A distance aerial view of Victoria Falls as my flight approached Victoria Falls International Airport is a field on fire with white smoke bellowing into the skies. As you close in on the falls itself, you realize that the ‘smoke’ is actually a cloud of water rising up as the Zambezi River pours down the falls with amazing force and power.
Once on the ground, the 24 km drive from the airport to Victoria Falls town is an extremely smooth highway. Both sides of the road are lined up with beautiful trees. Victoria Falls town can easily be confused with a small modern city in the developed world. It is clean; the buildings are modern and very well maintained. The roads are very well paved and marked. The flower beds and gardens well nurtured. The town
does not have so much traffic apart from the hordes of buses and minibuses shuttling tourists from the falls to various lodges in the town.
Park entrance fee is paid at the falls entrance. Please note that park entrance fees is paid in United States dollars, cash. This is the most preferred mode of payment. Any other mode of payment may be a big hassle and give you unprecedented complications. A lady ahead of me on the queue had US travelers cheques of 50 dollars denominations and had to go away because she could not be given back her change. Zimbabwe dollars cannot be used by foreigners to pay park entrance fees.
Before you arrive at Victoria Falls, it is very important to prepare for a ‘rainy’ day. It is guaranteed that you will be rained on as you view the falls. This will not be rain water but from the cloud of ‘smoke’ I mentioned early. The best item to protect you from the rain is a poncho. A raincoat will also do. Also have shorts if possible because long trouser will definitely get wet from your knee downwards. Non-leather open shoes would be the best option for footwear. First stop would be at the Livingstone statue. This is a relatively big statue that was put under immense security guard when the locals wanted to destroy it due to political differences between Zimbabwe and Great Britain several years back. Next stop would be a view of the Devil’s Cataract and Cataract Island. The Devil’s Cataract is the western end of the falls and there is a huge force of water flowing down the Devil’s Cataract. From the Cataract Island, the next stop is the Main Falls. This is where one might experience the heaviest rainfall though this is the best sight of viewing the falls. From the main falls, I head to the Livingstone Island. It is said that Dr. Livingstone docked at Livingstone Island and spent the night there oblivious of the falls right after that. As I continue eastwards, the next stop is Horseshoe Falls followed by the Rainbow Falls and finally the Eastern Cataract. Words cannot express the sight at Victoria Falls as the scene is never static. The width of Victoria Falls from the Devil’s Cataract to the Eastern Cataract is 1,700 metres. The mean height of the Main Falls is 83 metres. The mean height of the Rainbow Falls is 99 metres. The mean height for the whole falls is 93 metres. The average flow of water over the falls is 34,000 cubic metres a minute.
The best time to see the falls is between February and June. This is the time the falls is full and complete from the Devil’s Cataract to the Eastern Cataract. During the other months when there is less rainfall experienced, the Horseshoe Falls, Rainbow Falls and Eastern Cataract have no water flowing on them. The paved walkways along the entire falls are well maintained and accessible by wheel chair.
Immediately preceding the falls, the Zambezi River has 4 rapids that zigzag one after the other. The current falls is the first rapid and it is in favour of Zimbabwe. The best country to view the falls now is from the Zimbabwe side and not the Zambia side. However, several centuries ago, Rapid 4, which formed the first ever falls along the Zambezi was in favour of Zambia. Rapid 3 was then created and it was in favour of Zimbabwe. When Rapid 2 was created, it was in favour of Zambia. The Zimbabwe/Zambia famous bungi jump bridge is located on Rapid 2. The current falls and Rapid 1 is in favour of Zimbabwe. Judging from the amount of water flowing down the Devil’s Cataract, it is predicted that the Zambezi River is already cutting its new path heading towards the Zambia side. This will create a new falls and rapid which will be in favour of Zambia. This will however take hundreds of years to form.
As we exit the falls after the Eastern Cataract, we head to the famous bridge joining Zimbabwe and Zambia on Rapid 2. This is the bridge where bungi jumping is done. Water rafting is also done from Rapid 2 downstream. River cruises are done upstream before the falls.
The best method to view the falls is by helicopter. The Flight Of Angels provides one with the perfect experience and excellent view of the falls.
Victoria Falls has all kinds of lodgings and hotels to cater for all classes of travelers. These include Victoria Falls Safari Lodge, A’Zambezi River Lodge, Elephant Hills Hotel, Nyati Lodge, Lokuthula Lodges, Victoria Falls Hotel, The Kingdom Hotel and Casino among others.
Some of the activities available at Victoria Falls is a Sundowner Cruise which provides a very good experience. A visit to Victoria Falls will not be complete without a visit to The Boma – The Place of Eating. This is a wonderful dinner location with traditional dances. One can also do elephant rides and visit the crocodile farm. There is also canoeing and white water rafting along the Zambezi.
Botswana is just an hour’s drive away from Victoria Falls, if one has more time, consider visiting Chobe in Botswana for a night or two.
My flight back to Harare stopped over at Bulawayo. I could not miss noticing that Bulawayo International Airport seemed to have been expanding the airport with a modern massive airport building. This building however seems to have stalled several years back.
Harare is a modern city with well paved and maintained roads. As I traveled around Zimbabwe, it is evidently notable that this is a country that previously had enormous economic growth and focused development which now seems to have hit a brick wall.