A Quick Guide to Victoria Falls
I apologize that I haven’t had the time to write a post about Africa. But it’s never too late!
What and where is Victoria Falls?
Victoria Falls is one of the Great Falls located between the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe. It is located in the south of Zambia and west of Zimbabwe. It was formed many million years ago as a result of a shift of geological plates, thus creating cracks and allowing water to flow down, creating a beautiful view for Africa.
What is so great about it?
Well, our world has three Great Falls and Victoria Falls is one of them. Each Great Fall is great in its own and it is measured using three different criteria. Below is the distinction between the three Great Falls.
Victoria Falls – Greatest by height
Niagara Falls – Greatest by water volume
Iguazu Falls – Greatest by width
Source: Victoria Falls Guide.net
It’s definitely your goal to visit all of the three Great Falls!
Which side is better?
As stated above, Victoria Falls shares the same border of Zambia and Zimbabwe. Not to be mistaken, Victoria Falls is also the city name on the Zimbabwean side. The city name on the Zambian side is called Livingstone, which is named after Dr. David Livingstone as the first European who discovered the Fall in 1855.
The big question has always been which country is the better side to see the Fall.
In my opinion, the Zimbabwean’s side of the Fall has the better view. The logic is easy, two thirds of the Fall is located within Zambian territory, therefore you should be able to see the Fall nicely from the other side. It is similar to the Niagara Falls where most of the Fall is located in the U.S., but it is Canada that has the nicer view. At Zambia, you simply cannot get a complete perspective on the full width of the Fall.
Obviously, the experience for the Fall is different depending on the country. In Zambia, since you’re close to the Fall, you get to check out the river at the top before the water flows down the cracks. You also get to see the Boiling Point, which is at the bottom of the Fall (something that you can’t do in Zimbabwe). Most importantly, you get to experience the Fall by swimming at the Devil’s Pool (depending on the season, see below for explanation).
Not to mention, since you are practically at the Fall, you should walk across the Knife-Edge Bridge to experience the strength and force of the water flow.
At the Zimbabwean side, the view of the Fall is gorgeous. You will be facing directly at the Fall and have mist and steam blow towards your face. Oh by the way, did I say that you will also see rainbows all the time in Zimbabwe?
With my friend, Becky.
The strength of the water varies depending on the season. In the rainy season (between December to March), the strength and volume of the water is high, which could make the view romantic. However, because of the high volume of water, the view could be obscured. In the dry season (between April to October), the water flow is a lot calmer. You can see the Fall a lot clearer. Not to mention, you get to swim at the Devil’s pool.
I personally went to Victoria Falls in May, which is supposedly dry season. However, the staff told me that the water flow was too strong, as such Devil's Pool was closed.
The one thing that you may have to be aware of is the political instability of Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe is a dictatorship country and it could be slightly dangerous. However, since the Victoria Falls is generally a tourist city and it is located quite close to neighbouring countries (i.e. Zambia and Botswana), it shouldn’t be too much of a problem. At night time though, do not go out alone.
Cost could also be another factor. Zimbabwe cost more than Zambia. First, they charge visa entry fees to the border. Zimbabwe charges 75 USD for Canadians, 60 USD for British and 45 USD for Americans. Not sure what Canada did to Zimbabwe to deserve such an expensive visa entry fee.
Another thing that you should be aware of is the cost of hostels. Unless you are going to book a 4 or 5 star hotel, the cost of accommodation does matter. For backpack travelers like me, this would make a difference. Zambia has plenty of hostels to choose, whereas Zimbabwe only has one hostel to choose. This means the cost of hostel in Zimbabwe is significantly more expensive than Zambia. Be aware of that.
What are the different parts of the Fall?
What other activities are there?
Boiling Point – It’s at the bottom of the Victoria Falls in the Zambian side. You get to see a natural whirlpool that is formed due to the formation of the gorge and the flow of water from the Fall.
Devils pools – This is one of the major attractions of Victoria Falls. It’s a heavenly place for selfie pictures. It looks dangerous but it is perfectly safe because there’s a large hole for you to stand and be secured. Just be aware that you have to go there at the right season.
Lookout Café – This café is a hidden gem of the Fall. It is located on the Zimbabwean side and it is 10 minutes away from the entrance of the Fall. If you aren’t sure on how to get there, ask the security guard at the Park. This café allows you to look over the beautiful canyon of the Fall.
Zip-lining – If there is a canyon, you can pretty much expect that there will be zip-lining.
Bungee – This is for daredevils who love bungee jumps. It’s about 160 USD per jump.
Café Zambezi – Nice restaurant at the city centre of Livingstone, Zambia. It is local but lots of international visitors go there. Highly recommend you to try croc meat for dinner.
Big Tree – There is a massive tree in Zimbabwe that is close to the Victoria Falls. It doesn’t have a name but it is about 24 metres tall.
How to get there?
If you want to get to Victoria Falls in Zambia, you will generally have to arrive from Johannesburg. At least from the south, I don’t see any direct flights to Zambia, other than through Johannesburg. The flight is only an hour and 40 minutes from Johannesburg.
To get to Zimbabwe, I highly recommend you to walk through the Victoria Falls Bridge. It is cool and you get to see the Fall from the bridge. You won’t get many opportunities to tell people that you walked across two different countries. Besides, if you are into bungee jumps, you can do one at the Victoria Falls Bridge. Oh, don’t let the taxi drivers to drive you through the bridge, it’s more fun to walk across it.
Things to watch out for
Baboons - When you go down to the bottom of the Falls in the Zambian side (towards Boiling Point), be careful of baboons. They could be vicious and be careful not to bring any food with you. Sealed food like granola bars are okay, but fruit is a big no no.
Devils Pool - Places like the Devils Pool is definitely the perfect location to take lots of selfies or Snapchats there. However, if you go to the Falls in the wrong season, sorry fellows, they don’t open.
During wet season, due to the high volume of water, the city deems it unsafe for tourists to go because the strength of the water could literally flush you away to the bottom of the Fall. (don’t do it).
Rain Poncho – As you walk towards the heart of the Fall in Zambia, you WILL get soaked. Your clothes, your shoes, your socks, every part of your body will be soaked. If you want to prevent that, you can buy a rain poncho to keep yourself dry.
Mosquitoes – they are inevitable especially at the Fall. Places with water attract mosquitoes. Please bring lots of insect/mosquito repellents.
Visa fee – Make sure you bring enough cash if you go to Zimbabwe. For Canadians, bring even more cash because they charge you extra. Also, they only allow a single entry visa for Canadians. If you are thinking of a return trip (let’s say go to Botswana, and back to Zimbabwe), you will be denied entry to the country. Just be careful about that.
Currency – For Zambia, this is okay. For Zimbabwe, don’t even bother getting Zimbabwean currency. One USD is equivalent to 35,000,000,000,000,000 Zimbabwean dollars. In Zimbabwe, everyone accepts US dollars. The locals will try to sell you Zimbabwean bills (bills that are denominated in trillions of dollars). If you want a souvenir, sure get it. But be careful that once you buy one, everyone will swarm you and try to sell you more souvenirs.
Hostels – In Zimbabwe, book early! There’s pretty much only one hostel there.
Zimbabwe – Don’t go out alone at night, simple enough.
Transportation – it costs about $10 USD to go from the city centre of Livingstone to the Victoria Falls Bridge.
Visa – To Zimbabwe, $75 USD for Canadians, $60 USD for British and $45 USD for Americans. To Zambia, $43 USD for Canadians.
Entry fee – At Zimbabwe, it costs $30 USD. At Zambia, it costs $20 USD.