Victoria Falls, the world’s largest waterfall that straddles the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe, is inarguably a bucket-list natural wonder that everyone should lay eyes on in their lifetime. Arriving in Livingstone, Zambia or Vic Falls, Zimbabwe, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the seemingly endless number of activities on offer (not to mention the hefty price tags), but it would be a real challenge to not find something fun to do, whether it’s bungy jumping, ziplining, river rafting, cruising, animal encounters, national parks, or even just taking a swim (on the edge of the falls). We jam-packed every second of our 4 days in the area and still left wishing that we had more time to explore this amazing and adrenaline-loving part of the world. Faced with a similar dilemma, have a look at these 5 amazing activities to make the most of your limited time in Victoria Falls.
What's in this travel guide
1 | Mosi-Oa-Tunya National Park in Zambia
Of course, the most essential experience at Vic Falls is simply seeing the falls themselves Mosi-Oa-Tunya, the aptly-named “Smoke That Thunders”. You should be able to get a taxi from Livingstone town or from the Waterfront to the National Park on the Zambian side for about $5-10USD. Entry into the park is $20USD per person. Once inside, there are networks of paths and bridges that wind around the falls and offer spectacular views onto the thundering water. It would be easy to spend an entire day here just wandering around, especially considering that the mist coming off the falls keeps you quite cool. Victoria Falls apparently looks quite different based on the time of year—we visited at the start of Jan when the water was a bit lower (but not at its lowest), and found that it was perfect, as there was still plenty of water coming off the falls in most places, but not so much that the mist blocked our view, which can happen.
I have rafted a number of times before, even on Class 5 rapids, and still nothing could have prepared me for how insane this day on the river would be. A full day of rafting on the Zambezi, taking in 20 rapids ranging from Class 1-5 (but seriously mostly big ones) and including a light lunch in the canyon and a really nice dinner at the end of the day, cost us about $170USD. There are 8 rafting companies operating on the Zambezi, but I can definitely recommend Safpar; plus, their office is conveniently located at the Vic Falls Waterfront where we were staying (which I would also thoroughly recommend). Even though the whole experience straddled a very fine line between exhilarating and emotionally scarring, I would still tell anyone that it’s an essential Vic Falls experience— the scenery inside the Batoka Gorge was unbelievable and I’ve never experienced so much adrenaline in my life.
For a thrill of a different kind, it’s possible to take a boat out to Livingstone Island on the Zambian side of the falls, swim across rushing currents, and take a dip in nature’s best infinity pool right on the edge of Victoria Falls. The tour is only offered by Tongabezi seasonally and departs from the Royal Livingstone Hotel several times a day— our morning tour included a delicious breakfast (eggs benedict, tea, and scones) and was the cheaper option at $100USD. It may seem like an expensive swim, but it’s hard to describe the feeling of sitting right on the edge of the world’s biggest waterfall and peering off the edge. Although the guides do quite a good job of directly people across the currents and will sit with you the entire time you’re on the edge, it’s still advisable to be at least a moderately strong swimmer to really enjoy yourself. And make sure to bring your big camera along, as one of the guides will put it in a dry bag to ferry it across and will then take about a thousand photos of you while you’re in the pool! Altogether, an experience like no other.
The guide is basically a professional photographer
Zebra roaming around the Royal Livingstone
Staring off the edge
4 | Sunset river cruise on the Zambezi River
For the chance to see hippo and crocs up close, enjoy braai and unlimited drinks, and of course to watch the sunset over the Zambezi, a river cruise is an absolute must-do for anyone in the Livingstone/Vic Falls area. Our cruise was actually included for free when we booked river rafting through Safpar (but otherwise would have been about $65USD) and included some canapes, dinner, and an open bar with wine, beer, and spirits. The boat left right from our accommodation at the Vic Falls Waterfront on the Zambian side at 430pm and we spent several hours cruising about, looking for animals on the shore and in the water, and also just admiring the stunning scenery. It was far from a 5-star cruise, but it was super fun and we had an amazing time just leaning over the railing, Mosi in hand, taking it all in.
5 | Victoria Falls National Park in Zimbabwe
Even if you saw Victoria Falls from Zambia, it’s still completely worth it to cross the border and see the falls from another angle. From the Mosi-Oa-Tunya National Park entrance in Zambia, it’s only about 20 minutes to walk across the border and visit the Zimbabwean Victoria Falls National Park. Entry is $30USD, but the views will be different and there are also far fewer safety railings, so you can get some cool photos sitting on the rocks or standing near the edge (still at a reasonable distance, though, because it’s wet rock and we aren’t complete idiots).
February to May is often considered the best time to see Victoria Falls, as the rainy season will have just ended but an enormous amount of water will still be pumping over the falls. However, Devil’s Pool is only open from August to mid-January (coinciding with lower water levels), so if this is a bucket-list item for you, I’d definitely recommend January as the best time to visit. Any earlier than this and you risk sections of the falls, particularly on the Zambian side, being completely dry. We visited from 1-4 January and it was absolutely perfect!
Getting to Victoria Falls
You can access Victoria Falls from either Livingstone (Zambia) or Victoria Falls Town (Zimbabwe), and either is spectacular. There are international airports in both towns, so it might be best to choose whichever offers cheaper flights for your dates. I chose Livingstone just because it’s where Devil’s Pool and rafting tours depart from, but it’s incredibly easy to walk across the border, so don’t worry about missing out on anything!
I would highly recommend Victoria Falls Waterfront, which offers a range of upscale and budget accomodation, including camping in large, pre-erected tents with twin beds, lights, and a fan for $25USD per night. There are several pools, a reasonably-priced bar and bistro, and the Safpar tour office (where you can arrange rafting trips, safaris, bungy jumping, and more) all located right on site. Zambezi River cruises also depart nightly from the property’s private dock, so you can’t find a more convenient place to base yourself for a few days of exploring.
There is a risk of malaria around Victoria Falls, so you should talk to your doctor to see if they recommend taking preventatives, like Doxycycline. I personally lathered myself in bugspray throughout the day and skipped the meds, but you should definitely consult with a medical professional before making your decision.
Some activities, like Devil’s Pool, should be booked in advance, but it’s totally possible to join a rafting tour or go bungy jumping on a whim when you arrive.
Zambia does have its own currency (kwacha), but Zimbabwe’s official currency is the USD. American Dollars are widely accepted on both sides (although you will often get change in the local currency in Zambia) and many tour operators and hotels will only accept payment in USD or by credit card. Plan to bring several hundred dollars and, particularly for larger notes, make sure they are new (post-2006 is a good rule of thumb) and clean/un-wrinkled.
The area around Victoria Falls is built up and very tourist-friendly, but this decreases slightly when you get further out, so exercise caution in town or on long walks.