Our next destination was the much acclaim Victoria Falls, one of the original seven wonders of the natural world, a world heritage site, largest waterfall in the world and all around popular attraction. Only an hour drive from Kasane, Botswana, it does make for an easy day trip from Chobe National Park, but we decided to spend two days in the touristy town of Victoria Falls on the Zimbabwe side to take advantage of the many sights and activities that this area has to offer.
Also called Mosi-oa-Tunya, which translates to “the smoke that thunders”, the falls were first “discovered” by some Scottish guy who got lost looking for the source of Nile and named them after Queen Victoria. You can visit the falls from either the Zimbabwe or Zambia side of the river but it’s from the Zimbabwe side that you get the face-on, downstream views of the cascading water. We were also visiting at the end of dry season when the falls at the Zambian side pretty much dries up leaving just the main falls on the Zimbabwe side flowing.
One of the most cliche things to do is take a Sunset Cruise on the Zambezi River. With promise of a beautiful African sunset, wildlife, unlimited booze and delicious canapés we couldn’t resist. Plus we would be able to see the falls up close from below. Or so we thought. If we had done even one Google search we would have known that the cruise is upstream of the falls and that the best you could hope for is to see the mist rising from the chasm and hear the roar of falls. Maybe that’s the case in the wet season, but there wasn’t much going on this time of year. So instead of experiencing the exciting power and mist of Victoria falls, we enjoyed a boring but peaceful cruise on the river.
The next morning we made our way to the national park. Starting at the statue of Livingstone, the footpath took us through a rainforest and from picturesque pours to almost totally dry falls on the eastern end.
It’s fair to say that more than 50% of the waterfall was dry. There was one bright side to the lack of water, which is that the falls weren’t obscured by clouds of mist as tend to happen when the falls are going full force (supposedly it rises over 1000 feet). Yes let’s keep telling ourselves that.
It was also obvious why you don’t do a cruise from the downstream side of the Zambezi. The gorge is deep and narrow and the river below was a violent mess of white water and boulders. Whitewater rafting is offered at this time of year, but we didn’t have time for that activity. Walking the whole path took about an hour to complete.
We also got to see some of the park’s wildlife and flora, a male bushbok and some vervet monkeys.
Afterwards we walked back to our lodge, stopping for lunch at some restaurant serving generic western food and shopping for cheap trinkets. We were harassed by touts trying to sell everything from Zimbabwe currency to wooden bowls and rock carvings. The rest of the afternoon was spent in the lodge pool cooling off from our morning visit to the park.
We need to come back when the water level is higher to experience the full awesome power and thunderous roar of the fall.
The Kazungula Zimbabwe border is about a 15 minute drive from Kasane, Botswana (Chobe). Once we reached the Zimbabwe border crossing we were required to disembark, fill out the necessary forms and pay for our visas. This took about 30 to 45 minutes as the process was somewhat confusing and it wasn’t clear which line you needed to be in. We were there when it was only 5 people deep. I can’t imagine what it would be like when tour buses full of day trippers come through.
Bring plenty of small USD bills when visiting Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe has no currency of its own (due to hyperinflation) so everything is quoted in US dollars, which means we were able to use USD. Yay! You can even buy the useless Zimbabwe $100 million and larger notes as souvenirs. The downside was that cash was hard to obtain and even getting change for a $20 bills from vendors or banks was difficult. One vendor disappeared for 5 minutes trying to hunt down $10 worth of change.
Batonka Guest Lodge
Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
A new lodge that just opened this year. The lodge and rooms were very modern and clean. Our package included breakfast and dinner. Breakfast included cereals, fruits, eggs, bacon, etc. Dinner was a 3 course meal and included two choices of each course. The food was good but nothing spectacular. It would have been better to eat one night at one of the restaurants in town. The mosquitos were relentless during dinner.
Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
Prime location in the middle of town. Decent International food: Pizza, Burgers, Salad, Pasta. Free wifi.