victoria falls

Victoria Falls

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Victoria Falls is located on the border of Zimbabwe and Zambia in the Victoria Falls National Park and the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park.  Listed as one of the seven natural wonders of the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Victoria Falls is a site to see.

The falls were discovered by Scottish missionary and explore, David Livingstone, who named them after Queen Victoria. It’s local name from the Sotho Language is Mosi-oa-Tunya, meaning the smoke that thunders.  The World Heritage List recognizes both names.

Rainy Season at Victoria Falls

Not the widest nor the highest falls in the world, its combined width (5,604 feet) and height (354 feet) results in the largest sheet of falling water in the world.  During the rainy season, November to April, the falls are so voluminous, that the basalt rocks is passes over and the bottom of the First Gorge to which the Zambezi River Falls cannot be seen. 

Typically, the spray from the falls rises 1,300 feet and sometimes twice as high.  It is visible from 30 miles away! The sun on the spray creates magnificent rainbows in the morning and the afternoon.   Additionally, during the full moon, the park opens at night the day before, the day of, and the day after the full moon, for a viewing of the moonbow.

Dry Season at Victoria Falls

On the contrary to the rainy season, by the dry season, these magnificent falls can slow to a single, narrow cascade only seen from the Zimbabwe side.  We visited in August 2021 as the falls were transitioning from high water to low water.  With spray hitting us on the Knife Edge Bridge, it was hard to believe the magnificent Victoria Falls could ever be a trickle.

Visiting Victoria Falls from Zambia

Victoria Falls may be visited from both the Zambia side and the Zimbabwe side.  Usually, park guests are permitted to cross the Victoria Falls Bridge, constructed in 1905, in order to view them from both sides.  Due to COVID, however, crossing the bridge was not permitted.  Regardless of the restrictions, there were plenty of hiking paths on the Zambia side where we visited. 

Staying in Livingstone for two days at Thorn Tree Safaris, we simply hired cars to take us to various activities, one such being, a visit to Victoria Falls.  The ticket office is not at the entrance, but a short drive away.  After we paid $20 US, our drivers, Obrien and Sanitas, took us to the entrance located across from a small Zambian market. Normally, the park is open from 6am to 6pm, but with the lack of visitors due to COVID, it didn’t open until 8 am.

Hiking at Victoria Falls

While visiting the park, I think we only saw two other tourists and a handful of locals preparing to raft and kayak.  We began our visit by following one of the four paved paths upriver for views from the side and top of the falls.   

victoria falls

There after we walked along the Knife Edge Bridge which provides views of the face of the falls.  As I mentioned above, though we didn’t get soaked, the spray from the fall reached us across the gorge and made the walking path relatively slick.

view of victoria falls from knife edge bridge

The Boiling Pot

After admiring the falls from this path, which had some of the best views, we hiked down to the boiling pot.  It is about a ten-minute stairmaster (longer for the ascent) through the forest of ferns and along a creek to the gorge where the Zambezi River changes course and causes a swirling boiling pot.

creek on the way down to the boiling pot

The boiling pot wasn’t that pronounced or interesting to us when we visited at the end of August, though it is known for collecting objects and animals that are swept over the falls including the occasional hippo, crocodile and even human!

view of gorge from boiling pot

Victoria Falls Bridge

The descent does, however, provide a nice view of the bungee jumpers that dive off the Victoria Falls Bridge which spans the Second Gorge.  The bridge was fabricated in England, shipped to Mozambique and was transported to Victoria Falls for assembly by the new railway.  The bridge only took 14 months to complete in 1905.

victoria falls bridge over the second gorge

Today, the old bridge has a limited capacity for the heavy trucks and trains that pass over it.  As a result, trains cross over at slower than walking pace and trucks, which are limited to 30 tons, may only cross one at a time.  As a result, there is a line of copper transporting trucks parked on the road which wait three days to cross at the border.

After visiting the Boiling Pot, we took one more path almost all the way to the bridge, which isn’t reachable due the park being fenced, but it does offer some nice distant views of the falls.

Helicopter Ride at Victoria Falls

In addition to hiking in the park and bungee jumping from the bridge, other activities at the falls include microlight flights and helicopter rides.  These activities are found at the Batoka Sky “Maramba” Aerodome. Wild Horizons is a popular tour operator option in Zambia.

I had hoped to take a 15-minute microlight flight, only offered in Zambia, but they were in the process of renewing their license.  Consequently, I settled for the 30-minute helicopter ride with Kim instead.  The helicopter can take up to three people, so we scheduled the last two flights of the day around 3:30 and 4, for the four of us who wanted to go.

Upon arrival, they played some music while welcoming us before we paid the astronomical fee, $360 per person!  It seems like that should be the price for the whole helicopter.  Regardless, up we went as quickly reached the falls.

We completed four, high circles around the falls before veering off and dropping into Batoka Gorge.  While seeing Victoria Falls from above was nice, the flight through the Batoka Gorge was really cool!  After passing through the gorge, we circled the falls once more before we went in search of wildllife in the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park.

view of victoria falls from helicopter

We spotted elephants, rhinos, warthogs, buffalo, and some antelope before we landed back at the Aerodome.  While I’m glad I took the helicopter ride, I likely wouldn’t repeat it for the hefty price!

Overall, we had a very nice visit to Victoria Falls, and I could have even spent more time than we did viewing it from the top.  That said, I love waterfalls!! ETB

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Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned award winning travel blogger and photographer sharing the earth's beauty one word and image at a time.

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