Travel

Genevieve Vieira
3 minute read
7 Feb 2014
7:00 am

Travel: Choosing sides at Victoria Falls

Genevieve Vieira

Beauty means different things to different people. Though, no matter your definition, there are things in life so spectacular, so absolutely perfect, that no matter your background, culture or perspective on life, it leaves you breathless.

ROCK FACE. The Victoria Falls seen from the Zambian side in September 2013. Pictures: Genevieve Vieira.

Victoria Falls, situated on the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe in Africa, boasts some mind boggling dimensions. While neither the highest nor the widest waterfall in the world, competing closely with Brazil’s Iguazu Falls, is still one of the most remarkable. Known by locals as “Mosi-oa-Tunya” (The smoke that thunders), the falls are created by the Zambezi River, a curtain of water plummeting into a narrow chasm, only a hundred meters deep.

The question looming when visiting the Falls is “which side boasts the better views, Zambia or Zimbabwe.” While seeing both sides is the ideal, it isn’t always feasible. Having been fortunate enough to visit both countries, each with its unique splendour, there are some distinct differences to highlight.

It is no secret that Zimbabwe enjoys the majority with 75% of the falls on their side. At the cliff’s edge, the placid river transforms into a fierce torrent, its spray seen and felt from miles away. In the past it was considered the main viewing station, with 16 viewpoints bisecting the rainforest (a sight beautiful in its own right). However, due to the recent political turmoil, tourists have opted for the Zambian side. This boasts only 25% of the falls and viewpoints are limited. That said, you are able to get exceptionally close, as well as swim in the Devil’s Pool.

This is a small rock pool at the water’s edge, which allows visitors to take a quick dip, feeling the rush of water gushing over. The pool is only open during the dry season, September to December, to prevent visitors from being pushed over the edge.

The downfall about visiting the Zambian side during the dry season is that it can become completely dried up, leaving a rock face with only one or two areas of trickling water. At all other times, Victoria Falls is a roaring machine of awestruck wonder.

Along with the longer stretch, the town of Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe is situated closer to the Falls, a walking distance of less than 1km. On the other hand, Livingstone in Zambia is about 15kms from the falls and therefore requires additional transportation to and from the attraction.

During the rainy season, February to May, levels are high on both sides, resulting in rain (created from the spray) 24 hours a day. And trust me, you going to get drenched. Sometimes when the water levels are too high, visibility can become restricted on both sides – although at least 50% of the Zimbabwean viewpoints are limited by this all year round.

If you were to see the falls from only one side, I would recommend the Zimbabwean side as you are bound to get the best views of the main falls. Though the Zambian side is equally striking, you will not comprehend the magnitude of it all from this limited vantage point.

On another note, it is also possible to negotiate a day-pass across the border and see the falls from the opposite side. The contrast between the two are vast and worthwhile seeing.