Where is it and how do you access it?
The popular destination is on the Zambezi River, between Zimbabwe and Zambia. It is accessed via Zimbabwe’s town of Victoria Falls or Livingstone in Zambia.
Most travellers fly in, with Victoria Falls International Airport handling international flights. Livingstone Airport handles regional flights. South Africa’s luxury Rovos Rail makes scheduled visits to Vic Falls from Pretoria.
What makes it a prime tourist destination?
Big-Five wildlife destinations with luxury and rustic accommodation, are found on both sides of the river, offering a number of exciting world-famous adventure activities.
The reserve shares a boundary with the 56 000-hectare Zambezi National Park, which split off from the Victoria Falls National Park in 1979. There are rare sable amongst the more common antelope, plus excellent birding, but no rhino here.
Between Vic Falls and Botswana are a number of private concessions that are part of a broad conservation area along the Zambezi River.
Possibly the best-known of the concessions is the 50 000-hectare Matetsi Private Game Reserve, famous for its population of rare sable antelope, with camps both on the Zambezi and inland on a vlei (wetland).
What is unique about the destination?
Victoria Falls is arguably the world’s most famous waterfall at approximately 1700m (just over a mile) wide and roughly twice the height of North America’s Niagara Falls.
The Falls links two countries, Zimbabwe and Zambia. Its traditional name, Mosi-oa-Tunya or ‘The Smoke That Thunders’, comes from the huge column of spray that is made by the sheer force of the water plunging into the gorge, drenching the surrounding area, known as the rainforest, in a fine mist.
What are the top activities for tourists?
Vic Falls is perhaps best-known for bungee-jumping off the historic railway bridge, helicopter flips over the Falls and Grade 5 river-rafting excursions down the rapids below the Falls.
Game drives in the national parks on both sides of the river, in Zimbabwe’s Victoria Falls National Park and Zambia’s Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park, offer Big-Five wildlife experiences.
The tricky thing about visiting Victoria Falls is that the most impressive spray – from February to May, when the water is at its highest – doesn’t coincide with peak safari season in Botswana’s nearby Chobe, or Hwange in Zimbabwe.
If your clients are first-time safari visitors to southern Africa and they wish to combine these destinations, the best time for combining Vic Falls with Chobe is the dry winter period from June to August.
It promises great game viewing, hardly any rain, warm days and cool nights and plenty of water still thundering over the precipice.
Some activities, like swimming in the Devil’s Pool, almost at the edge of the Falls (and certain sections of white-water rapids), are too dangerous to undertake when the water is at its highest and fastest.
Raincoats for the rainforest are advisable, to cover camera equipment too. Mosquito repellents and prophylactics are essential, as this is a malarial area. Hats and sunscreen lotion are also essential, as are layers of clothing, as cold and rain can suddenly arrive, even out of season.
Currency and visa requirements
- Most foreigners require a visa to enter Zimbabwe, which can be issued at the border or upon arrival. The cost depends on nationality and length of stay.
- US citizens require a Category B visa, which can be issued at the port of entry.
- Travellers can purchase one at the border post between Zambia and Zimbabwe during the immigration procedure.
- It is advisable to have US currency in small denominations to pay. The cost is US$30 single-entry, US$45 double-entry, US$55 multiple entry – visitors will need their valid passport, itinerary, exit ticket, and cash payment for a visa.
- It is possible to obtain the visa in advance by contacting the embassy of the United States.
- British nationals may also be granted a visa at the port of entry on payment of the requisite visa fees - US$55 single entry, US$70 double entry and US$90 multiple entry.
- US nationals do not need to arrange a visa prior to arrival. Visas for all US nationals are US$50 single and US$80 double entry and can be paid for on arrival.
- British citizens require a visa to enter Zambia.
- It is best to obtain a visa before travelling if possible. Visas can be obtained from the Zambian High Commission in London. Single-entry visas are also available at all ports of entry.
- Visa fees for British nationals are US$50 for a single entry and from US$80 for a multi-entry visa. The multi-entry visa has to be applied for beforehand. It is not available at the ports of entry.