#TravelTuesday: Now is the best time to visit Victoria Falls
Named “Mosi-oa-Tunya” by locals, meaning “smoke that thunders”, the Victoria Falls falls span 1.7 kilometres across Zimbabwe and Zambia and is, strictly speaking, the largest waterfall in the world in terms of width and height. It is also one of the seven natural wonders of the world.
During a visit to the Falls, you will set out from the town of Victoria Falls – a small town that is heavily reliant on tourism. Covid-19 dealt the town a heavy blow and locals – all fully vaccinated following a swift vaccination drive from local authorities – are ready to welcome back visitors with open arms.
With the abundance of specials running at the moment, visiting Vic Falls is cheaper than you might expect and a chance you’ll want to take while you still can. With the falls in full flow, there is no better time to plan your trip to bear witness to one of nature’s most beautiful spectacles on our very doorstep.
When to travel
The tourist season in Victoria Falls runs from around May through to August. If you want to bear witness to the full spectacle that is Victoria Falls, it is advisable to visit between February and May just after the summer rains have wound their way down the gorges that accumulate on the edge of the falls. However, when the water levels are too high you will not be able to undertake certain activities such as water rafting so bear this in mind when planning your itinerary as many activities will only start running water levels permitting. Given heavy rainfall this season, the falls are flowing generously at the moment and planning a visit now will not disappoint.
How to get there
Fastjet offers direct flights between Johannesburg and Victoria Falls on selected days of the week. As of the beginning of the month (note: June) British Airways is offering daily flights between Johannesburg and Victoria Falls.
If you are not renting a car at the airport, taxi services run from the airport. Most lodges and hotels also offer a shuttle service and arrangements can be made with them to pick you up from the airport and to transport you around town.
Highlights you shouldn’t miss
1. If visiting the falls from the Zimbabwean side, you will need to do so from inside Victoria Falls National Park. With 15 viewpoints, it is possible to walk through the park and meander through the rainforest, admiring the falls from every angle but it’s advisable to go on a guided tour of the falls so as not to miss small, interesting details along the way. When the falls are in full flood, you’d best rent a poncho at the entrance of the gate unless you don’t mind going through what feels like a cold shower at certain points along the way.
2. Learn about the construction of the Victoria Falls Bridge and stare into the boiling pot on a bridge tour. Travel and adventure company Shearwater operate the bridge tour which starts with an animated and enjoyable explanation of how the bridge was constructed (it was quite a feat) before you strap into a harness, undergo a security briefing and make your way to the walkway running below the main bridge. From here you have the best view into what is called the boiling pot – or the pool of water where the falls gather before heading down the bends and turns of the gorge. When the sun shines, a permanent rainbow can be seen, either to the left or right of the bridge, depending on the sun’s position. This is not recommended for travellers with a fear of heights but is probably one of the most spectacular views – not of the falls directly but of the magnificence of the place.
3. Catch your breath on a Zambezi River cruise. An easy and enjoyable way to ease into a trip to Vic Falls is by taking a sunset cruise on the Zambezi river. View wildlife from the boat, sip on a sundowner and spot the mist rising from the crashing falls in the distance.
4. Explore the Zambezi National Park on a game drive. While it is not entirely uncommon to spot elephant meandering through town, you can spot a wide variety of game inside the 56,000 hectare reserve which is home to four of the Big Five (sadly, all rhino in the area were moved to prevent poaching). If you arrange to go on a drive with a professional guide, you can spend some time walking through the reserve and spotting animals on foot.
5. If your budget allows, view the falls from the skies during a helicopter ride. When the falls are in full flood, it can be difficult to get a good view from inside the park. If you want to truly grasp their magnitude, a good way of doing this is from the window of a helicopter. The 13 to 15 minute Flight of Angels helicopter flip – named after David Livingstone’s quote: “Scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by Angels in their flight” – does a figure 8 around the falls and over the Zambezi National Park where you can try and spot game from the air. The 25 minute Zambezi Spectacular includes the Flight of Angels as well as a flight over the Batoka gorge and more time circling over the Zambezi National Park.
Book your trip: It is worthwhile getting in touch with Shearwater prior to your trip to enquire about current specials and combo deals on adventure activities. They not only offer guided tours of Victoria Falls, operate the bridge tour, river cruises, game drives and helicopter rides, they also offer rafting experiences and jet boat rides underneath the falls when water levels permit.
Where to stay: They also offer a range of more affordable accommodation options at their Explorers Village within walking distance from the falls, from camping facilities to beautiful rooms with en suite bathrooms. Their current special which is running until the end of the year is R3,400 per person for three nights, including breakfast daily, a luxury cruise and airport transfer, or R2,700 per person for two nights. For more information, visit shearwatervictoriafalls.com.
Travellers will need to present a valid, printed negative Covid-19 PCR test that is no more than 48 hours old and undergo a health and temperature screening upon arrival. Be sure to undergo a PCR test for travel purposes - other Covid tests will not be accepted. You will also need to present a completed health questionnaire which you can obtain at the airport prior to departure. You will need to provide the particulars of where you will be staying during your visit so keep these on hand.
Mandatory quarantine is not necessary unless you exhibit Covid-19 symptoms and fail a PCR test or if you cannot produce a negative PCR test no older than 48 hours. If you are required to undergo a PCR test upon arrival, you will be charged of $60 (around R855).
For travel back into South Africa, travellers will need to present a valid, printed negative PCR test obtained no more than 72 hours before arrival and complete a traveller health questionnaire.
If your flight arrives or departs outside of curfew hours, you need to be able to show proof of your boarding pass if asked to do so en route to or from the airport.