The Mosi-oa-Tunya/Victoria Falls in the Zambezi River is the largest waterfall in the world. The combination of its height (108m) and width (1,708m) results in the world's greatest sheet of falling water.
This transboundary site is located in 3 national parks: the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park (Zambia), Victoria Falls National Park (Zimbabwe) and Zambezi National Park (Zimbabwe). The Zambezi River system comprises eight gorges. There are several islands that attract migratory bird species, making it an Important Bird Area. Mammals including elephants, buffalo, giraffe and hippopotamus can also be seen.
Map of Victoria FallsLoad map
I was there in early June 2022. I visited the Zimbabwean side both walking and helicopter.
First thing to know is that the falls vary dramatically depending on the rain. June was right after the end of the rainy season and there was a LOT of water in the falls. There are about 15 view points, numbered from the east (farthest from Zambia) and only the first 4 or 5 were usable to see the magnificent falls. The others were a mix of fog & rain where you can't see much. From the pictures at the entrance of the park, there are much less water in September / October.
I also took a 15 minutes helicopter tour ($150+10% tax) which focused on the falls, longer tours seem to also fly above the game park to see wildlife. Views from above were surprisingly nice an clear. All the fog is actually on the side opposite of the falls where people walk but not much fog on the side of the falls. The pilot goes around twice: right & left side of the helicopter so all the passengers would enjoy the view.
Victoria Falls is an easy add-on to a Botswana trip because of its proximity to Kasane, the starting point or endpoint of most safari tours throughout the country. From Kasane, I was swiftly delivered in about an hour to Victoria Falls town in Zimbabwe. I saw the smoke and heard the thunder already the day before I visited the Falls itself – at the Ilalla Lodge where I was staying there is a constant noise as if there was an airport nearby. But it is that huge waterfall making itself heard 24x7.
My 'official' visit to the Falls started on the Zimbabwean side. I walked there in less than 10 minutes, that is how close they are to the town of Victoria Falls. Here you walk down a path with 19 vantage points. You hike for a bit, then make a small detour to a lookout point and then you continue on the original path. Due to a large amount of water falling down and the spray that creates, it was especially hard to see anything in the central part of the Falls. The best photos can be taken from the side, at viewpoint #2 for example. At viewpoint #12, it gets really wet.
On the following day, I did a 'breakfast cruise' on the Zambezi river. There has been little rain this year and the Zambezi - although still very wide - is not exactly a roaring river. We navigated to approximately 2 km from the Falls. The guide stated that even if the engine of the boat failed, we would not fall off the Falls: the last few hundred meters are so full of rocks that the river is no longer navigable.
We saw many hippos in the water and that naturally raises the question of whether they ever fall over the edge. The answer is Yes ... they are not swimmers but walkers on the river bottom, and if the water is too high then it sometimes goes wrong. Last year, when the water was very high, even 5 elephants came tumbling down the Falls. Usually, they can move from island to island through the water, but at that time they were captured by the current.
I got a third look at the falls when I crossed the border from Zimbabwe to Zambia. I decided to walk across it - first about 10 minutes to the Zimbabwean border post and then some 2km more to the border post on the other side. In the meantime, you walk over the impressive Victoria Falls bridge, constructed in 1905 as a railway bridge. I found that the best view of the entire width of the falls was from the center of the bridge.
Finally, a day later, I also visited the Zambian side of the falls. It makes a somewhat less organized impression than the Zimbabwean side. There are various hiking trails that you can follow. You will also get wet here: the 40-meter-long Knife Edge Bridge was completely immersed in splashing water. I hiked the so-called Photography path which runs along the edge of the protected area, with views of the Victoria Falls bridge and the deep gorges. Somewhere there I found a family of bush hyraxes that was warming up in the morning sun. The path continues all the way beyond the border crossing (there is a fence in between, so you cannot leave the country like this).
The site sees half a million visitors a year, but it wasn’t busy at all when I went. I was there at 8 am on both sides – good for the Zambian side, but somewhat later in the day (between 2 and 4 pm I was told) is better for the Zimbabwean side as you will look into the sun earlier. See more practical tips here for visiting. I also discovered a few more connections: there is a cenotaph on the Zambian side (remembering WWI) and Victoria Falls is part of the Sri Chinmoy Peace-Blossoms program.
Read more from Els Slots here.
We visited Victoria Falls on a day trip, organized transfer, from Kasane Botswana. There is a transfer time of 1,5 hour including borderpassing and that gave us only five hours to do the full experience (which you should do according to Solivagents review). We startet out with a helicopter tour, 13-14 minutes over the falls. Fantastic! Worth every dollar (150 per person). Then shuttle to the park entrance. The entrance is 30$ for single entry (still).
It’s late april and average amount of water for the season they say. But never the less, we got soaked at some of the view points. A raincoat might be a good idea, but in 30 degrees you dry up quickly in the sun. The views of the falls are magnificent, some places it was all misty and foggy others were clear. The falls are truly stunning. We haven’t been to Iguazu falls yet, but this is far the greatest waterfalls we have seen.
To get to the Zambian side, there is a two km walk through the border zone. The view from the boarder bridge is also great. We were tempted to do the bungy jump from the bridge. No lines there, but no time (luckily ☺️).
The Zambian Park is smaller but still worth seeing. The views are different. We had finally dried up when we passed the Knife Edge bridge, but then we got totally soaked again. They are renting out raincoates along the pathway, but were are norwegians! We certainly can take “a shower”!
It was a little bit rushed, no time for lunch, and we missed the afternoon Tea at the Victoria Falls Hotell ☺️. We didn’t have time to check out the town, but I guess we didn’t miss much. Never the less, we managed to see a lot in our amount of time. This is truly an amazing place! In retrospective, we should have spend a night here. A view of the falls at sunrise or sunset would have been great!
You have to pay a visa both to get into Zambia (20 US$ ) and Zimbabwe ($30 for single entry, $55 for two entries - we needed two entries - from Botswana and the return from Zambia), cash only and in US$.
The park in Zimbabwe is 30$, and in Zambia is 25$. Both places can be paid by card.
Bring something waterproof for your belongings and maybe a small towel to wipe the camera.
Overall a great experience!
### Randi & Svein
I just did the Falls in September and love it. I actually found that although the best views are on the Zimbabwe side, the Zambia side has some spectacular views as well. Plus the hike is more intense and much better.
Seeing the Falls from the bottom and spotting Devil's Pool from the Zimbabwe side is also good to see.
Read more from Kerwin here.
It is a bit surprising to discover that, as of May 2005, Mosi-oa-Tunya/Victoria Falls have still not been reviewed – so I will “put that right”!
One reason possibly is that the site is self evidently “world class” and needs no introduction or explanation. I still debate with myself whether or not it surpasses Iguassu and generally conclude that the latter offers a fuller “visiting experience” with generally more to see over a longer time with more “surprises” and with more associated interest of flora and fauna. But as a “waterfall” per se Victoria Falls is “right up there” as a full-on experience however much the Zimbawean government makes life difficult for tourists.
Both of our visits took place before the recent collapse of the Zimbabwian economy, currency and socio-political framework and some of our experiences may not now be achievable or relevant. We travelled around Zimbabwe “self drive” with petrol easy to obtain. We stopped off in Hwange park on the way from Bulawayo (excellent road at that time) and already found that to be a disappointment in comparison with other African wildlife parks. Time and poaching are not likely to have improved matters!
The town of Victoria Falls was totally atypical of others in Zimbabwe – a tourist ghetto offering all sorts of “non African” thrills and experiences – bungee jumping, white water rafting etc etc. It is what I term a “blow-out” town - the sort of place one needs to visit occasionally to unwind and relax after periods of tough travelling.
The main point I would make about Vic Falls is to recommend visiting them from all 3 sides – ie the Zimbabwean, the Zambian AND from the air (see photo). No doubt some would add a 4th – from river level white water rafting but, since this takes place quite a way downstream of the falls I wonder how much you actually feel to be “under the falls”. By the time of our second visit Zimbabwe had introduced “single visit tickets” which meant that you could not enter on the same ticket both morning and afternoon. This is unfortunate since the sun provides very different views at different times of day but the price of a ticket militates against paying twice!
We booked our helicopter ride early in the morning on arrival from Hwange, saw the falls am, flew around lunchtime (the helipad is a few miles outside town and really needs a car to get to), crossed over to Zambia for early afternoon, returned for “English Tea” at the Vic Falls hotel at 4 pm (an essential part of a “blow-out day”) and then drove back to Bulawayo in the dark (not entirely to be recommended because of unlit cattle and elephants on the road!) .
All in all memorable day. We just hope that 1 day the people of Zimbabwe will get a government capable of ruling with justice and efficiency and that we may return.
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