One of the 7 natural wonders of the world, the Victoria Falls are truly worth visiting. But if you look into tours it can be quite expensive, so if you’re up for an adventure, here is a suggestion to make things a bit cheaper.
Where to stay
If you’re backpacking you’re probably coming in from Chobe in Botswana, the Caprivi strip in Namibia or Lusaka, Zambia’s Capital. I came in from Lusaka with an overnight train. It takes forever, about 24 hours incl. leaving way late, but it’s a great experience, a bit cheaper than the bus ($ 12,50 in a sleeper bed) and it saves you a night of accommodation.
You can stay either in Victoria Falls town – which is a touristy place or, the nicer option, stay in Livingstone, a real village 11km from the falls. Here you have loads of options to stay, in a lodge, bungalow, dorm or camp. I stayed at Fawlty Towers on the mainroad in town, which cost me $ 8,- per night in a dorm. They serve free pancakes at 3pm, free tea and coffee all day, have a swimming pool and communal kitchen with very decent utilities.
Another nice option is Jollyboys, which is a bit more backpacker orientated and you can camp there for $ 7,- per night.
Mosi-oa-Tunya: The Victoria Falls
Mosi-oa-Tunya is the local name of the Victoria Falls and it means “The smoke that thunders”.
The new name has been given by the Scottish explorer Dr. David Livingstone in 1855, after the British queen. He is considered the first European to have seen these majestic falls and his footsteps are well remembered in these parts of Africa.
The falls are 1700 meter wide and over 100 meters high, which makes it the biggest curtain of water in the world. The water comes from the Zambezi river, from where these waterfalls flow over 625 million litres of water per minute over the edge, during the end of rainy season (mid-april).
Visiting the Falls
If you’re only visiting the Victoria Falls with no activities you might be pleasantly surprised that the entrance fee from the Zambian side is $ 20,-. You can take a (shared) taxi or mini bus to the entrance and see the Falls without a guide. You get excellent viewing points and can easily spend a few hours enjoying this world wonder.
However, if you want to go rafting, swimming in the Devil’s Pool, bungee jumping or see the falls from a helicopter in the sky it can easily turn into $ 150,- and over. I have been into the Falls + Devil’s Pool for $ 60,- incl. entrance fee and guide.
Through a contact in Lusaka we’ve received the phonenumber of a guide that does unofficial tours right after the Devil’s Pool closes. Ask around for this option through other travelers and I’m sure you can get a phonenumber. Please bear in mind that the Devil’s Pool is only reachable in dry season, from september to november. I went to the falls mid-october.
Such a unique experience and a real adventure! My friends and I met our guide at 17:30 inside the park where we had to wait for the official boat to leave the Pool. From there it’s a 20 minute hike over the top of the rocky (and at that point dry) top of the falls, which is a wonderful trip on its own. You watch the sunset while you’re walking over a 10cm ledge, trying not to fall in. After the ledge you’re almost running towards the pool, to try to get as much daylight to make it to the water. Around the Devil’s Pool there is still plenty of water falling over the edge to give you the amazing view from the top down.
Right before you get into the natural pool, you strip down until your swimming suit and let yourself drop into the – deeper than expected – cold water. The guide holds your legs while you have the chance to take a quick peek over the edge to stare at the 80 meter drop. Such a rush. After the pool the adventure isn’t over, because you still have to get back the same way to the entrance.. in the dark. So please bring a torch or a phone, because that legde is quite scary in the dark (even though the water on the sides isn’t super deep).
The official tour is the same route, but during daylight and costs $ 85,-, it will be a lot busier, but safer and well.. not illegal. Besides the Devil’s Pool I have heard great stories about all of the adrenaline tours and if you have the budget, I think the Vic Falls/Zambezi river is one of the worlds greatest locations to do a trip/activity like that.
When you go to the Devil’s Pool at sunset:
1. Bring a drybag, (waterproof)camera or phone, a torch and water
2. Wear slippers/flip flops and wear your swimming suit!
The Vic Falls on the Zimbabwe side
If you want to get a better view on the falls, you can choose to do (another) visit and go to the Zim side. A transit visa is $ 30,- and the entrance fee on that side is also $ 30,-. If you’re planning to visit Zimbabwe anyways and are on a budget, it’s maybe better to skip the Zambia side + Devil’s Pool and see the – even more impressive – side of the Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe.