Visiting Victoria Falls
Inhale the fragrant perfume of Zanzibar’s spice plantations, hunt for the perfect snapshot of the ever-elusive ‘Big 5’, feel the thunder of Victoria Falls—uncover the spectacular highlights of four African countries on this stellar twenty-day adventure. Enjoy an intriguing combination of stunning wilderness and bright city lights from the comfort of our overland truck and camp under the big African sky for a unique perspective of this majestic land. With a unique itinerary that offers plenty of options, uncover all that this diverse region has to offer.
Victoria Falls – The Greatest Waterfall On Earth!
By Terry Jenkins
The Victoria Falls are on the Zambezi River, at the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe in southern Africa. They are one of the Great Natural Wonders Of The World.
A mile across and 400 ft high, they form the largest vertical sheet of water in the world.
They were “discovered” by David Livingstone in 1855 and named for Queen Victoria.
Before that, they were known locally by a more romantic name – Mosi-oa-Tunya, or “Smoke That Thunders”
The falls are part of two national parks, Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park in Zambia and Victoria Falls National Park in Zimbabwe, and they are one of Southern Africa’s major tourist attractions.
They are also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Fly from Johannesburg Airport to Victoria Falls Airport (Zimbabwe) or to Livingstone Airport (Zambia).
Both flights take around an hour and a half. Both airports are around a 20 minute drive from Victoria Falls.
Most flights leave Johannesburg early in the morning, so you will need a hotel at Johannesburg Airport for the night before.
If you have the time, and the courage, you can travel overland on a “Safari” from Cape Town. This can be a fabulous way to see Africa, but the quality, safety and price of these trips varies enormously.
WHEN TO VISIT
Victoria Falls enjoys a mild, dry season from June to August.
The temperature then rises steadily until the rains start in mid-November. It is then hot, wet and humid until the rainy season ends in late April. If you don’t like heat andhumidity – avoid the rainy season!
It is also extremely hot here just before the rains begin. Late October/early November is known as the “Suicide Season” with temperatures often exceeding 40 degrees!
The Falls are at full power during the March and April floods but the immense amount of spray obscures the view and can make you very wet! For a mild, pleasant visit – come between June & September.
Visa regulations change in BOTH Zimbabwe and Zambia on an almost daily basis.
Also, Victoria Falls is right on the border, and you will certainly want to see it from both sides.
I would advise you to arrange multiple entry visas for both countries before you embark on your journey.
The Zimbabwe dollar is unstable and exchange rates can vary alarmingly from moment to moment.
By far the best currency to use in Zimbabwe is the United States Dollar.
Pounds Sterling and Euros can be used, but the exchange rate is poor.
Travellers Cheques are a waste of time on the streets – but they can be used to pay for excursions.
Basically, you must have Us Dollars (cash) to change into Zimbabwe Dollars – preferably in smaller notes. South African Rand and Botswana Pula can be exchanged as they are regional hard currencies.
It is illegal to change money on the streets of Zimbabwe.
If you are caught you will be arrested and prosecuted. If somebody on the street offers to exchange dollars with you – walk away! No matter how good their rate is!
At the time of writing this, the government has closed all bureaux de change – so the only place to legally change money is in a bank. The exchange rate in banks is only a fraction of the street (black market) rate, but at least it’s legal!
Ask your tour-guide or hotel manager for the best banks to change money. And don’t change too much at once – The Zimbabwe Dollar is totally worthless outside of Zimbabwe.
You will need cash US Dollars to make all major purchases – including entry to Victoria Falls National park.
Finally – Never use a credit card in Zimbabwe for anything!
You will be charged a fortune for this privilege -and could end up paying several times the cash price!
Zambia’s unit of currency is the Zambian Kwacha, which is divided into 100 Ngwee.
Notes are issued in denominations of K10,000; 5,000; 1,000; 500; 200; 100 and 50.
There is no limit on how much currency you can bring into Zambia – but you must declare it when you enter the country.
Most visitors will find the exchange rate is in their favour. US Dollars, Pounds Sterling and Euros attract good rates in banks and bureaux de change. Travellers cheques (US Dollars) are widely accepted.
Entrance to game reserves etc can only be paid in Kwacha.
Most hotels, restaurants, and large shops will take credit cards.
Most of the bigger banks will advance local currency against a credit card.
Standard Chartered and Barclays Banks have ATMs which accept Visa cards for cash.
Tipping is discouraged in Zambia.A service charge goes on your bill.
Haggling over prices in local markets etc is perfectly acceptable.
Take a course of anti-malarial tablets before visiting the Victoria Falls area – just to be on the safe side.
Most of the people you meet here will be wonderful.
And they are keen to promote this area to tourists – so crime is generally very low.
But please don’t tempt fate by flaunting your superior wealth.
Leave your Rolex and your diamond-tiara at home – or at least stash them in your hotel.
Remember – this is an area of extreme poverty.
You must, must, must visit Victoria Falls! It is an unforgettable experience!
Terry Jenkins has travelled here there and everywhere as a professional photographer. He now works for the British Government, and in his “spare” time he helps to run The Top Ten Site. Read his travel articles (with pictures) at http://TheTopTenSite.com