So long for now, South Africa!
We caught an early morning flight out of Johannesburg’s OR Tambo Airport to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe where we spent the last week. We will be passing back through Jo’burg since it is the busiest airport in the region, but we have seen everything we are going to see in South Africa…for this trip anyways.
Victoria Falls City:
Victoria Falls is a tiny city that is, no surprise, almost entirely geared towards tourism. It for the most part consists of a handful of hotels, restaurants, shops hawking touristy wares, tour booking agencies, and a grocery store. The crime level is low, and we felt comfortable wandering the streets during the day, however, we were told by locals to take taxis at night as elephants and other wild life wander into the town. Indeed, we passed several elephants (giving them a plenty of distance) during our stay. Baboons and monkeys were also up to their usual shenanigans around town – leaving no trashcan upright.
Visiting the Falls:
Victoria Falls is considered the largest ‘sheet of falling water’ in the world. It is neither the widest, nor longest ‘fall’ for a waterfall, but the combination of the two makes it the largest. It is over a mile wide, and the water falls over 350 ft. For the geographically illiterate (of which I [Andy] am one), the falls actually are on the border of Zimbabwe and Zambia.
Visitors have the option of seeing the falls from the Zimbabwe side (via the city of Victoria Falls), or from the Zambia side (for travelers flying into Livingstone). Visiting the falls from both sides is also an option; Zimbabwe and Zambia offer a joint “Ka Za” visa for a few extra dollars which allows you to pass freely between the two countries. Going back and forth can easily be done by foot, it is roughly a half mile walk across a bridge to the entrance of the falls for each country.
We opted to see the falls from both sides; it is what we were there for after all! We spent the better part of a day on the Zimbabwe side, and roughly a half day on the Zambia side. Seeing the falls from either side is truly breathtaking, but Zimbabwe definitely offered better vantage points.
One thing we quickly learned was that we visited during the “wet” season. This means that the amount of water going over the falls was significantly more than during the dry season. While this sounds great, the problem is there is an ever-present plume of mist radiating from the falls. At its worst, the plume of causes an entire white out, and at its best we could see several hundred feet of the waterfall at a given time. We never were able to see the entire length of the falls by land.
We had several extra days to spend in Victoria Falls, and there was no shortage of activities available (albeit at VERY special tourist prices that will make you want to cry $$$).
Other things we did…
Botswana – Chobe (Pronounced Cho-bay) Day Trip/Safari:
Chobe is in Botswana. At Vic Falls there are countless companies to book a day trip with that will pick you up at your hostel, take you on a safari in Chobe, then drop you back off that night. This was such a fun day! The first half of the day we spent on a pontoon boat in the Chobe river. Here we were able to see much of the same wildlife we saw in Kruger, but in a vastly different setting. The river is fairly shallow, and elephants, buffalo, and other animals wander into it to eat the grass that sticks above the water.
The second half of the safari was spent on a 4×4 open air truck where we drove around looking for wild life. We saw elephants, giraffe, monitor lizards, eagles, impala, buffalo and a few other animals. Again, for the most part we had seen most of these animals in Kruger, but not in as great of number.
Victoria Falls by Helicopter:
We also took a helicopter ride over the falls. While the ride was relatively short, 15 minutes, it was certainly a must do in order to be able to see the entire falls during the wet season.