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SHOESTRINGS : VICTORIA FALLS

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Victoria Falls Town

Victoria Falls is one of the natural wonders of the world, and a tourism destination of note. You can do game drives, river cruises, bike rides or bush walks, horse-riding, fishing and birdwatching, adrenalin activities and historical tours - Victoria Falls has it all!

Victoria Falls town is surrounded by National Park, and wild animals roam freely, including elephant, buffalo, various antelope species, warthog, vervet monkeys and baboons. All may sometimes be seen in and around town - and often are!

Above the Victoria Falls the Zambezi River offers sunset cruises, fishing, birdwatching and game viewing opportunities along the Zambezi National Park. Below the Victoria Falls the Zambezi River, as it twists and turns its way through the Batoka Gorge, is home to gorge swings, bungee jumps and some of the wildest white water rafting in the world.

Read more about some of the activities to do around Victoria Falls town here.

Read more about some of the things to do for free around Victoria Falls town here.

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Various views around town

The Victoria Falls

A must see! Entry to the Victoria Falls National Park costs $30 for non-nationals, with lower rates for national and regional passport holders. The park is open from 6.00am to 6.00pm daily.

Take a picnic and make the most of your time here, you can easily spend several hours in the park. The best time for rainbows in the spray is the afternoon, although mornings are often quieter and sunrise is well worth getting up for.

The rainforest and several other sections of the Falls a wet all year round, and a light waterproof is recommended. Cameras and other electrical gadgets will need waterproof bags to keep them dry. The Victoria Falls Rainforest Café, located inside the park, serves a full all day menu.

Outside the Victoria Falls Park in the car park is a great little curio market, which is run by a co-operative of local artists and traders - don't be tempted to buy from street sellers and if you can support these sellers who are trying to do it the right way. You can also hire waterproof raincoats here if you don't have your own.

The Victoria Falls can be viewed from both the Zimbabwean and Zambian sides – although only the Zimbabwe side allows you to walk along opposite the lip of the Falls for about two-thirds of its length and the area of the rainforest and Victoria Falls on the Zimbabwean side is twice as large as the Zambian side. When the water is low the Zambian side can be very disappointing as there is very little water coming over their end of Falls, partially due to the intake of water for the hydroelectric power station on the northern bank. Be aware of visa implications (see our Tourist Visas page) if leaving Zimbabwe and entering Zimbabwe.

You'll also get an extra perspective from the Victoria Falls Bridge, which you can visit without all the visa implications.

Map of the Victoria Falls park and paths

Map of the Victoria Falls park and paths

A brief history of Falls

David Livingstone was the first European to view the Falls in 1855, naming them the Victoria Falls in honour of the reigning British monarch, Queen Victoria. His written accounts caught the imagination of Victorian Britain and, together with the paintings of Thomas Baines, brought the Victoria Falls to the attention of the world.

Arriving at the island which now bears his name, on the very lip of the Falls, he gained his first view of them from what must be one of the most breathtaking of viewpoints, describing it as “the most wonderful sight I had witnessed in Africa”.

Prior to these first European explorers the Falls had been inhabited by the local Toka-Leya tribes under Chief Mukuni, mainly located on the northern bank of the river for safety from Matabele cattle raiders under Mzilikaze, a where the Mukuni cheiftanship continues to this day.

Within fifty years of Livingstone's first visit to the Falls, Cecil Rhodes had occupied a country and built a railway line from the Cape to the Falls (see A brief history), although he did not live to see it or the Falls. The Victoria Falls Hotel was opened in 1904 and the Victoria Falls Bridge opened in 1905, heralding the beginnings of tourism to the region.

Since these early beginnings millions of visitors from every corner of the world have be drawn to Zimbabwe to view one of the widely claimed 'Seven Natural Wonders of the World'.

More on the Falls

A spectacular 1708 meters wide with an average depth of 92 meters the Victoria Falls forms the largest single curtain of falling water on earth, twice the height and one and a half times the width of Niagara Falls.

The volume of water carried by the Zambezi River varies greatly during the year, and depends on the seasonal rains in the Upper Zambezi catchment, which occur from late November until March. The water is at its highest from about the middle of March until about the middle of May, and during this period the huge volume of spray from the Falls can all but obscure them from immediate view. The spray plume rising above the Falls can reach up to 500 metres high and be visible 30 kilometres away and the constant localised rain nurtures a miniature 'rainforest' ecosystem under its shadow, and the visitor should be prepared to be soaked to the skin (waterproofs advisable!).

Towards the end of September the river levels starts getting really low, with the Victoria Falls exposed within the rocky gorge, until the end of November when the local rains start filling up the river again. Clear of the shroud of spray, you can marvel at the solid rock walls of the gorge, worn smooth by the abrasive power of the water, and watch the tumbling streams of water fall into its depths.

Near the eastern end of the Falls, about three quarters of the way along its length, the river escapes through a narrow opening, only 60 metres wide. It then flows into a deep pool called the Boiling Pot, about 150 metres wide, before turning and racing on its 100 kilometre journey through the zigzagging Batoka Gorge. Compressed from such a wide open channel into the narrow twisting gorge, the river changes from placid and peaceful to tortuous and treacherous.

Read more about the human and natural history of the Victoria Fall region - To The Victoria Falls (external site, opens in a new window).

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Various views of the Victoria Falls

Photos with thanks from To The Victoria Falls


Contact

Looking for activity or safari options in and around Victoria Falls? Contact us by email for information and our recommendations.