Newest Review: ... Zimbabwe rather than Zambia - there is an airport about 40 mins away from the falls, which is accessible from Johannesburg. This is quite a... more
One visit and you'll have fallen for Victoria Falls
Victoria Falls National Park (Zimbabwe)
Member Name: AprilMay
Victoria Falls National Park (Zimbabwe)
Advantages: Stunning scenery, beautiful people, wildlife.
Disadvantages: Out of the way, currency issues, countries are not very stable.
I was lucky enough to visit this stunning destination a couple of years ago, and I must say that while I have been to some beautiful places in the world, this has got to be near the top of the list.
The Victoria Falls, as they are known to us in the west, or "the smoke that thunders" to the local people, are amongst the biggest waterfalls in the world with a total height of over 100m. The falls are part of the Zambezi River which runs through southern Africa. The falls are almost right on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe (if you don't know your Cape Town from your Cairo when it comes to Africa geography, these two countries are just north of South Africa and west of Mozambique), in fact I am pretty sure you can access views of the falls from both countries.
When I visited the area I flew into Zimbabwe rather than Zambia - there is an airport about 40 mins away from the falls, which is accessible from Johannesburg. This is quite an experience, and probably one of the only negatives of the trip. Be sure to have sufficient cash in American dollars to pay the 'entry tax' to the airport officials (I use the word 'officials' here quite loosely).
There are a number of accommodation options available near the falls both on the Zimbabwean and Zambian sides. I stayed at a Backpackers lodge on the Zimbabwean side and at about US$2 per night for a place that was clean, had a bar, and even a pool, I was pretty darn impressed. It was bunk accommodation though. There are also quite a few upper crust accommodation options that you could look into.
A bridge runs across the river, just below the falls, between the two countries and offers an amazing view of a large section of the falls. One of the things that makes the falls so unusual though is their width, and to fully appreciate this you really need to get closer. We got right up close to the falls on the zambian side, and you can actually walk out in front of the falls on the opposite rock face, to get absolutely drenched by the spray, deafened by the noise, and blown away by the view. It was one of the most exhilerating things that I have ever done and I highly recommend this spot to any nature lovers, adventurers, or sightseeers in the region.
For the more fearless amongst you, you can also bungy jump off the bridge near the falls, or go white water rafting in the rapids above the waterfall. The surrounding area is heavily forested and there are great opportunities for wildlife watching, bushwalking, and much more. There was a company running hot air balloons when I was there too - you can go up in the balloon and get a view of the falls and the countryside from there.
My biggest tip though would be to take sufficient amounts of foreign currency with you when you go, the crazy inflation of the Zimbabwean dollar means that the currency is almost worthless and for some things (like border payments etc) you can only pay with American dollars and we really struggled to get any of the hotels to exchange our currency for us. I found the area to be quite safe, and the people were absolutely lovely. This is a tourist destination and people understand that the visitors are their livelihood, therefore you will be treated well. Of course there is some begging, but nowhere near as much as in Asia and if you ignore unwanted attention people will leave you alone. I still wouldnt recommend this location to women travelling on their own though - its probably more suited to couples or small groups or families with slightly older children.
Summary: A magical destination, a once in a lifetime experience. Go for it!