Cape Town – Hands up if exploring the neighbouring countries of SA is a top priority on your bucket list…
There’s no denying it – South Africans love their border crossing breaks. According to the official 2015 Tourism report by the Department of Home Affairs, a total of 39 573 000 people migrated through the country's ports last year.
And most South African travellers visiting the SADC countries also do so by land, the DHA’s study found. A total of 3 354 855 South Africans departed the country in 2015 by road, often trekking thousands of kilometres with camper vans and 4x4 trailers to explore places like the Victoria Falls, Okavango Delta and Caprivi strip.
This despite the fact new visa regulations for minor travellers in SA came into effect over the long winter school holiday last year, when most South Africans trek over the borders with their families.
SA’s revised visa rules: What you need to know
Last year, and in previous years, border-crossing breaks were reserved for the fortunate ones with 4x4 Toyota Land Cruisers and camping gear fit to withstand the apocalypse.
But with new cheap flights connecting OR Tambo and Zim, such extremes are optional. AfriTravel is becoming more and more accessible to South Africans.
Firstly, the addition of a new airport on the Zimbabwean side has breathed new life into the tourist-driven town of Victoria Falls.
Aircraft carrying international travellers descend on the new airport regularly, despite the fact that it is still under construction at some parts.
Which is more, low-cost African carrier fastjet’s first flight between Johannesburg in South Africa and Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe took to the skies in March this year, opening up the destination as a very viable weekend escape for South Africans.
In fact, the direct flight from OR Tambo to the Falls is shorter than the flight from Cape Town to Joburg, if you’re travelling from the Mother City!
There’s one hurdle for Saffas travelling to Zim – their new US dollar currency, currently at R15.66/$1. So while we have highly recommended taking the plunge and splurging on these once-in-a-lifetime experiences, it’s best advised you plan in advance and save up before you go.
If you need a holiday to make you feel 10 years younger, consider these 5 Once-in-a-lifetime things to do at the Vic Falls for your next #WeekendEscape:
A 'Flight of Angels' Helicopter Flip
Why do it?
This is the perfect start to a day of extreme adventure in Vic Falls. You get to see the playground from up above, and it is really something ‘gazed upon by angels in flight’, as Livingstone once said.
What it will cost you: $150, plus $12 government fees paid at check-in, which works out at about R2 500
Do the Big Air Experience
Why do it?
Because you’re bat shit crazy… Why only bungee jump when you can freefall over the Zambezi three times in a row? The Big Air Experience consist of a bridge slide, bridge swing and bungee jump – in that order of extremity.
And here’s a heads up – it doesn’t get easier the more times you jump. But nothing beats that addictive adrenaline rush you get afterwards!
What it will cost you: $210, or R3 300. It sounds expensive, but the three activities individually will cost you $295… so one jump is practically free.
ALSO READ: Who jumps off a bridge for fun?
Swim in the Devil’s Pool
Why do it?
For the photos! We’re willing to shamelessly admit that sometimes, getting that perfect photo is all that matters.
Plus, this is quite an exclusive Vic Falls experience. Only 16 guests may visit at any one time during five daily departures. Access is restricted to a maximum of 80 visitors per day. Whether you get to swim in the pool, is also depended on the water levels of the Zambezi. The best time to go is during low water season, approximately end of August to December.
Needless to say, you need to book in advance.
What it will cost you: From $95, or around R1 500, including refreshments
River raft the Zambezi
Why do it?
Who wouldn’t want to raft rapids like "Morning Glory, Devils Toilet Bowl and Oblivion”? A white water or high water trip takes you through, under and over a total of 22 rapids on the Zambezi. These are grade 5 rapids, meaning "extremely difficult, long and violent rapids, steep gradients, big drops and pressure areas", so expect to get wet.
High water trips (when the Zambezi is stronger, from February - July) or low water trips (from July – mid-February) can be organised. Low water trips are recommended, as they are more adrenaline pumped and fun. During this season, day trips are conducted between rapids 1 and 18.
The "high water" run follows after fresh inflow from the catchment areas in Angola and Zambia. The water rises and flows more rapidly and the day trips move downstream from rapids 11 to 23.
Note: There is also a ‘closed season’ around April or May when the river is at its highest and unsafe for rafters.
What it will cost you: Between $140 and $190, or between R2 000 and R3 000, including meals and refreshments
Do a sunset cruise
Why do it?
You’ll need to relax after a day of adrenaline, and nothing beats a tranquil cruise on the very river that’s been causing your heart to race the whole day. You’re almost guaranteed to see hippos and crocodiles, but the birdlife and sunset are the certain highlights. It’s like a scene from The Lion King – seeing the African sun melt into the Zambezi River.
What it will cost you: Around $50, plus $10 National Parks fees paid at check-in. Amounts to around R930, including drinks
Where to stay?
If you’re going all out ‘once-in-a-lifetime’, you need to stay at a Vic Falls establishment. Our Top 3 choices are:
The Kingdom Hotel
A 14-minute walk from the iconic Victoria Falls, The Kingdom Hotel is a Omani-style resort hotel built around a man-made lake which sometimes even contain small crocodiles! The best part about staying in this hotel is getting up at dawn, taking a brisk stroll to the Vic Falls and being the first and only person at this incredible world wonder. When the other tourists arrive, you'll be back at the hotel, enjoying breakfast already!
Cost: From R3 634 per night
Victoria Falls Hotel
As befits the Falls’ oldest luxury hotel, the Victoria Falls Hotel sits right on a bend of the Zambezi River that overlooks the falls. The hotel was built one year ahead of when construction at the famed Victoria Falls bridge started, and still exudes original colonial Edwardian charm.
Cost: From R2 189 per night
The Elephant Hills Resort is set 5km from Victoria Falls, overlooking the Zambezi River. It situated on the same premises from where the 'Flight of Angels' depart, and is also only 2km from the Zambezi River Cruise Terminal - perfect if you're on an adrenaline fueled escape.
There’s a massive outdoor pool, as well as an 18-hole golf course, the only one in the Victoria Falls.
Cost: From R3 278 per night
What to read next on Traveller24:
- New Victoria Falls International Airport terminal opens
- fastjet’s Vic Falls to Joburg service takes to the skies
- Vic Falls gets a face lift: 3 Exciting improvements