The world’s greatest waterfall, Victoria Falls has earned its title as one of the natural wonders of the world. Over double the height of Niagara Falls, this epic attraction straddles across Africa’s deep South. Its indigenous name Mosi-oa-Tunya only emphasises how mystifying the waterfall is, translating to ‘the smoke that thunders’. You can visit this record-breaking rogue from either Zambia or Zimbabwe, but the real question is: which side should you pick?
Zambia: Devil’s Pool & Microlights
The larger country of the two, Zambia’s terrain is captivating despite being landlocked. The winding Zambezi river just below Victoria Falls is ideal for white-water rafting or a more laidback canoe experience, with plenty of wild crocodiles and buffalos to be spotted along the way.
It also leads you to the epic Devil’s Pool, exclusive to Zambia’s side of Victoria Falls. As nature’s own infinity pool, you are but inches away from a 350ft plunge. This swim is perhaps not for the faint of heart, but you will be relieved to know that there are safety checks put in place before dipping your toes into the water. Its price is not either, as Livingstone tour tickets start at $110 per person.
Fortunately, Victoria Falls’ entrance fee is slightly cheaper — with tickets costing $30 on both sides.
But if swimming by the world’s largest waterfall is not thrilling enough, this next activity will surely do the trick. Ever heard of Microlight? Shaped like a flying motorbike, the microlight takes an aviation tour to the next level — both in terms of views, and adrenaline. With space for only 2 people (the pilot and yourself), this intimate experience is unique to Zambia’s side of Victoria Falls and adds new meaning to ‘once in a lifetime’.
If you are visiting Victoria Falls from Zambia, staying in the nearby Livingstone is your best choice. The city is named after Dr. David Livingstone, who in 1855, became the first European to ever cross the African continent from East to West.
Not only is Livingstone 15 minutes away from Victoria Falls, but it is home to a wide variety of tourist-friendly accommodation. For those looking to save money or make friends whilst travelling, the Jollyboys Backpackers hostel is worth considering as prices start at $20 a night. It is hard to believe that the Victoria Falls Waterfront only costs $53 a night when their hospitality and comfort is first-class.
But if you really want to be living large, there is no better choice than the Royal Livingstone Hotel by Anantara. Prices start at an astonishing $948 a night, but between its immediate proximity to Victoria Falls and its stunning indoor and outdoor views, we can hardly be surprised by the cost.
Depending on where you stay, booking a Victoria Falls tour through your accommodation is a great option. And if you are staying in the Royal Livingstone Hotel, you can actually enter the park for free via the hotel’s exclusive entrance gate.
Zimbabwe: Bungee jumping & budget finds
Whilst Zambia has unique attractions like the Devil’s Pool, Zimbabwe has a 75% viewing point of Victoria Falls. And with near constant rain, this means that there is no dry season for Victoria Falls. Nor is there any shortage of water spray. In other words, Zimbabwe’s side of Victoria Falls is rainbow galore: making it perfect for those more concerned with the site itself.
But daredevils should still consider crossing over into Zimbabwe, as bungee jumping from the top of Victoria Falls bridge is quite the ride. Take in the mist and melody of water flowing as you free fall 80 metres. A 111 meter drop may not technically be the biggest leap in the world, but as far as scenery goes, this bungee jump experience is definitely one of the most beautiful and out there.
(Bungee jumping costs $162 per person.)
Only 12 km away from Zimbabwe’s Victoria Falls town is a private game reserve which is home to the ‘Big 5’ animals and has a strict anti-poaching policy. Although there is plenty of space for the animals to roam around, this game reserve is more suitable for a half-day trip: either for a morning or afternoon drive.
Whilst Livingstone is quite widespread, Victoria Falls town has been built from the ground up with tourists in mind. Touristy places are not for everyone, but if you want to make this trip one to remember, there are plenty of souvenir shops available.
Victoria Falls town may be one of Zimbabwe’s more expensive cities, but accommodation here is generally more affordable than Zambia: even the 5-star spots. Nothing compares to the opulence of the Royal Livingstone Hotel, but Zimbabwe comes pretty close with the Mbano Manor Hotel: where prices start at $386 a night.
On the other end of the spectrum, a night at the Shoestrings Backpackers Lodge Falls starts at $18. But when it comes to middle-range, the serene Shearwater Explorers Village has multiple room options varying in price — with a standard double room with breakfast included costing around $160 a night.
Zambia or Zimbabwe?
Deciding on whether to stay in Zambia and Zimbabwe comes down to what you want out of a holiday. Are you more interested in Zambia’s water activities, or do you want to visit Zimbabwe’s Vic Falls game reserve? Whilst Zambia has unique opportunities and a wider range of luxury hotels, Zimbabwe is the better choice when it comes to photography opportunities and bungee jumping.
Fortunately, both countries’ border policies are designed with tourists in mind, and so crossing into either area is relatively straightforward. You can do so via the Kazungula Border Post, located on the north bank of the Zambezi River. However, be prepared to wait for an hour or so at customs as this is a popular route for tourists. Taking a taxi to break up your journey is recommended as this can be quite a long walk. Please also keep in mind that you may need an additional visa if you plan on re-entering a country.
When to visit & travel advice
The best time to visit Victoria Falls is dependent on your travel preferences. The months of April to June is this attraction’s flood season, and is considered to be the time when the waterfall is at its most captivating. Between the misty water and frequent occurrence of rainbows, this is an incredible photography opportunity.
But if you are hoping to try out activities like rafting, you are better off visiting in the months of July to September. Whilst swimming in the devil’s pool is likely possible in the latter two months, this cannot be guaranteed as it depends on water levels being low enough for people to swim in.
Whilst the weather is usually warm and pleasant in the day-time, make sure to pack layers for night-time. Make sure to wear sensible shoes and wear waterproof clothing when visiting Victoria Falls, especially in the flood season! For full information on what to pack, check out this list.
You can make independent plans to see Victoria Falls, but there are also multiple different tour operators which can handle all this for you. Check out Contiki and Intrepid Travel as more affordable options, or Audley Travel for something more up-scale.
If you are staying in Livingstone or Victoria Falls town, taxis cost $10+ in order to reach the entrance. Both destinations have their own international airports, those being Harry Mwanga Nkumbula International Airport (LVI) and Victoria Falls International Airport (VFA) respectively.