Zimbabwe & Zambia – which side?
You may wonder if there is a big difference between staying on the Zambian or Zimbabwean side of the Victoria Falls; i.e. the towns of Victoria Falls vs Livingstone?
With a whopping 75% of the Victoria Falls seen from Zimbabwe, and 16 different viewpoints bisecting the rainforest, you’d think it’s an obvious choice. Well yes, at certain times of the year it may well be. But there are a number of pluses for both sides to check out before you make your decision.
Historically the Zimbabwean side was the place to stay. The infrastructure of Victoria Falls town, and its close proximity to the Falls, gave it the upper hand. With Zimbabwe’s political problems back in the late 90s and 2010s, its neighbor Zambia saw an opportunity and went for it. They developed hotels, lodges, infrastructure and activities on the Zambian side. So people flocked to that side to see the Falls.
But in recent years, the town of Victoria Falls has ‘fought back’ with plenty of advertising. So yet again, its enjoying a bigger slice of the action.
The big debate around Victoria Falls vs Livingstone rumbles on. The question is, is there a better side to visit, or are they equally appealing? And which side will better suit your needs?
Victoria Falls vs Livingstone – what they have in common…
Both sides offer many of the same attractions and activities. These include:
- Guided tours of the Falls
- White water rafting
- Helicopter flights of angels
- Sunset cruises on the upper Zambezi
- Canoeing excursions on the upper Zambezi
- A vast range of soft adventure & adrenalin activities: white water rafting, bungee jumping, abseiling, gorge-swinging, horse-riding, and extreme jet boating
- Day safari visits to Chobe National Park in Botswana
- Shopping for locally made crafts and carvings at the traditional craft markets
There are also hotels and lodges on both sides within walking distance of the Falls. In Victoria Falls, you can easily walk to the Falls from ‘the Victoria Falls Hotel or Ilala Lodge. When staying in Livingstone, try Avani Zambezi Hotel or Anantara Royal Livingstone.
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Now both sides also have what we call riverside lodges. These are lodges further upstream right on the Zambezi river. These allow you to visit the Victoria Falls but also enjoy the majesty of the Zambezi with sunset boat cruises, adrenalin-rising canoe trips, game-viewing, and perhaps cultural village visits. We recommend Zambezi Sands River Camp on the Zimbabwe side and Tongabezi Lodge or Waterberry Lodge on the Zambian side.
Plus, once again, you can get a Uni-visa on arrival. This is one single visa which allows you open access to both sides of Victoria Falls. Naturally this reduces the importance of each ”sides” advantages.
But each side of the ‘Smoke that Thunders’ has its own appeal. Before you book your safari, consider the time of year of your visit (critical!). Plus what else you want to do apart from the Victoria Falls, and what activities interest you.
Why choose Victoria Falls on the Zimbabwe side?
- The views of Victoria Falls are much, much better on the Zimbabwe side during the ‘dry season” (mid September to December) when the Zambian side all but drys up entirely. You are also seeing more of the total length of the Falls
- The National Park around the Falls is more visitor-friendly and informative than Livingstone
- The Zambezi National Park, which runs alongside the Zambezi river, has a reasonable amount of wildlife for game viewing. This means that you can enjoy game drives, bush walks, horse-back safaris as well as visiting the Falls if you are on the Zimbabwe side. (However this is not to say its in the same league as Chobe or Hwange National Parks.)
- There are specific activities & attractions only available on the Zimbabwe side such as the Treetop Canopy Tour (ziplining) and the Lookout Café
- Adventure junkies can get their heart racing with the high-wire adrenalin trio: the flying fox, the zipline and the gorge swing.
- Victoria Falls Town is within walking distance of the Victoria Falls. In contrast, Livingstone town is about 10km from the entrance to the Victoria Falls in Zambia. So you’ll need transport to get there…
- If you want enjoy a safari in both Chobe National Park and Hwange National Park it is easier to combine those areas if you are on the Zimbabwean side
Why choose Livingstone on the Zambian side?
- When the Zambezi River is in full flow (April/May) it is often the more popular side to view the Victoria Falls. You can get much closer to the Falls. Especially when you feel your way over the drenching crossing of Knife Edge bridge
- But if you are there during the dry season, you can head down the steep path to the Boiling Pot, a vast whirlpool at Falls’s base
- Some of the direct flight connections are much better. You can fly directly to Livingstone from Kruger Mpumalanga Airport in the Kruger, (And also Cape Town and Nairobi in Kenya. But this is the case for the Zimbabwe side now as well.)
- If you want to get as close to the Victoria Falls as you possibly can, Livingstone Island is your best bet! It lies perched right on the very edge of Victoria Falls surrounded by a thundering mass of water. You can enjoy Livingstone Island Tours only from the Zambian side.
- Swim in the Devil’s Pool on the edge of the Victoria Falls – this is only possible in extreme low water months from mid September to early/mid January
- As well as Livingstone Island, other activities unique to the Zambian side include microlight flights, swimming under the Falls and the ‘Under the Spray View’ (only possible between August and December). Or drift down the Zambezi River on the ‘Livingstone Float’
- Culturally Livingstone offers a little more for visitors. There is a museum focused on the history of David Livingstone and Chief Mukuni’s village
- Direct seat in charter flights (in season only) to other Zambia safari desinations
Victoria Falls vs Livingstone – Where else are you going?
This may seem bleedingly obvious but if you are doing a Zimbabwe safari or a Zambia safari, it makes sense from a logistical and cost point of view to stay on the same side as the rest of your safari!
The Univisa offers you free entry to both sides of the Victoria Falls. So yes, it reduces the strength of each side’s plus points. But you still have the extra effort and time delay of getting across the border with the inevitable border queues.
Good Luck with your decision! Feel free to contact us if you want us to plan the perfect Victoria Falls experience for you.
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“Victoria Falls versis Livingstone – which is better” was written by Cedarberg Africa
Cedarberg Africa is a travel and safari company specializing in African tailor-made itineraries. We have special rates with all the hotels and game lodges. Booking through us will cost no more than booking direct, and sometimes less. So our expertise and knowledge comes at no extra cost to you!