Set between Zambia and Zimbabwe, Victoria Falls is the largest and perhaps the most beautiful Falls in the world. Here the Zambezi River is over a mile wide and plunges into a vertical abyss across its entire width, with the force of the falling water sending spray clouds high into the air – giving rise to the African name, “Mosi oa Tunya,” or the smoke that thunders. In recent years the Falls have become busier than ever, and there is plenty to do and see – here are the highlights.
Visit the Falls
The Falls themselves are a true wonder to behold, and many of our clients opt to visit them as part of a guided ‘Insider’s Victoria Falls’ tour. Stroll through the rainforest along the first gorge, a route that makes for a magnificent natural observation gallery with 16 viewing points. Enjoy the panoramic views of the entire “curtain of falling water”, and learn the fascinating history behind the 650 ft (198m) Victoria Falls Bridge, a feat of engineering that was completed in 1905.
Tip: If you’re planning to visit on your own, we recommend visiting in the afternoon from May to September. Not only is it quieter than in the morning, but you’ll see more rainbows. From October to December, try to visit at sunrise as the early morning mist takes on an incredible golden hue.
Tip: If you’re lucky enough to visit during a full moon, it’s worth returning at night to try and spot a lunar rainbow.
Next up, is a visit to the Elephant Walk Shopping and Artists’ Village, run by a collective to promote local artists. There’s a small museum where you can learn about Zimbabwe’s indigenous ethnic groups, and stores include Prime Art Gallery, which has works by the world-renowned sculptor Dominic Benhura, and The Ndau Collection workshop, where artisans create custom-made jewelry, crocodile-skin handbags and organic fragrances.
If there’s time you can go on a tour of Chinotimba Township, where the vast majority of local residents live. This is followed by lunch at the very popular Lookout Café, perched on the rim of the Batoka Gorge, which is a perfect spot to enjoy the views along with a delicious lunch.
The Eatery Potjie and Cruise
For something fun and a little different, learn how to make a traditional potjiekos, followed by a scenic sunset cruise down the Zambezi. A potjie is a cast-iron pot used to make stews over an open fire, and on this fun afternoon activity on the banks of the Zambezi, you’ll make your own under the guidance of a chef – choose from lamb, beef, fish or vegetables and add stock, spices and wine to taste. The little pots are then left to simmer while you enjoy a sunset cruise. On your return enjoy a 3-course meal with your carefully prepared pot as the main course.
Lunch or High Tea at the Victoria Falls Hotel
Victoria Falls Hotel has earned international acclaim for its Edwardian elegance and charm, and Stanley’s Terrace serves a very good a la carte lunch or a traditional high tea with sandwiches, scones and cakes – swap the tea for champagne if you like.
The grounds are just gorgeous, the lawn is immaculate and you can see the spray of the Falls. Check out some of the communal rooms on the ground floor as they’re a veritable museum of colonial extravagance and a history lesson as well.
A Sunset Cruise on the Zambezi River
There’s nothing more peaceful than watching the setting sun over the Zambezi with a nice cold beer in hand – or perhaps a G&T – and a sunset cruise is just the way to do it; watch out for wildlife such as hippos, elephants, antelope and giraffe along the way.
Seating a maximum of 20 guests, The Victoria is the only luxury safari boat that can access the lower part of the Zambezi River and the body of islands that form the entrance to the Victoria Falls. You’ll be accompanied by a captain/guide and a chef who will prepare gourmet canapes and sushi, and there’s a full bar plus toilet facilities on board. Transfers will be arranged to and from your hotel – expect to be away for 3 hours in total. Early bird travelers should also consider enjoying a sunrise cruise when the river is quieter and the only sounds are the morning bird calls and gentle hippo honks. The mellow light of dawn is just beautiful.
It’s not for nothing that Victoria Falls is known as the Adrenalin Capital of Southern Africa. The brave at heart can partake in bungee jumping – the 111 m freefall from the Victoria Falls Bridge makes it the highest in the world. For a freefall of a different flavor, try tandem skydiving, while helicopter or microlight flights allow you a stunning bird’s eye view of the Falls.
The Zambezi is also famous for its Grade 5 rapids. The best time to go white-water rafting is from August to late December when the water is low. It may be possible to go for a shorter trip from January to March and May to July – when you’ll skip the first 10 out of the total 19 rapids as high-water levels make them too dangerous.
You can also spend a half or full day exploring the Falls from the Zambian side, visit Livingstone Island, take a dip in Devil’s Pool or enjoy historical visits to the local museums.
Spend some quality time with elephants. On the Elephant Art Safari, you can visit a herd of rescued elephants and enjoy an interaction with the herd as well as a painting lesson, followed by lunch. Another option is a visit to an elephant sanctuary and orphanage. For this activity, you will venture out into the bush to spend time with the elephants up close, and witness the special relationship the elephant keepers share with the animals. You will also have the opportunity to take photographs with the elephants, marvel at their size and watch them go about their business and interact with one another.
Dinner at the Boma or The Eatery
The Boma Restaurant is a classic tourist venue set on the lovely grounds of the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge. Dinner at the Boma is a legendary affair, with what looks like literally hundreds of local dishes served buffet style, including impala terrine and sadza. A witchdoctor is available to tell your fortune by throwing his bones; dancers entertain with Shona and Ndebele acts, and then … there’s the vat of Mopane worms which are a hoot to try. Yes, it’s touristy, but it’s very well done and a lot of fun. For an al fresco dining experience there is The Eatery at the Pure Africa Waterfront, where a delicious three-course meal is served by lantern light and enjoyed perched on the banks of the Zambezi River, under a star-studded African sky. The meal features African infused dishes prepared to perfection with high quality ingredients, accompanied by your drink of choice. On arrival gather around the fire-pit before following the lanterns to your table for dinner with the roar of the distant Falls, the grunting hippos and call of the fiery-necked nightjar for company. Another popular spot is The Three Monkeys, which serves simple food done well, such as pizza, burgers and salads, all at reasonable prices. It’s open every day of the week, and there’s a great deck for outside dining. If you have an hour or so to spare check out the snake park next door – run primarily as a rehabilitation center, it’s home to all sorts of venomous African snakes. For the adventurous, you’ll get a chance to handle a (non-venomous one) if you like.