Navigating Victoria Falls as a First Time Traveller

Victoria Falls, or 'Mosi-oa-Tunya' (the smoke that thunders), is a colossal spectacle, a thunderous force of nature that demands to be experienced, not just visited.

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For South African adventurers, it's an almost spiritual rite of passage. You've pored over the glossy photographs in travel magazines, fascinated by the ceaseless curtain of cascading water. But now that you're inching closer to making this dream a reality, you're staring at a blank spreadsheet for packing, with mounting questions about when, what, and how. Here's your comprehensive guide to braving the mist and majesty of the Victoria Falls on your holiday. 

Choosing the Right Side: Victoria Falls - Zimbabwe or Zambia? 

The Falls isn't just an impressive curtain of water; it's a natural frontier, slicing through two countries. The Zimbabwean side boasts the Main Falls, with its sublime, wide, and panoramic views, perfect for photographers and extensive rainbow seekers. Visitors can enjoy access to multiple viewpoints with direct views of the Devil’s Cataract, the Horseshoe Falls and the Rainbow Falls. The town of Victoria Falls offers a range of accommodation, restaurants, and activities.  

The Zambian side, while offering a view of some of the same falls, provides additional immersive experiences, like the 'Knife Edge Bridge' and the terrifyingly good Devil's Pool. We highly recommend being able to view the Falls from both sides as the experiences are all excellent. 

When to Venture to the Falls 

Choosing the right time to go is crucial. The Zambezi River experiences two dramatically different seasons. At its peak in April, the rainy season saturates the Falls with its heaviest flow, creating an awe-inspiring scene of raw power and mist that can douse onlookers from miles away. On the flip side, the dry season – from September to December – reveals a more subdued, but equally captivating sight, perfect for seeing the Falls in all their glory. The 'smoke that thunders' lives up to its name, casting a constant cloud that lingers over the surrounding forest. October through November is typically the driest, with much of the rock face left exposed.  

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What to Pack When Preparing for Victoria Falls 

Packing for Victoria Falls is a delicate balance between preparation and practicality. The essentials include lightweight, quick-dry clothing, a good pair of walking shoes or sandals, sunscreen with a high SPF, a brimmed hat, and waterproof bags to protect your electronics from the mist. Remember to pack a few layers, as it can get chilly in the evenings, despite the daytime heat. If you're visiting during the rainy season, bring suitable rain gear, and a dry bag will be your new best friend. And don't forget insect repellent – the Zambezi is teeming with wildlife, but that includes the malaria-carrying kind. 

Understanding the Travel Requirements  

Whether you opt for a day trip or plan to stay longer, travel requirements are a crucial part of the planning process. South African travellers should check passport and visa requirements. Zimbabwe and Zambia offer visas on arrival for South Africans but expect to pay in US dollars or in cash. Vaccination requirements are also something you can't ignore. The areas around the Falls are malarial, so consulting a healthcare professional about appropriate prophylactics is a must. Don't leave this until the last minute; some vaccinations require multiple doses over several weeks. 

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Interesting Facts About Victoria Falls 

  1. The World's Largest: Victoria Falls is the largest sheet of falling water on the planet. It's twice as tall as Niagara Falls and spans a width of more than a kilometre, making it one of the most incredible natural wonders. 
  2. A Rich History: The Falls have been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1989 and have a deep historical legacy, where it witnessed events like the birth of human civilisation and political deconstructions. 
  3. A Feast for the Eyes and Ears: A staggering 1.4 million litres of water plummet over the edge every second during peak season, a volume that could fill 560 Olympic-sized swimming pools. 
  4. A Playground for Adrenaline Junkies: Beyond gazing at the Falls, adrenaline junkies can partake in activities like bungee jumping, white-water rafting, and even swimming in the Devil's Pool – a natural infinity pool perched atop the Falls. 
  5. The Local Name: 'Mosi-oa-Tunya' is the local name for the Victoria Falls, which means "the smoke that thunders," a fitting description for the mist and roar that can be seen and heard from miles away.  

What else can I do at Victoria Falls? 

We highly recommend enjoying some of the adventure activities on offer, but there’s also excellent curio shopping to be enjoyed, a trip to either The Royal Livingstone (Zambian side) or The Victoria Falls Hotel (Zimbabwean side) for high tea or drinks on the terrace, and even embarking on a couple of days in nearby Chobe National Park for a safari. 

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In a Nutshell: Pre-Flight Checklist for Victoria Falls 

The Falls are not something you see from behind a fence. Pack lightly but smartly. Opt for comfortable and sturdy over fashionable; this is an adventure destination. Stay informed about the weather; it can affect your trip more than you think. And most importantly, revel in the experience. Environmental responsibility is paramount at this natural wonder; respect the guidelines and keep the Falls as untamed and beautiful as you found them.  

Browse our top Victoria Falls travel packages now, for a fantastic adventure just a short flight from either Cape Town or Johannesburg 

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