Victoria Falls (often simply called The Falls) is one of the largest waterfalls in the world and the tallest waterfall in Africa. Of all the non-safari activities in Africa that typical first-time visitors will inquire about, a trip to The Falls is on top of the list. Along with the Nile River, Sahara Desert, the Serengeti and Mt. Kilimanjaro, Victoria Falls is one of the best-known geographic features in Africa.
Forming the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia, the Zambezi River’s 108-meter waterfall is a popular destination for travelers to Southern Africa. Explore the majestic falls on a footbridge close enough to be drenched by the warm mist or from an aerial viewpoint on a helicopter tour. The breathtaking waterfall, considered the largest sheet of falling water in the world, is certainly worth a visit if it fits into your safari plans.
Decisions about the Falls
Once you decide to go to Victoria Falls your next decisions are (1) which side (Zimbabwe or Zambia), (2) how long to stay, and (3) where to stay.
First, it is important to note that no matter which side you choose, it is easy to visit the other because it is a short (less than one hour) walk between them.
If you are on safari in Zimbabwe or Zambia, we suggest you choose the same country for your visit to The Falls. By choosing the same country you can save money on visa fees and logistics. You will likely save transfer time as well. If your safari plans include a visit to Botswana, the “which side” decision may come down to your travel goals when considering logistics, cost and entry requirements for Zambia or Zimbabwe. Your Travel Beyond consultant will discuss these considerations with you during a trip consultation.
It is not uncommon for our clients to express some fear when we suggest visiting the Zimbabwe side of The Falls. Unfortunately, Zimbabwe does get more than its fair share of negative press coverage. In reality, the destinations we send our clients are far removed from any of the political centers where unrest has occurred. Advising someone to not visit Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe would be the equivalent of telling someone to not visit Yellowstone because of violence in Los Angeles.
Zimbabwe is one of Travel Beyond’s favorite safari destinations and one of the most surprising places we send our clients. They simply love it! If you follow our owner Craig Beal on Trip Advisor or other forums he has often described Zimbabwe as the best value for money in all of Africa. For the past three years, Craig has been the only person on Travel + Leisure’s annual A-List of the World’s best Travel Agents specifically listed as an expert on Zimbabwe.
The town of Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe is best described as a resort town. It is safe to walk around and enjoy modern restaurants, four- and five-star hotels, an 18-hole golf course, tennis courts, and plenty of activities. The Zimbabwean people are also very warm and friendly, albeit a bit eager to sell their wares at times.
Another factor that may influence the “which side” decision is the time of year. The Falls can often be completely dry on the Zambia side from late August until December based on historical weather patterns. Even if the Falls are dry on the Zambia side you can still see water flowing on the Zimbabwe side from the Zambia side, however, the experience is different. Your Travel Beyond consultant will advise you on the pros and cons of each side give the time of year of your visit.
There is one unique experience which can only be had when visiting the Zambia side during the dry season: a visit to Devils Pool. Devil’s Pool is one of the most unique natural attractions The Falls has to offer. If you dare to swim in Devil’s Pool, a guide can hold your legs while you hang over the edge of The Falls!
The final consideration in determining on which side of The Falls to stay is wildlife viewing. Many of our clients are trying to complete a Big Five Safari (elephant, buffalo, rhino, leopard and lion) in Botswana, Zimbabwe or Zambia during their trip. While on safari in these countries, it can be difficult to see rhino. It is possible (although not guaranteed) to see rhino in Livingstone, Zambia, making a visit to the Zambia side ideal for wildlife enthusiasts. There are several rhino in the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park, which is 10 miles upstream from The Falls in Zambia. The rhino here are in the wild but they are closely monitored by anti-poaching paramilitary forces.
Game drives to see these rhino are included in the rates at some of our favorite properties on the Zambia side. Game drives can also be purchased as an activity from the concierge desk when staying at most other properties in the area.
As a general rule, you won’t see rhino in the wild anywhere else in Zambia; however, there is a small chance you will see them in Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe. In Botswana, there is also a small possibility to see rhino during a stay at Mombo Camp and a much smaller chance to see them anywhere else in Northern Botswana. If it is the Big Five you are after, a stay in Livingstone, Zambia instead of Zimbabwe may be the best option!
How long to stay
Deciding how many nights to stay depends on your interests, budget, and overall travel plans. If your lifetime travel bucket list includes visiting Victoria Falls and you are simply “checking it off the list,” then one night may be enough. Otherwise, there are plenty of activities available to warrant a 2-3 night visit, including a sunset cruise, helicopter ride, zip lining and bungee jumping.
More commonly, our clients stay for two nights and visit The Falls in the middle of their full day. Tours of The Falls can be scheduled with a private guide, group or you can visit on your own. If you choose to book a guide, you can do so ahead of time with Travel Beyond or on arrival at the concierge desk at your hotel or resort.
Where to stay
Our consultants hold salaried positions and do not earn commission on sales. We contract directly or through local consolidators with every accommodation option rated four-star and above on both sides of The Falls. Therefore, our recommendations are biased only by our consultant’s personal experiences and the information they learn about you during your consultation(s). It is important to share as much as you can about your previous travels, likes, dislikes, budget and travel style with your consultant so he or she can help you decide. There are too many accommodation options to discuss in this post. One reason to consider an option away from The Falls is because of the tourist helicopter noise. This can often be heard mid-day when staying at the hotels that are in close proximity to The Falls.