By Miguel Caetano
As one of the Seven Wonders of the World, Victoria Falls has to be on everyone’s list of a destination to visit before you die. Whether you venture to the town of Victoria Falls on the Zimbabwean side, or Livingstone on the Zambian side, the falls are an immense presence both literally and figuratively. The mighty Zambezi river makes up the border between the two countries. Locals on the Zambian side refer to the mist from the mighty falls as ‘Mosi-Oa-Tunya’ or ‘the smoke that thunders’ and are so taken by this that they named their country’s beer after it. Nothing wrong with that.
One of the best things about visiting Victoria Falls, specifically on the Zambian side, is that you can find accommodation whether you’re too broke to pay attention or rolling in money. Backpackers such as Jollyboys in the town of Livingstone, have very affordable rates for the adventurous, and hotels such as The Royal Livingstone cater for the upper, upper class who like things a little more, er, comfortable.
Victoria Falls, an adventurer’s paradise, offers more than enough to get the adrenaline flowing. For the beginner there are trail hikes, river cruises, quad-biking, micro-lighting, helicopter flips, and trips to game parks such as Chobe and the like. For those who have a sense of adventure that extends to more than sleeping on the other side of the bed, there’s abseiling, gorge swinging, bungee jumping, Devil’s Pool and white-water rafting (personal favourites).
When the river is flowing at its lower levels between July and November, this is the best time to experience Devil’s Pool and white-river rafting. Devil’s Pool sits on the very edge of the falls – accessible only by swimming across at certain areas with a guide, before you reach the rocky outcrops on the edge. The 10m-wide pool is formed by a natural rock wall that stops you as you jump in and get taken by the current. It’s enough to make the cockiest loud-mouth in your group finally shut up about his backpacking adventures through Europe.
White-river rafting down one of the world’s most dangerous and savage rivers is one to cross off the bucket list. There are a total of 24 rapids that vary in difficulty and size, with the first one starting directly below the falls. Even Bear Grylls might clench a little tighter (but probably not) as you take your first rapid, flying from the boat as if you were a bullet from a gun, then being sucked under and held in a mass of swirling white water. If that wasn’t enough, while trying to remember what air tastes like, you make it up to the surface only to find the raft covering your escape is moving along with you in the vicious current. The 3m crocs nibbling at your feet don’t add much comfort either; neither does the indemnity form you signed. I would do it again in a heartbeat.
When you sit on the sundeck at The Royal Livingstone and watch the African sun set over the rising mist from the falls while sipping on a gin and tonic, you try to take stock of the beauty and distinctly African feel of this beautiful place. You also wonder why you signed up to do the rafting again the next day.