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A guide to Victoria Falls, Livingstone, Zambia

April 5, 2011
Victoria Falls - Zimbabwe

Victoria Falls - Zimbabwe

If it isn’t already there, put Victoria Falls at the top of your sightseeing itinerary. This waterfall is simply spectacular and must be seen, felt and heard to be understood. You can see the falls up close at the Victoria Falls section of Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park (admission US$10; hours: 6am-6pm). The entrance is just before the Zambian border post. Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park also has a small wildlife reserve, Mosi-oa-Tunya Game Park (admission US$3; hours: 6am-6pm), which has a good selection of animals including giraffes, zebras, antelopes and a few heavily guarded rhinos.

Another top attraction in the area is Livingstone Island, which is where the famous explorer caught his first glimpse of the falls. The island is located in the middle of the Zambezi River at the top of the falls, so you can literally hang your feet off the edge. Tours to the falls (from US$45) can be arranged at your hotel or hostel.

Mukuni Village (admission US$3; dawn-dusk) is a ‘traditional’ Leva village that welcomes tourists on guided tours. Although the village can be inundated with tourists at times, the admission fee does fund community projects.

Devils Pool

Devils Pool

Although, there are many amazing sites here, the main attraction here is a natural pool known as the Devil’s Armchair or the Devil’s pool. During the month of December and September, the flow of the river is at safe level and so people can swim very close to the edge of the falls without falling down from the height. There are also rock walls and edges formed here, which allows the flow to stop and avoids people from falling.

Tips

Don’t walk from town to the falls as there have been a number of muggings along this stretch of road – even tourists on bicycles have been attacked.

Activities

Spend the day scrambling up rocks, abseiling down cliffs and swinging across canyons in the scenic Batoka Gorge. Half-/full-day abseiling excursions cost from US$80/100. Tackling the third-highest bungee jump in the world (111m) costs a mere US$90 (US$130 for tandem).

High-water rafting runs through Rapids 11 to 18 (or 23), which are relatively mundane and can be done between 1 July and 15 August, though in high rainfall years they may begin as early as mid-May. Wilder low-water runs operate from roughly 15 August to late December, taking in the winding 22km from rapids four to 18 (or 23) if you put in on the Zimbabwean side, and from Rapids one to 18 (or 23) if you put in on the Zambian side. Half-/full-day trips cost about US$110/125, and overnight trips about US$165. Longer jaunts can also be arranged. Although most travellers are set on rafting the Zambezi, there are plenty of thrills to be had by canoe or kayak; half-/full-day trips along the Zambezi cost from US$60/75; overnight jaunts cost about US$150, and three-night trips start at US$300.

‘Waterfall surfing’, lying on a boogie board and careering down the rapids, as it’s sometimes called, costs from US$135/150 for a half/full day. The best time of year for river-boarding is February to June. Why avoid whirlpools in a raft when you can drive straight into them in a jet boat? This hair-raising trip costs US$90, and is combined with a cable-car ride down into the Batoka Gorge.

The aptly named ‘Flight of the Angels’ is a 15-minute helicopter joy ride (US$90) over the falls, or 30 minutes (US$180) across the falls and Zambezi National Park. Motorised hang-gliders offer the best views from the air, and the pilot will take pictures for you with a camera fixed to the wing.

Microlight/Ultralight flights cost about US$85/104 (15 minutes) over the falls and about US$160/185 (30 minutes) over the falls and Zambezi National Park. It’s easy enough to spot wildlife from a boat, though some passengers seem more interested in the free drinks. River cruises along the Zambezi range from civilised jaunts on the ‘African Queen’ to full on, all-you-can-drink booze cruises. Prices range from US$30 to US$60. A guided wildlife safari drive in Mosi-oa-Tunya Game Park will maximise your chances of a face-to-face encounter with one of the few remaining white rhinos in Zambia. Live out your wildest African dreams on an elephant-back safari through the bush. A half-day excursion costs US$120 plus US$10 for park fees.

Appreciate the beauty and grandeur of Mother Nature by burning litres upon litres of her precious natural resources – a one-hour quadbiking spin costs US$60.

Signboard at Devils Swimming Pool

Signboard at Devils Swimming Pool

Tours

Below is a list of well-established and reputable travel and adventure operators. Keep in mind however that this list is by no means comprehensive, and that the industry is changing rapidly. Note the majority of companies do not have offices, and instead work in conjunction with larger tour operators, booking agencies, hotels and hostels.

Abseil Zambia www.thezambeziswing.com; Operates the gorge swing across Batoka Gorge.
African Extreme Operates the bungee jump over the Victoria Falls bridge.
Batoka Sky www.batokasky.com; Specialises in flights over the falls.
Bundu Adventures www.bunduadventures.com Offers river-boarding and rafting.
Bwaato Adventures bwaato@zamnet.zm; Runs wildlife drives and walks.
Jet Extreme www.jetextreme.com; Does jet-boating in the Batoka Gorge.
Makora Quest quest@zamnet.zm; Organises tranquil canoeing trips in Klepper canoes.
Raft Extreme www.raftextreme.com; Offers river-boarding and rafting.
Safari Par Excellence www.safpar.com; Offers a variety of activities, though they’re well regarded for their rafting trips.
Taonga Safaris Runs booze and sunset cruises.
Zambezi Elephant Trails www.zambezisafari.com; Specialises in elephant-back safaris.

Getting there and away

RPS has two bus services a day to Lusaka (US$8, seven hours). CR Carriers runs four services a day to Lusaka (US$9, seven hours). Buses to Shesheke (US$7, five hours) leave around 10am from Mingongo bus station next to the Catholic church at Dambwa village, 3km west of the town centre. Direct buses to Mongu (US$11, nine hours) leave at midnight from Maramba market, though you might feel more comfortable catching a morning bus to Shesheke, and then transferring to a Mongu bus (US$5, four hours). Combis to the Botswana border at Kazungula (US$2.50, one hour) leave from Dambwa on Nakatindi road. The Zambezi Express leaves Livingstone for Lusaka (US$4/5/7/8 for economy/standard/1st class/sleeper, 15 hours), via Choma, on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday at 7pm. Reservations are available at the train station, signposted off Mosi-oa-Tunya Rd.

Most visitors reach Victoria Falls from the Zimbabwe side, where the tourism facilities are better developed. For foreign visitors, there is a US$30 visa fee into Zimbabwe, and an admission fee of US$20 to Victoria Falls. British Airways, South African Air and Air Zimbabwe offers air connections between Johannesburg (JNB) and Victoria Falls Airport (VFA).

Getting Around

Livingstone Airport is located 6km north-west of town, and is easily accessible by taxi (US$5 each way). Combis run regularly along Mosi-oa-Tunya Rd to Victoria Falls and the Zambian border (US$0.50, 15 minutes). Taxis, which can be easily identified by their sky-blue colour, cost about US$4.



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