Your ultimate guide to Victoria Falls

written by Sarah Reid August 23, 2018
Girl with arms up looking at Victoria Falls

Known by locals as Mosi-oa-Tunya, or ‘the smoke that thunders,’ Victoria Falls is one of the most iconic images of Africa.

It’s also one of continent’s most popular tourist destinations, with most visitors carving out a couple of days to view the world’s largest curtain of falling water and sign up for some of the myriad adventure activities on offer.

Here’s how to get the most out of your visit.

Zimbabwe vs Zambia

With around 80 per cent of the falls seen from the Zimbabwean side, most visitors opt to bed down in Victoria Falls town, which is where you’ll stay if you’re travelling with Intrepid. Just a 10-minute walk from the falls, the compact tourist-orientated village is the most convenient base for adventure activities, though all activities are accessible from both sides of the falls with the appropriate visa. Be sure to bring plenty of USD with you, as Zimbabwe currently has a cash shortage, and not all local vendors accept credit cards.


Viewing the falls

Victoria Falls

Photo by Mirae Campbell

Entry to the Zimbabwean side of the falls costs US$30. Allow around two hours to check out all 15 viewpoints, and don’t forget your rain poncho – if you’re planning to visit every lookout, you’re unlikely to stay dry. Don’t miss viewpoints one and two, which offer spectacular views through the canyon, while viewpoint 15 offers views across to Victoria Falls Bridge. You can also walk out onto the bridge for a different view. If you have a KAZA multi-entry visa, you can check out the Zambian side of the falls (USD$20) while you’re at it.

Adventure activities

A group of travellers look at Victoria Falls

Photo by Mirae Campbell

Victoria Falls has an established adventure tourism industry, with some of the most popular activities including bungee jumping (off Victoria Falls Bridge), ziplining, whitewater rafting, gorge swinging, and taking a dip in Devil’s Pool, a rock pool on the Zambian side of the falls. Since Easter 2018, you can also abseil to the bottom of the Zimbabwean side of the falls. If you’re planning to sign up for any of these activities, be aware that some carry high safety risks. On New Year’s Eve in 2011, an Australian tourist was incredibly lucky to survive after her bungee cord snapped, and while there have been no recorded deaths at Devil’s Pool, you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to work out that splashing around on the edge of a slippery 108 metre-high waterfall isn’t exactly safe.

It’ll cost you, but you’re not likely to regret taking a heli flight over the falls. For the ultimate birds-eye-view, Intrepid recommends booking with the Zambezi Helicopter Company.


Wildlife tourism

Victoria Falls with rainbow

Photo by Sarah Reid

A handful of excellent wildlife experiences are available at Vic Falls, including day trips to Zimbabwe’s Hwange Game Reserve and even Chobe National Park in neighbouring Botswana, as well as walking safaris in Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park on the Zambia side of the falls.

Unfortunately, a number of other wildlife experiences available at Vic Falls – such as walking with lions and elephant-back safaris – have been linked to animal cruelty. Intrepid ceased offering elephant rides on its tours back in 2014 due to overwhelming evidence that elephant rides (as well as shows such as painting demonstrations) are harmful for elephants. Intrepid also no longer encourages petting or walking with lions. While it might seem like fun to cuddle an African fur baby, the heartbreaking 2015 documentary Blood Lions exposed the realities of Africa’s horrific lion breeding industry, which is often passed off by tourism operators as a conservation exercise. Unable to be returned to the wild after interacting with humans, big cats used for tourism experiences typically end up in canned hunting farms.

Animal welfare experts also advise against crocodile cage diving, which exploits crocodiles for human entertainment. For more info on wildlife tourism in Africa and elsewhere, check out Intrepid’s stance on animal welfare.


Other activities

Travellers in raincoats at Victoria Falls

Photo by Mirae Campbell

More relaxed activities in Vic Falls include sunset cruises, and high tea on Livingstone Island, the spot from where British explorer David Livingstone first viewed the falls in 1855. If you’re planning a day trip to Livingstone in Zambia, don’t miss the Livingstone Museum. Victoria Falls town’s Elephants Walk Shopping and Artist Village is also home to the small but excellent Jafuta Heritage Centre, which is tucked between the town’s best shops.


Where to eat in Victoria Falls town

Victoria Falls town has some of the best restaurants in central southern Africa. For African food, it’s hard to beat the bushbuck lasagna at Lola’s Tapas and Carnivore Restaurant, which serves game meats with Mediterranean flair. If you’re really hungry, opt for the buffet feast at Boma, which includes traditional dancing and interactive drumming. Three Monkeys is the place to go for pizza, burgers, and excellent service, and Nam Took, in the Elephant’s Walk complex, turns out terrific Thai food.

High tea at Victoria Falls Hotel

Photo by Sarah Reid

For an afternoon treat, book ahead for high tea (US$30) at the resplendent Victoria Falls Hotel – Zimbabwe’s oldest and grandest hotel – which offers superb views across manicured lawns towards Victoria Falls Bridge as you munch on jam-and-cream scones.


Where to drink

Perched on the edge of Batoka Gorge, right near the bridge, Lookout Cafe is arguably the best spot on the Zimbabwean side to enjoy a sundowner. The River Brewing Company is perhaps the most atmospheric spot for a brew in town, while the bar at Shoestrings backpacker’s hostel is the place to party on. Dimly lit Invuvu Bar, next to Victoria Falls Rest Camp, is a popular local spot for cheap beers and traditional barbecue. During the day, Dean’s Cafe makes some of the best coffee you’ll find in Zimbabwe.

All set for your Victoria Falls visit? Check out our range of adventures now

Feature image by Chris Castle. 

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