Visit the Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, one of the world’s most famous natural wonders. The sheer size and power of the falls, coupled with its location between two countries, has made it a major travel destination. It is also an important conservation area with a wide range of animal life living in the area.
This blog post will give you all the information you need to know about the Victoria Falls from the Zimbabwean perspective!
Victoria Falls Statistics
This UNESCO world heritage site is also the world’s largest curtain of falling water, at 1708 meters (5603 ft) wide, with a drop of 108 meters into the Zambezi Gorge below.
The mean annual flow rate is 1088 cubic meters per second (38,430 cu ft/s) and the mean maximum flow rate recorded at 3000 cu m/s (105,944 cu ft/s).
The water spray can easily reach a height of over 400 meters into the air, sometimes twice as high. The spray can be seen from up to 50 kilometers (30 mi) away.
Archaeological exploration sites around the falls reveal that this area has been occupied for some 2.6 million years. Artefacts dating back to the middle and stone age have been found here.
Where are the Victoria Falls?
The Victoria Falls (Mosi-Oa-Tunya meaning the smoke that thunders) is located on the Zambezi River between Zimbabwe and Zambia in Southern Africa. The closest towns are Livingstone on the Zambian side and the town of Victoria Falls, on the Zimbabwe side.
The Falls are housed within two National Parks:-
How did Victoria Falls get its name?
It is said that the Makololo tribe guided European missionary and explorer David Livingstone to see the falls when he first encountered them. Livingstone was on a mission to find a route to the East Coast of Africa to link trade.
Livingstone explored the Upper Zambezi River from 1852, before continuing the expedition all the way to the rivers mouth in Mozambique in 1856.
No one knows who actually discovered the Victoria Falls, but its location was well known to local tribes. On November 16, 1855, Chief Sekeletu of the Makololo tribe escorted Livingstone to a vantage point on the island now known as Livingstone Island, from which he could view the falls.
David Livingstone, on seeing the massive waterfall named it after the British Monarch at the time, Queen Victoria. Later he recorded in his journal these famous words: "Scenes so lovely, must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight".
"Mosi-oa-Tunya," which means "the smoke that thunders." is the original name given to the falls by the locals and comes from the Kololo or Lozi language. It is a name now used throughout Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
Getting to the Victoria Falls National Park
The Victoria Falls National Park is located on the Zimbabwean side of the falls. From this side, you will get to see approximately 75% of the falls, the balance can be seen from the Zambian side.
Whether you are staying in the town of Victoria Falls or its suburbs, there are a few options open to you to get from your accommodation to the park entrance.
For those staying in town, it's just a short walk to the Victoria Falls National park entrance. If you have booked a guided tour, you will be collected from your hotels and taken to the park.
Tour operators will collect guests from anywhere within the town and surrounding areas. Victoria Falls is small and no matter where you are being collected from, it will take no more than a few minutes to arrive at the park.
If you are exploring the park on your own (self-guided tour), you can use taxi's or depending on where you are staying, some hotels offer a regular shuttle service into town.
Entry Fees and Opening Hours
1 May to 31st August - 06h30 to 18h00
1 September to 30 April - 06h00 to 18h00
International Visitors - US#30.
Visitors from the SADC regions - US$20 (passport or ID required).
Locals - US$7 (passport or ID required).
All rates quoted are per person and are valid per entry.
NOTE:- Children ages 6 to 12 pay half price and under 6 enter free.
Accepted forms of payment include:- Cash and Master Card or Visa
The Victoria Falls National Park
Victoria Falls National Park protects the south and east banks of the Zambezi River. It covers 23.4 square kilometers (9 sq mi) and extends from the larger Zambezi National Park, along the Zambezi River, from about 6 km above the falls to 12 km below.
Amongst the various features of Victoria Falls National Park, is the rain forest that grows from the spray of the falls. The forest includes ferns, palms and liana vines as well as mahogany and many other trees.
The Park is managed by Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority.
Inside the park, you will find an information centre where you can get maps and lots of other information about the falls, Zambezi River, and the general surrounding areas. There are also restroom facilities, a Curio Store and the Shearwater Café, a Restaurant for the hungry, or if you just want to grab a drink and a rest under the trees after a meander through the world heritage site. Check out their menu here.
Touring the Victoria Falls (Mosi-Oa-Tunya - The smoke that thunders)
There are 16 main View Points on the tour, all are clearly marked out. The best place to start is at the beginning on the far west side where you will find the statue of David Livingstone close to the Devil's Cataract. Then make your way through all the viewpoints ending at the Victoria Falls Bridge.
Here is a little of what you can expect to see at each viewpoint:-
Read on or, Take our Virtual Tour of the Victoria Falls View Points
This viewpoint gives an uninterrupted view of both David Livingstone's statue and part of the Devil's Cataract Falls.
This view is accessed by a flight of steps known as the Chain Walk, with 73 steep and slippery steps leading down into the gorge which has some of the best sightings of rainbows and breath taking views of the water cascading down out of the Devil's Cataract and crashing into the base of the gorge. It is a real sight and sound experience, one not to be missed.
This viewpoint overlooks the Devil's Cataract and the Cataract Island. The cataract is 70m deep but has a greater volume of water than any of the other 4 waterfalls during the lowest water levels.
The Cataract Island divides the Devil’s Falls and the Main Falls. Occasionally, due to high water levels, some of this water spills through Cataract Island.
ViewPoints 4 & 5
Here, one can start to see the natural beauty of the Victoria Falls. The view is much clearer but it does get wet. You can see Devil’s Cataract on the left, and on the right is Cataract Island with Victoria Falls in the background.
The main Falls edge closer, the smoke continues to thunder. Here is where you can see the beginning of the magical Victoria Falls and you are directly opposite Cataract Island and have the best view of Devils Cataract and can also see the Livingstone statue.
Cataract Island is a solid piece of land that divides the Devil’s Falls and the Main Falls.
This could arguably be considered the best view of Main Falls, the angled view allows one to get a better view than seeing the main falls head-on, this is because the spray does not obscure the view as much.
This small viewpoint is surrounded by tall trees. These trees adapted to the swampy area by developing buttresses that allow them to survive on this waterlogged earth.
The Main Falls, which is about 150 meters wide and 93 meters deep, returns more water during the high-water season than any of the other 4 waterfalls.
Main Falls view. Sometimes very difficult to see anything if river is in full flood
View Points 9 & 10
Viewpoints 9 and 10 are also across from the Main Falls and when you're viewing them, it's more like a gamble. The Main Falls is hard to see because of the continuous spray.
This viewpoint is directly opposite the Devil’s Pool and Livingstone Island on the Zambia side. Your visibility is also affected by spray just like viewpoints 8, 9 and 10. So if the water level is high there is not much to see but you do have a good view of the last part of the Main Falls.
This position provides views of the David Livingstone Island on the left and Horse Shoe Falls on the right. David Livingstone is said to have stood opposite when he first saw these falls, which he tried to measure by lowering a line attached with some bullets and square cloths cut into small inches (a calico).
Provides a view of the Horse Shoe Falls. These falls are 95 meters deep and heavy showers exist throughout the High water season. A raincoat is required when visiting this point during high water season because there are frequent rain showers present here.
The name, Horse Shoe is derived from the fissure of the river over towards David Livingstone Island, which had left a shape in cross-section as if to resemble a horseshoe.
This point is usually dry during the low water season and it provides an excellent time for taking measures to assess the depth of the falls. The dry periods provide birds such as swallows, swifts, and martins with opportunities for constructing their nests on cliffs.
This overlooks the Rainbow Falls, the deepest of all, 108 meters deep. The point is not protected from the Gorge and it's dangerous regardless of the season: in wet seasons when it's slippery; or dry seasons, there are no barriers to protect viewers.
This viewpoint is also known as the danger point. It is usually dangerous, but especially so during high water levels. Visitors are strongly advised to stay away from the edge.
When it is wet, this place is very slippery and can cause one to fall easily. To get the best of danger point, one should climb but be warned that there are many loose rocks and footholds that can break off at any time or lead straight into a deep batoka gorge below.
You can see the Eastern Cataract (101 meters down) on Zambia's side of the Zambezi River. Entire waters from Devils Cataract, Main Falls, Horse Shoe Falls and Rainbow Falls flows east while water that falls directly into the Eastern Cataract flows west.
The two opposing currents meet at the danger point to form a boiling pot and continue south through the narrow gap in the basalt rock.
From this point, the Victoria Falls Bridge can be seen. Construction took 2 years and was completed in 1905.
The Zimbabwe-Zambia bridge reaches a height of about 111 meters (+/-) when the water level is at its lowest and stretches for roughly 198/200 meters.
The bridge is part of a rail network that was originally designed to link coal fields in Hwange, Zimbabwe with Zambia where there are significant copper deposits. This was part of Cecil Rhodes’ vision to connect Cape to Cairo through railroads.
Here you can see bungee jumpers and gorge swingers doing their stuff. See our activities page for more things to do in Victoria Falls.
We hope that this article has given you a better understanding of what to expect when you visit the falls in person. We also highly recommend that you book one of the guided tours. The guides have a wealth of interesting information to share and will happily answer any of your questions. Enjoy!
Frequently Asked Questions
Travelers should consider visiting during the months of February to May just after the summer rainfall when more water is flowing and the falls are in their prime.
The best time of the day to visit the Falls depends entirely on what you would prefer to see. If you like a spectacular sunrise, then go in the summer as soon as the park opens at 06:00. This will also probably be the best time to go if you don't enjoy crowds and most people will still be sleeping at this hour.
During the morning will also be able to get a look at the amazing rainbows, especially over the Devil's Cataract. If Rainbows are your thing, then visit in the Mid-afternoon as this is when you are likely to see the best rainbows, especially over the main falls at View Points 8, 9 & 10.
ViewPoint 15 (Danger Point) is great in the afternoon. From here you can see the boiling pot
Many overseas travellers are eager to see the Victoria Falls, one of southern Africa's most famous attractions. Their geography makes them a natural sightseeing location for many tourists visiting the continent. It's the world's largest curtain of falling water—a spectacular sighting of one of the best natural wonders of the world.
Dress comfortably and if you are not one for getting wet, We suggest you take a raincoat and umbrella with you. Plastic raincoats can be purchased inside the park.
Wear comfortable shoes with good grip as there are many parts that are permanently wet due to the spray of the falls.
Also wear a hat and bring sunblock, especially in the summer months as it can get very hot.
To visit the actual falls is a half to full-day experience, depending on your interests. However, there is a ton more to do whilst in the Victoria Falls and we suggest that you make the most of it. A good average is about 4 to 5 days to really experience some of the awesome things to do at the falls like game viewing, fishing, water activities, adrenaline activities, and much much more. See our activities page for more information.