Traveling to Victoria Falls

Marwa Grimes

Zambia and Zimbabwe share what is perhaps the most beautiful, dramatic border in the world. The Victoria Falls’ mile-long curtain of falling water has inspired awe among native peoples for centuries. While neither the tallest nor the longest waterfall in the world, Victoria Falls is certainly one of the most stunning. Known to natives as “Mosi-oa-Tunya,” or the “Smoke that Thunders,” Victoria Falls offers a tremendous sensory experience – and the chance for unparalleled adventure.

Two South African nations lay claim to the gorgeous Victoria Falls, Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park in Zambia and Victoria Falls National Park in Zimbabwe. Over a mile wide and 355 feet high, the Falls spill over 500 million liters of water into the Zambezi River in the wet season. It is easy to see – and hear – why it was called Smoke that Thunders. The resulting spray reaches 1000 feet into the sky, which is visible from 30 miles away. Your anticipation of the wonder and adventure ahead begin long before you arrive at the Falls.

Visiting during the rainy season of March through May offers the most dramatic experience as sheets of thundering water fall over gorges and turns, making each view entirely different. Rainbows are a constant presence during these months. The dry season is still beautiful and offers unique views, but there is nothing that can compare to the crashing, sparkling waters during the wet season.

Should you travel to Victoria Falls via Zimbabwe or Zambia? Recommendations have changed over the years: Zimbabwe used to be seen as the more luxurious border from which to see the Falls, but political conflicts there brought visitors through Zambia instead. Today, the current has swung once more, and Zimbabwe is the destination for those with a more extravagant travel budget. There are luxury resorts and hotels, including the world-famous Victoria Falls Hotel.

Zambia offers more affordable accommodations. From here, you can see the Falls from above and below and tour the surrounding city’s beautiful Victorian buildings and fun shops. Before settling on final arrangements, it is well worth taking stock of Zimbabwe’s political situation: Zambia is far more stable in that regard. No matter where you stay, you can view the Falls from both sides. During the day, you can pass through the border without a visa. Just make sure to cross back before the border closes for the evening!

You can enjoy simply admiring the sounds and sights of the Falls, or you can avail yourself of any of the thrilling activities offered, including rafting, hiking, wildlife viewing, bungee jumping, kayaking, canoeing, horseback riding, swimming, or taking a dazzling sunset cruise. Often, your choice of accommodations will offer tours or activities, so it is important to find out before you book.

The Victoria Falls are not just a good backdrop for your vacation photos: in fact, their grandeur will make you forget about your camera as you stand in awe. And that will create pictures in your mind you will never forget.

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