Everything You Need to Know About Victoria Falls

Shared with Zambia and Zimbabwe in Southern Africa, Victoria Falls is a spectacular natural wonder on the Zambezi River. And along with the Pyramids of Giza, the Great Wall of China, or the Nile River, Victoria Falls should have its place as a ‘Wonder of the World’. Here at Signature Safaris, we offer an 8 night or 11 day safari programme in Zambia for those who want to experience this natural marvel for themselves. If you are interested in visiting Victoria Falls for the first time, read on for everything you need to know.

HISTORY & FACTS

The very beginnings of this waterfall dates back millions and millions of years, backto the Jurassic Period or Upper Karoo Period. It was during this time that the Zambezi as we know today, was formed; when the huge super-continent known as Gondwanaland broke down from tectonic activity and large volumes of molten basalt erupted from the cracks in the ground. Today, some of this basalt rock remains exposed and the Zambezi flows through in a zig zag pattern as dictated by the natural gorges.

Formation of Victoria Falls

Victoria Falls was formed through a series of gorges which came about as a result of soft sandstone wearing way. These gorges have been consuming the river and the river banks for around 100,000 years and today, the waterfall is almost one mile wide at the point that it enters the first gorge. From this point, the river takes a meandering route with sharp twists and turns before it reaches the ‘Boiling Pot’ at the second gorge where whirlpools can be spotted. The river then continues to zig zag through a further four gorges and there are fantastic view points from both sides of the falls, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Interesting Facts about the Falls

Victoria Falls was named after Queen Victoria by the first European explorer to travel there, David Livingstone. But the local people have long had a name for this incredible world wonder. In the language of Tokaleya Tonga (the language of the indigenous people of Zimbabwe and Zambia), the falls are named “Mosi-Oa-Tunya”, meaning “The Smoke that Thunders”.

The falls are neither the tallest nor the widest in the world, but its combined size and surface area (354 ft. high and 5,604 ft. wide) means that it has the world’s largest sheet of falling water.

HOW TO GET THERE

The beauty of Victoria Falls is that there are a number of different viewing points you can enjoy, from both the Zimbabwe side and the Zambia side. About three quarters of the falls lies within the Zimbabwe border and there are more viewing point there too; however, Zambia can be much less crowded and it’s still very much the Victoria Falls’ best kept secret in terms of location. Many visitors who have travelled to both sides will also report that they enjoy the wilder, more rugged element of the off-the-beaten-path feel of Zambia.

To get great views from Zambia, we recommend staying at the Toka Leya Camp, which overlooks the Zambezi; this makes a great base for exploring Victoria Falls across the various viewing points and to get the most out of your visit, we recommend a guided safari tour. To visit Victoria Falls and to stay at our recommended Victoria Falls camp, check out our Great Wilderness Luxury Mobile Safari or our Kafue & Victoria Falls Silver Plus safari package.

Airports and Travel

There are two main airports for people visiting Victoria Falls. The closest airport in Zambia is Livingstone Airport, and the easiest way to fly into Livingstone Airport is from Johannesburg, Tambo International or Lusaka. In Zimbabwe, you will fly into Victoria Falls Airport which is served by regular flights from major locations in Africa. Additionally, the Windhoek/Maun flight route goes through Zimbabwe and safari goers can transfer from the Okavango Delta to Kasane Airport and continue their journey by road from the Botswana border.

Transfers to your camp from the airports are usually pre-arranged and will be by minibus or a 4×4 vehicle.

WHEN TO VISIT

There are definitely advantages to visiting Victoria Falls in Zambia as well as Zimbabwe but this can also depend on the time of year you decide to travel. During the months of February to June, the water levels are at their highest and this is prime time to visit on the Zambian side. The waterfall is in full swing and you will get some great views; the biggest challenges during this time is the mist and spray back at the viewing points which will certainly get you wet and can also pose a bit of a test for capturing the perfect photo. We recommend bringing the best possible camera equipment and something that can keep your equipment dry at all times.

During the months of October and November, the Zambian side of Victoria Falls will dry up. So visit during this time and you could find yourself staring at a dry piece of rock! So if you are planning on going on safari during the months of October and November, your best bet is Zimbabwe; this side of the waterfall will flow all year round. If you happen to be in Zambia visiting other attractions during the dry months however, don’t discount Victoria Falls altogether. The low water levels can have its benefits too – the famous Devil’s Pool on the Zambian side is perfect for bathing in during these months and you’ll get some great views there.

If you travel to Zimbabwe, any month is a great time to travel. However, you may want to avoid April as this is the wettest period and could be prone to large amounts of rainfall or even flooding.

TIPS FOR FIRST TIME VISITORS

For general safari planning tips or ideas on where to go in Zambia, please feel free to use our online safari resource or view or online Zambia guide. For some super handy first timer tips for visiting the Victoria Falls in either Zambia or Zimbabwe, read on…

* Choose a side – experiencing the waterfalls from Zambia or Zimbabwe can be very different, and both sides have their own advantages and both destinations have their own unique charm. So conduct plenty of research before you travel to choose the best side for your trip.

* Explore the activities – a Victoria Falls safari offers a lot more than just waterfall walks and amazing views. There are various activities that can enhance your experience including helicopter rides, white water rafting, day trips or game viewing opportunities by the riverside.

* Choose the right camp – all camps are different and there’s a fantastic choice of campsites in Zambia (more so than Zimbabwe) but choosing the right one is key. If you are travelling with children for instance, opt for a camp with family sized tents (such as Toka Leya Camp on the river’s edge).

* Bring a good cameraa good camera is essential if you want to capture the best images of the waterfall. During high water season, your biggest challenge is getting a photo through the mist and spray of the water. So bring an SLR and a tripod if you can.

* Prepare to get wet – from February to June, the water levels are at their highest on both sides (with April being the wettest) so when you’re at the viewing points, you can expect to get pretty wet. There are usually vendors selling ponchos but it’s best to pack some waterproofs in your suitcase.

* Choose the right month – it’s important to remember that the Zimbabwe side flows all year round whilst the Zambian side dries up from around October / November. So if you’re wanting to travel during those months, book your stay in Zimbabwe instead.

* Wear safe walking shoes – the terrain is mostly easy and safe, even for young kids. However, the water can make the surfaces quite slippery. So make sure you buy good quality walking shoes with a decent grip on the bottom.

* Bring your own water – as with most tourist destinations and safari parks in Africa, the price of water can be costly. If you’re travelling on a budget, be sure to pack your own bottled water!

WHAT ANIMALS YOU CAN SEE

Victoria Falls doesn’t offer guaranteed sightings of the Big Five like neighbouring Botswana’s Chobe National Park or 4 of the Big Five like Zambia’s Kafue National Park. But it does support a large number of different mammals, both large and small. So if you’re looking for the perfect family safari holiday that combines a world wonder with animals, Zambia could be the perfect compromise.

Large Mammals

Elephants are abundant on both sides of the waterfall so this is a great place to go elephant spotting. They can often be seen crossing the banks when water levels are at their lowest to feed on vegetation. Within the Zambezi River itself, you will spot plenty of hippos and they like to gather upstream to enjoy bathing in the water. Buffalo are often seen grazing and drinking near the water’s edge and big predators or carnivores such as lions, hyenas and wildcats can be found cooling off under the trees.

Antelope

A visit to Victoria Falls will include easy sightings of various antelope including impala, waterbuck, kudu, eland, bushbuck, steenbok, reedbuck, klipspringer and common duiker. These animals like to graze so anywhere with grassy areas is a good place to look.

Primates

Baboons are the most common primates in this area of Africa and they can mostly be found rummaging around for leftovers in bins. Baboons in this area are very friendly and forward and have often been known to try and steal food from tourists – so be especially careful if you are carrying large bags of groceries back to your camp!

Smaller Mammals

Smaller mammals include the warthog, the banded grey mongoose, the slender mongoose, the yellow spotted dassie, and cape clawless otters.

WHERE TO STAY

To book a safari trip with our team or for further advice on travel to Zambia and the Victoria Falls, please don’t hesitate to contact us on 01342 811787 or take a look at our different travel itineraries for Zambia for some inspiration. Some of our recommended camps in Zambia are also listed below:

Toka Leya Camp

This camp is in a great location; overlooking the Zambezi and some of the islands, you’ll be in a good spot for watching mammals grazing nearby. The Toka Leya Camp is also family friendly with spacious en-suite style tents as well as a dining area and bar in the main guest section. A good camp close to viewing points for Victoria Falls and a top choice for families travelling with little ones.

The River Club

The River Club has a great romantic feel as well as a spa, making it ideal for couples. If you’re after some safari luxury or the perfect place to honeymoon, this is the place to go. Watch spectacular sunsets from the private decking area or take part in the river’s many activities such as fishing or motor boat hire.

Old Mondoro

This fantastic camp is located in Lower Zambezi National Park and offers a private and intimate experience for safari goers. Old Mondoro Camp is an ideal spot for game viewing and an excellent choice of camp if you’re after a relaxed safari experience; for those who want to keep active, there are also plenty of safari activities available such as 4×4 game drives as well as river based activities, all led by an award winning team of local guides!

Royal Livingstone

The Royal Livingstone Hotel is set on the banks of the Zambezi River with stunning views overlooking the Victoria Falls. If you want to stay somewhere with the best views of the famous waterfall, Royal Livingstone is highly recommended and all rooms come with a private balcony.

Busanga Bush Camp

If you want to explore Kafue National Park, a stay at Busanga Bush Camp is a must. Set in the heart of the Busanga Plains, you’ll have guaranteed sightings of a whole variety of different wildlife. There are game drives available both day and night so if you have a wildlife focus for your next safari trip, this could be the perfect base in Zambia.

For more information on visiting Victoria Falls or help with booking your Zambia safari trip, call us on 01342 811787 or email our team on info@signaturesafaris.com.