A Visit to Victoria Falls

Beth here.

When we initially decided to visit South Africa, Vic wanted to stay in South Africa and see many different parts of that country. I, on the other hand, felt that I would rather skip part of South Africa in favor of a visit to Victoria Falls. I’ve been to Niagara Falls a couple times as a kid, and I love waterfalls! (Note: Vic will tell you a different story, but this is my post, so it’s my story.)

Victoria Falls is amazing.

Much like Niagara Falls, Victoria Falls straddles two countries: Zimbabwe and Zambia. Its local name is much more picturesque than the English one: Mosi-oa-Tunya, “the smoke that thunders.” Victoria Falls spans 2 km (1 1/4 miles), and is 100 m (328 feet) high. For those of you who’ve seen Niagara Falls, Vic Falls is twice as high! The flow is highest in April and May, then much lower from July to January. Our book claims that the spray can be seen from up to 80 km/50 miles away, but Vic and I aren’t sure about that, since we were there at peak flow time and didn’t see all that much spray from our hotel less than a mile away.

Upon arrival in Zimbabwe, we took a quick nap (guess whose idea that was!), then went directly to the falls. It was not cheap to enter the National Park — $30 per person for non-Zimbabwaeans! But it was worth every penny. I forget the name of all the different viewpoints we stopped at, but there were probably 15 different spots to view the Falls. I dressed for the spray and enjoyed the “rain” showers while Vic stayed dry with the camera.

The next day, we took a helicopter ride over the Falls. It was awesome! Our guidebook recommended taking a microlight flight instead of the helicopter, but when I learned that you had to do this alone (just you and the pilot, and you’re not allowed to carry a camera because if you drop it the engine will stop — seriously), I got too nervous. I like to stick close to Victor. The flight lasted only 15 minutes, but the photos will last forever. It was also my first time in a helicopter, which was neat.

That afternoon, we walked (walked!) to Zambia to see the other side of the Falls. This involved a 45 minute walk, including crossing the bridge that first promoted European tourism to the Falls (the railway was designed to run from Cape Town to Cairo, although I’m not sure whether it ever made it that far). The bridge’s current claim to fame is the Australian woman whose bungee cord broke and she not only lived, but was hardly injured. Interestingly, the Zimbabwe border is on the edge of the bridge, and the Zambian border post is quite some distance after you cross the bridge, so for a while you’re in a sort of no-man’s land.

Whereas on the Zimbabwean side you could sort of choose how wet you wanted to get, on the Zambian side you had no choice but to get drenched. Since we weren’t 10 minutes from our hotel like we were in Zimbabwe, I rented a raincoat and Vic used the umbrella we borrowed from the hotel. In order to see most of the falls on the Zambian side, you have to cross this metal bridge (thankfully not rickety, but a bit slippery with algae) that was under a deluge of water. The “rain” is why we don’t have pictures from the Zambian side.

I would love to go back to Victoria Falls some day. I would really like to go at the full moon — apparently you can see a lunar rainbow; I can’t even imagine what that looks like! It would also be fun to go at a different time of the year to see it when there’s less water. I’m not sure whether I’m really interested in navigating the rapids (which are after the falls) or swimming right up to the edge of the falls in the Devil’s Pool, both options are only available during low water.

For anyone considering a trip to southern Africa, be sure to include two days in Victoria Falls. It is so worth it to be able to see the Falls from both countries and from the air!

  • Victoria Falls - Zimbabwe - 01
  • Victoria Falls - Zimbabwe - 02
  • Victoria Falls - Zimbabwe - 03
  • Victoria Falls - Zimbabwe - Double Rainbow
  • Victoria Falls - Zimbabwe - 05
  • Victoria Falls - Zimbabwe - 06
  • Victoria Falls - Zimbabwe - Beth Getting Sprayed
  • Victoria Falls - Zimbabwe - Beth at the Falls
  • Victoria Falls - Zimbabwe - Beth at the Falls
  • Victoria Falls - Zimbabwe - Beth at the Falls
  • Victoria Falls - Zimbabwe - 11
  • Victoria Falls - Zimbabwe - 12
  • Victoria Falls - Zimbabwe - 13
  • Victoria Falls - Helicopter View - Upper Falls
  • Victoria Falls - Helicopter View - The Falls from Above
  • Victoria Falls - Helicopter View - Looking Back at the Falls
  • Victoria Falls - Helicopter View - River Canyons
  • Victoria Falls - Helicopter View - The Falls from Above
  • Victoria Falls - Helicopter View - The Falls from Above
  • Victoria Falls - Helicopter View - Falls and Spray
  • Victoria Falls - Zambia - Nothing But Spray
  • Victoria Falls - Zambia - 02
  • Victoria Falls - Zambia - 03

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