Planning a trip to Africa?  In this installment of our Africa Travel Guide Series, we visited Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe.

Victoria Falls – One of Seven Natural Wonders of the World

The Victoria Falls is one of those items in my bucket list.  Hailed as one of the seven natural wonders of the world (the other six are: Northern Lights – Aurora Borealis; Grand Canyon; Paricutin Volcano; Harbour of Rio de Janiero; Mount Everest and the Great Barrier Reef), it is undoubtedly splendid in its natural beauty.

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How to get to Victoria Falls from Johannesburg

From Johannesburg, we took a one-hour flight to Zimbabwe for a short stay in Kingdom Hotel to view the Victoria Falls.

The Victoria Falls was actually only a short distance from the Kingdom Hotel where we stayed – a 5-7 minutes drive away or 30 mins if you choose to walk.

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Should you join a Guided Tour for Victoria Falls?

While our guided tour of the Victoria Falls was part of the tour package, it was really not necessary to join such a guided tour if you can arrange your own transport to the falls.  For one thing, there wasn’t much value in joining a tour, and yet it causes limitations on the amount of freedom we had at the falls.

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Victoria Falls – The Smoke that Thunders

Victoria Falls is also known by the natives as “Mosi oa-Tunya” (“the smoke that thunders”) and just like the Niagara Falls is positioned between two counties.  In the case of the Victoria Falls, it forms the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe and is positioned almost exactly half way along the mighty Zambezi River that runs along these two countries.

Due to the immense power of the waterfall and its reputation to produce thundering smoke as we had witnessed for ourselves, it is advisable to wear a poncho and bring an umbrella if you want to visit the Victoria Falls.  Most times, the mists created by the falls reduces visibility such that only the thunderous roar of the falls can be heard.

At a rare few scenic points, it was possible to get up close with some parts of the Victoria Falls.  – this was the about the closest that we can get.  The Victoria Falls may be a much more massive waterfall than the Niagara Falls,  but unlike the Niagara Falls, the Victoria Falls is relatively undeveloped in terms of its facilities and viewing platforms.

Rainbows are always a common sight at waterfalls…

Victoria Falls was first discovered by a Scottish explorer David Livingstone in the year 1855. He proceeded to name the falls after the then-reigning Queen Victoria of Britain.  The land mass in the middle of the river from which he viewed the falls was subsequently named as Livingstone Island in his honour.  Livingstone Island is accessible from the Zambia side of the falls and unfortunately not from the Zimbabwe side.

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Viewing Points of Victoria Falls

The second viewing point of the Victoria Falls.  This is not the main falls, but even so, it occurs at a much larger scale than the Niagara Falls.

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Devil’s Cataract

At the Devil’s Cataract viewing point, where the Victoria Falls (which consists of 5 waterfalls) is at its lowest point in terms of height.  This particular waterfall is separated from the rest of the falls by Boaruka Island (also known as Cataract Island).

There are altogether 19 viewpoints of the Victoria Falls – 1 to 15 are on the Zimbabwe side, while the rest are on the Zambia side.  Viewing points 4 and 7 continue to show us different angles of the Devil’s Cataract.

From this point, it is very apparent that the waterfall is at a lower elevation than the rest of the plateau.

View point 7 is also the best place to view the main falls as opposed to viewing it directly opposite from the next few viewing points as those points tend to be shrouded with mists from the main falls, hence reducing visibility drastically.

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View of Main Falls

Viewing points 8 and 9 are the ones directly opposite the main falls.  This is where your raincoats and an umbrella will come in handy for you.

It is with sheer good luck that we manage to catch a clear glimpse of the main falls at times, before it fades into the obscurity of its mists again.

You’ll need to be there to appreciate the sheer magnitude and force of the main falls.

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Misty Victoria Falls

This was where the mists start to set in, and it felt as if there was a perpetual drizzle going on. Any hopes of getting a clear picture here diminishes.

Visibility can be almost zero at times.  The falls are actually just right in front of this couple.

Viewing Point 10 is directly opposite the main falls and the famous Devil’s Pool, a spot dangerously close to the tipping point of the falls where tourists are able to swim and submerge themselves, prevented from falling by a slippery, submerged lip of rock on the river bed.  This is of course, on the Zambian side of the falls and accessible from Livingstone Island.

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View of Livingstone Island and Horseshoe Falls

Point 11 promises a good view of the Livingstone Island and the Horseshoe Falls, but visibility here continues to be so low that nothing can be seen.

The best view of Livingstone Island at this point.  Fortunately for us, the mist cleared for a little while for us to catch a glimpse of something.

At this point, the drizzle which was actually the water splutters from the force of the Victoria Falls have turned into a full-fledged shower.  Visibility continues to be poor except for the occasional foggy glimpse of the falls.

We must have skipped Viewing Point 14 and ventured straight into Point 15 where the Victoria Falls Bridge is visible from this point. This bridge links Zimbabwe with Zambia, and is today, a busy day  for bungee jumpers.

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Zimbabwe and Zambia Border

This walk around the Zimbabwe side of the Victoria Falls took only less than half a day, and we were supposed to spend the next half of the day at the Zambia side of the Falls which would bring us to Livingstone Island and the Devil’s Pool.  We soon found that we were the only ones going to Zambia with a local tour guide (talk about getting a private tour!) but that turned out to be a major insecure point rather than a privilege.

That’s the queue to go through immigration at the Zimbabwe border with Zambia.  This would be the first immigration check point, after which we had to queue behind the same people to go through the Zambia immigration check point.  It was really unsettling to be in stark contrast and to be the only ones standing amidst the locals and being the object of intense scrutiny.  It didn’t help that the queue was crawling at a snail’s pace.  After 5 minutes of this, we accessed the situation to be unfavourable for us and forfeited this component of the tour which was already paid for, rather than to risk losing our valuables to a robbery instead.  Our advice – unless you have the safety of numbers, never embark on a private tour whether intentionally or unintentionally.

This concludes our visit to the Victoria Falls.  Join us next as we venture to Chobe National Park for another game drive!

First published 18 Feb 2018
Last updated 3 Feb 2019

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