WHEN TO TRAVEL TO VICTORIA FALLS
Planning to visit the majestic Victoria Falls in southern Africa? Our guide will help you decide the best time to travel to this iconic destination.
The mighty Zambezi River and the majestic Victoria Falls form a natural border between the countries of Zimbabwe and Zambia. Regardless of whether you choose to stay on the Zimbabwe side or the Zambia side, you can enjoy many different activities at Victoria Falls.
From adventure activities such as white-water rafting, bungee jumping and zip lining, to incredible game drives in Hwange National Park and sunset boat cruises on the Zambezi River - there are tours, attractions and things to do to suit every taste.
Keep in mind that your waterfall experience can be very different depending on when you go to Victoria Falls and if there are specific activities you’d like to include in your itinerary, you’ll need to choose the right time of year to travel.
For example, activities on the Zambezi River are best when water levels are at their lowest, otherwise the current is too strong, whilst activities on land or in the air are best when water levels are higher, as you’ll get the most dramatic views.
Here are our 13 favourite activities at Victoria Falls:
There are national parks on both sides of the waterfall: Victoria Falls National Park in Zimbabwe and Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park in Zambia. Both parks offer the opportunity to get up close to the thundering falls, however the experience is quite different from one side to another.
Victoria Falls National Park, located on the Zimbabwe side, is a lush rainforest reserve and offers some of the best views of Victoria Falls. You can walk along the footpaths of the park, which meander through the rainforest and out onto viewpoints where you can see four of the five different sections of the falls on this side: The Devil's Cataract, Main Falls, Rainbow Falls and Horseshoe Falls.
You can easily cross the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia via the Victoria Falls Bridge – just don’t forget your passport when heading out on excursions, as you’ll need it if you’re crossing the border from one country into another.
From Zambia, you can only see the Eastern Cataract, the second deepest falls of the series, at 101 metres deep.
However, this side also offers an incredible opportunity to get exceptionally close to the cascades of water, as you can walk along the paved paths on the edge of Victoria Falls and feel the spray on your face.
During the high water season, from February to July, you can cross Knife Edge Bridge, which is an exhilarating walk along the edge of the precipice, 100 metres above the gorge.
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Livingstone Island, named after 19th century European explorer David Livingstone, is located in the middle of the Zambezi River, right on the edge of Victoria Falls. A trip to Livingstone Island begins with a thrilling short boat ride through the channels of the Zambezi, then you can enjoy a guided tour of the island.
Your tour guide will initially lead you to the west of the island overlooking Main Falls. This is a magnificent viewpoint and offers a completely different perspective to the views of Victoria Falls that you get from the path through the rainforest on the other side of the gorge.
During the tour, you can learn about the history of the island and the formation of Victoria Falls, surrounded by spectacular views of the Zambezi River and the falls thundering into the gorge below. Your guide will also take you to the edge of the island, where David Livingstone stood for the first time in November 1855.
The Livingstone Island tour is seasonal and can only be done when the water level of the Zambezi River is low enough to allow safe access, usually from late June to early March. When the water level of the Zambezi is too high, the island is completely closed.
After the island tour, you’ll have the opportunity to take a dip in the Devil’s Pool. To reach the pool, you must first swim a short distance upstream (you don’t have to be a strong swimmer, as there’s a safety rope in place as an added precaution), then you’ll climb out on a rocky outcrop close to the edge of the falls and the Devil’s Pool.
The Devil’s Pool is a deep, natural pool created by thousands of years of erosion. What is unique about it is that there’s a rock ledge on the lip of the falls, where the water is only a few centimetres deep, and this natural barrier allows you to jump into the deep pool without getting swept over the edge.
However, taking a dip in the Devil's Pool is only possible when the Zambezi water levels are low, usually between mid-August and mid-January.
One of the most exhilarating activities at Victoria Falls is the experience of lying at the edge of the Devil’s Pool and looking into the 103-metre chasm of the falls, with huge torrents of water flowing just metres away.
A late afternoon boat cruise is a wonderful way to enjoy the tranquility of the upper Zambezi and see a spectacular African sunset. During your two-hour cruise you can expect to see elephants, hippos, crocodiles, vervet monkeys, baboons and a variety of birdlife.
If you are looking for a more adventurous sunset cruise experience at Victoria Falls, you can take to the river in a two-person canoe on a guided excursion. Float down the Zambezi right next to elephants and hippos.
A fantastic way to appreciate the sheer size of Victoria Falls is with a helicopter ride. The 12-13 flight will take you over the cascades, soaring above the towering wall of mist that gives the site it's local name, Mosi-oa-Tunya or "The Smoke That Thunders."
You’ll enjoy scenic views of Batoka Gorge and look out for hippos or elephants as you fly over the Zambezi River. Once you've flown over Kalunda Island, your pilot will take a left turn and prepare for your landing.
A longer 25-minute flight offers the opportunity to see more of the Batoka Gorge and also takes you over Zambezi National Park.
The Zambezi River Walk, on the Zimbabwe side, offers a fantastic way to experience the beauty of the upper stretches of the Zambezi. The walk starts just beyond the Victoria Falls National Park border, just above the Devil's Cataract.
On this gentle walk along the banks of the Zambezi River, you’re likely to see troops of baboons, plus you might also see warthogs, hippos, elephant and buffalo.
Covering an area of 15,000 square kilometres, Hwange is Zimbabwe’s largest national park. It's famous for its huge herds of buffalo and elephant; Hwange is home to a population of approximately 30,000 elephants, which is the second largest in the world after Chobe National Park in Botswana.
You’ll have a good chance of spotting the Big Five (lion, elephant, rhino, buffalo and leopard) on your game drives, plus Hwange is an important breeding ground for endangered African wild dog, black rhino, as well as roan and sable antelopes.
Hwange is located 104 kilometres from Victoria Falls (approximately two hours drive) making this an excellent day trip option for those who wish to include a safari experience in their Victoria Falls itinerary.
A white-water rafting adventure on the rapids of the Zambezi River is one of the best things to do at Victoria Falls and an adventure of a lifetime. The Zambezi River below Victoria Falls boasts one of the most spectacular white-water sections in the world, including class 4 and class 5 rapids.
The views of the gorge are spectacular from the viewpoint of your raft and you’ll have plenty of time to take in your surroundings during the calm stretches. Plus, you'll feel the full force of the water on the more challenging stretches.
However, like many activities at Victoria Falls, white-water rafting is a seasonal activity and depends on the water levels.
The Victoria Falls Bridge connects Zimbabwe and Zambia, and is an iconic part of the Victoria Falls landscape. Originally named the Zambezi Bridge, it took 14 months to construct and was completed in 1905.
The Historic Bridge Tour is a fantastic experience and includes an informative presentation on the fascinating history of this famous bridge.
You can also get harnessed up and walk under the bridge, where you can take in the spectacular 360-degree views and fully appreciate the immense depth of Batoka Gorge. You may even be lucky enough to see a double or full-circle rainbow, which is formed by the spray.
One of the most daring things to do at Victoria Falls is a bungee jump from the iconic Victoria Falls Bridge - with the epic waterfalls behind you and the mighty Zambezi River beneath you, this is the ultimate adrenaline activity.
The Victoria Falls Bridge itself is impressive and offers incredible views as you get ready for your jump.
Once you're on the bridge, ankle and body harnesses will be attached and then your jump-master will give you calm and encouraging instructions, followed by a countdown. Once you leap from the bridge, you’ll experience four seconds of freefall as you plummet 111 metres towards the rapids of the Zambezi River.
Another exciting way to experience the Batoka Gorge is from a 135-metre zipline across the canyon, 75 metres above the Zambezi River. This is the ultimate adrenaline rush, as you’ll reach speeds of 90 to 100 kilometres per hour within just a few seconds.
There’s also a "flying fox" option, where you’ll take a running jump into Batoka Gorge and soar horizontally across the gorge with the mighty Zambezi beneath you. You’ll be clipped into a harness attached to a pulley, which glides along a cable over Batoka Gorge, giving you the sensation of flying.
The Victoria Falls Bridge Slide is a 300-metre zipline that begins from a platform on the Zambian edge of Batoka Gorge and gently glides over the rapids of the Zambezi River before reaching the Zimbabwean side of the bridge.
As you slide from the edge of the gorge towards the bridge, you can enjoy breathtaking views of the majestic Victoria Falls.
This is the perfect Victoria Falls activity for those who don’t feel quite brave enough to experience the Zambezi zipline or a bungee jump from Victoria Falls Bridge. It's also a fantastic option for families with young children (children aged between 4 to 14 years can experience the bridge slide, however they must ride tandem with an adult).
Livingstone is located 10 kilometres from the Zambian side of Victoria Falls Bridge and is the gateway to many of the attractions of Victoria Falls and Mosi-Oa-Tunya National Park.
This historical town was moved from its original site at the Old Drift to Constitution Hill in 1905 due to malarial outbreaks. The new location was carefully planned with wide, tree-lined streets and buildings, high ceilings and mosquito-netted verandas.
Livingstone has preserved much of its colonial architecture, yet it also has a small-town African atmosphere. If you spend a morning strolling along the colonial streets, drinking a coffee at one of the pavement cafés and exploring the colourful local markets, you’ll get an interesting insight into this fascinating town and local life.
We also recommend that you visit The Livingstone Museum, which traces local history and the life of the Scottish explorer, David Livingstone, after whom the town was named.
Although elephant ride activities are slowly stopping due to pressure from international tourism groups, this practice can still be found around the Victoria Falls area.
Sadly, these so-called "domesticated" elephants are taken from their families very young, have their spirits broken through abuse until they are "tame" enough to allow tourists to ride them.
We strongly discourage this practice and ask you to show your support by doing the same. Eventually, the lack of demand combined with the invention of animal protection groups will mean that elephant rides could soon be a thing of the past.
Instead, see these incredible creatures as part of a game drive on a wildlife safari at one of the national parks in the region. To learn more about ethical elephant interactions, read our blog on elephant sanctuaries in Thailand.
With so many things to do at Victoria Falls, it's easy to see why these enchanting waterfalls have been granted UNESCO World Heritage status, as well as the accolade of one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.
A trip here is a highlight of any southern Africa holiday and a chance to see one of Mother Nature's most beautiful works of art. Take a look at our suggested itineraries for Zambia safari holidays to see how Victoria Falls fits into your Africa adventure.
If you’d like to visit Victoria Falls as part of your tailor made luxury holiday, contact our friendly team of Luxury Travel Specialists via phone for a chat about your ideas or send an online enquiry with details on your dream trip.
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