Victoria Falls is one of the seven natural wonders of the world. Based solely on its width, it is the largest sheet of falling water on earth. Also called Mosi-oa-Tunya (the smoke that thunders), the falls can be viewed from either Zambia or Zimbabwe. Here are 10 things you should definitely do on the Zimbabwean side before you leave:
1. Explore the falls About two-thirds of the Victoria Falls frontage is on the Zimbabwean side and most of the Falls plunges down this section. Walk around and make your way through lush rainforest before emerging on to 16 viewpoints along the gorge edge, starting with the one with a statue of David Livingstone on the western edge of the chasm, before passing the thundering Devil’s Cataract and the Main Falls. Danger Point is the last point on the path from where you can take a path to the right for a view of the Victoria Falls Bridge, where you may even see some bungee jumpers. In the wet season, the spray from the falling water is so dense that it’s almost like walking in a tropical thunder storm. If you are lucky to be there on a full moon day, take a night tour to see a lunar rainbow.
2. Take the plunge Victoria Falls is also a popular adventure sports hotspot. For the ultimate thrill, fling yourself over the Victoria Falls Bridge 111m above the Zambezi River. For a white-knuckle ride, take a white water rafting trip along violent Class V rapids and gorge swing (fling yourself off the edge on a body harness) or zip-line across the gorge. Finish with a 12-minute helicopter ride called the Flight of Angels, which takes you high over the falls, giving you an incredible view of the Devil’s Cataract, Eastern Cataract and swirling mist.
3. Walk with lions Getting up close and personal with the king of beasts is the ultimate experience offered by an ambitious conservation and preservation project aimed at repopulating lions into the wild. Imagine walking with year-old free-roaming lions, accompanied only by guides and handlers. And if you’re really lucky, you may even witness the lions stalk and hunt bushbuck, impala or wildebeest. Don’t leave without a photograph with the lions. (www.lionencounter.com) Priced at Rs8,76
4. Have afternoon tea at the Victoria Falls Hotel This is the grande dame of hotels around Victoria Falls. Built in the early 1900s, Victoria Falls Hotel is surrounded by tropical gardens and lily ponds and has a great view over the Zambezi Gorge and the railway bridge from its large terrace. Over the years, famous celebrities, actors and royalty including Queen Elizabeth have stayed here. The rooms have been recently refurbished with charming colonial details like chintz curtains, old-fashioned bath tubs and antique wooden furnishings. Have high tea at the terraced Stanley’s Bar with its elegant spread of sandwiches, scones and cakes. (www.victoria-falls-hotels.net)
5. Shop for souvenirs The main town is a great place to pick up souvenirs and art. Head to the Elephant Walk Shopping Village, where you can interact with various artists who work on beaded wire creations, portraits and stone sculptures. There is also a museum which gives you a peek into Shona tribal culture. Behind the complex is a chain of small stalls selling local souvenirs where bargaining is de rigueur for the tribal necklaces, pottery, wooden animal statues, batiks and masks on display.
6. Ride the tram Step back in time and take a trip on a replicated 19th century style tram car at sunset or in the morning from the Victoria Falls Station. Make your way through the town and pass through the African bush and the Victoria Falls rainforest before ending up at the Victoria Falls Bridge. Passengers can watch a thrilling demonstration of stunt jumping and a short presentation on the history of the bridge while sipping on champagne. (www.shearwatervictoriafalls.com)
7. Cruise the Zambezi The great Zambezi River starts in northwest Zambia and meanders for over 2,700km through six countries before emptying out into the Indian Ocean at Mozambique. Take a cruise down the river on Zambezi Explorer—an eco-friendly luxury catamaran service that uses green technology and solar power—to see hippos lolling about and huge crocodiles sunning themselves on the rocks. Splurge on the Signature Deck on the boat’s third level which serves hors d’oeuvres like crocodile mousse paired with premium alcohol. Take your drink out on to the deck and enjoy the African sunset of ilala palms silhouetted against a flaming orange sky. (http://zambeziexplorer.com)
8. Luxe out For a river experience, stay at the A’Zambezi River Lodge (http://azambeziriverlodge.com.) It’s located right on the banks of the mighty river and is in fact the only Victoria Falls hotel with its own jetty. Stay here and go on a sunset cruise, watch tribal dance performances and sample traditional cuisine. Also try and spend at least one night at the Victoria Falls Safari lodge (www.victoria-falls-safari-lodge.com), a multi-level tree house rustically decorated in traditional African style. It’s location is pretty unbeatable too—on a plateau overlooking the bushveld and a watering hole that attracts wildlife like kudus, impala and elephants.
9. Spend an evening at The BOMA – Place of Eating restaurant For a traditional sensory African experience, head to The Boma at Victoria Falls Safari Lodge, a tall conical structure, where the guests are dressed in chitenges (traditional robes), treated to local millet beer and a grand buffet with local delicacies like impala and kudu steaks and crocodile stew as well as crunchy mopane worms served on cast iron plates. Enjoy lively dances and drumming with audience participation, fortune telling by a traditional healer called the sangoma and face painting and hair braiding sessions. (www.victoria-falls-safari-lodge.com)
10. Enjoy the joys of Animal Kingdom Head to the Elephant Wallow, which is part of the Wild Horizons Wildlife Sanctuary and Orphanage. Ride the gentle giants and then feed them treats as well as watch them perform small tricks. This is part of a program that takes in hurt and orphaned elephants from all over the country and rehabilitates, trains and breeds them. Follow it up with a visit to the 12-acre Spencer’s Creek Crocodile Farm situated around a natural creek where a guide explains their life cycle and gives you a chance to touch baby crocodiles. You can see different types of Nile crocodiles including albinos, some of which may weigh over a ton. The farm raises crocodiles for commercial purposes and also releases some back into the Zambezi. (www.wildhorizons.co.za)
- Kalpana Sunder