Magical things to do in Victoria Falls
by Alice Hill
Listed as one of the seven wonders of the world, Victoria Falls has a good claim to being the most beautiful place on Earth. It’s not surprising that this scenic spot is at the top of many people’s bucket list.
No-one ever leaves the Falls disappointed. 1.7 kilometers wide and in some places over 100 meters deep, ‘Mosi oa Tunya’, as it is known locally, is a fury of pounding water and flying spray as the mighty Zambezi river plunges into a deep and narrow gorge, where it foams and races on its way to the sea.
But is sheer beauty enough to fill a holiday? How long should visitors plan on staying? This article looks at a few interesting and exciting things to do in Victoria Falls. There’s something for everyone – more sedate tourists will find plenty of family-friendly fun. The more adventurous can choose from a wide range of adrenaline-pumping activities.
Obviously, the one thing no-one should miss is visiting the Falls. Other activities include river cruises, a helicopter flight, bike riding, bird watching and a visit to a crocodile farm. Simply wandering about the town is a great experience: it has a unique, slightly old-world atmosphere, and it’s not unusual to see a family of warthog crossing the road or grazing in the ditch. My favorites include:
Visiting the Falls
Everyone knows the Falls are beautiful; everyone’s seen the pictures. But nothing prepares a new visitor for the total sensory delight of actually being there. The roar of rushing, tumbling water, soothing yet exciting, the rich, herbal smell of the rainforest, the feel of the spray and the delight of wriggling toes on warm, damp pathways. And the view, constantly changing, dark cliffs and white, foaming water, with shifting, shimmering rainbows, sometimes arcing over the Falls, and sometimes dancing over the grassy verge ahead. Over the ages, water has worn away a series of parallel cliffs, making it possible, on the Zimbabwean side, to walk in front of almost the entire width of the waterfall.
Every corner promises a new delight. Now and again a Bambi-like, spotted bushbuck appears from the forest, shy yet unafraid. Small, furry creatures play in the undergrowth; monkeys peer, chattering, from trees. The rainforest is a rich fairyland, and I could never tire of just walking by the Falls.
Taking a sunset cruise on the Zambezi
Above the Falls, the river is wide and calm, dotted with large islands. It’s the home of hippos and crocodiles, and elephants can be seen browsing on the banks and sometimes even in the water, swimming out to feed on the islands. A cruise on the river as the sun goes down, flashing magnificent colors across the water, is a fantastic way to relax and enjoy the wild African scene. Birdlife is plentiful, and there’s just a chance of seeing lions or other big game coming down for an evening drink. An experienced guide gives useful information about the river and its inhabitants while guests enjoy a drink or two and tasty snacks. A great way to end the day!
Victoria Falls teems with wild animals; elephants are plentiful and wander past the up-river lodges and camps. But the best chance for spectacular game viewing is the National Park. Visitors with cars can take a long drive through the riverine forest, certain to see delicate, dancing impala, and with every chance of spotting one of the so-called Big Five: lion, buffalo, elephant, rhino or even the elusive, secretive leopard. For those without transport, many tour operators offer game drives with a knowledgeable guide. Some also offer a day trip to Botswana’s Chobe Reserve. Thanks to Botswana’s well-managed wildlife policy, visitors will have close views of animals who have never learned to fear humans. It’s a truly magical experience.
Activities for the more adventurous
For those who enjoy an adrenaline rush, there are plenty of activities to choose from. Cage diving with crocodiles is becoming popular, though I don’t think I’d enjoy seeing a close-up of those teeth. Bungee jumping from the Victoria Falls bridge, which spans the 128 meter-deep gorge, has always been popular. Tandem sky-dives are also available, as well as a range of gorge activities: the Gorge Swing, the Zip Line, the Flying Fox and the Canopy Slide. Whitewater rafting has always been a favorite, as has canoeing through hippo and crocodile territory above the Falls.
These are some that I enjoyed:
When the wide Zambezi River leaps over the Falls into the narrow Batoka gorge, it becomes a swift-flowing, churning mass of boiling foam. Twisting through the zig-zagging gorges, it swirls angrily over a series of rapids with exciting names such as The Terminator and The Devil’s Toilet Bowl, providing what many have rated as the best whitewater rafting experience in the world. Experienced guides give visitors, with or without rafting experience, the chance to participate in this amazing adventure. A mad spin, tumbling through flying spray … frantic paddling … flinging your weight against the side of the raft to prevent it tipping over … and, if you’re lucky, you’re through, until the next one. If you’re not lucky, you’re now very wet and scrambling to climb back into the boat.
The rapids, many of them Class 4 and 5, are interspersed with calm pools where rafters can pause to admire the beauty of the blue water towered over by sheer cliffs.
Many tour companies offer trips lasting half a day, one day or even several days. It’s an experience not to be missed! But be warned: the 250-meter climb out of the gorge at the end of the day is not easy!
Suspended on cables across a 400-meter wide point above the gorge is a giant foofie slide. The water fumes and chafes against the rocks below. Fighting the fear, step off the platform and – woosh – feel the rush as you reach a speed of over 100 kilometers per hour. Exhilarated, you plunge towards the bottom, then momentum carries you up the other side in a smooth flow of motion. Laughing, high on adrenaline, you’re carried up and down the slide, gradually slowing down to enjoy the view of the choppy water and towering cliffs as you wait to be winched back home. Try it – it’s fun!
Canoeing above the Falls
Canoeing doesn’t usually count as an extreme sport – until you add hippos and crocodiles into the equation! This half-day trip, traveling 18 kilometers down the wide, lazily-flowing river above the Falls, is an excellent way to enjoy the beauty of the river and its inhabitants. But this is the Zambezi, and there’s a good chance a hippo will suddenly pop its head up next to you, grunting and opening its wide mouth to show a healthy set of tusks. Although generally peaceful, hippos can sometimes resent the intrusion into their territory – and they’re very, very big! This particular stretch of river has a good safety record, but all the same, canoeing on the Zambezi is not for the faint-hearted.
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January 18, 2019
A well written article. Makes you want to go and see for yourself.