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Victoria Falls – The Smoke that Thunders!

Victoria Falls – The Smoke that Thunders!

Victoria Falls, one of the world’s Seven Natural Wonders, is without doubt Zimbabwe’s top tourist attraction and one of the best locations in Africa to build a safari around.

In the local language it is known as the Mosi-oa-Tunya, “the smoke that thunders” and this is very apt.  An enchanting way to see the Falls is from the rainforest walk that takes you into the green depths; part of Victoria Falls National Park.  Take a waterproof jacket – the spray is impressive, especially after the summer rains and the rainbow spray is magical.  Look out for exotic birds and animals too – the fruit-eating trumpeter hornbill, the shy bushbuck and the precocious vervet monkeys.

The Falls can be viewed from both the Zimbabwean and Zambian sides of the gorge and can be arranged to suit whichever fits best with your safari.

The Zambezi River provides a plethora of activities at Victoria Falls.  The ‘Flight of the Angels’ by helicopter or microlight, canoeing, white water rafting, zip lining or even bungee jumping off the bridge itself.  More relaxing pursuits include sundowner river cruises or taking afternoon tea at the iconic Edwardian Victoria Falls Hotel that dates back to 1905, the same year the renowned railway bridge spanning the river was completed.

 

 

 

 

at a glance

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Introduction

Situated in south-east Zambia, this historic town and ‘adventure capital’ of Zambia supports a huge array of world leading  adrenalin filled activities, from white-water rafting to bungee jumping, making Livingstone one of the most impressive holiday destinations. This is the perfect location to visit the scenic Victoria Falls, the greatest known curtain of cascading water in the world, situated a mere 10km from the town as well as see the local wildlife. Spanning 1¼ miles wide and plunging 300 feet into the gorge below: up to 750 million litres cascade over the lip every minute in the wetter months. Wander along cobbled pathways, through a tropical rainforest to the edge of this magnificent chasm to witness the spectacular scenery and variety of landscapes. Pastures and tall riverine forests rich in bird species interspersed with baobabs shape the wildlife reserves, a stark contrast to the large rainforest surrounding the falls. With many rare species of plant, most notably ferns, the lush rainforest canopy sustained by the clouds of spray attract diverse bird life.

History

Located in an area of spectacular scenic beauty, the area around Victoria Falls has been a major crossroads for travellers for centuries; from the early missionaries and traders to recent tourists and backpackers. The Makololo people nicknamed the falls ‘Mosi-oa-Tunya’: the smoke that thunders, however it was David Livingstone’s visit in 1855 which effectively was the catalyst that put Victoria Falls on the map, crediting himself as the first white man to set eyes on the falls. Commissioned by Cecil John Rhodes, the spectacular Victoria Falls Bridge was completed in 1905, and today it remains a major landmark of the area; spanning across the impressive gorge between the border posts of Zambia and Zimbabwe. In 1911, Livingstone became the capital of Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) until 1935 when administration was transferred to Lusaka. In November 2005, the latest statue of David Livingstone was erected.

The Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park, Zambia

The Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park is the smallest park in Zambia, covering an area of 66km². It offers one of the best chances in Zambia of spotting a small population of recently re-introduced white rhino, along with common game such as antelope and elephant. The park however is not inhabited by any predators but a highlight is spotting hippos and crocodiles from the river bank. A unique and ideal way to view the wildlife of the park is by both elephant and horse backed safaris which are offered by some local lodges. The rainforest has the addition of baboons, warthog and vervet monkey which are frequently seen on the paths leading to the falls. A varied collection of bird species inhabits the area, with regular sightings of the African finfoot, the half-collared kingfisher and the Rock Pratincole. Birds of prey are often spotted during the early morning, such as the martial eagle. The area’s prolific wildlife can be witnessed on a range of exciting activities; from boat trips to game drives, to elephant and horse backed safaris.

The Victoria Falls National Park, Zimbabwe

The Victoria Falls National Park is one of the country’s most beautiful parks, with the entrance just 5km from Victoria Falls. Its rich and varied habitats of mopane woodlands, grasslands and riverine forests ensure a diverse collection of species inhabit the park. Giraffe, elephant, buffalo and numerous antelope species are commonly spotted along with lion, leopard and wild dog being the dominant predators. The Zambezi River is home to an abundance of hippo and crocodile in addition to tiger fish, giant vudu over 6ft long and plenty of riverine birdlife. Egrets, herons and cormorants often feature as do magnificent fish eagles and colourful kingfishers, making this a rewarding area for birders. A range of activities are offered including game drives, half day walking safaris and birdwatching safaris be open vehicle, foot or boat. For experienced horse-riders, there is an opportunity to join the Anti-Poaching Horseback Patrol to search for wire snares set by poachers and discover the behind-the-scenes story of Zambia’s conservation strategies. The park also offers a selection of luxurious lodges located amongst majestic palm trees along the gently flowing Zambezi riverbanks.

The following safari areas are all located relatively close to the Livingstone area, so would be ideal to visit in addition to the Victoria Falls: Victoria Falls National Park, Zimbabwe, Zambezi National Park, Zimbabwe, Kafue National Park, Zambia, Chobe National Park, Botswana, Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe, Chizarira National Park, Zimbabwe, Kazuma Pan National Park, Zimbabwe

Regional Considerations

The Victoria Falls never looks the same every time you visit, as it differs depending on the time of day. Sunrise is an excellent time to view Danger Point and Knife-edge Point as three concentric rainbows appear as halos. Towards late afternoon and early evening, the stunning sunset is worth seeing. Moonlight is a fascinating time of day to view the falls as they take on an ethereal glow as the waters take on the appearance of being frozen as they blend into one smooth mass.

Rafting: The best rafting time is during the dry season at low water (July-January). As water levels rise during the summer months, rafting generally closes down and is unavailable due to difficult conditions.

Wildlife Viewing: Early winter (April to June) is not the preferential time as vegetation is high and groundwater abundant so game is dispersed throughout the area. As the dry season develops, wildlife viewing improves (August to Mid-November) as species accumulate around water holes and rivers. At the onset of rains (November-March), animals disperse again, however migratory birds return so this is the peak time for birdwatching. Accessibility of the parks is often limited however.

When To Visit

The dry season (April to October) is the best time to view fauna, particularly migratory species such as elephant, however, birdlife flourishes during the summer months of November to March.

January, February, March and April – At the peak of the rainy season, this green season is one of the least popular times of the year to visit yet the Victoria Falls are most spectacular at peak flood season in March and April. However, photography of the full length of the gorge can be problematic as a result of the immense amounts of spray. In contrast, the view of the falls from the air during this time is spectacular. Most lodges in Livingstone should be open throughout this period, and rates are vastly lower than the peak season.

May and June – The rains begin to abate as May progresses, and temperatures fall to an average daytime temperature of 25°C. Most lodges are open throughout this period and rates are still lower than the peak season.

July, August, September and October – these months represent the dry season which is regarded as the best time to visit Livingstone. Temperatures steadily increase until they peak in October at around 40°C. October is widely accepted as the prime safari month. All lodges are open and peak season rates apply. Victoria Falls are at minimum flow during October and November.

November and December – Early November is climatically an uncomfortable time of the year with temperatures around 40°C. Humidity levels rise as the rains approach, however conditions improve as December progresses. The falls are at their lowest around November and December, therefore this is the best time to appreciate the geology of the area such as the sheer cliffs and the abyss into which the water falls. Most lodges in Livingstone are open during these months, with off peak rates offered.

Temperature & Rainfall

Climate Chart – Victoria Falls

Victoria Falls Highlights

Helicopter Flight

Helicopter Flight

Helicopter Flight

The "Flight of Angels" is a not to be missed experience at Victoria Falls. The pilot will fly ...

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Helicopter Flight

Helicopter Flight

The “Flight of Angels” is a not to be missed experience at Victoria Falls. The pilot will fly circuits to give the best viewing, photographic and filming opportunities.

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Adventure Activity

Adventure Activity

Adventure Activity

As the river zigzags down the Batoka Gorges, a cable is suspended across from one side to the ...

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Adventure Activity

Adventure Activity

As the river zigzags down the Batoka Gorges, a cable is suspended across from one side to the other. You are harnessed and attached to a pulley, then launched over the edge picking up speed as you descend over the water and reaching a speed of 106 km an hour.

Photo credit: Wild Horizons

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Romantic Interludes

Romantic Interludes

Romantic Interludes

Victoria Falls is an extremely romantic destination and perfect for honeymooners or wedding ...

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Romantic Interludes

Romantic Interludes

Victoria Falls is an extremely romantic destination and perfect for honeymooners or wedding anniversary celebrations. Amongst the raft of special experiences is this one – a dinner in the calm rapids of the Zambezi River at Victoria Falls Beat that!

Photo credit: andbeyond

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Cheetah Interaction

Cheetah Interaction

Cheetah Interaction

Stay at award winning luxury The Elephant Camp and meet Sylvester the cheetah who acts as an ...

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Cheetah Interaction

Cheetah Interaction

Stay at award winning luxury The Elephant Camp and meet Sylvester the cheetah who acts as an ambassador at Victoria Falls to spread awareness of cheetah conservation.

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High Tea at The Falls

High Tea at The Falls

High Tea at The Falls

Step back in time at one of Africa’s oldest hotels and enjoy the famed High Tea on Stanley’s ...

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High Tea at The Falls

High Tea at The Falls

Step back in time at one of Africa’s oldest hotels and enjoy the famed High Tea on Stanley’s Terrace at the Victoria Falls Hotel. The epitome of grand luxury travel.

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Birding

Birding

Birding

Victoria Falls is one of the best birding locations in southern Africa because of the Zambezi ...

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Birding

Birding

Victoria Falls is one of the best birding locations in southern Africa because of the Zambezi River. The African Skimmer is a very special sighting.

Photo credit: Dana Allen

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Zambezi Sunset Cruise

Zambezi Sunset Cruise

Zambezi Sunset Cruise

We believe that a Zambezi Sunset Cruise is a compulsory outing when in Victoria Falls, providing an ...

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Zambezi Sunset Cruise

Zambezi Sunset Cruise

We believe that a Zambezi Sunset Cruise is a compulsory outing when in Victoria Falls, providing an opportunity to unwind and soak up the atmosphere of the Zambezi River while enjoying sundowner drinks.

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Victoria Falls Tour

Victoria Falls Tour

Victoria Falls Tour

A knowledgeable guide will take you on an unforgettable experience through the Victoria Falls ...

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Victoria Falls Tour

Victoria Falls Tour

A knowledgeable guide will take you on an unforgettable experience through the Victoria Falls rainforest, a journey that not only affords a view of one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World but provides a great deal of interesting facts about the geology, wildlife and history of Africa’s most famous landmark.

Photo Credit: Dana Allen

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White Water Rafting

White Water Rafting

White Water Rafting

Considered to be the best one day White Water Rafting trips in the world – after a safety ...

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White Water Rafting

White Water Rafting

Considered to be the best one day White Water Rafting trips in the world – after a safety briefing and a steep walk into the gorge your journey begins.

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camps & lodges

Gorges Lodge

Gorges Lodge

Gorges Lodge is built on the edge of the Batoka Gorge 10km downstream from Victoria Falls and has arguably the most spectacular views in ... Read More

Ilala Lodge Hotel

Ilala Lodge Hotel

Ilala Lodge Boutique Lodge is situated in Victoria Falls town and is actually the closest hotel to Victoria Falls. A secluded setting overlooking ... Read More

Imbabala Zambezi Safari Lodge

Imbabala Zambezi Safari Lodge

Imbabala Zambezi Safari Lodge is situated on a riverine fringe of the mighty Zambezi River where Zimbabwe, Botswana, Zambia and Namibia converge. ... Read More

The Elephant Camp

The Elephant Camp

The Elephant Camp is situated on a private concession within, and bounded by, the Masuwe River and the Zambezi gorges, just 10kms outside Victoria ... Read More

Victoria Falls Hotel

Victoria Falls Hotel

The Victoria Falls Hotel is an African classic, built during the Edwardian period in 1904.  With its iconic backdrop of the Victoria Falls ... Read More

Victoria Falls Safari Club

Victoria Falls Safari Club

Victoria Falls Safari Club, one of three hotels in the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge Resort, is positioned on a natural plateau overlooking the Zambezi ... Read More