Off the Victoria Falls?
This post summarizes our top 14 things to do at Victoria Falls. Both on the Zimbabwe side and Zambia side at Livingstone. It doesn’t aim to cover ALL of the Victoria Falls tours on offer. But we do give you our candid opinions.
Most of the excursions below are available from either side of the falls. If it is only available on one side, we’ll tell you. However with the new uni-visa, there’s nothing to stop you from enjoying activities on either side of the Victoria Falls.
Best Time to visit Victoria Falls
The maximum flow of water over the Victoria Falls peaks in late Southern hemisphere summer (March/April). The best time to view and photograph the Falls is probably between May and August. This is when the spray is not so all-pervasive. So it will allow you to actually see the Falls, whilst the flow of water is still very impressive.
As the dry winter season progresses, the volume of water over the Victoria Falls declines dramatically especially on the Zambia side. We really cannot stress this enough! If you are visiting the Victoria Falls at this time, we recommend that you get univisa so that you can visit the Falls on the Zimbabwe side (best views at this time of the year). But also take an excursion to Livingstone Island from the Zambian side. As Livingstone Island can only be visited in the drier part of the season.
Our Pick of Victoria Falls Tours
1) Tour of Falls (Zambia or Zimbabwe)
It’s a truly awe-inspiring experience – the sights, sounds and, smell of nature’s supreme force. No photograph can begin to depict the reality…and nothing prepares you for your first sight.
If you are staying close, at the Royal Livingstone Hotel, Avani Victoria Falls Resort on the Zambian side or the Victoria Falls Hotel, Ilala Lodge on the Zimbabwe side, you can easily visit the Falls on your own.
Private tours usually take place in the morning and lasts 1½ to 2 hours. This takes the form of a walk in the natural rainforest with a knowledgeable and informative local guide. You’ll discover how the Falls were formed and what local customs and traditions surround them.
2) Sunset Cruises (Zimbabwe or Zambia)
A sunset cruise on the Zambezi river is one of the classic activities of Victoria Falls. Though it’s very romantic to be on the river at sunset, the larger boats can take well over 100 people.
Various boats offer this excursion. The African Queen (on the Zambian side) is a triple deck, 70 ft catamaran, made of Rhodesian teak, beech wood with brass finishes. It takes 110 passengers and serves drinks and snacks. A more exclusive experience would be to book (for a supplement) the Captain’s Deck which takes only 12 people. If you like the idea of a smaller boat, consider the sunset river safaris instead (see later).
On the Zimbabwean side the sunset cruise boats tend to be smaller, usually between 25 and 80 people. You also have the option to enjoy a dinner on the Zambezi river. Here we recommend spending a little more for a smaller, more intimate experience.
3) River Safaris (Zambia only)
This is a more intimate alternative to the larger sunset boat cruises. This is also a great way to explore the river as these jet propelled boats can operate in water as shallow as 20cm. As a result, it has access to places where the larger boats cannot go.
Elephant, hippo and wonderful birds are the main wildlife attractions and the views and sunsets are highlights. You choose between three river trips at breakfast, lunch or sunset.
4) Royal Livingstone Express & Bushtracks Express ‘ Dinner Excursions’
The Royal Livingstone Express offers a magical and romantic dinner as it runs along 15 km of the historic Mulobezi railway line through the heart of the Zambezi River Valley. Pullman style coaches have been lovingly restored to their former glory.
Dinner continues as you return to Livingstone where you are driven back to your hotel.
You are collected in the late afternoon from the Royal Livingstone for a 15 min road transfer to the railway. There’s time for photo opportunities and safety talk from the train manager whilst a welcoming drink is served. The train sets off up the Mulobezi Line which runs parallel to the Zambezi River. Views of the sunset are enjoyed while travelling through the Mosi-Oa-Tunya Game Park.
A four course dinner with accompanying wines will be served afterwards at 7pm. The train then starts its return journey as dinner continues. You are transferred back to your hotel at approx 9.30pm
This dinner train now runs on Mondays, Wednesdays and Satursdays.
There’s a second steam train alternative on offer which offers a picture perfect experience to the magnificent Victoria Falls Bridge – Bushtracks Express. You are transferred in the late afternoon to board a 1928 12th class train. (Or a 1953 14a Class Garrett steam train.) These have two dining coaches and 2 lounge coaches taking a total 92 passengers).
The train gently chugs along with the gentle rhythmic lull that is synonymous with rail travel. You stop for photos when you reach that most iconic of train bridges – the Victoria Falls Bridge. (Note: Currently not in operation until demand picks up after Covid)
5) Elephant Interaction
Elephant Back Safaris are no longer on offer at Victoria Falls. But you can still do an elephant interaction which is a fascinating experience. As the guides are highly trained experts in the behaviour of elephants and the wildlife around them.
This can be combined with a Jet boat cruise up the river on the Zambian side or even with an Elephant Art Safari on the Zimbabwean side.
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More active Victoria Falls Tours…
6) Livingstone Island Tour & Devil’s Pool
Livingstone Island (on the Zambian side) lies perched right on the very edge of Victoria Falls in the very midst of this thundering mass of water, and is about as close as you get to Falls. This Island is the place from where Dr Livingstone first viewed the ‘the Smoke That Thunders’. He was paddled in a dugout canoe through swift rapids towards the roar of the Falls. The Makololo paddlers skillfully landed him on ‘Goat Island’ (now Livingstone Island) right on the lip of the great chasm.
However today a skilled boat skipper re-traces Livingstone’s approach with a 5-8 minute boat ride. Access to this unique Island is seasonal and depends entirely on the water levels in the Zambezi River. All visits to the island are during the ‘low water’ season. This usually begins in mid July and goes through to the end of January. (High water visits are too dangerous.)
We especially recommend it from October to January as then you may be able to swim to devil’s pool. The morning tours tend to be a little more rushed (but this is the recommended time for the Devils pool).
On arrival you will be taken on a guided exploration of the island, take photos of the Victoria Falls from this extraordinary angle and the intrepid can even take a heart-stopping peek over the island’s edge, seeing the water thunders down the 103m drop. After wards, you enjoy refreshments under the shade of a canopied dining area.
The Devil’s Pool
For a swimming experience unlike any other, you can even brave the island’s very own bathing pool, which forms amongst the rocks along the edge of the Falls. (This is only possible in extreme low water from late September to January, and ideally during the morning tour.) Please note that you need to be a strong swimmer if doing this earlier on (ie around September-October time) when its not for the faint-hearted.
Some people have complained that it is a little bit of a ‘conveyor belt’ as so many people want to do the swim to Devil’s pool that you don’t have much time in the rock pool (only 5-10 minutes) admiring this amazing view. Just be aware of this…
7) White Water Rafting
For years Victoria Falls has been associated with white water rafting, available on either side. The rafting takes you through some of the most exciting rapids in the world, alternating with quieter periods between rapids when you can drift along and appreciate the breathtaking gorge scenery.
Make no mistake, this is an adrendalin-filled adventurous activity with an element of risk and we recommend you are reasonably fit as there is a fairly steep walk into & out of the Batoka Gorge as well as the white water rafting activity itself is quite intense. The rapids on the Zambezi River are officially defined as Grade 5 by the British Canoe Union (Grade 6 is commercially un-runnable!) But no children under 15 years are allowed.
The key thing to note is that there are various trips on offer – depending on the time of year and the water levels. Low water rafting runs from about mid July to the end of January. The best months are usually August and September. High water rafting runs approximately from the end of January to mid July. Which rapids you run, and the number, depends on whether it is low or high water.
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Low Water Rafting – full or half day trips
A full day white water rafting trip includes approx 21 to 23 rapids, lunch and takes about 8 ½ hours.
An advantage of the full day rafting on the Zambian side is that you don’t have to climb out of the gorge at the end of the day – rather you can opt to take cable car lift at the end for an additional cost. (If you take the half day option you have to hike out and believe us – it’s steep!) The afternoon ends with a cold drink or beer.
The half day options are only available during the low water season (mid July to January) as in the high water season the water runs so swiftly that half days are too short.
High Water Rafting – semi-full day trips
During the High Water Season you raft only the later rapids with a lunch break. This section of the river flows swiftly and features huge wave trains and whirlpools. As the river flows fast, the trip doesn’t take the full day.
Note: If the water levels are too high, the river is closed for safety reasons and your trip is refunded.
8) Victoria Falls Canopy Tour
The Victoria Falls Canopy tour, on the Zimbabwe side, brings you one step closer to the day dream of being a bird soaring above the trees and rivers. The Vic Falls Canopy Tour consists of 9 different slides, varying in length (with the longest being approximately 85m and the shortest being 40m) plus an exciting cable bridge walkway in the middle. The friendly and experienced staff give you a detailed safety briefing before the canopy tour, taking you step by step through your upcoming adventure. There will be two guides on each tour.
The canopy tour takes approx 2-2½ hours. The walk out of the gorge is only 50 meters and should take approximately 10 minutes.
9) Soft Adventure Activities
For many years Victoria Falls has been an adventure capital of note with serious white water rafting, bunji-jumping and bridge swings on offer. More recently soft adventure activities like abseiling (Zambia only in low water time), gorge swings, ziplines and flying foxes have been added to that list.
The Flying Fox (either side)
Imagine taking a running jump into thin air over the chasm; soaring horizontally through the air over the turmoil of the Zambezi below. The Flying Fox is a cable slide across the gorge high above the floor. You can sit or be strapped, face down, looking at the ground far below as you fly across the gorge. The gorge at this point is 200 meters wide and 120 meters deep. No walk out is necessary because you are pulled back.
This is a great appetizer before you try the Zip Line and Gorge Swing.
The Zip Line (Zimbabwe side)
Imagine the adrenalin rush traveling a speed of 106 km’s hurtling 425m across the gorge? All whilst suspended 120m above the breath taking beauty of the Zambezi water below! As the river zigzags down the Batoka Gorges, the cable is suspended across from one side to the other. You are harnessed and attached to a pulled. Then launched over the edge picking up speed as you descend over the water and reaching a speed of 106 km per hour.
Gorge Swing (either side)
Imagine swinging in a child’s swing in the playground…now imagine a giant swing 95m long and 120m high above water…now imagine a 70m free fall before you begin swinging. Our highwire is suspended across the gorge at a point where the width is 316m and 120m deep. The jumper leaps off the edge of the gorge, free falling about 70m before going into a 95m long pendulum type swing.
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Bridge Swing or Bunji-jump (Zambian side)
Take a leap of faith from the Victoria Falls railway Bridge, and feel the force of the mighty Zambezi River as you plunge towards its boiling waters. Or take a friend down with you, side by side, hold on tight as you swing together into no-man’s-land.
On the Zimbabwe side, you can pre-book the three ‘high wire’ activities altogether for a lower price than buying them separately. You can also buy a pass combining the Highwire activities and the Victoria Falls Canopy Tour for an even greater saving.
Abseiling (Zambian side)
Slide 53 meters down the gorge on the end of a rope either facing the cliff face or looking down into the void. The walk out is up quite a steep slope but it is not far.
10) Helicopter & Microlight Flights (Zimbabwe or Zambia)
The helicopter excursions (colloquially known as the Flight of Angels) are a wonderful way to see the full majesty of the Victoria Falls – especially at low water times. You swoop over the Zambezi River and hover over the thundering Falls for a perfect photographic opportunity. The 12-15 minute helicopter flight will take you over the Victoria Falls and the Zambezi River.
The longer 25-30 minute flight will take you over the Victoria Falls, then have an exhilarating ride down into Batoka Gorge, along the Zambezi to Rapid 26 and over Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park.
Microlight Flights (Zambia)
The microlight excursions are more adventurous way to see the Falls. They offer a unique, uninhabited and literally breathtaking view of the Falls. And the spectacular gorge that the Zambezi River has carved into the surrounding landscape over many thousands of years.
One person and an experienced pilot take a 12-15-minute microlight flight over the Victoria Falls and the Zambezi River. As with the helicopter excursions, there’s a longer 25-30 minute option which takes you over the Zambezi river, circles over the Victoria Falls and its islands.
11) Canoeing trips
Probably the best way to appreciate the beauty, peace and wildlife of the Zambezi River above the Victoria Falls is to paddle slowly downstream in a canoe with some of the best wildlife guides in Africa. You paddle your own canoe, following the qualified Canoe Guide as he leads the way. You canoe downstream running a couple of grade one and two rapids, exploring channels, bird and game viewing.
Watch the Pied Kingfisher hover and dive. Listen to the haunting call of the fish eagle and the grunts of the hippo. See elephant,buffalo, and other animals come down to drink and explore the islands and waterways along the route.
12) Jet Boat Extreme to Elephant Cafe (Zambia)
Pumping vast amounts of power from huge jet engines, these powerboats shoot down the rapids below the Victoria Falls at 100 km an hour. A thrilling half hour spent flying over the water and ‘buzzing’ rock faces between rapids 23 and 27.
You are transferred in specially adapted Land-Rover vehicles (approx 1 hour transfer) to your entry point at the gorge. You head down into the gorge (880 feet) in a scenic cable car lift, where you meet your jet boat pilot for a briefing. One of the most thrilling 30 minutes of your life is about to begin. After the ride, you no longer have to walk out of the gorge because of the 8 minute cable car ride. Enjoy an ice-cold beer or soft drink at the top before being return to your hotel. The whole excursion takes approx 3½ to 4 hours with an early morning departure at 7.30am. A second departure is at 12-12.30pm.
13) Chobe Day Tour
This is a very full day but a good option if you are not visiting Botswana and have 3 nights at Victoria Falls.
Chobe National Park in Botswana is only a 1¾-2 hour drive from the Victoria Falls. The day starts with an early morning pick-up. You cross the border into Botswana and head for the Chobe River. Your safari begins with a river game viewing cruise on the Chobe River. Refreshments will be available while the boat takes you up close to the wildlife and waterfowl along the river. The cruise ends with lunch at one of the riverbank lodges.
In the afternoon, you enjoy an open vehicle game drive into the Chobe National Park. With a chance of spotting lion and buffalo as well as numerous plains game species. You arrive back in the early evening.
14) Chief Mukuni’s Village
Mukuni’s village (on the Zambian side) is home to the Leya people. This 2 hour Victoria Falls tour presents an opportunity to see how the local people live in a real African village. It has a population of 5,000, a clinic, basic school and boreholes for drinking water.
The people of the village are more than happy to show you their huts and take you inside. The village guides introduce you to various craftspeople at work making curios which are sold all around Victoria Falls. You can also pre-arrange to try out the Leya traditional food and beer. This is a working village and not a purpose built tourist attraction. So it is a true, and sometimes saddening, glimpse of life in an African village today.
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Tours & Excursions in Victoria Falls was written by Cedarberg Africa
Cedarberg Africa is a specialist tour operator for Southern Africa with over 27 years of experience. We focus on tailor-made safaris so that you get the safari you’ve dreamed of. But without wasting hours of precious time navigating the endless possibilities. We have a detailed knowledge of Victoria Falls, so we can chat to you from personal experience.