Together with the Niagara Falls in North America and the Iguazu Falls in South America, the Victoria Falls in Africa is one of the three greatest waterfalls in the world. Each of these waterfalls has their own character, for sure, but they have one thing in common – all three waterfalls are located on the border of two countries. While I have only visited the Victoria Falls and Niagara Falls (but I am planning to visit the Iguazu Falls this year!), I have shared something about… Victoria Falls in my previous post as I have covered some facts about the Falls, what to see and do, how to get there, and info of KAZA visa, which could be useful for many tourists traveling between Zimbabwe and Zambia.
Being the most photographed natural spectacle in both countries, tourists constantly asked: Which side of Victoria Falls is better: Zambia or Zimbabwe?
First, I think it’s important to understand a little bit more about the landscape of Victoria Falls.
The Falls is part of the Zambezi River (which also served as the border of the two countries), and as the river flows through a lush riverine vegetation, over 40,000 cubic feet per second of water cascade down into the depth below, and then squeeze its way through a narrow and twisting gorge, creating the whirlpool rapids.
The two countries are connected by the Victoria Falls Bridge, which straddles across the cliffs and offers an excellent view of the Falls. In other words, the Falls exist between a very narrow gorge where the curtain of water is not exactly wide open to viewer’s eye. If you ask me, I would highly recommend travelers to visit both countries and make the most of the Victoria Falls experience (and it’s awesome to add one more country in your own travel map). However, if you only have time and resources to go to one, I hope the following information would inspire you to make a wise decision.
Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe is considered to be the country to go to because its city, Victoria Falls, is named after the sight itself and is basically adhered to the waterfalls, with its town center less than 1 kilometer away. The town is small with a population of 33,000, but the country invested a lot to develop its infrastructure, facilities, hotel, and recreation that makes Victoria Falls a tourist destination. Vibrant cafés, restaurant, and souvenir stores are found in a short walk away from the waterfalls walking trail; with a wide selection of hotels and hostel that are generally cheaper than those in Zambia.
I stayed at the Victoria Falls Hotel and I recommend this hotel to anyone. Not only the colonial style, historic buildings were stunning, but also the view of the Victoria Falls Bridge and plume of mist from my hotel suite’s window was hard to forget. Originally the building was a dormitory for railway construction workers in the early 1900s under the British rule, and it retained the British flavor after renovation. The breakfast, English tea and buffet dinner (with traditional dance performance) in the outdoor lounge were fantastic, the Victoria Falls Walking Trail is only a 10-minute walk away.
The Victoria Falls Walking Trail
There are walking trails on both sides of the Falls – 75% of the Falls is in Zimbabwe and its walking trail covers 16 unobstructed viewpoints along the cliff that allows you to not only see the Falls from different angle, but also to feel the spray of tumbling water, and to hear the sound of thunder as you get close to the Falls during high water.
If you have the time it is worth visiting the Falls in the early morning, late afternoon and at the full moon to take advantage of the different positions of the sun and the moon.
Remember to water-proof yourself. a.k.a. water-proof bags for your phone, camera, wallet – don’t bother to use an umbrella. Raincoat might help a little bit, but you will definitely get wet anyway. Photos couldn’t do justice for capturing the thrill that I felt, it’s definitely an impression for a lifetime.
What else to do in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe?
There are simply too much to do in the area! Zambezi and Chamabando game drive, Bungee jumping, helicopter flights, elephant rides, Zambezi sunset cruises, rainforest guided tours, and rafting… the possibilities are endless! While the activities I just mentioned could be done in either of the two countries, Zimbabwe does have a better game viewing experience, and the sunset cruise in Zambia is simply breath-taking. While I may go further into details about these activities in future posts, there is something more, (yes more!) that you could consider in Zimbabwe if you are, still, looking for something fun to do in between your walks.
The Boma Restaurant: Enjoy a barbecue buffet dinner with bongo drum shows (and each of us has our own bongo drum, too!), Amakwezi dancing, mopani worms and warthog fillet tasting, while dressing in an authentic Zimbabwean robe, hair braided or face-painted.
Dinner under the stars: Located in an elephant camp where you could get intimate with fascinating elephants in the afternoon, and then have dinner on the deck under the stars at night.
Chobe Day Trip: If you don’t get enough of wild animal and game viewing, go on a day trip to Chobe in Botswana! Get on a boat and ride along the Chobe River where you would meet elephants, crocodiles, and hippos, afterward, hop on a car and drive through the bushes in the national park.
My favorite viewpoint
Wild Horizons Lookout Café: There are a few places to have a great view of the falls outside the walking trails. The Wild Horizon Lookout Café is by the cliff between the hotel and the walking trail, I enjoyed my lunch sitting by the gorge under the warming sun and soothing breeze.
While some tourists may be concerned about Zimbabwe’s political turmoil, while Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe is a developed tourist destination and generally safe; Zambia, on the other hand, is more stable and established itself firmly as an option for tourists to experience the astonishing power of the Victoria Falls.
Livingstone is named after the expeditor, David Livingstone, who discovered this wondrous natural spectacle on earth. It is a sprawling industrial town with 5 times the population of Victoria Falls, and it has a wide choice of restaurants, supermarkets, and shopping malls. The disadvantage is that all these are 10 km away from the falls, and you will have to travel back and forth to the falls unless you are staying in the two hotels that located on the side of the falls: The AVANI Victoria Falls Resort and the Royal Livingstone Hotel. I stayed at the AVANI Victoria Falls Resort, it’s relatively cheaper as compared with the Royal Livingstone Hotel but it has a very lively environment with wild animals running around in the yard… zebras, baboons, giraffes, and more! It has a Hard Rock Café Resort sort of vibe and both resorts offer free access to the walking trails. You may go to Livingstone’s Adventure website for more information about the Falls.
The Victoria Falls Walking Trail
As I mentioned the two hotels offer free access to the walking trail of the falls, via their own entrance gate. Although the walking trail is comparatively shorter to Zimbabwean side, we could look right down the length of the falls at sunset and back to the gates before they closed.
More, there are few walking trails that offer the view of the falls from different angles. The main trail leads up to the Danger point, through the Knife Edge Bridge along the cliff opposite side of the Eastern Cataract. I saw a complete round rainbow on the Knife Edge Bridge and I have never seen this in my life!
The Photo Graphic Trail is about 788m long and it leads to the Victoria Falls Bridge, and there is another short trail that connects to the upstream of the falls. During low water seasons the Eastern cataract on the Zambian side dries up almost completely that visitors could explore the area walking on the exposed rock surface; it is a unique experience to see the Falls from a different perspective – like the discoverer, David Livingstone saw it for the first time.
What else to do in Zambia?
Apart from the game drive, Bungee jumping, helicopter flights sunset cruises and more, there are few activities that tourists could only do in Zambia.
Micro Light flight: It was a unique and thrilling activity. Scary even that my safety jacket zipper was not working and my jacket flew open when the plane took off… the view of the Falls from above was truly out of this world. As Jeff O’Connell, Matt Bean and Jazz Kuschke mentioned in the Men’s Health magazine, it’s one of the 15 must-see sights. “Scars take on a different appearance when viewed from afar, whether it’s a spectacular Batoka Gorge (the blanket name for all the gorges through which the Zambezi River drains) or the pain of love lost. You’ll start to see not what’s missing, but what’s been gained”.
Devil’s Pool and Livingstone Island Tour: It is an exhilarating and memorable experience that only available from the Zambian side of the Falls. The Devil’s Pool is the world’s ultimately infinity pool, where tourists swim on the edge of the thunderous falls!
My favorite viewpoint
Boiling pot: While I didn’t mention it in the last paragraph, there is one more walking path on the Zambian side and it is one of my favorite viewpoints of the Falls. It takes about 20 to 30 minute to walk up (or down) but totally worth doing so.
The boiling pot is the spot where water swirls right underneath the Victoria Falls Bridge due to the resistance of rock to the astonishing power of water from the falls, and thus create a backflow of water like boiling water in a hot pot. This spot demonstrates the constant resistance of nature force and it is also a famous spot for rafting spot (again, during low water). You would always see a rainbow straddling in between the cliff and it makes a great picture of the cliffs and the bridge.