Victoria Falls, between Zambia and Zimbabwe is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the world’s largest curtain of falling water.
The Zambezi River plunges 100m over a 1.7km wide series of basalt ledges creating giant plumes of spray and five distinct falls: the Devil’s Cataract, Main Falls, Rainbow Falls and Horseshoe Falls in Zimbabwe, and the Eastern Cataract in Zambia.
The Falls are easily accessed from Livingstone in Zambia, or the town of Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. Spending a couple of nights relaxing at a river lodge, or at a hotel in town close to the Falls is a fantastic way to start or end a trip to Africa. A Falls stopover works particularly well in combination with a safari to South Africa, Botswana, Zambia or Zimbabwe.
Visiting Victoria Falls
- You can view the Falls from Zimbabwe and Zambia. Zimbabwe’s Rainforest walk provides the most comprehensive view.
- The entry fee is $50 USD for International Visitors (Zimbabwe) and $20 USD (Zambia). You should allow a couple of hours to complete the route through the rainforest (on the Zimbabwe side of the Falls).
- The rainbows are at their best in the afternoon. The plumes of spray are at their most spectacular in the morning – these gradually reduce as the day heats up.
- The rainforest closes at sunset but you can take sunset photos from the nearby Lookout Cafe, or further along the Batoka Gorge.
- There are washrooms positioned at the start and end of the rainforest walk. There are also a couple of cafes.
- Up to 500 million litres of water per minute gush over the falls at full flood.
- The local name Mosi Oa Tunya means ‘the smoke that thunders’.
When to visit
Victoria Falls can be visited year-round and the experience changes depending on the time of year, and the flow of water over the Falls.
As a general rule:
Full Flood: March/April
A spectacular time to see the Falls but there is a lot of spray so you may not be able to see down into the gorge. The clearest views are from viewpoints 1-9. After that it was quite misty until viewpoint 16 which looks out at the bridge connecting Zimbabwe with Zambia.
Optimum time: June-September
The water levels have receded a little so while there is still plenty of water flowing, there is less spray overall and better visibility at all the viewpoints.
Low Water: November/December
It is not uncommon for the Zambian side to be completely dry by November. You get a good view down into the gorge and across to Livingstone Island from Zimbabwe, but the Falls themselves are not as dramatic.
Victoria Falls Rainforest Walk, Zimbabwe – 16 Viewpoints
Viewpoint 1 – Livingstone Statue
Livingstone gave the Falls its name. His first sight of it was in November 1855. His statue is cast in bronze and looks east towards the Devil’s Cataract.
Viewpoint 2 – 38 Steps
You can take the steps down for a clearer view of the Devil’s Cataract, Main Falls and into the gorge.
Viewpoints 3-5 – Devil’s Cataract and Cataract Island
This series of viewpoints are close together and provide different angles on the Devil’s Cataract – the smallest of the five falls. Cataract Island divides the Devil’s Falls and the Main Falls.
Viewpoint 6 – Main Falls
This viewpoint gives the most comprehensive view back to the Devil’s Cataract and also the start of the Main Falls off to the right. It is also possible to see Livingstone’s statue in the distance on the left.
Viewpoint 7 – Main Falls
This viewpoint under the trees offers a fabulous vantage point to see the Main Falls – at 93m high and 150m wide, it’s the biggest of the five falls.
Viewpoint 8-9 – Main Falls
You continue along the rainforest walkway with the spray now beginning to increase and you find yourself bang opposite the Main Falls – the immense curtain of water in front of you and the sound of it is impressive.
Viewpoint 10 – Devil’s Pool
This is the best view of the Devil’s Pool, where people can swim right on the edge of the waterfall during the dry season when the flow is greatly reduced. In April there was a lot of spray.
Viewpoint 11-13 – Horseshoe Falls
You walk down a short pathway off the main track to reach these three viewpoints. In April, it was like walking into a monsoon. I could not use my camera -it was so wet. Opposite you’ll find Horseshoe Falls.
Viewpoint 14 – Rainbow Falls
Rainbow Falls is the deepest section at 108m. The path is very slippery and wet and there are small rivers running all alongside the bank and footpath so you need to watch your step!
Viewpoint 15 – Danger Point
In the dry season you can clamber over the rocks to Danger Point for an amazing view along into the gorge. In April the place was running with small rivers and everything was white.
Viewpoint 16 – The Bridge
This point of the pathway feels quite dry as you turn away from the main falls towards the Victoria Falls Bridge, built in 1905, which connects Zimbabwe with Zambia. There was a bungee jumper dangling from the bridge when I got to the viewpoint so it’s fun to watch for a few minutes. The bridge is 111 metres above the water and 198m long – it took 2 years to contruct.
Will I get wet?
Yes! Although how wet depends on the time of year.
Viewpoints 1-9 are generally fairly dry – just a little spray coming up on to the pathway even at full flood in April when I was there. You can enjoy good views of the Devil’s Cataract and Main Falls.
Viewpoints 10-15 are generally very wet (during full flood).
What should I wear?
I hired a long raincoat for a couple of dollars at the entrance and had a dry bag for my camera. I recommend wearing shorts and a Tshirt, plus a hat and shoes that you don’t mind getting wet. I wore some old trainers. The guides wear crocs or flip flops but it can be slippery underfoot so be careful. The sunshine dries your things out fairly quickly.
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