You’ve probably heard all of the hype about Victoria Falls being spectacular, breath-taking, one of the 7 Wonders of the World. Well, I’m here to tell you it’s all true! It’s not only the height of the waterfalls that is spectacular (~350 feet), but the breadth (a mile wide!). The sound of rushing water truly is the sound of greatness — there’s no other way to describe it. The incredible amount of water that goes over the falls results in 1000 foot sprays into the sky that can be seen 30 miles away. The traditional name of the falls is Mosi-oa-Tunya, meaning “Smoke that Thunders.”
We stayed on the Zambia side of the falls the whole time. (Apparently you can get day visas if you want to go to the Zimbabwean side but we didn’t bother because it’s still a bit of a hassle to go through passport control.) The Zambia Vic Falls park was very well set up. There were paths suitable for all levels of fitness. Though I didn’t explicitly check, from what I can remember I think one can even push a wheelchair on most of the paths. There are paved walkways that criss-cross the area giving one the opportunity to see the falls and the gorge from various vantage points.
(Continuing on my matron of doom kick, I was a little concerned about the lack of suitable barrier between the paths and sheer cliffs. Could you imagine these types of “fences” at an American national park? The liability!)
One thing I didn’t realize is how wet you can get from the mists of the falls. The first part of the path is relatively dry but the vast majority of the paths are under a heavy mist that feels like a light rain. They rent raincoats right before the part where it starts to get really wet and though we didn’t take advantage of them (because I thought the mist wouldn’t last that long), I kind of wish I had because it really was far more wet than I thought it would be. Here I am looking like a drowned rat.
One benefit of the mist, however, is that it creates spectacular rainbows all over, including double rainbows.
Here’s a nearly perfect circle rainbow.
After a couple of hours exploring the down side of the falls, we made our way over to the the “top side” where the waterfalls drop off from. (This is an advantage of the Zambia side, you can go both below and above the falls.)
Can you imagine being Livingstone and party and coming across these pools but not knowing what was over the edge? Surprise!
Inevitably, some young adults believing in their swimming and strength prowess take a dip in these pools each year and are swept over the falls because they don’t realize (a) how strong the current is, and, (b) that the rocks are slippery and covered with moss so there’s nothing to grab onto when you do start flowing. Of course, our very own young, strong athlete had to show that he could step into a pool above the falls, but he was suitably cautious and stuck to the side in a very, very still pool (and then he got out as soon as the photo was taken).
I should add that for a few months of the year they say the current is very slow (September-November) and that it is safe to go in the pools and even hang over the edges. Indeed, a search of youtube shows many people doing just this. However, it is important to ask park officials if this is the “right” time of year to go in the pools!
We watched people bungee jump off of the bridge, but none of us felt any desire to do this at all.
See the bungee jumper, hanging up side down in the center of the photo?
The Victoria Falls national park in Zambia (officially called Mosi-oa-Tunya [smoke that thunders] National Park) is about 10 km from Livingstone, and most hotels there (even our hostel) offer shuttles, sometimes free. There is a little store to get cold drinks but no food there to speak of, besides snacks like potato chips. There’s an open-air market where you can get all kinds of souvenirs (though the souvenirs look like everything I’ve seen at markets in Nairobi, Namibia, Accra, you name it). If you do bring food be careful to keep it zipped in your back pack because we personally saw the baboons run up and snatch a young boys sack lunch. The park entry was ~$20 US for non-residents and ~$5 US for residents (like us!).