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5 Things To Do At Victoria Falls
As soon as I announced to my family that I was going to Africa, my dad immediately jumped on board. We chose #Zambia, because we wanted to explore the famous Victoria Falls. Despite a late start (ahem, a very long layover), we had an #active trip, finally making it to the Falls, with several other #activities on the side.
Last Christmas at home, when I broke the news that I wanted to travel to Africa, and my dad instantly said, "I’ll join you!"
I jumped head over heels into planning our adventure. Having never visited the continent before, I was pretty much open for any destination really, and with my dad being a TV nature documentary adventurer at heart, we quickly decided to see one of Africa’s most impressive natural features: Victoria Falls.
I jumped head over heels into planning our adventure.
The Falls are at the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe and although every travel guide tells you to visit them from both sides, we were only left with one full day to spend. So, we had to remain on the Zambian side (thanks, new favorite airline, who kept me stuck in Dubai for 24 hours and made me lose an entire day at the Falls…) Either way, there is plenty to do and see, so I’d advise to plan a few days in the area to take everything in. Here are five things that will make your trip to Victoria Falls from the Zambian side unforgettable.
1) Microlight Flight
I didn’t want to believe other people telling me, but the microlight flight over Victoria Falls indeed belongs to the most amazing experiences of my life. I almost didn’t do it, telling my dad he could fly with the death machine on his own, but then I realized I would just be jealous, and went for it anyway. It was worth it. Strapped in tightly and connected to Andre, the pilot in front of me, via radio, we took off and up to 1,500 feet above ground.
After a few moments of fear, my grip around my seat loosened until I had my hands in my lap, waving at the GoPro attached to the wings or pointing out interesting features down below. First we soared high above the Falls, then dropped a few hundred meters to get lower to the spray (never flying through it though) and crossing over into Zimbabwean air space. Over there I could see the famous historical Victoria Falls Hotel (apparently THE top address for High Tea), but also some elephants, impala antelopes and a massive crocodile on a sandbank. Crossing over the river upstream again, I could spot a group of hippos in the water.
Victoria Falls River Safaris
Zambezi Queen Safari
Walking With Lions in Zambia
Every now and then Andre turned off the propeller, leaving the plane to glide through the air – that’s what freedom feels like. After 15 minutes time was up and we returned down, me with knees shaking and Andre ready for his next flight. Batoka Sky has long years of experience of flying over Victoria Falls, and we booked the tour through Livingstone’s Adventure.
I’m incredibly scared of heights, but being a little afraid is just natural – it shouldn’t keep you from an experience like this. Microlights are very safe, as even if the engine fails, you still have the wings to keep you up in the air. For a matter of safety it is not allowed to bring a camera with you, as it could break the propeller, which is right behind the passenger seat. Of course I was gutted that I couldn’t take my own photos, but that’s why they have a GoPro on every plane taking a shot each couple of seconds. A CD with all photos can be purchased afterwards for $20.
2) Canoeing On The Mighty Zambezi
If I’m close to a river, chances are that I will want to jump into a canoe or kayak and explore its waterways. The mighty Zambezi river, Zambia’s longest and Africa’s forth-largest river, should not come as an exception. Calm canoe tours are much better to check out wildlife and nature, than adrenaline-rushing rafting tours, so instead of braving the wild rapids below the Falls, we booked a half-day canoe tour on the Upper Zambezi (with Makora Quest, also through Livingstone’s Adventure).
About 30km upstream, far away from the edge and as calm as a gigantic bath tub, we explored the shore but also a few little islands in the middle of the river. In this area the Zambezi is around 800m wide, but further upstream it can span several kilometers. From the safety of the canoes and with our great guides taking care of most of the paddling, we saw hippos, crocodiles, several species of birds and some fish hunting for insects on the surface. We did about 9km in the boats and had a quick lunch by the water before heading back to town.
3) White Wine Place: Royal Livingstone Hotel
One of the most impressive things about Victoria Falls is the spray, which can be seen from up to 50km away and reaches a couple hundred meters into the air. One of the most beautiful views, and perfect location for a chilled glass of white wine, is the waterfront terrace of the Royal Livingstone Hotel, a five-star resort just a few kilometers upstream.
The restaurant and bar are open to visitors, so you don’t have to stay there to enjoy the views. After the canoe tour this was the perfect pitstop to prepare for a close encounter with the Falls. The hotel is fenced in and is home to a couple of impalas, zebras and a giraffe, so taking a walk around the grounds is totally worth it, as they are used to humans and won’t run off before you can snap a pic.
4) Walking Tour: The Victoria Falls
Walking the trails leading up and around Victoria Falls simply has to be done, even if you have to pay a little fee at the checkpoint to get in. Doing the three main trails with plenty of photo stops should take you around 2 hours. The paths are all flat, but slippery at times. I’d recommend to wear a long rain poncho or quick drying trousers and a rain coat, and open sandals (not canvas shoes which take ages to dry). If you come here between May and October, you will get soaked! Before the wettest bit of the path, there is a little shop where you can rent ponchos as well.
As we had already been upstream and seen the spray from the hotel terrace, we didn’t walk the Upstream Trail, but went straight for the Rainforest Trail to Danger Point. From this path you get a great view of the Falls which are 1.7km wide and drop 108m down.
The path leads out onto the rainforest head which you reach over a small and wet bridge. The spray from the Falls is so strong you could think you’re caught in a thunderstorm in Scotland – just warmer. The vegetation is lush green and photo ops are plenty, just make sure you don’t give your camera a bath. Sometimes the mist is so dense, all you can see is a white wall. To dry we finished our tour with the Photographic Trail which leads almost all the way to Victoria Falls Bridge, connecting Zambia and Zimbabwe. Even here, well one or two kilometers away from the Falls you can still feel the spray in your face.
The spray from the Falls is so strong you could think you’re caught in a thunderstorm in Scotland – just warmer.
5) Cultural Village Tour
We stayed at Taita Falcon Lodge which is located 11km downstream, overlooking the gorge the Zambezi River inhabits below Victoria Falls. It can only be reached via a bumpy dirt road, 30 minutes through the bush. Along the way, you pass through a local village, where about 3,000 people live. They farm the rocky land, but more for sustainability rather than to sell crops.
Hotel Taita Falcon Lodge
They earn a living with their handcrafts which they sell at the Victoria Falls Checkpoint and at the crafts market in the village. The lodge offers guided tours through the village, where you can meet the locals, see how they build their traditional houses out of materials from the bush, visit one of the village’s ten churches and also its school. The lodge and the village co-exist in perfect harmony, benefitting from each other – I would have loved to do the tour, but as I said in the beginning, we were robbed of a day at the lodge and instead I saw the insides of Dubai Mall…
By the way, you can get here quite easily – either on a direct flight from Lusaka or Johannesburg, by over-night train from Lusaka (apparently the new first class train is quite good) or by bus leaving Lusaka at 6:00am several times a day. We chose the latter and went with the reputable Mazhandu Family Bus, also known as ‘Blue Bus’ because their busses are blue – duh. The drive takes about 6.5 hours (beware there’s only one 10 minute toilet break halfway through) and the ticket costs roughly 140 Zambian Kwacha (~US$20). To buy a ticket you need to go to the bus terminal the day before or at least an hour before your preferred departure. With your ticket, you will get an allocated seat which you have to claim 30 minutes before departure.
Even though our trip to Victoria Falls did not entirely come out as planned, we had a fantastic time, soaking in as much from the Falls as we could – quite literally.
There are numerous other activities in the area, but if you find yourself with only one or two days to spare, these five favourites will definitely give you a great time.