Victoria Falls: “Smoke That Thunders”
By Tab Hauser
If you are in Africa doing the safari lodge hop, consider a two-night stay at Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe.
We arrived here from South Africa after spending eight days at two game lodges and before moving on to two more places in Botswana. Visiting the falls was a break needed after sitting in 4X4’s much of the previous week.
Two nights here meant sleeping past sunrise, doing some walking, and having dinner without a group of people. All this while seeing one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
World’s Largest Waterfalls
Victoria Falls is considered the world’s largest waterfall due to its size. It is actually five different falls spanning 1.05 miles between Zambia and Zimbabwe with a 354-foot drop.
When compared to Niagara Falls, it is twice as high and twice as wide as its main section. The locals call Victoria Falls “the smoke that thunders” in their native language because it is loud and you can see the spray rise up from 30 miles away.
Seventy-five percent of the falls are viewable from Zimbabwe and twenty-five percent from Zambia. The water that dumps into the gorge is a spectacular sight.
Viewing the Falls
My recommendation is to visit either at the beginning of the rainy season as the water starts to ramp up or towards the end when the river level starts to lower.
We met Zimbabwean farmers out for the day that have visited the falls at different times. They said, with too much water,
you get soaked and the gorge fills with mist so it is hard to see. In the dry season, the falls can be a trickle leaving not much to view. Our mid-December visit had the river running a little drier than usual. We found the view on the Zimbabwean side awesome with the Zambia side nearly dried up.
15 Minute Walk
To get to the falls we were happy to walk 15 minutes to the park entrance. (Taxis are $4.) The ticket fee is $30 which is good for one entrance. There you get a trail map with numbers that explains everything from the Livingston statue to each of the falls and gorge.
We visited the park twice in the two days because of the change in lighting and to just take it all in again. The walk at the park is easy and well-marked. Take your time at the different viewing points. Bring a waterproof bag to keep the camera and phone dry.
A hat is important to keep the hot sun off you and hides a bad hair day as it is misty and humid here. Allow 90 minutes for a leisurely stroll. Click here for a 25-second video
Other activities at the falls include a hike to Devils Pool that must be booked in advance.
Here, when the river conditions are good, you will be guided to the scary edge of the falls to a natural small pool.
At the pool, you will have thebest Instagram photo of poking your head and shoulders over the edge with the top of falls next to you. This is not for anyone remotely afraid of heights.
Zambia Zimbabwe Border
During your visit go to the Victoria Falls Bridge. The bridge is neutral space between Zambia and Zimbabwe so bring your passport in case someone wants to see it when you go by the border post on the way back. (We did not see anyone that visited the bridge get stopped.)
In the middle of the bridge, you can see the Zambia side of the falls looking straight down the gorge.
Here the daredevil in you can bungee jump 365 feet in four seconds over the Zambezi River.
Kiss at the Border
For something easier, try a “two country kiss” at the borderline. On the bridge, you may be approached by souvenirs sellers.
If you are not interested in anything just tell them you left your money in your hotel or they will follow you halfway back to the border post.
Sundowners and Wildlife on the River
For the evening in Victoria Falls relax on a Wild Horizon Zambezi River sundowner wildlife cruise. (Sundowner is British for sunset cocktails that are included) During our pleasant boat ride we
We also viewed crocodiles and hippo’s growling at us near the shore. The cruise ended with a glowing sunset. After disembarking have the driver drop you off at the River Brewery whose humorous claim to fame is being the closest brewery to a natural wonder. We found the atmosphere fun, the beer good and the food to be what you would expect from a pub.
For our two nights, we loved the old world charm of the Victoria Falls Hotel (www.victoria-falls-hotel.com).
This “leading hotels of the world” property is an elegant Edwardian style five-star place filled with old furniture, photos, art and posters from the old empire days.
The staff here is excellent. Our room was spacious, well air-conditioned and decorated with old travel trunks that worked as dressers and a mini-bar.
I highly recommend the pool as a wonderful escape from the mid-day heat. Here we watched the warthogs mowing the lawn while floating with a cocktail.
During the week they have a cultural dance buffet dinner show worth watching.
Victoria Falls tourism: https://victoriafallstourism.org/
Park details: https://zimparks.org/parks/national-parks/victoria-falls
River cruise and area attractions: www.wildhorizons.co.za
Read my related Gonomad safari story visiting four lodges