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Southern Africa: Spectacular Victoria Falls – one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World

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Retosa Combo_8
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“The Smoke that Thunders,” “the Mosi-oa-Tunya,” “the greatest known curtain of falling water” – Victoria Falls is so spectacular, that the words to describe it are many.

“The Smoke that Thunders,” “the Mosi-oa-Tunya,” “the greatest known curtain of falling water” – Victoria Falls is so spectacular, that the words to describe it are many. As the explorer David Livingstone remarked when he first saw the 1.7 kilometer-long curtain of falling water, “scenes so lovely, must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight.”

This awe-inspiring waterfall is a well-known tourist destination on the Zambezi River and shares its claim to fame with two countries – Zambia and Zimbabwe. It defines the border between the two countries, and on the Zimbabwean side, they form part of the wildlife-rich Victoria Falls National Park. It is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World and a World Heritage site.

During the wet season, 546 million cubic meters of water per minute plummet along a width of nearly 2 kilometers into a gorge more than 100 meters below. This incredible amount of water generates a huge cloud of spray billowing high into the sky and visible for kilometers around. One can view the falls face-on and enjoy the full force of the spray, noise and spectacular rainbows, or take a flight over the falls. For the adventurous, there are also micro-light flights.

On the opposite side is another sheer wall of basalt, rising to the same height and covered in a mist-soaked rain forest. A path along the edge of the forest will afford visitors one of the most spectacular views of a lifetime.

Another special vantage point is from the Knife Edge bridge, where there is the finest view of the Eastern Cataract and the Main Falls as well as the “Boiling Pot.” Other vantage points include the “Lookout Tree,” from where visitors are treated to a panoramic view across the main falls. Some of the best views, however, are from Livingstone Island.

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There are a myriad of things to see and experience at the falls. An abundance of water activities are available to thrill and delight, including white-water rafting down the rapids of the Zambezi River, kayaking, canoeing, river boarding, and jet boating. A real thrill is to swim in a natural rock pool on the edge of the falls Devil’s Pool. Sunset cruises are also popular, where a favorite beverage can be enjoyed while watching hippos cavort in the Zambezi as the sun begins its descent.

For those with more “lofty” ideas of adventure, bungee jumping off the Victoria Falls Bridge is a highlight, as is swinging through the gorge over the many high-wire cable slides and abseiling down steep cliffs. And there are scenic flights above the falls offering views one can only see from high up. Take to the skies in a helicopter or on a Microlight aircraft which has an open cockpit for an ultimate ride with the wind in your face.

Animal enthusiasts will enjoy horse rides, elephant rides, walking with the lions, a horse-riding safari, and game drives in the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park.

For those that prefer the purity of a one-on-one experience, there are hikes that bring the destination up close and personal. And “swingers” will enjoy a round of golf at Elephant Hills Golf Course in Zimbabwe or the Royal Golf and Country Club in Zambia. Just remember that animals have the right of way on a golf course.

How to get there

Victoria Falls is 11 miles from Victoria Falls Airport in Zimbabwe. Right now, 4 airlines operate out of Victoria Falls Airport, and there are nonstop flights to 5 cities. Every week, at least 14 domestic flights and 35 international flights depart from Victoria Falls Airport.

From Zambia, Harry Mwanga Nkumbula International Airport, formerly Livingstone Airport, is an international airport on the northern edge of Livingstone, Zambia. The airport, named after Harry Mwanga Nkumbula, the leader of the Africa National Congress in Zambia, is the closest airport to Victoria Falls.

Currently, the airport is undergoing expansion; the new terminal is expected to open in 2014.[1]

The classic way of reaching Victoria Falls is by the overnight train from Bulawayo. This train still uses lovely but somewhat downtrodden British 1950s coaches, perhaps just part of the charm, and the scenery is fantastic. During the last few hours before reaching Victoria Falls, there will be abundant opportunities to see wildlife.

If traveling by car, there is a good road network from the South African border at Beit Bridge right through to the falls. It’s possible to drive in through Livingstone. Crossing an international border with a vehicle, however, will incur extra costs like carbon tax and insurance and obtaining a temporary import permit for the car at the Zambian border post. Once at the Zimbabwe border post, the whole procedure is to be repeated, though it is a bit faster. Coming from Namibia or Botswana, the best road is from Kasane in Botswana using the Kazungula border post. The distance to Victoria Falls is 70 kilometers.

Buses offer a route between Windhoek in Namibia to Victoria Falls. The bus stops on the Zambian side, and visitors will have to cross the border by foot. A bus journey takes just over 14 hours.

About Retosa

The Regional Tourism Organization of Southern Africa (RETOSA) is a Southern African Development Community (SADC) institution responsible for tourism growth and development. In part, the aims of RETOSA are to increase tourist arrivals to the region through sustainable development initiatives, improved regional competitiveness, and effective destination marketing. The organization works together with Member States’ tourism ministries, tourism boards, and private sector partners. For more information about RETOSA, go to www.retosa.co.za

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editor

Editor in chief for eTurboNew is Linda Hohnholz. She is based in the eTN HQ in Honolulu, Hawaii.

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