Discover the feast of activities Victoria Falls has for you to try
15 May 2018
Share article on
Including Victoria Falls in your holiday is the perfect start or end to your trip. It can be a place to relax, or a place for adventure. Victoria Falls is a place of legends and dreams, where tales of iconic explorers and hair-raising adventures have us all wanting to go and discover it for ourselves. The waterfall, which is the largest falling sheet of water in the world, is over a mile wide and sits on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is famous for being almost constantly enshrouded in mist as the mighty waters of the Zambezi River hurtle over the edge of the gorge. Victoria Falls has become synonymous with adrenaline sports and adventure activities, but there’s something for everyone here, from relaxed sunset river cruises to leaping off bridges attached to a bit of rope.
The best time to visit Victoria Falls really depends on what you want to get out of the visit. The flow of water is higher in the summer during March and April, making the falls more spectacular, but the spray will make it difficult for photography. May to August is much better for taking pictures when water levels are lower, but still impressive.
So what is there to do at Victoria Falls?
On the Water
There are several different types of river cruise available above the falls, from large triple-deck or catamaran style vessels with drinks and snacks, to smaller jet-propelled boats which can take guests into shallower water to explore parts of the river where the bigger boats are unable to go. River safaris take place in the morning, over lunch or at sunset, and there’s a good chance of seeing hippos, crocodiles, elephants and a multitude of birdlife along the river banks.
One of the most popular activities at Victoria Falls is a canoe journey along the Zambezi above the falls. It’s the perfect way to spot wildlife and experience nature at a more peaceful pace, with the added thrill of paddling your own canoe. There are a couple of smaller rapids to negotiate, with help from the local guides. It’s a great opportunity for bird viewing, so keep an eye out for kingfishers and eagles as they dive for their dinner. This is also the domain of the hippo, and there are few other places where such encounters are possible. Elephants and buffalo also come down to the water to drink and there are lots of little islands to explore along the way.
The Zambezi is renowned for having some of the most exhilarating rapids in the world, and white-water rafting can be done from either country. There are some slower, more serene stretches in between where you can take in the breath-taking gorge scenery, but this activity is only for the adventurous as some of the rapids are Grade 5. The best time to raft is between August and September after the high-water period but before it drops too much. Trips can be combined with breakfast, lunch and other half day excursions, and during periods of higher water paddlers will get to see huge wave trains and whirlpools.
Over the Water
The best way to appreciate the sheer scale of Victoria Falls is to head skywards in a helicopter or microlight. You’ll have a much higher chance of snapping that perfect photo of the falls from above (particularly at low water when there isn’t so much spray) as well as enjoying a birds-eye-view of the mighty Zambezi. Longer flights also head along the Batoka Gorge and over the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park for a bit of aerial game viewing. Flights are available on both the Zambian and Zimbabwean side of the gorge.
Jumps and Swings
If being truly terrified whilst enjoying a great view is your thing, then you might want to try some of the adrenaline fuelled activities at the falls. On the Zimbabwe side there’s a zip line that flies you at speeds of up to 100km an hour across the great gorge far above the Zambezi River. A canopy tour offers a calmer but nevertheless exhilarating experience with cable bridge walkways and slides around the gorge. Over in Zambia is the famous Bridge Swing and Bungee jump from Victoria Falls Bridge, where courageous visitors fling themselves into space before hurtling down towards the river with the falls in the background. Finally there’s also a gorge swing, which is like sitting in a giant child’s swing, only you have to free-fall for 70m before beginning the huge 95m long pendulum swing. Gulp.
There are few places in the world where you can experience such an incredible force of nature so closely. Photographs never really do justice to Victoria Falls, so you really need to see it in person to appreciate its magic. You don’t need to climb in a canoe or bungee jump off a bridge to experience the falls. Instead there are hiking trails in the rain-forests surrounding the gorge where guides will teach you about the formation of the falls as well as local culture. One of the most unique experiences is to see the lunar rainbow, or ‘moon bow’, which only appears at night during a full moon.
One of Africa’s most famous islands, Livingstone perches on the Zambian edge of the falls beneath the watery mists. You can’t really get much closer to the thundering cascades than here. It is from this spot that Dr Livingstone first saw the ‘Smoke that thunders’ and subsequently named this majestic natural wonder after Queen Victoria. The island is only accessible during low water between July and January. Anyone visiting the island between October and January will have the chance (if they dare!) to swim in the famous naturally formed ‘Devil’s Pool’ on the edge of the falls with a 103m drop down to the bottom.
Dinner on a Train
For a rather unique and romantic dinner experience, the Royal Livingstone Express in Zambia offers an evening excursion by rail up the Mulobezi Line which runs alongside the Zambezi River and through the Mosi-Oa-Tunya Game Park. The train has been restored to the glory of its former years and on-board guests enjoy welcome drinks and a sumptuous 4-course dinner with wines during the journey.
Cultural Boma Dinner
The boma dinner in Zimbabwe’s Gusu Forest is a fun opportunity to experience a bit of culture and learn about local heritage and folklore. There are several different game meats and traditional Zimbabwean dishes on offer, as well as entertainment in the form of Shangaan dancing, singing and story-telling. There’s even a local fortune teller who will spill the beans if you’re willing.
For those looking for more of a cultural experience in Zambia, Chief Mukuni’s Village gives tourists the chance to see how the local Leya people live in a real African village. It was founded 800 years ago by a community who had arrived from the Congo, and subsequently named after their leader. The villagers will give you a tour of their huts and explain some of the traditions behind their way of life, as well as showing their crafts which are sold back at the falls. A trip to the village can be combined with a visit to Maramba Market in Livingstone, a bustling hub where locals come to sell their wares, with everything from chickens and fruit to clothes and even pans constructed out of ancient motorcars.
Day trip to Chobe
If you’re not visiting Botswana and have a few days at the falls, then a trip to Chobe National Park is an excellent addition to a stay in the area. It’s a long day with an early start and a 4 hour round trip, but worth every minute. The excursion begins with game viewing on the Chobe River allowing guests to get up close and personal with the wildlife along the banks. Lunch is at one of the river lodges, followed by an afternoon game drive inside the park where you may see buffalo, lion and lots of plains game