One of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, Victoria Falls is a must-see destination and should be on your bucket list! The falls certainly aren’t the highest or widest falls in the world. However, they are classified as the largest due to the sheer volume of water plummeting over the edge in a single sheet. Brazil’s Iguazu Falls has more total volume, but these are considered multiple falls. Regardless, if you visit Victoria Falls during end of the rainy season (March-April), you’ll see why it’s so impressive. The original name of the falls is Mosi-oa-Tunya, meaning “The Smoke That Thunders.” The smoke refers to the huge amounts of water vapor given off by the falls. During the wet months, all you’ll see is a white fog since the vapor is so thick. The “smoke” can be seen from miles away. Although it would be an impressive sight and sound, I don’t recommend visiting during the wet months. Instead, plan your visit for July-Sept. At lower water, you’ll be better able to photograph the falls. In addition, many recreational activities are available like river cruises, white water rafting, and swimming at Devil’s Pool.
Victoria Falls lies on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. The best views of the falls are on the Zimbabwe Side. The government operates a National Park here with several good viewpoints and hiking trails. However, for the best photographs of the falls, you’ll need to venture out beyond the established viewpoints. For the image above, I got as close to the edge of the gorge as I dared. The rocks were really slippery and it would be easy to tumble over the edge. To help keep my camera dry, I used a heavy plastic bag with a cutout for my lens. I then attached it using a rubber band around the lens. Even still, it was almost impossible to keep the equipment dry. Bring lots of dry microfiber cloths with you to clean water droplets!
When I was there in Sept, the sun was coming up right at 6AM. Unfortunately, the National Park didn’t open until 6AM. We tried to talk the guards into letting us in early, but they wouldn’t budge. Thus we had to patiently wait until the ticket collector showed up at 6:05AM. Once we got our tickets, we quickly ran to Viewpoint #9 to get the sunrise shot above. Fortunately for us, we arrived just in time! This was the wettest spot to see the falls, so make sure you protect your gear.
Devil’s Cataract is a separate falls off to the side (shown above). It’s worth seeing and is quite impressive when you start hiking down into the gorge a little ways. In the morning, you’ll get impressive rainbows down here.
In the evening, sign-up for a dinner cruise on the Zambezi River. It’s a lot of fun to catch the sunset on the river (see first picture in the post). African sunsets are really a treat to behold. It’s amazing how you can look directly at the sun and it doesn’t even hurt your eyes! In addition, you’ll see some wildlife on the cruise like the defensive hippo above.
We stayed overnight at little rest camp in the town of Victoria Falls. While getting ready to cook dinner one night, some curious monkeys came over to check us out. One of them distracted us with this cute little baby and we couldn’t resist taking a few pictures. While our backs were turned, a different monkey grabbed some bananas out of our food box and took off running. I sprinted after the thief. The monkey soon realized he wasn’t going to make it to the next tree before I caught him, so he dropped the bananas. Pretty tricky how they work in teams like this!
One of the best activities was rafting the Zambezi River. This is the largest commercially guided whitewater in the world. Since the river is so deep, it’s relatively safe. The river definitely lived up to it’s reputation as these were the biggest rapids and waves I’ve ever seen! Every boat in our group flipped at least once. It was such an amazing experience – definitely don’t pass it up! Another fun activity is taking a helicopter ride over the falls. This is the only way to really get the proper perspective of the falls and may be the only way to see the falls in high water. There are also some companies that offer a dinner show. Although expensive, this was a fun way to see traditional dances and eat some exotic foods. For example, we got to eat crocodile tail, impala, ostrich, elan, mopani worms, etc. The worms are thumb-sized grubs that infest certain trees. The natives shake them out of the trees and fry them up. I thought they tasted like popcorn!
If you venture over to the Zambian Side, you’ll find a little spot just off Livingston Island called Devil’s Pool. We ended up walking out there on our own, trying to find the shallowest parts of the river to cross. When we got there, we were met by a tour guide. He was a little surprised we had just come out on our own. Evidently, most people book tours to go there. He ended up charging us a view bucks and let us stay. Devil’s Pool is only accessible in low water. Here, a rock wall forms a border along the lip of the falls. Thus, you can swim in the pool without worrying about being swept over the edge. In the image above, I’m doing a flip into the pool. Ordinarily this would be a suicide jump – but not at Devil’s Pool. In fact, we could lean out over the top of the falls and look all the way to the bottom – very trippy indeed! While we were swimming, the guide grabbed my camera and took a quick video that you can watch below. If you want rainbows, go in the morning. If you go in the afternoon/evening, you can get cool backlit photographs. I almost wished I had opted for backlight. On our way back, we got lost in the maze of channels and ended up having to ask a local fisherman to show us the way back. What an adventure!
Victoria Falls and Devil’s Pool