As well as hosting one of the world’s most beautiful waterfalls, this jaw-dropping region is the undisputed adventure capital of Africa
It’s not the tallest, nor the widest waterfall in the world, but Victoria Falls is certainly one of the most spectacular. The fittingly nicknamed Mosi-oa-Tunya or ‘the smoke that thunders’ straddles the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe in southern Africa and has enticed travellers for decades. Its source? The mighty Zambezi River, which stretches more than 1,700 metres across a plateau before gushing over the edge and plummeting around 100 metres. In the wet season, the ferocity of its flow causes mist to rise up and soak everything within reach.
While ogling Victoria Falls is a worthy way to spend your time in the region, there are plenty of other activities to enrich your visit. Whether you’re an adrenaline junky, or prefer to keep your feet on solid ground, here, 5 adventures at Victoria Falls.
1. Wander the Falls from Zimbabwe to Zambia
Most associate Victoria Falls with Zimbabwe, but around 25% of the natural wonder is located in Zambia. Rather than staying within Zimbabwean limits, head east to the Victoria Falls Bridge and cross the border for an alternate perspective and spectacular views of the Zambezi River. Zimbabwe is known for its postcard-perfect vistas, but those wanting to get up close and personal with the falls should explore the Zambian portion. Just be sure to pack a raincoat!
Experiencing both sides of the falls has never been easier with the introduction of the KAZA Univisa – an initiative allowing unlimited border crossings between Zimbabwe and Zambia for 30 days. The visa is available to 65 nationalities upon arrival at eight major entry points, including Victoria Falls International Airport, and is US$50 per person.
2. Take a Helicopter flight over the falls
While wandering Victoria Falls on foot is the best way to feel their power, to take in their true majesty you must see them from above. A helicopter flight brings the sheer scale of the waterfall into perspective and reveals parts of the landscape otherwise unseen – from canyons to roaring rapids. In flight, keep your eyes peeled for herds of wildlife crossing the savannahs below; the surrounding Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park on the Zambia side is home to plenty of big game.
If you want to splurge on one activity in southern Africa, make it a scenic falls flight. Chikopokopo Helicopters are one of the region’s best reputed companies, running tours from 12–30 minutes. Pilots will take you close to the action, point out sights of interest and provide expert commentary along the way to ensure your experience is unforgettable.
3. Swim in the Devil’s Pool
Nestled into the Zambian side of Victoria Falls, the Devil’s Pool is a natural infinity pool where daring visitors can swim atop the roaring waterfall and gawk at the 100 metre drop into the chasm below. Reaching the pool is its own test of bravery; you must take a boat to Livingston Island, clamour across rocks and swim through part of the Zambezi – a river where crocodiles and hippos are known to inhabit – before leaping into the water. It’s little wonder why the activity is considered the holy grail for thrill seekers.
While the attraction is certainly a test of courage, it’s not as dangerous as it appears. The pool is only open in the dry season (mid August–mid January), and even then, water levels must be low before tours will run. Below the surface, a rock lip beside the edge prevents people from sliding off, and the current at this time of year is mild.
Tongabezi is the only company licensed to run tours to the Devil’s Pool, with expert guides trained to minimise risk to their clients. Of course, the nature of the activity means safety cannot be guaranteed, so carefully consider your health and fitness before booking.
4. Bungee jump in no-man's land
If you’ve always dreamed of bungee jumping, consider taking the leap in no-man's land between Zambia and Zimbabwe. The Victoria Falls Bridge bungee is widely regarded as one of the most scenic jumps in the world, providing views of the Zambezi and its lush surrounds as you plummet 111 metres. Experienced jumpers are free to leap off backwards or even flip, but the regular head-first bungee is enough of a rush for most. Those after a slightly more sedate thrill can try the bridge swing or zipline, while the less adrenaline-inclined are welcome to watch others jump from the comfort of the Bridge Cafe.
Shearwater Bungee is the only licensed company on the bridge, operating since 1994 and adherent to stringent safety standards. If you have any health concerns, please speak with your GP prior to booking your bungee jump.
5. Cruise on the Zambezi
The Zambezi River is the lifeblood of southern Africa. Flowing through Zambia, Angola, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique, the continent’s fourth largest river sustains considerable plant and animal life, powers several hydroelectric stations and acts as a crucial water source for agricultural crops.
Spend an evening cruising along the Zambezi, taking in the scenery as sunset washes over the land and wildlife congregate for their final drink of the day. Hippo and elephant sightings are among the most common, with plenty of other birds and animals known to make an appearance. Once night sets in, relax under the African stars with a drink in hand and plenty of delicious food.
Many companies operate sunset tours on the Zambezi, ranging from no-frills boats for the budget conscious, to ultra-luxe all-inclusive cruises. Zambezi Cruise and Safari have a range of options, with premier boats such as the Sovereign offering stylish lounge areas and several areas to kick back and take in the scenery.