Top Tips for Visiting Victoria Falls
When it comes to safari, Southern Africa is the place to go, regardless of whether you have the budget of a backpacker or a Wall Street banker. It’s not all about the wildlife though; there are many other amazing things to see, and Victoria Falls is the best of them. Here’s my guide to the most important things to keep in mind when visiting the Falls, or Mosi-Oa-Tunya, as the locals call it:
This is a pretty good tip no matter where you’re travelling, but it’s particularly important for the Falls. They're is one of the region’s, if not the continent’s most popular natural attractions and as such, hotels and activities get booked up early, especially during the high season (April to September) and during special events. On my last trip to the Falls it was New Year’s Eve and the atmosphere was fantastic. The Victoria Falls Carnival is billed as Africa’s best NYE party and it didn’t fail to impress. However, booking early is essential.
Distance isn’t everything
There are three large hotels just a short walk away from the entrance to the Falls: Ilala Lodge, The Kingdom and The Victoria Falls Hotel. Ilala Lodge is a fantastic mid-range option, The Kingdom is a slightly run-down relic of the late 20th century, a more prosperous time in the town’s history (it has a casino!), while The Victoria Falls Hotel is a grand old lady, originally built to house rail workers who were building the famous bridge which spans Victoria Falls Gorge, and which the hotel still has views across today. Although many visitors stay at one of these due to their proximity to the Falls, there are plenty of hotels within the town of Victoria Falls, from where you are only ever a short taxi ride away from the Falls entrance, so do look at all the options with your Expert Travel Consultant before booking.
Paying for a transfer through the border is worth it
Victoria Falls' shiny, new airport is about a 40-minute drive from Victoria Falls town. However, if you’re coming to Victoria Falls by land, there’s a fair chance that you’ll either be coming from Botswana or Namibia, and therefore be using the Kazangula border crossing (note: from Namibia, you'll have to pass through Botswana in order get to Zimbabwe). Here, you can save yourself a great deal of stress by organising a transfer with a reputable operator. The crossing can be busy and disorganised to say the least, and having someone with local knowledge, and who can drive through the mêlée of trucks and people, gives real piece of mind. Chat to your Expert Travel Consultant to arrange this.
The early bird gets the waterfall
When it comes to visiting the waterfall itself, we’d recommend getting up early on your first morning and giving yourself a good three to four hours to really do it justice. It's worth remembering that the town of Victoria Falls receives roughly one million visitors a year and every single one of them is here to see Victoria Falls. Despite this, even when visiting at the busiest period, the spread out nature of the park means it never really feels crowded. Getting in however, can be a totally different matter. It really is worth making an early start, and even if you can’t get to the gates for their 6am opening, do try to be there by 9am at the latest. After this the queue grows rapidly and will be at quite a stretch by mid to late morning.
High adrenaline or high tea: take your pick!
For all you adrenaline junkies out there, why not book a bungee jump, gorge swing or zip-line across the Falls, or even try white water rafting? But for those looking for something a little gentler, take a walk to Stanley’s Terrace at The Victoria Falls Hotel. Not only are the views incredible as the lawns stretch down to the Gorge, but you can also partake in what is probably the most famous high tea in Africa. Top tip: keep an eye out for baboons, who on my last visit were caught raiding the kitchen, much to the dismay of all the waiters and waitresses.
Don’t forget about what’s going on above the Falls
It’s easy for a first-time visitor to Victoria Falls to focus all their attention on the waterfall and the things happening downstream. However, the chance to explore upstream, and get out on the mighty Zambezi River should not be missed. Sundowner cruises to suit all budgets are available, but we’d recommend opting for the smaller, less commercial operations. There is no getting away from the fact that the river above the Falls is a busy place these days, with boats from both Zimbabwe and Zambia, as well as helicopter and microlights all taking in the views as the sun begins to set. But it's a spectacular way to end a busy day, especially when accompanied by a cold beer and some nibbles. On my last sundowner cruise, I spotted elephants, hippos, giraffe, bushbuck and numerous crocodiles.
Take time to shop and relax
Part of the appeal of Victoria Falls is that, despite it being a tourist center, the people are still incredibly genuine and friendly. So be sure to take some time to get to know them - the Victoria Falls craft market is a great place to do this and you can pick up any last-minute souvenirs at the same time.
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