VICTORIA FALLS, Zimbabwe, January 2020/ — Waking up in Victoria Falls, one of the natural wonders of the world was truly surreal. We had arrived in Victoria Falls – a town in western Zimbabwe and a gateway to the massive waterfall of the same name the night before, having joined other revellers from across the SADC region at the 9th edition of the Vic Falls Carnival, an unforgettable experience at one of the seven wonders of the world.
The three days of non-stop entertainment with Africa’s biggest acts including Shekhinah, DJ Maphorisa, DJ Colastraw, Prince Kaybee, TK Smoothe, Flying Bantu, Zafari, Sereetsi & the Natives, Sha Sha, Djembe Monks and DJ Doowap just to name a few, has always been on our bucket list, and this year, we were truly happy to tick it all off.
Forget the dire political situation, shortage of basic amenities and long fuelling queues in Zimbabwe; here, the Zambezi River plummets over a cliff and into the Boiling Pot before flowing through a series of gorges. This ladies and gentlemen is truly a sight to behold!
Our reliable guide, Simbarashe Chipanda from Footprints Africa Safaris (www.footprintsafricasafaris.com) picks us up from our Airbnb billet just around 8am ready and raring to show us around, and of course top on our agenda was exploring the magnificence that is Victoria Falls.
However, before entering Victoria Falls National Park, which protects the south and east bank of the Zambezi River in the area of the world-famous Victoria Falls, Chipanda’s resourcefulness came in handy when he took us on a foot tour to yet another nearby splendour, The Lookout Café. Perched on the edge of the Batoka Gorge, this open air cafe is one of the favourites in Victoria Falls. Spectacular views of the gorges and Zambezi River below plus so much more, make the Lookout Café a special place for more than just a meal.
The Lookout Cafe has fast become one of the favourite spots for both locals and international guests. The view alone is enough to call you back over and over again. Perched on the edge of the Batoka gorge with the Zambezi rapids raging more than 100m below, this beautiful spot has views of the gorges, the Victoria Falls Bridge and the spray of the Falls themselves.
Located a short distance away from the Victoria Falls Rainforest entrance, and a stone’s throw away from where the high-wire activities are done, diners can watch adrenalin junkies on the activities such as the gorge swing, zip line and flying fox. We snapped a few selfies (picture moments) before heading out to the main entrance of the Victoria Falls National Park, where we were required to produce our passports and pay $20 per person (SADC visitors) to sightsee the beautiful Victoria Falls. Other international visitors pay $30 while all children between 6 and 12 years old pay 50% of the adult fee, and children under 6 enter free of charge, and these fees are for a single entry, “if you exit you have to pay again.”
The beautiful Victoria Falls is located within the Victoria Falls National Park (on the Zimbabwe side), and the Mosi-Oa-Tunya National Park (on the Zambia side), which means that for you to see the entire length of this the largest waterfall in the world, you will need to enter via two gates in two different countries. We were happy to enter on the Zimbabwean side where the waterfalls plummet.
There are 16 viewpoints one has to traverse to fully appreciate Victoria Falls. We began our adventure at Point 1 – The David Livingstone Statue and Cataract Island. Our guide told us that David Livingstone, the Scottish missionary and explorer, is believed to have been the first European to view Victoria Falls on 16 November 1855, from what is known as Livingstone Island, one of two land masses in the middle of the river, immediately upstream from the falls near the Zambian shore.
Livingstone named his sighting in honour of Queen Victoria of Britain, but the indigenous Lozi language name, Mosi-oa-Tunya – “The Smoke That Thunders” – continues in common usage as well. The World Heritage List officially recognizes both names. The nearby national park in Zambia is named Mosi-oa-Tunya, whereas the national park and town on the Zimbabwean shore are both named Victoria Falls.
The main falls are clearly visible from Point 9 and 10, before one passes through the drenching Victoria Falls Rainforest Reserve, Horse shoe Falls, Rainbow Falls, Armchair Falls, Danger Point (where rocks are slippery) before reaching the Victoria Falls Bridge where bungee jumping activities take place. The bridge was built in 1905. Our guide took us around the different viewpoints, sharing in-depth knowledge on the waterfall and its rich history.
The highlight of our trip was witnessing several people risking their dear lives swimming in the Devil’s Pool, a natural infinity pool, on the edge of a sheer drop. As a famous feature, the naturally formed ‘Armchair” (now sometimes called ‘Devil’s Pool”), near the edge of the falls on Livingstone Island on the Zambian side, where adventurous swimmers splash around in relative safety a few feet from the point where the water cascades over the falls.
Occasional deaths have been reported when people have slipped over the rock barrier, and that’s all the more reason we overlooked it. All in all, we are extremely happy that our bucket list has been ticked! Thank you Victoria Falls, thank you Zimbabwe.