Victoria Falls and the Zambezi river

The poncho and the rapids

You know that Victoria Falls is one of the seven natural wonders of the world and somewhere that appears on many lists of things to do before you die, but to stand on the ridge opposite the falls is to feel the power and awe that no words can adequately describe, but I’ll give it a try.

Mist from Victoria Falls from the air The falls mark the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia and the water flows from the Zambezi in Zambia, so we observed the falls from the rim of the gorge on the Zimbabwe side. Entrance to the falls is currently $30pp for UK citizens and with your ticket comes a handy map showing the various vantage points along the route. It’s commonly known that beside the falls you will get wet, so depending on your desire to get wet, you can either bring a raincoat or poncho (some are available to hire at the falls) or go with full waterproofs if you desire. It was a gloriously warm day, so we went with just the poncho (big mistake).

At the point where the water from the Zambezi cascades over the edge, the falls are 1.7km wide and 1 million litres of water plunge 108m down into the Batoka Gorge below. Such is the force with which this deluge hits the bottom of the gorge, some of the water rockets back up into the sky higher than from whence it came. The effect is huge clouds of mist that can be seen from miles around, looking from a distance, a bit like white smoke from a forest fire. All this is set to a low rumble or roar, like a deep rumbling of thunder that you can feel in the pit of your stomach, awesome. As well as the white foaming of the water there are some natural colours to enjoy, largely shades of brown from the rocks behind the falls and the sediment from the river. Victoria Falls At the early view points along the ridge the mist from the cascade is fine, so you can take the odd photo of the Zambezi and the edge of the falls, but after that, if your camera or phone isn’t waterproof, put it away in a plastic bag or waterproof container. The further along the ridge you go, the thicker the mist can become and all that water that has bounced back into the sky above your head, falls back down like heavy rain. Fear not though, it’s not like at home, the water is warm(ish). From time to time the falls were completely obscured by the mist, but as the breeze shifts  the full majesty of it all was revealed. Be quick though, as the breeze shifts again, so the spectacle is lost. So intent was I to get the shot, that I didn’t notice my poncho was being blown upwards until it was over my head, soaked to the skin in seconds but all part of the fun.

Victoria Falls Bridge At the far end of the walk is the Victoria Falls Bridge, a parabolic arch structure, which opened in 1905 and soars 128m over the gorge. From this point there is a quick path back to the exit and there we grabbed a coffee and absorbed all that we had just seen and experienced. We’re so used to being charged rip off prices at tourist attractions that the beautifully presented cappuccino, glass of iced water and a shot of Baileys (local equivalent) at $3 was a welcome surprise. Another large tick on the bucket list and canoeing on the Zambezi to look forward to.

A 7am pick up saw us heading to the Zambezi National Park and the journey included a short game drive where we managed to see impala, waterbucks, warthogs and a beautifully coloured bee-eater. Breakfast was served by the river, followed by our safety briefing. Now I know these briefings are vital and necessary but it’s at this point that I started to get concerned. Silver Travellers in sync Yes I know that we may encounter crocodiles or hippopotamuses and have to steer away from them but I never thought about hippos surfacing underneath our canoe and biting it in annoyance. No time to ponder though as it was time to launch into the river. Our entry point was about 25km up river from the falls, from where we paddled around 18km downstream (with the flow, our arms were very grateful) giving us 7km safety margin to get to shore before we plunged over the falls.

There is a beauty and tranquility about paddling down river amidst such beautiful scenery. The wildlife wasn’t prolific but we did manage to see a python in a bush, hornbills, a croc and the back of a hippo. Bush barbecue Excitement was added, however, by the numerous grade one/two rapids we encountered along the way. It took a while to master synchronising our paddles (just Linda and I in the canoe) and lining up our canoe for the rapids but we managed it eventually. We were very grateful for that little snippet at the safety briefing about the canoe having independent inflatable compartments, as we smashed sideways into a large rock at the first rapids. An unforgettable experience and a huge amount of fun, all finished off with a BBQ lunch beside the river before heading back.

A very special couple of days in Zimbabwe and Zambia.

246 people found this helpful
18948

Share Article:

Steve Aldridge

Award-winning travel writer

Leave a comment

*

Sign up to our newsletter to receive the latest travel tips on top destinations.

Join the club

Become a member to receive exclusive benefits

Our community is the heart of Silver Travel Advisor, we love nothing more than sharing ideas, inspiration, hints and tips between us.

Most Recent Articles

Mark Nicholls visits Austria’s snowiest ski resort and stumbles across a chapter of pop history….

Come feel the love on a Princess cruise. You’ll enjoy the MedallionClass experience others simply can’t, and it’s exclusively for everyone. Visit incredible destinations and be involved in the best experiences around each one of them.

Experience more with Princess and connect effortlessly with the world around you, spend time away with loved ones, take a moment for yourself, and fall in love with your holiday of a lifetime, every time.

With over 20 years of experience, Wendy Wu Tours has mastered the art of creating exceptional, fully inclusive tours which showcase the very best of each destination.

Each tour is led by a world-class guide, who will highlight the very best of their homeland, and includes authentic cultural experiences so you are not just seeing the sights, but truly immersing yourself in local life.

Say hello to ease at sea. Ambassador’s purpose is simple: they want to inspire every guest to experience authentic cruising, effortlessly and sustainably. Passionate about protecting our oceans and destinations, their ships comply with the highest industry emission standards and there is no single-use plastic on board.

On your voyage, you will receive the warmest of welcomes from the Ambassador community as you sail upon the friendliest ships afloat.

This is a global co-operative co-owned by local partners using real local experts and guides, which supports local communities, environments and wildlife. It offers travellers quirky places to stay, activity holidays and learning experiences. Not In The Guidebooks gets travellers off the beaten track into local culture with day experiences and longer, immersive adventures.

From wild wellness breaks in Wales to painting in Portugal, sustainable adventures in Mauritius to food safaris in Brazil, this is immersive, exciting travel.

Seabourn’s five intimate ships carry guests to the heart of great cities, exclusive yacht harbours and secluded coves around the world, while two new purpose-built expedition ships will combine exhilarating adventures in remote destinations with the sophisticated amenities of the world’s finest resorts at sea.

From the luxury of all suite accommodations to complimentary fine wines and spirits, and a no tipping policy, Seabourn exemplifies the definition of travelling well.