We traveled to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe after our stint in Botswana. We entered Zimbabwe at the Kazungula border post and traveled the 70 or so kilometers to Victoria Falls through the stunningly beautiful Matetsi Nature Conservation Area. Victoria Falls is a place completely different to any I have ever visited. Aside from the breathtaking natural beauty, the town of Victoria Falls is a haven for adrenalin junkies and those that revel in extreme sports. Despite the fact that it is aimed at getting the adrenalin pumping, Vic Falls is amazingly laid back. Definitely worth a visit.
There is an overabundance of places to stay in Vic Falls and everyone is so desperate for your custom that they are prepared to go out of their way to accommodate you. There are three campsites to chose from the greater Vic Falls area. The most popular is right in the center of town but is frequented by large overland trucks and is very crowded and noisy. The municipal camping ground is outside Vic Falls past the Elephant Hills hotel and was deserted and more expensive. In the end we settled on the Inyathi campsite which provides well situated, shady campsites but without the crowds that can be found at the campsite in town. The ablution blocks are kept immaculately clean and are in excellent condition. There is also a pool! Camping at Inyathi costs about R25-00 per person per night which is an absolute bargain – we ended up staying 5 days. There are amarula trees in the Inyathi camp site and so elephants can be regular visitors in search of the tasty amarula fruits. The camp staff actually collect all the amarula fruits and put them outside the campsite to feed the nocturnal visitors.
There is so much to do in Vic Falls so plan to be there for at least a week. One can easily spend a whole day visiting the Victoria Falls which is obviously the main attraction. The Victoria Falls is one of the world’s most memorable sights. The Zambezi River widens to 1.7km and then plunges 107 m into the Zambezi Gorge. The force of the falling water sends clouds of spray up to 500 metres in the air. The falls and the spray dominate the town of Vic Falls and can be seen almost everywhere in town! Its easy to spend a whole day exploring the many footpaths around the falls through the most gorgeous natural rain forest. Be prepared to get absolutely soaked though and take an umbrella or raincoat and a plastic covering for your camera!
Entrance into the Vic Falls park costs US$10-00 per person in the low season and US$20-00 per person in the high season. This price applies to non-citizens only. Citizens pay a mere 10 Zim dollars for entrance (about US$0-26!).
We had wanted to do some river rafting down the Zambezi but this was not possible as the river rafting had been temporarily closed. The whole area has experienced an incredible amount of rain which has had the result that the Zambezi River is rising by 3 inches per day and the rainy season is still to come! There had also been a tourist who had drowned while rafting down the river and all rafting had been temporarily closed. Instead we had to opt for a canoe trip down the Zambezi. This is an adventure of the soft core variety but is definitely worth while. The only operators who offer canoeing are Kandarhi Safaris – all other tours that are booked through other operators are conducted by Kandhari which is an incredibly professional and well run operation. The canoe trip starts early in the morning and Kandhari are prepared to pick you up at your campsite. You are then driven about 40km’s up river through the Matetsi. Look out for game on the drive. After breakfast the canoes are launched and you start your trip down the river. The canoes take two people and the one who opts for the back seat is required to steer! Unfortunately Nev and I managed to chose the only canoe with a leak and so ended up spending most of the journey baling water out of the bottom of it. You are required to navigate your way over some rapids – they are quite tiny but do get the adrenalin pumping. We saw quite a bit of game along the river, hippos, elephants, crocodiles – we were even treated to a show by an elephant who was having a bath at the edge of the river. You canoe down river for about 30km until about 6 km above the falls where you are pulled out. The trip costs about US$90-00 per person which includes transport, park entrance fees, breakfast, lunch and drinks at the end of the trip.
Aside from canoeing there are lots of other things to do in Vic Falls flights over the falls, hot air balloon trips, booze cruises etc – there are also hundreds of tour operators and adventure companies. Some of the bigger ones include Shearwater Adventures, Kandarhi, Safari Par Excellence.
Nev also did some bungi jumping off the Vic Falls Bridge. The bungi jumping is run from the middle of the bridge over the Zambezi River that forms the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. You will need your passport to cross through the border post on to the bridge. However, you do not need to report at the Zambian border post. Bungi jumping costs $90-00 and you get two jumps for the price of one. You can book your jumps through a tour operator or can just arrive on the bridge and be strapped in to a harnass.
An absolute must is to visit the Victoria Falls Hotel even if it is only to take in the view of the Vic Falls Bridge, the spray and the millions of rainbows that form around the falls. If you arrive at tea time you must stay for high tea. It costs about R40-00 per person but will feed you for a whole day. Tea includes cucumber sandwiches, scones, cakes and as much Earl Grey as you can drink.
Other places to eat include Subway and Wimpy. You can buy groceries and beer at the Jays’s Spar Supermarket. Beware of all the informal money changers, dagga salesmen, curio sellers and people selling booze cruises etc. It is easy to get ripped off but it is also easy to get great bargains on curios. The best place to buy curios (if you can bear the haggling etc) is the Falls Craft Village. There also seems to be a thriving “car watching” industry on the go. When you park your car you are absolutely inundated with people volunteering to watch your car. If you give them the go ahead they literally watch your car often perching on the front of it waiting for you to return. The next time you find yourself in town you will find that the same car watcher will approach you and volunteer to watch your car and should you have employed someone else he will chase away the new guy! We tried to pay our car watcher 10 Zim dollars for watching our car – his response “50 would be better!” The cheek of it.
The Zimbabwean dollar is worth virtually nothing. When we were there you got about 6 Zim dollars for a rand. A US$ buys you about 38 Zim dollars. A Zim dollar does not go very far either. A coke costs about 25 Zim dollars. Oh, and there is this quaint tradition that when you buy coke in a bottle you are expected to drink it in the establishment you bought it and leave the bottle behind. If you take the bottle away it costs an additional 5 Zim dollars.
Although there is a severe petrol and diesel shortage in the rest of the country there is diesel and petrol available at Vic Falls. Vic Falls also seems to be completely removed from the political turmoil in the rest of the country and we felt perfectly safe. We did however find that almost everyone we met was anti-Mugabe.