The mighty Victoria Falls is one of Africa’s most awe-inspiring sights, and the region around them on both the Zimbabwe and Zambia sides is also a fabulous playground for thrill seekers and nature lovers alike.
Zimbabwe’s Victoria Falls and Zambia’s Livingstone are the closest towns on each respective side of Africa’s most incredible and powerful waterfall. From both, an endless list of activities can be arranged to do below the falls, above the falls, over the falls and in front of the falls, and it’s no wonder that the Victoria Falls is often referred to as Africa’s ‘adventure capital’. Topping the list is of course is seeing the dramatic waterfall itself, which is also known as Mosi-oa-Tunya – meaning ‘the smoke that thunders’.
The energy and power of the mighty Zambezi River spilling dramatically into the Batoka Gorge 100 metres below is certainly a spectacular sight, and is best appreciated from the spray-drenched rainforests of Zimbabwe’s Victoria Falls National Park or the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park on the Zambian side. In peak season, the falls have a width of nearly two kilometres and roughly 625 million litres of water flows over the edge every minute, making the Victoria Falls the biggest sheet of falling water in the world. The spray produced by this magnificent feature can be seen from miles away, and waters a rainforest that supports plant life that can’t be found anywhere else in Zambia or Zimbabwe, and during full moon, creates a unique lunar rainbow.
White-water rafting and river-boarding are the best ways to get wet and wild in the world-renowned grade five rapids below the falls. The Zambezi is a fast-flowing, high volume, pool-drop river and is acclaimed as the wildest one-day white-water run in the world. Alternatively you can thunder along the river, flying over the rapids and 'buzzing' rock faces in a high-powered jet-boat.
Another must-do for the adrenalin junkie is to plummet 111 metres towards the Zambezi on the world-famous bungee jump off the Victoria Falls Bridge, and other hire-wire adventure activities include heart stopping gorge-swings or a flying-fox across a 200-metre wide section of the gorge. A helicopter ride is an absolute must if your budget allows, and provides a bird’s eye spectrum on the sheer size and extent of Victoria Falls and the winding Zambezi above and below.
For the more sedate, the upper-Zambezi above the falls is just as enticing, with its scenic game and palm-dotted islands. Canoeing is a tranquil way to game and bird watch and brings you right amongst the river’s hippos and crocodiles or you can take a walking safari or horse trail in the surrounding national parks and wilderness areas. The options to get even closer to wildlife are by going on an elephant-back safari or go walking with lions, which as intimidating as it sounds, is a great way to get close to, and learn about, two of the most magnificent members of Africa’s famous Big Five.
The most relaxing way to explore the upper-Zambezi, and a Victoria Falls must-do, is on a river cruise to watch the sunset. Pontoon-style boats float gently around the islands and shores of the national parks on both sides of the river, and there are excellent opportunities to see animals as they come down to drink. Finally hark back to colonial times by taking high tea at the fabulous Victoria Falls Hotel, and enjoy tea and cake on the lawns while watching a beautiful rainbow rise prettily above the ‘smoke that thunders’. Victoria Falls offer activities for every type of traveller, and as there’s so much to do, the dull moments are only found in the hotel lobby.
Best time to visit
At any time of year, the Victoria Falls are spectacular, but they look their best and fullest during high water (February to July). The best time for white-water rafting is during low water (September to December) when the rapids are exposed, and the best time for game-viewing is during the dry season (May to September) when animals are more easily seen along the Zambezi.
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