Africa Guide
Guide to Africa

Visiting Victoria Falls – The Adventure Capital of Africa

Victoria Falls is a World Heritage Site on the Zambezi river, forming the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe. The indigenous name, given by the Kololo tribe living in the area in the 1800’s, is ‘Mosi-oa-Tunya’ meaning ‘The Smoke that Thunders".

David Livingstone is said to have been the first European explorer to have visited the falls in November 1855 and named the falls Victoria Falls in honour of the reigning Queen Victoria

Victoria falls is neither the highest or the widest waterfall in the world but during the high season it has the largest amount of falling water. At its widest it is 1,708 metres (5,604 ft) and the highest fall is 108 metres (354 ft).

The falls have been receding over the past 100,000 years forming 7 principal gorges being

  • First Gorge: the one the river falls into at Victoria Falls
  • Second Gorge: (spanned by the Victoria Falls Bridge), 250 m south of falls, 2.15 km long
  • Third Gorge: 600 m south, 1.95 km long where Victoria Falls Power Station is located.
  • Fourth Gorge: 1.15 km south, 2.25 km long
  • Fifth Gorge: 2.55 km south, 3.2 km long
  • Songwe Gorge: 5.3 km south, 3.3 km long, named after the Songwe River coming from the north-east.  At 140mtrs, this gorge is the deepest.
  • Batoka Gorge which is below the Songwe.

The gorges are best seen from the air by microlight or helicopter flight

Victoria Falls can be visited from either or both sides and both sides form a National Park area. The Zimbabwe side is officially known as Victoria Falls National Park and the Zambia side Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park, both having plenty of wildlife including elephant, buffalo, giraffe, zebra, and a variety of antelope, vervet monkeys and baboons. Large populations of hippopotamus and crocodile are found in the Zambezi River above the falls. Big cats are rarely seen.

The Taita falcon, black eagle, peregrine falcon and augur buzzard all breed in the gorges and over 30 species of other raptors can be seen. Above the falls, herons, fish eagles and numerous kinds of waterfowl are common.

The raining season is from November to early April and the flood season is typically between February and May. At this time the spray from the falls rises to over 400 metres and can be seen from over 40kms away. Whilst most people would choose to visit Victoria Falls when the falls are in full flow, it is worth noting that at this time it is impossible to see the foot of the falls and most of the face. The viewing walkways along the cliffs are a constant spray making photographing the falls difficult.

The falls are just as awe-inspiring during the dry season. From September to December when the river is at its lowest flow, a rock barrier forms an eddy with a low current forming an "Armchair" feature, sometimes called "Devil's Pool". This is on the Zambian side, near the edge of the falls on Livingstone Island. The more adventurous dare to walk along the lip of the falls and splash around in what has to be ultimate "infinity pool" next to where the water cascades over the falls.

If you happen to be at Victoria Falls during full moon you may be blessed with the sight of a Lunar rainbow, "moonbow", best viewed during the high water time – April to July.

Victoria Falls is known as the adventure capital of Africa and many visitors regret that they did not know beforehand how much the region has to offer and often left feeling that their stay was too short. There is something for everyone….

For those looking for a thrill and getting their adrenaline following the following will appeal:

Bungee jump from the Victoria Falls Bridge which connects Zimbabwe and Zambia. This is one of the most popular activities and is not for the faint hearted.

Gorge Swing was built in 1998 and is located on the Zambia side set across Batoka Gorge. It is 54M (160ft) high and when falling you can reach speeds of up to 180 Km/h. You can jump alone or in tandem with a friend, going forwards, backwards or do the Death Drop. You really need to be daring for this activity as you will truly leave your stomach behind.

Abseil 54 meters down the Batoka Gorge where you will be in control but under the guidance of an instructor.

Flying Fox - you are clipped into a harness which is attached to a pulley which then glides along an almost horizontal cable across the gorge. The cable is about 135m long and 75m above the ground. You can go off in seated position or flying like a bird

Canopy Tour - A network of slides, trails and rope bridge walkways within the canopy of the hardwood forest of the Zambezi gorges offers amazing views of the turbulent rapids, the Victoria Falls Bridge and spray of the Falls. Suitable for adventure seekers of all ages including families and groups and lasts from 2 to 2½ hours

White water rafting on the Zambezi River is world class. As well as the thrill of the Grade 5 rapids, with names like The Washing Machine, The Devil’s Toilet Bowl and The Three Ugly Sisters and Their Mother, there are times when you will be floating along giving you chance to admire the surrounding scenery and the occasional wildlife on the riverbanks.

Jet Boating – take a ride in a powerboat shooting down the rapids below the Falls at 100 km an hour, usually lasting a thrilling ½ hour

A Microlight flight over the falls is not only an extremely exhilarating experience but it also offers an unique aerial perspective of the magnificent Victoria Falls and its gorges that the Zambezi River has carved into the surrounding landscape over many thousands of years. You have the choice of a 15 minute or ½ flight which also include a flight over Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park. This activity is very dependant on the weather, if the winds are not right it may not be possible to take off. The best times of the day is early morning or late afternoon. It is not a cheap activity but certainly worth while the money for this once in a lifetime experience. If micro-light is not your thing then consider a helicopter flight, you won't regret it

For wildlife enthusiasts safaris activities include Elephant back safaris, Horseback safaris, visiting a Crocodile ranch and safari drives round the National Park  If you have a full day or more to spare it is definitely worth taking a side trip to Chobe National Park in Botswana.

For the more relaxing activities include a round or two of golf The Elephant Hills Resort

Sunset Boat Cruise on the Zambezi river is definitely a must and a great way of relaxing after an exhilarating day.

Boma Dinner is an evening of cultural entertainment mixed in with feast of traditional Zimbabwean dishes such as Mopani worms and game stews, but also a variety beef, pork, fish and chicken dishes and vegetarian meals are served. The Boma has become a popular choice of a must do evening entertainment whilst visiting Victoria Falls on the Zimbabwe side.

Spa massage and pampering session – end your adrenaline-filled day with a relaxing massage or get rejuvenated with a spa package – available at various hotels on both the Zimbabwe and Zambia side

If you are planning on visiting the falls during Christmas/New Year and are looking for a party, then time it to include the Jameson Vic Falls Carnival, An annual three day event to celebrate the New Year, which thousands of festival-goers from across Africa and the world join in and party.

Whenever you go you are bound to have a fantastic time with memories that will last your lifetime

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