Staying in the town Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe for two days, there was no question I had to see the famous falls of the same name. Bad enough it took me two days to do so – not counting the short glimpse I got of them from the plane when flying in. When I finally got around to visiting the falls properly, however, the wait was sure worth it! Victoria Falls are one of the largest waterfalls on earth, and one of the seven natural wonders of the world. And while you can see them from Zambia too, I think seeing Victoria Falls from the Zimbabwe side is the perfect introduction to them.
There’s a bunch of activities offered around Victoria Falls, but for my first visit I wanted to simply go and see them from the lookout points in Victoria Falls National Park. Also, I was already booked for Whitewater Rafting the next day (of which I was slightly terrified) and thought some low-key activity might be good for the moment. The National Park is only about 15 minutes walk from town, and entry is 40 USD. You can pay by card, which is a good thing as getting cash in Zimbabwe can be an issue.
Once you enter the National Park you follow the walk along the edge of the cliff. The Falls are on the opposite side and feed the Zambezi River below. Along the way there are several lookouts with fantastic views of the falls. It’s a wonderfully relaxed way to see them, because you can do everything at your own time. Depending on your speed, you need between one and two hours for the full circuit. Back at the entrance there’s a souvenir shop and a little restaurant if you need a refreshment after all that walking.
The first view of the Falls
The walk starts at the westernmost end of the falls. It gives you a glance of the Zambezi as it approaches the drop. I was there in late June, when the rainy season is just over and water levels are still high. During dry season Victoria Falls shrink down to a much smaller size and some parts dry up completely.
Because you are not yet at the Main Falls, the spray at this point is still moderate. But I could see people coming from the other end being drenched to the bone, so I was sure the rain cape I brought along would come in handy sooner or later.
This end of the falls is also where you find the Livingstone Statue. David Livingstone was a Scottish explorer in the nineteenth century and is regarded as the “discoverer” of Victoria Falls. (read: the first European to have seen them). The Zambian town of Livingstone is named after him.
Expect to get soaked
From now on the path moves parallel to the Falls. Sometimes it disappears in the forest, but it regularly opens up towards the river for uninterrupted views of the water cascading down. That is, uninterrupted except for the spray. While high water means the falls are bigger and more impressive to look at, it also causes the spray to get so dense at times that the falls disappear behind it altogether.
The closer you come to the Main Falls, the wetter it gets. Eventually it feels like your standing in a downpour. It was luckily warm enough that I didn’t mind too much getting wet. I was only a bit worried about my camera, but luckily it survived getting wet.
Towards the end of the path you reach Danger Point. It’s a bunch of stones reaching up to the cliff. Named Danger Point because there is no railing or any other kind of safety measure, and the stones are wet and slippery. They are a popular photo spot, but I preferred staying a bit further back where I did not have to worry about tripping and falling a hundred metres into the river below.
Victoria Falls Bridge
The very last lookout point is not of the falls, but of the bridge that spans the Zambezi. You can bungee jump from here if you are adventurous enough. I did in fact see two people do that while standing at the lookout. I personally preferred watching that from a safe distance.
Later the same day I moved to Livingstone, which meant I had to cross the bridge to get into Zambia. It’s possible to take a taxi from the Zimbabwe border post on one end of the bridge to the Zambian border post on the other, but I preferred walking. I admit it was further than I expected, because on both sides the border posts are not directly at the beginning of the bridge. There’s still a bit of the walk before that. Still, I happily trudged my bags along if it meant I could enjoy the view from the bridge and take some more pictures.
If you are planning to visit both Zambia and Zimbabwe and you have to cross the border, I would recommend doing this bit on foot for the view – or at the very least ask your taxi driver to stop for a moment so you can appreciate the scenery.
Meeting the locals
One last highlight I experienced at Victoria Falls NP happened after I had already left the falls. I was on the way back to the entrance. Suddenly there was movement in the bush next to me, and a moment later a group of baboons appeared. They calmly walked over the path and among the trees right next to me. My first reaction was “Wow”. My second was worrying whether they would react to me in any way if I walked right past. As I didn’t have much of a choice I tried it, and they didn’t care about me at all. I could walk by unmolested and even get some pictures on the way.
Have you been to Victoria Falls? What activities did you do there? Have you ever been forced to wonder how you would fare if you had to mess with a whole group of baboons? Share in the comments!