One of the seven Natural Wonders of the World, Victoria Falls spans the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe and is considered to be the largest waterfall in the world. It’s not the highest or widest but it is the largest sheet of falling water and is a World Heritage Site.
The best time to view the Falls is from January to June, as the main rains fall during this period – but when they are heaviest around March the spray is so intense that you can hardly see the falls themselves, so take this into considertion if you want to get some great photographs! The first European to record the view of the Falls was David Livingstone, the Scottish missionary and explorer who saw them from Livingstone Island which is the only land mass in the middle of the falls on the upper Zambezi. At low water it is possible to access Livingstone Island. The indigenous name for the Fall si the ‘Mosi-oa-Tunya’ meaning the ‘Smoke that Thunders’ and in peak flow thunder it surely does! The original settlement near the falls was moved some 11km or so inland as the residents suffered greatly from malaria, so close to the river. The result was Livingstone town which to this day retains a colonial charm with wide streets and Victorian architecture and leafy suburbs containing houses with wide verandahs and pavement cafes. There are some great craft markets and shops here now too.
Upstream, the Zambezi River flows over basalt sheets in a shallow valley surrounded by distant hills of sandstone. There are tree covered islands all along its course along hundreds of kilometres of flat plateau lands. Elephants, Buffalo and other animals frequently cross the shallow parts of the upper Zambezi and can often be seen drinking along the shorelines.
As the river meets and tumbles over the falls, the full width of the Zambezi is pushed in a single vertical drop into a deep chasm called the First Gorge. There is only one outlet to this gorge where the whole volume of river pours down through the Victoria Falls gorges.
Victoria Falls can be visited from both the Zambian and Zimbabwe side, paying a day trip visa entry to pass between the countries. There are numerous hotels and lodges nearby on the Zambian side, some of the quieter places I would recommend include Waterberry Lodge or Maramba River Lodge. If you are looking for luxury or a special occasion, try Tongabezi Lodge, Islands of Siankaba (further upstream), or Sussi & Chuma.
If adventure and adrenalin are your thing there is enough to keep you around Victoria Falls for weeks! White water rafting, canoeing, helicopters, microlights, bungy jumping, jet boats, abseiling and gorge swings are just some of the activities on offer here. For a more sedate enjoyment of the Zambezi, take a sunset cruise or a paddle upstream with a picnic and wine ….