Last month we travelled to Victoria Falls from Johannesburg. It’s a destination that has been on our list for a while now, but really is kind of awkward to get to, so we decided to make it happen while living in SA. Vic Falls is a waterfall on the Zambezi River that is split by the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. It’s also known by it’s indigenous Tonga name, Mosi-oa-Tunya, which translates to “The Smoke That Thunders”. For perspective, it’s roughly twice the height of Niagara Falls. There are a couple ways to approach a visit to falls and one of the main considerations is whether or not to fly into the Zambian side or the Zimbabwean side. Some people choose one over the other or choose to fly into one and out of the other. We wanted to see both countries so we flew into Zambia and out of Zimbabwe.
In Zambia we stayed at an awesome backpackers called JollyBoys. They had a sweet pool and several resident cats.
We arrived mid-afternoon on our first day and decided to sign up for a sunset cruise on the Zambezi for that evening. It’s basically three hours of cruising up and down the River while the bartenders encourage you to drink as many beers as possible. The highlight was definitely mid-cruise when a family of hippos swam up near the boat.
The next day we ventured to the national park. Park entrance is $30 USD and it takes about two hours to wander the length of the trails and back. We showed up an hour before our activity that we had booked to do a bit of exploring. At some point, since we were mildly hungover from the sunset cruise, we decided to get a coke at the park entrance to rejuvenate ourselves. There are signs all over warning visitors about the resident baboons (which are terrifying AF) who will steal your food. I didn’t realize a bottle of coke qualified as baboon bait so when I left the restaurant I had it in my hand to finish before our activity started. Well, wasn’t it a full 15 seconds before the biggest baboon of life charged towards me and grabbed the coke bottle from me. A handful of park employees jumped to their feet with giant rocks ready to defend me. Cue tears and mini meltdown. A decent amount of swearing. I didn’t know whether to run or scream so instead I froze and started to cry. There was no way I was going to negotiate with him for a third of a bottle of coke. Proper nightmare material.
After the baboon trauma subsided we met up for the excursion we booked called “Under the Spray”. We didn’t really know what it would involve since the activity book only featured a one liner about something called “medium fitness level” and the possibility of getting wet. Once the guide pulled out the wetsuits and the life jackets I realized we would be getting on a raft. It started with a trail through the park then turned into a proper trek across rocks and boulders into the gorge that in high season would be underwater. Once we reached the first pool at the base of the gorge, called the boiling pot, we descended into a raft and paddled our way across the rapids into a pool where we climbed out and continued across another more challenging set of rocks. I often had to hoist myself up or hug the wall to move along the path. A few different times we had to swim across small (but deep) pools of water. I had my action cam on for some of this but since it was strapped to my chest I ended up accidentally filming the butt of the girl in front of me for most of it. Still debating whether or not to share in spite of this. After another 30 or so minutes of trekking we made it to the pool of water that met one of the active waterfalls. We swam across and were able to stand underneath it while our guide told us a story about how the falls were initially discovered. However, waterfalls are loud, and I think I missed 90% of what he said and was only able to join in on the random clapping at the end. We snapped a few pics and then we were on our way back! By the third hour of this excursion I was starting to feel pretty exhausted. The ascent back up to the top of the gorge was pretty gruesome in the midday sun - plus my being on high alert to the surrounding baboons which seemed to have multiplied while we were down in the gorge. We managed to stay awake until 7pm and then passed out for a solid twelve hours.
Day three meant crossing the border by foot to Zimbabwe. Before we walked across the border officially we unofficially crossed into Zim during our hike to Devil’s Pool at Livingstone Island. During dry season (mid-Aug to mid-Jan) the pool can be reached by foot from the Zambian side of the falls. It is basically a natural infinity pool that has formed on the edge of the falls. It’s pretty wild.
After we finished up at the pool we set off for the border and spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around the Zim national park. It was much more humid and rainforest-like compared to the Zambian side. We snapped some photos, drank a $6 USD smoothie, then went into town to find our hostel.
The worst thing about Zimbabwe is that a lot of things are in USD and it is expensive. Even when using the local currency prices are pretty steep in Victoria Falls. We paid $16 for a margarita pizza at the airport. I was so committed to eating the entire thing that I flew the leftovers back to Pretoria and ate the rest the next day. Depressing.
Our hostel in Zim was adorable, complete with a resident Maltese dog named Rosie. All in all, the trip was a massive success and we're super happy that we accidentally ended up there during the dry season so we could enjoy all of the activities.