This post summarizes our top 15 things to do at Victoria Falls. Both on the Zimbabwe side and Zambia side at Livingstone. It doesn’t aim to cover absolutely everything you can do but it gives 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 much less to stop you from enjoying activities on either side of the Victoria Falls. Times & prices of the excursions may vary by country so contact us for a quote.
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 when the spray is not so all-pervasive. This will allow you to actually see the Falls – and yet the flow of water is still 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 (see below). Livingstone Island can only be visited in the drier part of the season.
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 Zambezi Sun on the Zambian side or the Victoria Falls Hotel, Ilala Lodge (or Kingdom Hotel) on the Zimbabwe side, you can easily visit the Falls on your own.
If you stay at the Royal Livinsgtone or Zambezi Sun Hotel that is situated in the National Park, you don’t have to pay an entrance fee (currently $20 per visit). This is a big bonus for keen photographers who may want to visit more than once.
But if you are staying further away, you’ll need a transfer/tour. Private and scheduled 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.
Lunar Rainbow tours of the Falls
Lunar rainbows, also known as ‘moon bows’, are rainbows that take place at night. This is when a rainbow is seen in the light of the moon. Victoria Falls is one of a very limited number of sites around the world which enjoy these moon bows. The lunar rainbow is a spectacular event that can be seen only during the full moon. The Lunar rainbow tour is only conducted for 3 days every month during full moon at the Victoria Falls. You’ll be accompanied through the Rainforest by a guide who will give a brief history of the Falls as well as other points of interest. The guides are happy to assist with photographs!
2) Sunset Cruises (Zimbabwe or Zambia)
A sunset cruise on the Zambezi river is one of the classic activities of Victoria Falls. Though the sunset is very romantic to be on the river at sunset, the larger boats are quite big (well over 100 people).
Various boats offer this excursion. For example the African Queen (on the Zambian side) is a triple deck, 70 ft catamaran, furnished with Rhodesian teak, beech wood and brass finishes. It takes 110 passengers and serves drinks and snacks. A more exclusive experience would be to book a place (for a supplement) on 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 30 and 80 people. You also have the option to enjoy a dinner on the Zambezi river.
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, the operational range is substantially greater than any other boat, able to cross the ‘rough terrain’ of the river, giving them 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 ‘ Dinner Excursion’ (Zambia only)
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 when the train stops for water at the 15 km mark. The loco will then back the train up to the turnaround point, uncouple and move to the front of the train. The train then starts its return journey as dinner continues. You are transferred back to your hotel at approx 9.30pm
This dinner train only runs on Wednesdays and Satursdays with excursions on Thursdays and Fridays also sometimes on offer .
Sunset Bridge Run by Train
There’s a second alternative on offer which offers a picture perfect experience on the steam train from Livingstone to the magnificent Victoria Falls Bridge. You are transferred in the late afternoon to a train siding to board a 1928 12th class train or 1953 14a Class Garrett steam train with four coaches (2 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 until you reach that most iconic of train bridges the Victoria Falls Bridge. This trip takes place every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
5) Elephant Back Safaris
This is a popular option for many of our clients, available on either side. It’s not too often that one can climb onto the back of an African Elephant and set off at an easy rolling pace in search of other game; wild elephant, giraffe, buffalo and so forth. This is an elephant ‘experience’ and the guides are highly trained experts in the behaviour of elephants and the wildlife around them.
The day half elephant back safari takes place in the morning or afternoon. Tea, coffee and cordials are served upon arrival. After a short introductory talk and safety-briefing you are introduced to the elephants and their handlers before mounting the great animals. You head off, with no more than two guests on each elephant, through the riverine bush, crossing the river in shallow water to get to the many islands. Halfway through the ride you will dismount (to stretch your legs) and to interact with the elephants on the ground.
6) Livingstone Island Tour
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.
A few steps through the small rainforest and, on the 16th November 1855, he gazed upon one of the world’s most spectacular sights – ‘Mosi-oa-Tunya’ (The Smoke that Thunders) – which he promptly named after his Queen as the Victoria Falls.
However today you are picked up from the Royal Livingstone jetty and 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.)
Five visits are offered daily with a maximum of 16 people per visit. Three are in the morning, one at lunchtime and one in the afternoon. 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!)
No children under 15 years 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.
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 Zambian side also offers a choice of morning or afternoon excursions. A half-day white water rafting trip in the morning takes in rapids 1 – 10 and includes breakfast, light lunch and drinks for the climb out. It lasts from approx 8.30am to 1.30pm.
The afternoon white water rafting trip includes lunch, rapids 11 – 21, and drinks.
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.
Taste the Best
The ‘Taste the Best’ option is a 3 hour experience involving rapids 1 to 7 but no lunch. Both are followed by the strenuous climb out of the gorge.
Swimming under the Spray (August to December only)
You can also swim under the spray of the Victoria Falls themselves. You walk into the gorge at the usual starting point and are then paddled across the Boiling Pot to right below the Falls where you have the chance to swim and enjoy the unique perspective from the bottom of the gorge. This can then be followed by the white-water rafting trip as above.
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 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, while 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.
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.
The Helicopter flights begin at 8am and continue until last light. Please note that there are minimum numbers so the exact time of your ride may only be confirmed nearer to your visit.
Note: If you want a private helicopter ride, then you will need to pay for all six seats in the helicopter.
Microlight Flights (Zimbabwe or 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. Then you fly upstream along the Zambezi River to Kalai Island, flying low over the Mosi-oa-Tunya Park for unique game viewing.
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.
Livingstone Drift Tour
If you are not sure about canoeing, a similar ambience can be gained from the popular Livingstone Drift tour every morning. Each raft has its own guide so that you have time to take in all of the sights and sounds. The rafts slowly meander their way down to the take out point with their informative guides pointing out animals, bird life and flora & fauna of interest.
12) The Boma Dinner
The Boma dinner (Zimbabwe side) is not just another ethnic restaurant but a rather unique cultural experience. Excellent cuisine, including a variety of game meats and traditional Zimbabwean dishes. This is accompanied by entertainment throughout your meal. From traditional dancers, the Sangoma (story teller) and a local fortune teller who is available for fortune telling.
The Boma nestles in a Gusu Forest and is partly open to the spectacular African night skies. A feast of nightly entertainment incorporates Shangaan dancers and singers and a local fortune teller. You are welcomed with a traditional greeting in Shona and Ndebele, the local languages. You then take part in a hand washing ceremony before sampling traditional beer and snacks, as a prelude to dinner. After dinner, you can wile away the evening with the restaurant’s very own Sangoma – traditional storyteller. To learn more about the country’s folklore, culture and heritage. The highlight of the evening is the interactive drumming and dancing
13) Jet Boat Extreme (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.
Add on a helicopter trip
Ride the rapids in a jet boat then, instead of being lifted out of the gorge in the cable car, take a helicopter and complete an action packed day by flying up the river skimming the water under the shadows of the cliffs, rising out of the gorge for a quick look at the Falls before landing.
14) 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.
15) Chief Mukuni’s Village
Mukuni’s village (on the Zambian side) was founded around the 13th century. It was later named after the ruler (Mukuni) on his arrival from the Congo. It is home to the Leya people. This 2 hour 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; explain how they are built and decorated. 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.
This is the largest market in Livingstone – colourful, vibrant and bustling with activity. Here the local people sell everything: ‘chitengies’ (brightly coloured fabric), fruit and vegetables, grains and rice, curios, pots and pans made out of old motorcars, farm tools, chickens, beads and clothes. A guide will accompany you and help with some bargaining skills. Interesting and authentic artefacts can be bought. This tour is an unusual and rewarding experience for the clever shopper. This tour can be combined with the Mukuni village to make a full morning.
Similar (though different) cultural experiences are available on the Zimbabwean side.
Adventure pass (Zimbabwe only)
If you’re staying on the Zimbabwe side of the Falls, we can pre-book an Victoria Falls Adventure Pass for you. This allows you to enjoy two excursions. From a choice of the elephant back safari, white water rafting, upper Zambezi canoeing, high-wire adrenalin combo, 12-15 minute helicopter flight, lion walk. As well as a complimentary sunset cruise on the Zambezi. This is ideal if you are not sure what activities you may want to do. Please note that Park/river usage fees are applicable for some of these activities ($10 per day). It is not included in the rates
The Adventure Safari Pass combines the Chobe day safari with either an elephant back safari or white water rafting.
Hope you’ve enjoyed this summary of things to do at Victoria Falls! Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you needs some help with your safari.