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  • Victoria Falls

    Victoria Falls travel guide

    Overview

    Victoria Falls is one of nature's greatest spectacles, and one of the few attractions that exceeds even the wildest expectations of its visitors. The town itself, referred to locally simply as 'Vic Falls', straddles the banks of the Zambezi River, in Zimbabwe's Matabeleland North province. It is a pleasant place to base oneself, home to a number of hotels and lodges, a couple of good restaurants, and some great bars to enjoy.

    Known as both an adventure centre and romantic getaway, there is an excellent selection of things to see and do in Victoria Falls, from a mist-soaked stroll to the viewpoints that run the length of the falls to adrenaline-packed activities like whitewater rafting and bungee jumping. There are canoe trips, river cruises, safaris and fishing trips available in Vic Falls, as well as first-rate national parks to visit nearby. A day-trip across the border into Zambia is also well worth doing. Young children might enjoy the restored colonial-era steam train, which offers scenic day-tours around the Vic Falls area, including a two-hour stop over the Victoria Falls bridge for breakfast. An elephant-back safari or 'elephant encounter' is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for little ones and adults alike.

    There are busses, trains and airlines that travel to Vic Falls and, once there, the town is easily walkable but also has plenty of minibusses and regular taxis available for visitors to use. A popular holiday destination since the 1930s, Vic Falls is a must on any African travel itinerary.

    Victoria Falls

    The majestic Victoria Falls, or Mosi-oa-Tunya (the Smoke that Thunders), is located on the Zambezi River, between Zambia and Zimbabwe. Explorer David Livingstone named the falls after Queen Victoria when he first saw them in 1855. One of the seven natural wonders of the world, the falls have been attracting travellers and adventure-seekers for decades, its pounding waters creating a mist that can be seen for miles and the sound of the falls, especially in the rainy season (November to April) making it difficult to hear anything else. There is a trail that runs along the cliff adjacent to the waterfall which visitors can use to reach the scenic viewpoints, and the Flight of Angels helicopter tour is a phenomenal way to see the falls from above. Guided tours are also available, which include collection and drop off from your hotel. It is impossible to visit the falls without being blown away by the beauty and power of this natural feature, and both Zimbabwe and Zambia are justifiably proud of this great wonder.

    Victoria Falls Victoria Falls Timo Newton-Syms
    Devils Pool

    A popular but somewhat risky Vic Falls attraction is Devil's Pool, a naturally formed swimming spot on the edge of the falls. The pool is only 'safe' to swim in between September and December (and not always, even in these months), when the river flow is at the right level, but even then this is quite a daring adventure - not for the faint hearted! Aside from the thrill of swimming on the edge of the falls, Devil's Pool is also a great spot for those once-in-a-lifetime holiday photos. Ferries from Livingstone Island take visitors to this exciting attraction whenever the water levels are deemed safe enough, however this activity is predominantly accessible only from the Zambian side of the Falls.

    Devil's Pool Devil's Pool joepyrek
    National Parks

    There are three primary national parks to explore while on holiday in Vic Falls - the Victoria Falls National Park, the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park on the Zambian side of the falls and, about 120 miles (193km) further south, the Hwange National Park. These parks feature a vast selection of wildlife including elephant, buffalo, giraffe, zebra and various antelope; there are also occasional sightings of lion and leopard. There are a number of operators in Vic Falls town offering safaris to these national parks, as well as elephant-back safaris on Nakavango Estate and the 'walking with lions' experience at Masuwe Estate.

    The Victoria Falls National Park incorporates the iconic falls - a UNESCO World Heritage Site - and is therefore an absolute must for travellers in the region. Apart from the falls, and the gorgeous rainforest beneath, the national park includes varied landscapes populated by diverse game, including the Big Five: elephant, lion, buffalo, leopard and rhino.

    The Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park is situated along the upper Zambezi River, on the Zambian side, and also incorporates part of Victoria Falls. Travellers will find that crossing the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia at Victoria Falls is generally very pain-free as border officials are totally accustomed to people popping over for a few hours to view both sides of the falls. Naturally both countries want to encourage tourism.

    The largest game reserve in Zimbabwe, Hwange National Park, covers more than 5,637 square miles (14,600 sq km) of land in the western tip of Zimbabwe, near the Kalahari Desert. The park contains large numbers of gemsbok, hyena, African wild dogs, and elephants, and safari lodges within Hwange offer a range of safaris either on foot, by 4x4, or on horseback.

    Hwange Lion Hwange Lion Laura

    Phrase Book

    English Pronounciation

    Victoria Falls experiences hot summers from September through to April, and mild winters from May through to August. The summer rainy season in Vic Falls lasts from November to March, and the rain usually comes in the form of afternoon thundershowers. The weather can be unpredictable. Visitors should note that there is a considerable difference in the flow of water over the Victoria Falls from the rainy to the dry season when planning their holiday. The Falls look their best between February and May when the highest volume of water thunders down into the gorge.

    Victoria Falls Airport
    Location: The airport is situated 13 miles (22km) south of Victoria Falls town.
    Time: Local time is GMT +2.
    Getting to the city: There is no public transport from the airport to the nearest town. Visitors are advised to book a driver or hotel transfer prior to landing, or one can hail a taxi or hire a car on arrival.
    Car Rental: Europcar and Budget offer car hiring services at the airport.
    Fascilities: Facilities include banks, bureau de change, restaurants, bars, VIP Lounge, duty free shop, Tourist Help Desk and first aid.
    Parking
    Website: www.caaz.co.zw

    Useful Contacts:

    Vic Falls Mountain Bike Challenge

    This three-day event involves navigating difficult terrain through some of the most beautiful, scenic areas in Zimbabwe, many not generally accessable to the public, including national parks teeming with game. The event is open to competitive riders as well as social riders, is well backed-up and controlled to meet international standards. The days are tough and challenging, with races following different routes in the region before returning to The Kindom Hotel in Vic Falls.

    Mountain Bike Mountain Bike Pascal Kurschildgen
    Victoria Falls Marathon

    This race is registered with AIMS (Association of International Marathon and Distance Races) and includes either a full marathon of 42.4km or a half marathon of 21km. The race starts at The Kingdom Hotel and crosses the Victoria Falls bridge, offering runners some of the world's most spectacular scenery. This is not yet a famous marathon but the glorious scenery and the novelty of the race ensures that it continues to grow in popularity. Runners needn't worry about the hot climate as the race takes place in mid-winter when conditions tend to be mild.

    Vic Falls Marathon Vic Falls Marathon slongacre

    Victoria Falls town is quite small and most places of interest (except the airport) are within easy walking distance of Livingstone Way and Park Way. You can also hire mountain bikes or scooters, or call a taxi to get around.

    Tourist activities naturally revolve around the majestic Victoria Falls and many hours can be spent exploring the pathways through the rainforest below the falls, where various lookout platforms beg for endless photographs. The Zambezi River is also a well-deserving playground for travellers: for active, adventurous types there is extreme whitewater rafting, river boarding, bungee jumping, gorge swinging and the thrilling Devil's Pool; and for the peace-loving there are languid sunset cruises, relaxed canoeing opportunities, and breathtaking helicopter rides. National Parks in the region promise good game viewing and a genuine African safari experience. There are even elephant-back safaris available!

    The area is extremely well-developed in terms of tourist amenities, with many different tours of the region on offer and plentiful restaurants and bars to keep visitors entertained. There are wonderful curio markets and artisan stalls dotted about the town. Travellers will be able to pick up some gorgeous locally-made souvenirs to take home with them, however some hard-bargaining is recommended as foreigners do tend to get overcharged for these pretty collectables!

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    No direct flights from Heathrow to this Destination