So you’re planning a trip to Southern Africa and know you want to see Victoria Falls, the biggest waterfall in the world! How could you miss it? But are you going to safari in Zambia or Zimbabwe to see the falls? Do you want to time your visit with the ability to dip in Devil’s Pool Victoria Falls or would you rather see the maximum water rush?
Extraordinary Journeys is here to help you make the decision and give you some ideas of things to do and places to say on both sides of the magnificent Victoria Falls.
Zambia v. Zimbabwe: Pros and Cons
Both Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe (the Zim town closest to the Falls) and its sister town Livingstone, Zambia have their pros and cons.
Which town is nicer?
Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe is in many ways a more pleasant town than Livingstone. There is a clear downtown full of local people and markets and many of the best places to stay in the center or town and are walking distance from the Falls.
In Livingstone, Zambia there is no distinct downtown and most of the hotels and lodges are on a strip of road heading away from town and Falls. This means that from most properties you will be shuttled or taken via private transportation to get to Victoria Falls. But, on the up-side this means that properties in Zambia can feel more private, and many are right on the cliffs overlooking the or set along the Zambezi shores, offering water activities like canoeing and sunset cruises.
Which time of year?
One important consideration when picking Zambia versus Zimbabwe is the time of year you want to travel. Between August and December water levels in the Zambezi are lower and may make Zimbabwe a better option because you are closer to the falls.
However, if you want to dip in Devil’s Pool Victoria Falls, you must visit between September and December when the river flow is at the perfect level. Additionally, the Devil’s Pool is only accessible via the Livingstone Island on the Zambian side. Devil’s Pool is a rock barrier that forms an eddy with minimal current, allowing adventurous swimmers to splash around in relative safety a few feet from where the water cascades over the falls.
Also, when water levels increase (May-July) the Zambia side also is a better option because the spray and mist on the Zimbabwe side can be overwhelming.
How does it fit in your trip?
Another consideration is where you are coming from or traveling to after seeing the Falls. For example if you are headed to or coming from a safari in Botswana the transfer from the border at Kasane by road is much easier from Victoria Falls than from Livingstone (where you have to cross a river and switch vehicles). On the other hand there are more direct flights between Livingstone and Kruger National Park in South Africa.
Are activities the same on both sides of Victoria Falls?
Most activities-white water rafting, helicopter tours, bungee jumping, etc-are available on both sides of Victoria Falls. The notable exceptions are paragliding and swimming at Devils Pool which are available only in Livingstone, Zambia.
Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe does tend to be a little bit cheaper and can be great value for money.
It’s important to note that no matter which side you decide to stay on visiting the other side of Victoria Falls for a few hours or a full day is also easy. There is a border crossing that connects each country’s portion of the Victoria Falls National Park. Day pass visas are cheap and can be purchased at the border (and a new Single Visa called the UniVisa for both countries should be in place soon).