Victoria Falls is one destination in Africa you don't want to miss.
The falls, known by the locals as Mosi Oa Tunya - The Smoke That Thunders, are 1,7 kilometres wide, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, one of the Seven Wonders of the World and holds the title of the world's largest waterfall! Phew - they are definitely giving Daenerys a run for her money when it comes to titles.
Here's a quick guide to visiting Victoria Falls National Park for Zimbabwe and Zambia!
How to get to the Victoria Falls
Travellers can choose from flying into Victoria Falls town in Zimbabwe side or the Livingstone in Zambia. There are daily direct flights from Johannesburg with South African airways and British airways.
For the more adventurous, you can also take the overland route.
I decided to do just that when I signed up for the Vic Falls Carnival New Years Eve party. I spent 7 days in Zimbabwe as part of an overland trip to the falls that started in Johannesburg and had pit stops in Botswana.
It will take you just under 15 hours to drive from Johannesburg to the Zimbabwe side of Victoria Falls. We stopped over in Palaype, Botswana and got to drive through a game reserve for free! I highly recommend it if you love camping, festivals and slow travel.
Victoria Falls: Zambia vs Zimbabwe - who has the better view?
I decided to visit both to answer this question for myself.
Zimbabwe has the better "full view" of the falls year around and a breathtaking cliff walk opening onto viewpoints of the Devil's Cataract, Main Falls, Horseshoe Falls and Rainbow Falls.
But the Zambia side gets points for its various hiking routes, Livingstone Island, Knife-Edge Bridge, being slightly cheaper and is the only side where you can walk down to the falls.
Visas for SADC Passport Holders and Internationals
If you are from one of the SADC countries - you are in luck. For once we don't have to pay for a visa or submit ANY paperwork! Everybody dance now! This is partly why I love to travel in Africa so much and one of the few times I don't have passport envy.
For internationals, there is an option to buy a dual entry visa to access both Zimbabwe, Zambia and day trips to Chobe National Park in Botswana. It is called the KAZA Univisa but is currently not available due to Zambia running out of stamps. When it is available, it costs US$50 and is available to over 40 nationalities including British, Americans and Australians.
To get normal visas for both sides, make sure you have the right amount of cash on you. Immigration only accepts cash and the nearest ATM's are located inside the towns of Victoria Falls and Livingstone. The costs for the two visas are just under US$100. You can find a list of visa costs and requirements on the Victoria Falls site.
Victoria Falls National Park Entrance Fee
Getting into the park on both sides of Zimbabwe and Zambia is not a cheap affair. If you are on a tight budget and have to choose, I'd recommend going to the Zimbabwe side.
- International tourists: 30 USD
- SADC passport holders: 20 USD
- International tourists: 30 USD
- SADC passport holders: 20 USD
Opening times: 6am - 6pm
When is the Best Time of year to Visit Vic Falls National Park
It's really up to you and what you hope to get out of the experience.
The Rainy Season (December to March)
This is when the falls are at their most dramatic and fullest! But it means you won't be able to go to The Devil's Pool and the rapids might be too dangerous for some of the river based activities.
The Dry Season (April - October)
This is the perfect time of year to go on safari, splash around in the Devil's Pool and go micro lighting over the falls. The falls will be somewhat underwhelming at this time of the year, especially on the Zambian side.
A Quick Guide to Victoria Falls: The Zambia Side
Plan on getting to the falls as early as possible. This is because the coolness of the morning doesn't last long, especially if you are planning to go over December like I did.
Tip: Bring drinking water with you to stay hydrated.
Crossing from Zimbabwe to Zambia is pretty simple. I caught a taxi to the Zim border and arranged for him to pick up a few hours later. It cost me $10 to go from Shearwater Cafe to the border and back.
It takes about 20 minutes to walk over the Victoria Falls Bridge, go through immigration on the Zambia side and arrive at the entrance to the park. You can also catch a taxi if you want to speed up your journey or escape the sun.
Tip: If you need an ATM continue walking straight past the entrance until you get to a big hotel. There is a bureau de exchange that you can use to exchange or withdraw money.
Before entering the falls you will pass a bunch of local vendors. If you are looking for some great memento's they have something for everybody. But if you are not - be aware that if you start a conversation and don't buy anything they will try barter with you. I had one ask for my shoes in exchange for a ring.
Be aware of the baboons
This is a lesson I had to learn the hard way. If you are going to be by yourself and you are female - go with a bag that you don't have to carry in your hands. This is because the baboons are used to females throwing out stuff from their handbags.
I had a particularly interesting encounter that resulted in some unexpected cardio at 10am in the morning. Halfway along one of the paths a huge ass baboon sat in my way. I didn't feel too confident about my ability to just walk past it, so I decided to go around him by going into the bush.
Worst decision ever.
When I came out, its whole family descended from the trees and started surrounding me. After failing at making threatening sounds and trying to look bigger, I dashed back into the bush and landed up at the Boiling Point rapid. I waited around here for a couple of minutes until some people started walking back up and followed as closely as I could without coming across as creepy.
But don't not go to the Zambia side because of the baboons. They are my mortal enemies and ambushed me at Cape Point for my pizza as well.
If you are by yourself, use a backpack with you and avoid stick to the paths that have more people traffic if you are feeling wary.
A Quick Guide to Victoria Falls: The Zimbabwe Side
I decided to walk down from my camp site opposite Shearwater Cafe down to the entrance at the end of Livingstone Way. It took me about 10 minutes each at a slow pace. There is very little shade and the sun does not hold back in the mornings - so pack on the sunscreen!
There was actually a long queue to get into the falls when I went around 9am. It is definitely the more popular and busy side for good reason.
The cliff walk will see you walking through the rain forest and has 15 viewpoints of the Falls from Livingstone's statue to the old bridge over the area. It took me about 2 hours to explore this area and I never wanted to leave!
Tip: Prepare to get drenched - especially in summer. Protect your equipment and hire out raincoats at the reception area if you haven't packed your own.
Keep a look out for adrenaline seekers splashing out at the Devil's Pool if you visit during the drier months!
Visiting the falls is by far one of my favourite travel experiences to date! Hopefully this guide to Victoria Falls has answered all your questions and made it easier to decide which side you should visit.
Have you ever visited Victoria Falls National Park before?