Victoria Falls is called Mosi-oa-tunya in the local Tsonga language which means “the smoke that thunders” in reference to the spray thrown up as the cascade plunges into the gorge below. At peak flow, it is the widest curtain of falling water of any waterfall on Earth. The Victoria Falls are were ‘discovered’ and named by explorer David Livingstone but they were well known to the local tribes who believe that the river god the Nyami-nyami lives as the spirit of the Zambezi River. A visit to the Victoria Falls between Zimbabwe and Zambia should be included in any safari in southern Africa.
What visitors need to understand is that the water levels in the Zambezi River fluctuate drastically throughout the year with parts of the waterfall drying up between October and early December each year. When the river is in peak flood, so much spray is created by the cascade that it can be almost impossible to view the Falls through the spray. The best time to visit the Victoria Falls is between January – March and June to August when there is a good flow of water but not so much that you cannot see the falls themselves.
The Victoria Falls can be viewed from both the Zimbabwean and Zambian sides of the Falls but the best views are from the Zimbabwean side. During low water levels, usually, between September and December thrill-seekers can swim in “the Devils Swimming Pool,” a natural pool which forms right on the edge of the Falls. From February to August another pool called “Angel’s Pool” opens which offers a similar experience.
David Livingstone famously wrote on seeing the Victoria Falls for the first time in 1855 that “Scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight.” Today this is a reality, and one of the best ways to take in the full majesty of the Victoria Falls is to see it from the air by taking a “flight of the Angels” in a helicopter or microlight. Flights need to be pre-booked, and visitors can choose between a quick, 12 min flight or a longer 25 min flight.
Adventure seekers have many options in and around Victoria Falls. One of the most popular is bungee jumping off the iconic Victoria Falls Bridge. At 111 meters, it’s not the highest bungee jump in the world but probably takes the prize for being one of the most scenic bungee jumps with the mighty Victoria Falls as a backdrop. There are several high wire activities to get the blood pumping over the Zambezi gorge such as the Flying Fox and Gorge Swing.
Thrill-seekers who want to pit themselves against the might of the Zambezi can enjoy some of the best white water rafting on Earth. While those who want something gentler can enjoy canoeing upstream of the mighty Falls themselves. The most relaxing of option of all is to enjoy a sunset cruise on the Zambezi – the perfect spot from which to take in the spectacular sunsets the Zambezi Valley is known for.
Access: How to get to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe
Victoria Falls International Airport is situated 20 kilometres outside of the town of Victoria Falls. There are daily flights from Johannesburg in South Africa and several international destinations such as Nairobi, Addis Ababa and Maun in Botswana. Kenya Airways flies into the destination three times a week.
The town of Livingstone just over the border in Zambia also has an international airport which has flights from many regional destinations. This is convenient if staying on the Zambian side of the Victoria Falls, otherwise, it is a short transfer across the border depending on border formalities.
There are no longer regular train services to the Victoria Falls but some visitors catch the luxury Rovos Rail which travels to Victoria Falls.
Victoria Falls lies close to the borders of 4 countries and can be accessed from Livingstone in Zambia. The Kasane border with Botswana and the Chobe National Park lies an hours drive away. The major city of Bulawayo in Zimbabwe lies 435km/270 mi from Victoria Falls and takes about 5 hours to drive.
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