My expectations were shattered when I got to Victoria Falls; they were absolutely spectacular! I was a bit skeptical of the area due to the amount of travelers it receives annually but these feelings were physically washed away by a torrent of rain while walking the Falls trail. The common name for the falls (Mosi oa Tunya) translates to “The Smoke that Thunders” because as you approach you can see the plumes of mist rising from what seems to be a giant fissure in the earth and start to hear a deep roaring sound. The falls are split between Zimbabwe and Zambia, with 2/3 of the falls located on the Zambian side but the main channel of water located on the Zimbabwe side.
Which is better? It depends on season, as the water flow greatly varies from rainy to dry season. From Dec-July you’re going to see water and spray on both sides. From August until November the Zambian side slows to a trickle and the best viewing will be near the main channel on the Zimbabwe side. It’s not impossible to cross the border and do a tour on both sides to get the full experience, but it will cost you a little extra in visa fees. On my recent trip I was based upriver of the falls at Toka Leya Camp. One of the highlights for me (besides the Falls themselves) was the sunset wildlife boat ride. While I’m sure the passengers aboard the African Queen and other large sundowner boats were enjoying the gorgeous sunset (embellished with a few cocktails), we had the advantage of being in a small boat with just 5 other people and a highly skilled naturalist guide. We darted up and down the river looking for birds and hippos and caught a large herd of elephants, trunks up and bobbing in a close knit group to cross the mighty river. The other unique advantage of my stay in Zambia was tracking white rhino on foot in Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park. Relocated from S. Africa, this small group is carefully being monitored. There aren’t many places in the world can you experience such rhinos on the same eye level and this was one of those cool experiences that was definitely worth it.
The bottom line is that on either side of the Falls, Zambian or Zimbabwean, there is a whole host of cool additional tours including, helicopter rides, microlight flights, bungee jumping, whitewater rafting, rhino visits or day tours up to Chobe National Park. It’s an excellent jumping off or transition point to any safari; whether you’re going on to Chobe and the Okavango Delta on a Botswana safari, The Lower Zambezi or South Luangwa on safari in Zambia, or Hwange and Mana Pools on a safari in Zimbabwe.
Check out more from my recent safari in Southern Africa:
Keeping it wild,
Wildland Africa Program Director