Victoria Falls

Jan 29th, 2016, 04:52 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Apr 2011
Posts: 50
Victoria Falls

Am planning my first trip to South Africa and am deciding what side is best to stay either Zambia or Zimbabwe at Victoria falls. much appreciated any input thanks
gentle is offline  
Jan 29th, 2016, 07:43 PM
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The view from the Zim side is best. The VF Hotel is within walking distance and very nice. Check historic water levels for when you plan to visit. Too full, too much water spray to see, too little and it's just a trickle. Most of southern Africa is in drought, so take that into consideration too.
christabir is offline  
Jan 29th, 2016, 11:04 PM
Join Date: Aug 2014
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Howzit gentle,
Well done on deciding to come to Southern Africa for the first time, and you ask a pertinent question regarding Victoria Falls. The following is from an activities booklet that we give to all of our travellers...

Described in the 1800s by the local maKololo tribe as Mosi oa Tunya – “the Smoke that Thunders” - the Victoria Falls, a World Heritage site bordering Zambia and Zimbabwe, is a spectacular sight of awe-inspiring beauty and grandeur on the Zambezi River. Scottish missionary and explorer David Livingstone first heard about the falls a full four years before he arrived there. On 17 November, 1855 Chief Sekeletu of the maKololo paddled Livingstone to an island in the Zambezi, known as Goat Island. Although the water was low at the time, it’s little wonder that he felt a “tremor of fear” as he approached the wall of spray and gazed down into the churning chasm below. Although it would be fair to presume that other ‘white men’ had witnessed the falls before him (Portuguese slave traders, for example), the first written description of the falls is accredited to Livingstone, and includes “No one can imagine the beauty of the view from anything witnessed in England. It had never been seen before by European eyes; but scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight.”

The Victoria Falls lie between two countries – Zambia and Zimbabwe – and vastly different views are on offer depending on which country you view them from. Whether you stay in Zambia or Zimbabwe, we recommend seeing both sides of the Falls if possible. This is now even easier thanks to the introduction of the KAZA Univisa, which is a single visa that covers Zambia, Zimbabwe and daytrips into Chobe National Park (Botswana). This visa costs US$50 and is available to some 40 nationalities including Brits, Americans and Australians. Crossing between countries takes you over the Victoria Falls Bridge, which can be walked across even though it is in “No Man’s Land” and offers glorious views of the Falls. 1,700 metres (5,600ft.) wide and 111 metres (364ft.) high, columns of spray can be seen from far away as millions of cubic feet of water plummet every minute over the edge. The broad basalt cliff, over which the falls thunder, transforms the Zambezi from a wide placid river to a ferocious torrent cutting through a series of dramatic gorges. The flow, and hence the spray, is greatest just after the end of the rainy season – around March or April, depending upon the rains. It then decreases gradually until about December, when the rains in western Zambia will start to replenish the river. During low water, a light raincoat (available for rent on site) is very useful for wandering between the viewpoints on the Zimbabwean side, though it’s not necessary in Zambia. However, in high water even a raincoat can become largely ineffective as the spray blows all around and soaks you in seconds. In the driest months (October and November) the falls on the Zambian side can dry up completely, and you could find yourself staring at a rocky wall. This doesn’t happen on the Zimbabwe side, where the Main Falls flow all year round. Around two thirds of the Victoria Falls lie in Zimbabwe and subsequently this side offers the better year-round views. Facing the falls on the Zimbabwean side is a mist-soaked rainforest, located within the compact Victoria Falls National Park and with neatly laid out paths opening onto over 15 viewpoints of the Devil’s Cataract, Main Falls, Horseshoe Falls and well-named Rainbow Falls. At the entrance to the national park is an informative visitor centre, well-stocked souvenir shop and a very good café-restaurant. The Zambian side offers fewer viewpoints but does include the exciting Knife-Edge Bridge, within the Mosi Oa Tunya National Park and offering the closest view of the Falls. On the Zambian side you can also sit on the river bank above the Falls and even walk across (and right next to the edge) a section in low water. This is also when it’s possible to visit Goat (now Livingstone) Island and brave a dip in the Devil’s Pool directly on the lip of the Falls. At the entrance to Mosi Oa Tunya National Park is a popular curio (souvenir) market and a few ramshackle cafés.

In summary to your question gentle, it can depend on the time of the knowledgeable christabir advises. With the advent of the handy Uni-visa however, you can visit both sides reasonably easily (give or take a few border delays).

Hope this helps,
Darren Humphrys
DarrenHumphrys is offline  
Jan 29th, 2016, 11:32 PM
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 5,285
Darren - did the Kaza stickers get in yet? The Kaza visa has been unavailable for a few weeks. They have decided to continue it (and expand it to other countries as well) but until the stickers come in, unavailable. Any word?

I was at VF in September a few years back. Almost empty (on the Zim side) and no raincoat or poncho required. Saw mostly rock cliffs. It was not in an extreme drought year. I've heard the bridge can still be a bit unsafe to walk over. Not sure why they don't just put some officers on it, but it was pretty shady. Is it better?

Is it easier to do Devil's Pool? It used to require an expensive stay at a high end lodge for access or an equally expensive "tour". Has that changed? We thought about it but it was silly expensive.
christabir is offline  
Jan 30th, 2016, 04:26 AM
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Thank you, Darren, for this awesome information. We will be there too for the first time - in April.
tripplanner001 is online now  
Jan 30th, 2016, 04:26 AM
Join Date: Sep 2012
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Thank you, Darren, for this awesome information. We will be there too for the first time - in April.
tripplanner001 is online now  
Jan 30th, 2016, 04:29 AM
Join Date: Jul 2014
Posts: 212
Hi gentle!

Just a couple thoughts to add here..

Yes, the KAZA UniVisa has been indefinitely suspended so visiting both Zim and Zam requires a single visa to each country.

As for visiting the Falls, I encourage clients to view the Falls from not only both sides (Zim and Zam) but from other viewpoints as well if possible. So for example, seeing it from the air on a 12-15 min helicopter tour called Flight of the Angels is pretty amazing. It's not cheap at $150 or so but I haven't had a single client say that it wasn't worth doing! Another interesting viewpoint, which depends entirely upon the time of year you visit, is if you are lucky enough to be there during the days of a full moon. If so, you can go on a Lunar Rainbow Tour. The photos are spectacular and what a way to witness the beauty of Mother Nature's spotlight on one of the Natural Wonders of the World.

There are many other tours to go on but a visit to Livingstone Island on the Zambia side is one of my favorites, not just for the history but as an opportunity to sit in the famous Devil's Pool (protective cove pretty much at the edge of the Falls) with a guide which is quite a thrill and great for that iconic photo! It's open from about August to January but depending upon the season's water run. If Devil's Pool isn't open due to the time of year, you can go to Angel's Pool. While it is not as close to the edge, clients still enjoy the swim and the views. Of course, if you are a thrill seeker and are fit to hike in/out of the gorge, white water rafting will give you another way to experience the rapids and power of the river.

You do not have to stay in any particular hotel to go on the Liv Island/Devil's Pool tour. The tours now can be separately booked and tours can be bundled into packages to bring the cost down. I would only work with a reputable tour company. Pre-booking is advised if going during popular times of year. Mind you, there are tours for all ages and range from historical to gutsy-thrill-seeking! Something for everyone!

Hope this helps!
Africa Direct USA
diannelovestravel is offline  
Feb 1st, 2016, 12:45 AM
Join Date: Aug 2014
Posts: 157
Howzit all,
As always, my fellow Fodorites are on-the-ball. Although I have been guiding safaris in Zimbabwe this past month, I have only entered Victoria Falls by air and continued onto Kasane (Botswana), and thus hadn't encountered the new visa regime.
As Diane and christabir correctly countered from my original post, the most-useful Kaza Uni-Visa was discontinued in December and we are now back with the laborious visa requirements offered by both countries.
gentle, it gets a bit confusing if you wish to visit the 'other' side of the Falls from where you are staying.

Presuming you are traveling on a 'normal' passport (e.g. Australia, Canada, British, U.S.), Zambia offers 4 different types of tourist visas upon your arrival into the country (by air or land):
Single entry - US$50, valid for up to 3 months.
Double entry - US$80, valid for up to 3 months.
Transit - US$50, valid for up to 7 days of land travel.
Day Tripper - US$20, valid for one entry that can last up to 24 hours; must enter/exit from the same border post.

Zimbabwe offers 2 different types of tourist visas upon your arrival into the country (by land or air). The costs vary depending on your passport nationality:
Single entry valid for up to 3 months - US$30 (Australian, U.S.); US$55 (British, Irish); US$75 (Canada).
Double entry valid for up to 3 months - US$45 (Australian, U.S.); US$70 (British, Irish); Canadians can only get a double entry visa from their nearest Zimbabwean embassy prior to arrival. This latter point (re: pre-arranged visa) is also relevant for all nationalities that desire a multiple entry visa.

So it comes down to the location of your arrival (e.g. Livingstone Airport or Victoria Falls Airport) and whether you desire to visit both sides of the Falls. It's worth remembering that some activities only occur on one side or the other (e.g. microlight flights on the Zambian side) and this is something worth checking when/if you book any activities.

Hope this helps.
DarrenHumphrys is offline  
Feb 1st, 2016, 10:05 PM
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 5,285
Well now I'm more confused than ever. On 7 Jan, the Zam tourism minister announced the end of the Kaza UniVisa. On 15 Jan, the same dude announced the continuation and expansion (to include Botswana, Namibia and Angola) of the Kaza UniVisa. The stickers/stamps are likely still on order and not available yet, but what is the true story?
christabir is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2016, 08:26 AM
Join Date: Aug 2014
Posts: 157
Howzit christabir and fellow Fodorites and travelers,
Yesterday I went down to the border post on the Zim side of the bridge. The Immigration staff had absolutely no knowledge of the UniVisa recommencing. I didn't go across to the Zambian side to see what they did/didn't know.
DarrenHumphrys is offline  
Jun 30th, 2016, 01:31 AM
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 774
Just started to plan , and am so glad to find this great information. Thank you Fodorites!
Will start a new thread I think.
Carrabella is offline  
Jul 2nd, 2016, 08:07 AM
Join Date: Jun 2016
Posts: 4
I'm flying into Jnb and I am thinking I want to go straight to Victoria falls(zam), I will have three days solo before meeting my friend in joBurg and it doesn't sound like a cool place when I could maybe see VF.
I am slightly confused. There is a great deal of information here but since I will be solo I want everything 100% in place. Do Ip fly into zam and a hotel picks me up( suggestions?) and then they guide you over the next day? Is it possible to go for one day? Is it something that needs two days because I do not want to skip it. I also want to not find anything too expensive yet still reputable. I'm planning on spending more of my money on Cape Town,this is just a quick jaunt.
Many thanks!
femmmefatal is offline  
Jul 2nd, 2016, 04:46 PM
Join Date: Sep 2012
Posts: 2,224
While I enjoyed Victoria Falls very much, I don't know if I would recommend a trip all the way there just to see the falls; if you have additional time Chobe National Park in Botswana is nearby and worth visiting. Re: your questions, you can visit both sides of the falls in one day and it's easy to do on your own. Depending on your nationality, you will likely require a visa and may be able to obtain it on arrival; we are Americans and did just that.
tripplanner001 is online now  

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