It’s revered as one of the natural world’s great spectacles, and the raw power of the mighty Zambezi River plunging 108m into the mighty Victoria Falls has spawned awe and legends for centuries.
The untamed energy of the waterfall once compelled the tribes in the area to sacrifice jewellery to the river to appease it. These days the only gold you’re likely to see being cast into the river are the hues of the African sun in the spray of the falls.
But the folklore around the spectacular cataract is just one of the many drawcards of this destination, along with renowned hospitality and activities to cater to every taste.
The area has the nickname “The Boulevard of Zs” because it’s the part of the Zambezi River where zebras drink and Zambia and Zimbabwe meet. You’ll see much more than striped members of the horse family though.
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It’s become a rite of passage for visitors to take one of the many sunset cruises offered on the stretch of river above the falls. There’s a good reason for that popularity: on this beautiful stretch of river it’s common to see massive herds of elephants of all ages drinking and bathing. You can watch five generations of pachyderms – from long-tusked elders to fuzz-headed newcomers – relax. You’ll be close enough to hear their splashing and distinctive, contented, deep-bass rumbling while you sip a cocktail or champagne and enjoy snacks. Some cruises offer a full supper aboard.
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The white-water rafting on the Zambezi has been described as the most exciting in the world and remains a drawcard for visitors looking for a once-off burst of adrenalin, as well as lifelong devotees to adventure-sports. Excursions range from a morning in the waters of the Batoka Gorge, to five-night trips that combine fishing, game-watching and camping with braving the Zambezi.
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A number of operators on the Zimbabwe and Zambia side of Victoria Falls offer a variety of adventure-sports, including bridge-swings, bungee-jumps and zip-wire slides. All taking full advantage of the chasm carved by the river and allow for stomach-swooping fun with a strong emphasis on safety. One option that’s less intense than the free-fall of bungee-jumping is the Flying Fox, where you slide along a zipline in a horizontal position, and as the name suggests, it feels a little like flying.
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The mists of the falls have helped nurture the lush Batoka Forest, with dense, hardwood riverine vegetation that’s a haven for a beautiful bounty of wildlife. The Vic Falls Canopy Tour offers a network of zipline slides, trails and rope-bridge walkways. You’ll be accompanied by guides and can expect to see a variety of animals, including Peregrine Falcons, Knysna Louries, Vervet monkeys, small antelope and primates.
The falls can send mist up to 800m in the air, which can be seen from 50km away. You might see multiple rainbows, a mesmerising dance of colour in the sky. And if you’re fortunate enough to visit the falls at full moon there may be a moonbow, a rainbow lit by the full moon: unforgettable
The Victoria Falls Hotel prides itself on offering the best dining in the town. The beautiful, Edwardian-era building has been updated with some deft modern touches and facilities to suit your mood. Fancy some fine-dining? There’s a seven-course degustation menu and an acclaimed wine-list. For sundowners the Stanley’s Bar is the ideal spot for pre-dinner drinks with a selection of good local and imported beers and signature cocktails. The hotel has relaxed its dress-code a little over the years but retains a little of the dress-up-for-dinner style of the days of yore.
In the dry season, stout-hearted visitors can slip into a pool at the very edge of the cataract at Livingstone Island, and peer over the slippery lip of rock into the abyss. Heed the experienced guides who escort you there, take a deep breath and earn some serious bragging rights.
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What you need to know if you go:
- Visa requirements: Vic Falls is accessible via both Zimbabwe and Zambia and these are visa-free border-crossing break for South Africans with a valid passport for a stay up to 90 days. The destination is also accessible via air with a number of carriers servicing the destination from SA, including British Airways (operated by Comair) offering daily flights to Zimbabwe from OR Tambo.
- Currency: US Dollar - 1$ = about R14.79 or Zambian Kwacha - 1 Kwacha = R1.25*
- Travel adapter: Type C, D and G.
- Time Zone: Same as South Africa (GMT+2).
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