Victoria Falls lies on the mighty Zambezi River, forming a natural border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. Known as the “Smoke that Thunders” because of the clouds of mist that rise up when it’s in flood, it’s the largest sheet of falling water in the world. And as one of the world’s Seven Natural Wonders, it’s an experience well worth your time and money – especially after the stresses of the last seven months.
While the falls are at their most dramatic from February to July, when the river is in full flood, the summer holidays are the ideal time to go for water-based activities, like white-water rafting or swimming in Devil’s Pool, while the river is at its lowest and the current isn’t as strong.
The wilder Zambian side allows you to get up close and personal with the water from inside the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park. If you do plan to cross the border, which is a spectacular 20-minute walk over Victoria Falls Bridge (you can catch a taxi back), remember to take along your passport.
Things for your must-see list
The Knife Edge Bridge
Follow the paved paths to reach the Knife Edge Bridge at the edge of the precipice. From there, you can look 100m down into the gorge. This is at its best in the high water season – just remember to take your raincoat as there’s a good chance you’ll get soaked in spray!
A birds-eye view from the cockpit of a helicopter gives you the best perspective of the Batoka Gorge and the full sweep of the falls. Flights are also available further upstream for airborne game viewing. Or if you prefer a slower trip with the wind in your hair, try a microlight flight instead.
Victoria Falls bridge slide
This is a 300m zip line that takes you gently across the rapids from the Zambian to the Zimbabwean side of the bridge, with breathtaking vistas on offer all the way across. It’s family-friendly too, although children between four and 14 must ride tandem with an adult.
Zambezi River sunset boat cruise
Cruises are available all year round on the calmer upper reaches of the Zambezi. Sip on sundowners as you enjoy a magnificent sunset, while keeping an eye out for birds, monkeys and larger wildlife like elephants, giraffes and hippos on the banks of the river.
This natural rock pool sits right at the edge of the falls. Take a boat to Livingstone Island, then walk and swim to the pool (there is safety rope in place) to gaze 103m straight down over the falls, while water rushes past right next to you. The summer holidays are ideal for this experience, which is only available in the dry season, and with the assistance of guides.
Vic Falls isn’t known as the Adventure Capital of Africa for nothing. For the (even) more adventurous traveller, you might like to try these options:
Bungee jump or bridge swing off Victoria Falls bridge
If you’re wondering what the difference is, you’re upside down for the bungee jump and right way up for the bridge swing. Either way, the adrenaline rush as you freefall next to the falls will give you the biggest natural high imaginable. For a shared experience, try a bridge swing with a partner.
White water rafting
This is one of the most spectacular white-water rafting experiences in the world. It’s a perfect mix of challenging class 4 and 5 rapids, which require every ounce of your attention, and calm stretches where you can relax and admire the passing scenery. And in December, the water level is absolutely perfect.
Zambezi zip line
Take your pick of the slightly tamer Flying Fox option, where you glide 200m across with the gorge 120m below, or the longer 425m option during which you can reach speeds of up to 106km an hour. Either way, the views are stunning and your adrenaline will be pumping. Tandem rides are also available if you want to share the thrill.
Where to Stay
Close to the falls on the Zambian side of the river, you have a choice of lodges, chalets and resorts, including the wonderful Avani Victoria Falls Resort. Or you can go even more upmarket with The Royal Livingstone Hotel by Anantara, which offers sweeping views of the Zambezi River and surrounding savannah, with wildlife wandering the grounds. Both the Victoria Falls Resort and The Royal Livingstone Hotel by Anantara are currently offering specials at 30% off for African residents.
No matter what activities you choose, or where you decide to stay, your experience of the “Smoke that Thunders” will stay with you for a lifetime. Just don’t forget your camera!