"Scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight" - David Livingstone
Victoria Falls, known by the locals as 'Mosi-oa-Tunya' which means 'the Smoke that Thunders', is regarded as one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The Victoria Falls span some 1700 m across making it the largest curtain of water in the world during high water. It drops about 100m over a sheet of basalt rock rumbling and crashing like thunder into the Zambezi Gorge below. The vast cloud of mist that it creates can reach 400m high and be seen from 40 km away.
Remarkably preserved in its natural state, Victoria Falls inspires visitors as much today as it did David Livingstone in 1855. The Victoria Falls and the surrounding area have been declared National Parks and a World Heritage Site, thus preserving the area from excessive commercialisation. The continuous spray creates a rainforest ecosystem, a nature sanctuary rich in fauna and flora.
You may ask what the best time of the year is to see Victoria Falls. The Victoria Falls and its spectacular flow of water can be enjoyed throughout most of the year. The volume of water cascading over the falls is entirely dependent on the rainfall in the catchment area of the Zambezi River.
High water is from February to mid July:
The Victoria Falls is at its highest and most spectacular, thundering over the edge and creating its thick cloud of mist. Prepare to be drenched when viewing the falls! River rafting and river boarding down the Zambezi River is sometimes closed between mid March and early May because the river becomes unsafe. I believe this is the best time to enjoy a scenic helicopter and microlight flight over the falls to get the full appreciation of the Zambezi's immense power.
Low water is from July to end January:
Low water season has its advantages too as visitors are able to fully appreciate the geological formation of the falls as visibility will be clear. This is also of course when river rafting and river boarding is at its most adventurous, rushing adrenalin through your body like no other activity has ever done or will ever do! Regarded as the world's greatest white water rafting adventure, rafting down the mighty Zambezi is an experience like none other.
Victoria Falls is not renowned as Africa's Adventure Capital for nothing! The adventure activities available to you here are endless. We've mentioned white water rafting and river boarding down the mighty Zambezi and helicopter and microlight flights over the Victoria Falls, but there is plenty more such as canoeing safaris on the Zambezi, kayaking, walking with lions, horse-back and elephant-back safaris, game drives into Zambezi National Park, gorge swing, bunji jumping (111m drop!), sunset cruises, jet boating, abseiling and fishing. There are also guided tours of Livingstone and Victoria Falls town as well as day safaris to Chobe National Park in Botswana and Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe. So I would recommend a minimum of 3 nights in Victoria Falls to experience what it's all about.
To fully appreciate the Victoria Falls experience you have the option of staying on either the Zimbabwe side or the Zambian side. The Zambezi River forms the border between these two countries. The view of the Falls is more magnificent from the Zimbabwean side but the Zambian side does offer some truly unique, beautiful, all-inclusive luxury lodges right on the waters edge. Victoria Falls town on the Zimbabwean side is more geared for tourists than Livingstone is on the Zambian side, offering a large range of accommodation options suitable for various budgets. Victoria Falls offers a vibrant, welcoming and friendly atmosphere.
Some of the best African arts and crafts can be found at the local arts and crafts markets in both Livingstone and Victoria Falls. The vendors are often pushy so be prepared to stand your ground, but they are happy to bargain with you and often you are able to exchange a t-shirt or some piece of clothing for the African art.
'Money matters' is quite an important topic to understand before visiting Zimbabwe. The Zimbabwean economy is in turmoil. The best is to take US dollars and/or South African Rand cash with you. These are accepted everywhere. Many of the major hotels will take visa credit cards and some will take American Express but some take none at all. Many of the restaurants do not take credit cards and payment must be in cash. Preferably take smaller denominations with you to pay for things like tips, drinks, visas at the border post, as you may get change in Zimbabwe dollars and this currency completely worthless even in Zimbabwe because it depreciates daily.
On the news: Victoria Falls has over the years successfully remained completely free of incidents of political disruption. It's a little hub all on its own in the far northwestern corner of Zimbabwe distant from Zimbabwe's 2 largest cities, Harare and Bulawayo around which the unrest happens frequently. The latest outbreak of cholera is also concentrated around central and southern Zimbabwe and to date, no cholera incidents have been reported in Victoria Falls area.
Zimbabwe, Zambia and Botswana are in a malaria zone and it is strongly suggested that prophylactics are taken when visiting these countries.
Cultural festivities include the Nyaminyami Festival held each year in September to honour the River God who, as claimed by the local Thonga people, has supernatural powers. It is believed that the River God became angry when he and his wife were separated when the Kariba dam wall was constructed and caused it to collapse killing 86 workers. The locals believe the River God is a dragon-like being resembling the body of a snake and the head of a fish and in Victoria Falls area many vendors will sell small wooden carved Nyaminyamis to be worn as a pendant on a necklace.
So in conclusion, it's a captivating destination in which to spend a couple of days before heading off on your African safari adventure deep into the Okavango Delta in Botswana or the South Luangwa National Park in Zambia.
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