Victoria Falls has been inching up our bucket list since we moved to South Africa and finally made it to the top. We followed in the footsteps of explorer David Livingstone, albeit in a great deal more comfort.
There are plenty of things to do close to the falls dependant on water levels, your appetite for adventure and the age of any children you have in tow.
Here’s what we managed to squeeze in to around 48 hours. All of the activities (except for the nighttime moonbow hunt) were family friendly and probably best suited to families with children aged 6+.
Take a Helicopter Ride over Victoria Falls
“It had never been seen before by European eyes; but scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight.” David Livingstone
Awesome. Completely awesome. Expensive and awesome. Take a 15 minute trip of a lifetime – the helicopter rides are referred to as The Flight of the Angels. We spoke to one tourist who is terrified to fly. He thought helicoptering over the Falls was one of the best things he’d ever done. Admittedly he confessed to dosing up on valium pre take-off, but I have to agree with him. Flying, nay floating over this giant crack in the earth is pretty mind-blowing. We also saw elephants and giraffes below, mere specks in the landscape.
Join a Moonbow Tour
No, not a rainbow, a moonbow (although your chances of spotting a rainbow/rainbows during daylight hours are high). If your visit coincides with a full moon, you might be lucky enough to see a moonbow, also known as a lunar rainbow. It occurs when the light of the full moon falls just so on the spray from the falls. If you’re hoping to witness this rare natural phenomenon you can check for further information and upcoming moonbow dates here.
Visit the Victoria Falls National Park
We stayed on the Zimbabwean side of the falls. Once you’ve paid your entrance fee, you take a short stroll through the rainforest where you have a choice of viewpoints. There is little more that a low (perhaps 2 ft high) barrier (and when I say barrier it’s more of a loosely woven bramble) between you and the drop.
We endured a light spray at the first few view points and by the end, when we reached the slippy rocky outcrop which is aptly named Danger Point we were soaked to the skin despite raincoats.
Vic Falls is called The Smoke that Thunders and with such an enormous volume of water it lives up to its name.
Whizz above the Batoko Gorge on a Canopy Tour
There are all sorts of activities on offer such as white water rafting, bungee-jumping-from or clambering-about-under the border bridge, canoeing, quad biking or taking a risky dip in the Devil’s Pool or Angel’s armchair (I said risky, not risqué – these pools are ‘adults only’ because they are right on the lip of the Falls). The age of our children (10 and 7) limited which activities were available to do as a family. Happily the zip line canopy tour was a crowd pleaser.
“The falls are bounded on three sides by ridges 300 or 400 feet in height, which are covered with forest, with the red soil appearing among the trees.” David Livingstone
We followed this up with a light lunch at the Lookout Cafe, with striking and slightly vertigo inducing views down into Batoko gorge below the falls and yes, having previously supped a Windhoek beer in Windhoek I got to drink a Zambezi by the Zambezi – these strange little things please me, I know not why, but they do.
Cruise on the Zambezi River
“After twenty minutes’ sail from Kalai we came in sight, for the first time, of the columns of vapour appropriately called ‘smoke,’ rising at a distance of five or six miles, exactly as when large tracts of grass are burned in Africa. Five columns now arose, and, bending in the direction of the wind, they seemed placed against a low ridge covered with trees; the tops of the columns at this distance appeared to mingle with the clouds. They were white below, and higher up became dark, so as to simulate smoke very closely. The whole scene was extremely beautiful; the banks and islands dotted over the river are adorned with sylvan vegetation of great variety of colour and form…no one can imagine the beauty of the view from any thing witnessed in England.” David Livingstone
Cruising on the upper Zambezi (above the falls, where the river is wide, calm and dotted with islands) is another family friendly activity. Our boat criss crossed lazily back and forth leading up to a cracking sunset. Despite all manner and size of crafts plying the water, it was a tranquil experience, we saw elephants browsing along the riverbanks, plenty of hippos popped up to say hello and a gigantic basking croc was taking full advantage of the late afternoon sun.
Cruise options range from small basic boats with a few crisps and a beer, to full sit down dinners. With kids in tow we plumped for one of the bigger boats (we didn’t really fancy being almost eye level with the water with the possibility of them going for an unintended dip with the crocs and hippos). Our boat had ample space for the kids to explore in relative safety and a constant flow of tasty treats including mini crocodile burgers.
All in, our visit to the legendary Victoria Falls was a very happy and quite thrilling trip. I can’t quite fathom what Dr Livingstone, (missionary, explorer and the first known European to lay eyes on these falls), must have thought when he paddled along the Zambezi in a dugout canoe and caught his first glimpse of this awesome natural wonder, but I can say, that if you ever have the opportunity to visit Victoria Falls, grab it with both hands, (just remember to check the water levels and zip-lock your valuables before you do so).
For more of the nuts and bolts details that will help you plan your trip, click here.
13 thoughts on “What Dr Livingstone saw – A trip to Victoria Falls”
On the Zambia side, there are no barriers at all once you walk a couple of hundred meters above the falls (unless things have changed since 2013). You can literally walk out onto small rocks in the middle of the river, which we saw people doing and it was totally insane. I think they’ve had quite a few deaths.
I don’t think there were barriers at Danger Point, just a very slippery rocky outcrop that disappeared into the spray. I’m not surprised if some people have fallen to their doom, easily done….and if it’s not the drops, there are the wild elephants (we had a close encounter) and plenty of predatory wildlife in the river. Oh, and the moonbow trip, I don’t think my husband realised quite how close to the edge they were – a group of people in the dark jostling to take photographs – until he saw the view point in the daylight the following morning.
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Eek! My camera also had a death-defying experience on the Zim side – I let it get waaay too wet. Anyway great post! I’m super jealous of the helicopter ride.
Vic Falls is the wrecker of gadgets. Ours seem to have just about survived, but my bag went mouldy! You’ll have to take the copter next time, it was completely amazing.
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Great photos! I am in the process of planning a trip for October, so excited!
Look forward to seeing your photos, I’m sure they will be stunning. October is when the water is often much lower and I’ve heard that the Zambian side can dry up completely. I’m sure you’ve factored that into your planning, but just in case I thought I’d mention it?
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Yes, thanks, I did read that it is low water season. We already have a 4×4 overland trip through Botswana booked for October and then realized how close we are going to be to VIc Falls (Kasane) so we are planning now to detour to Vic Falls for a couple days before heading back to Joburg. It’s going to be an adventure, haha.
Excellent, will keep my eyes peeled for your thoughts on Botswana, it’s creeping steadily up our list.
This is high on my list to do! But unfortunately, so are many other things…
For now, we’re heading to the Dolphin Coast for a few days then to the Drakensburg, but I think the NEXT trip will be Victoria Falls! I don’t think I’ll be nearly as ambitious with the activities with two young kids in tow, but seeing your post reminded me of how much I want to do this!
Our youngest was only 3 when we moved here, so we put off things like Namibia (lots of long drives) and Vic Falls (lots of long drops) off until quite recently. Our first safari was a nervous experience, our then 3 y.o. almost ran headlong into an electric fence and otherwise we picked off some of the easier trips like Cape Town and Durban. Enjoy the Dolphin Coast and Drakensberg.
This was on our bucket list too and so happy we already visited Victoria Falls in 1998. When planning a visit, go in the dry season, we went in November when there was less spray and therefore more visibility. We flew from Harare to Victoria Falls and stayed at the A’zambezi River Lodge for a few days before travelling down to the Hwange Safari Lodge for a safari and then travelled to Bulawayo from where we travelled into South Africa. When in Victoria Falls, do take a river cruise too, can highly recommend it.
Sounds like a great trip. We didn’t mind the spray too much and I know a few people who have been seriously disappointed if the falls have been very dry, so I’m interested to hear how much you enjoyed it during the dry season. Maybe we’ll have to go back if we have time. 🙂
Ohhhh! I want to go! And thanks for the tip on how soaked we’ll get! Water shoes with good grip (or tevas) on my feet and my GoPro in it’s waterproof housing!