during the dry season (September to December) you must go to the Zimbabwean side to see the Falls properly, since the Zambian side can be totally dried up to a trickle. During the peak flood season, the best viewing is in fact from the air. The flood season occurs from February to May, with peak flow in April. During this time the water force is so much that the spray from the falls rises so much, one cannot see the entire width of the falls on foot – view from the helicopter is awesome. As the floods recede through June to December, the falls slows down to a trickle and you will be able to see the width of the falls on foot.
Obviously the main attraction is a walk along the Falls on the opposite bank (be prepared to get quite wet – raincoats are available on hire!). You will experience continuous “rain” as the force of the falls sprays the water high in the air – creating a beautiful rainbow all day long. Another interesting activity is a 30 minutes helicopter ride, which gives a beautiful perspective to the entire river system and the falls (pictured above).
Sundowner cruise along the broad Zambezi River is also a must do, providing a great experience of the African sunset! For adrenalin junkies, bungee jumping and white water rafting is available. If you happen to visit within a day of the full moon, you will have the opportunity of seeing a ‘moonbow’, with the moonlight creating a rainbow in the night.
View of a “Moon-bow” or Lunar rainbow.
I recommend staying at least 2-3 days to enjoying the various activities in and around Vic Falls. If you have a few days more, I would strongly recommend a trip to Chobe National park in Botswana, which is about 2-3 hours drive from Livingstone.
There are a number of good eating places – We enjoyed the evening at BOMA Restaurant on the Zimbabwe side.
1 Time airlines is offerring attractive packages for both the Zimbabwe side and the Zambia side. See hyperlinks below – the site is quite user friendly to look at various options