Expert Reviews – Zambezi NP

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Outstanding views of the Victoria Falls and the peaceful riverbanks of the Upper Zambezi
Overall rating

The Zambezi National Park has two elements that combine the contrasting character of the Zambezi River. The Victoria Falls section is accessed from town, and the roar of the falls and the spray rising skywards, immediately lures all visitors to witness the river dramatically plunging into the gorge. I’ll never get tired of the uninterrupted views here, and staring directly at the thunderous wide curtain of raging water is an unforgettable experience. Upstream the game-park section has a wide variety of wildlife including The Big Five. You can explore on game drives, but I enjoy canoe safaris on this part of the river. Here I’ve seen elephant and buffalo splashing on the riverbanks, and hippo and crocodile at an alarmingly close paddle-distance away. It’s quite remarkable to know that just a few kilometres downstream, the quiet smooth-flowing river gains momentum and tips over the edge.

The Zambezi - a thunderingly magnificent river
Overall rating

Technically, the Victoria Falls aren’t in the Zambezi National Park. They actually have one of their own, the Victoria Falls National Park. But the two parks are effectively adjoining, sprawled along the banks of the Zambezi, covering 56,000 ha (216 sq miles) and no one would visit one without visiting both. At the Falls, the only option is to walk, along the increasingly spray-sodden path round the canyon rim joining the many worshipping at the magnificence of the world’s greatest waterfall. Last time I was there, it was in full flood, a deafening roar with so much water spewing hundreds of meters into the air that nothing was visible but a giant white cloud. In front of Main Falls, dripping hippies in plastic raincapes and barefeet were performing rituals and raindances. Touching but very slightly strange… I could wax lyrical for many hours about Mosi oa Tunya, the smoke that thunders, with its dancing rainbows, but you have to see it for yourself.

Further upstream, sunset over the Zambezi is another truly awe-inspiring natural spectacular, whether seen from one of the many ‘booze cruises’ or canoes that operate on the river, from the deck of one of the luxury lodges that fringe the National Park or from the back seat of an open Land Rover on a game drive. Sip your sundowner as the elephants cross back to shore from the islands linked nose to tail to break the current, the ilala palms silhouetted against a bloodred sun. This is Big Five country, and there is also excellent birding. Some roads become impassable during the rainy season and parts of the park close. Like many riverine parks it’s best seen in the dry, when the animals cluster along the river banks.

Average Expert Rating

  • 3.6/5
  • Wildlife
  • Scenery
  • Bush Vibe
  • Birding

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