Located on the Zambezi River on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe, Victoria Falls is a fascinating spectacle of beauty. With over forty thousand cubic feet of water per second cascading over the gorges, it is without doubt one of the world’s most spectacular waterfalls.
The Victoria Falls National Park is less than two miles from Victoria Falls City. The park is nice, well maintained, and easy to navigate. With raincoats on and cameras in hand, we were ready to see the magnificent curtain of water that is 351 feet high and over a mile long. Words and pictures don’t do justice to the beauty and power of what you will experience here.
Victoria Falls is composed of five different falls. Four of them are on the Zimbabwe side: the Devil’s Cataract, Main Falls, Rainbow Falls, and Horseshoe Falls. The fifth one, the Eastern Cataract, is in Zambia. We walked along the Victoria Falls trail, stopping frequently for pictures and to take in the views of the gorges and islands in the center of the falls. At the beginning of the trail, we got wet from some spray, but it was manageable. Near the Main Falls, the mist increased, and when it mixed with the wind, became rain showers. Under those circumstances, the raincoats didn’t help much – and we got drenched.
As a result, we had to stop taking pictures because I was afraid my camera would be damaged. At first, I tried to protect it under my coat; eventually I had to ask my husband to put it in his backpack. Even that didn’t help, so he had to wear his raincoat over the backpack to protect everything. At some point, there was so much mist that I couldn’t tell if what I was looking at was beautiful or not. We couldn’t see very much. In spite of a beautiful, cloudless day, a rainstorm was pouring over us.
Supposedly, water flows over Victoria Falls year-round on the Zimbabwe side, but is in full flow only between March and May. Our visit was in the middle of June, and I can say for certain that the water level was still very high.
Even though we were soaked and cold, we walked all the way to the other end of the path, where the mist had diminished. We saw people bungee jumping from the bridge we had crossed the day before, and there were some rainbows gracing the air. Interestingly, due to the high humidity coming from the spray, a small forest could be made out, just adjacent to the falls.
Slowly, we sloshed our way back to the entrance of the park. After passing the rainstorm one more time, it was sunny again. Looking back, we could see a pocket of heavy rain, just a few feet away.
Shoe choices? Well, it was a sunny day after all, and I knew that the hike wasn’t very long. I decided to wear flip-flops; my husband and daughter wanted to wear tennis shoes. As we got soaked, our feet were colored black from the mixture of water and soil in those areas where it became muddy. We were flying home the next day, and I refused to pack their filthy tennis shoes. We decided the best option would be to give them up. But we can easily clean flip flops, correct? Yes, I saved my sandals, but I guarantee you, it was disturbing to look at my feet. I felt embarrassed to get a pedicure after coming home.
Exploring Victoria Falls City
Victoria Falls City, a small town with humble buildings, is focused primarily on tourism. Almost everything is within walking distance. We strolled through several curio shops selling carved wood pieces, stone items and jewelry, as well as little arts and crafts boutiques and restaurants.
On the streets, we encountered lots of vendors who tried to persuade us to buy their souvenirs. They weren’t being aggressive or threatening, but they were very persistent. They would follow us as we walked. Some of them would even cross the street to approach us if we were on the other side. They were just desperate to make a sale, since any craft they could sell might be their only income of the day. Since we are not shoppers when we travel, we decided it would be easier just to avoid going back into the town.
For convenience, we had most of our meals at the hotel. Yet, the day we were in the city, we ate at The Three Monkeys, a restaurant and bar located on the main road. It has a nice open-seating area which has a sign “I love Vic Falls” in the back. It is definitely a tourist place. As much as we wanted to eat where the locals do, it was nice to sit, relax our feet, and absorb the city’s culture.
Despite the persistent nature of some of the locals, Zimbabwean people are friendly, cheerful, and helpful to tourists. Frequently we were greeted with a beautiful smile. I must add that along with the natural beauty of Victoria Falls, the warm and touching hospitality of the people was another big plus. We felt welcomed.
The baobab tree
After we visited the falls, we tried to head quickly back to the hotel. We didn’t want to wait for the free shuttle, so we took a taxi. The friendly driver asked us if we wanted to see the “big tree.” First, we had no idea which tree he was talking about; second, we were still kind of wet, so my first wish was to get dry and wear comfortable clothes. However, after a short conversation, he said it was just a few minutes away from where we were. Well, why not?
For a few extra bucks, he drove us to the “big tree.”
It was immense!
I did some research and here is what I found: what we saw was one of the world’s largest baobab trees, believed to be over 1,000 years old. The tree is an impressive 66 feet high and 59 feet in circumference, requiring about 16 people, joining hands, to stretch all the way around the trunk.
Sunset cruise at Victoria Falls
While in town, we booked a sunset cruise on the Zambezi River. Because the boat had an open side deck, we not only had clear views of the surroundings, we also felt the breeze on our skin and blowing our hair. The boat slowly moved downstream towards the falls while we enjoyed the view of small riverine islands, fauna, and flora.
We saw a few crocodiles and several hippo heads above the water, as if they were just taking a quick look at us. In the distance, we saw the mist from Victoria Falls. The captain of the boat told us that when the water flow is high, the spray can be seen up to 12 miles away. The boat turned around and cruised back upstream.
The sunset, albeit easily explained scientifically, cannot adequately be described in my own words. While sipping a glass of wine, breathing fresh air, and hearing nothing but the sound of water and nature, we saw the sun falling over the Zambezi River. It was nightfall in Africa, and it was stunning.