Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, Africa
Victoria Falls is not in your African holiday plans then, make it happen. We originally didn't allocate days or funds to Victoria Falls, but I am so glad we did in the end.
Victoria Falls presents a spectacular sight of awe-inspiring beauty and grandeur on the Zambezi River, forming the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. It was described by the Kololo tribe living in the area in the 1800’s as ‘Mosi-oa-Tunya’ – ‘The Smoke that Thunders’. In more modern terms Victoria Falls is known as the greatest curtain of falling water in the world.
Being on a tight budget but wanted a nice and full experience I went hunting on every website - no I really did! And thanks to Expedia I got a great deal with flights and accommodation. Now being fussy about accommodation (well he is anyway!) I wanted to stay at the Victoria Falls Hotel - where else would you stay really! But with budget in mind and the fact that we had 24 hours on the ground, 5 stars was not really a possibility and wasn't really a necessity. So we just chose the closest hotel to the falls on the Zimbabwe side, that was reasonable - Kingdom Hotel. It's advertises as 4 star but let's be real it's probably 3! But I have to say, the grounds were beautiful and the hotel much bigger and closer to the falls than I expected.
We landed at Victoria Falls Airport (which is on the Zimbabwe side of Victoria Falls) and were taken about 20-30 minutes away to the Kingdom Hotel just 10 minutes or so walk away from the falls. The room was basic, however a good size and clean. For 20 hours, what more do you really need? Okay maybe a comfortable bed as this one was hard as rocks so not a great sleep was experienced.
The pool was big and two restaurants on site which we only eat breakfast at which was okay (just). The staff did the expected for a big hotel and didn't really have much interaction with them except for the security guard at the exit to Victoria Falls at the rear of the property. I didn't get his name but he was friendly and offered to show us to the falls as we hadn't been there before leaving his beautifully set up drinks table behind.
On the walk he told us that a buffalo was seen earlier hence why he came with us - good to know! After walking us to the lookout, I asked where do we go to see the falls closer, he then walked with us to the offical entrance of the Victoria Falls Park which btw is $US30 per person - everything is in US dollars so get ready to be ripped off considering the rest of Africa has there own currency. This guy (below) isn't the security guard - he was just a seller of wooden figurines who had no luck from us on our walk. He also had loads of Zambian dollars to sell us - and when I say loads I mean millions of dollars - absolutely worthless in real dollars. Actually, the poverty on both sides of the Victoria Falls border of Zimbabwe and Zambia is scary.
The walk along the Falls is beautiful, the roar of the water and the power of the falls is breath taking. Be prepared to get wet or rent a water proof pancho before you enter the park as you are going to get very wet. We walked along the Falls on the Zimbabwe side which is better than the Zambia side but you can cross the border on the bridge. Just remember to get a multi entry visa at the airport. It will save you a lot of time at the border.
TIP: Entering Victoria Falls airport was a nightmare. It may sound stupid but if you can upgrade your flight to business class, do it, just so you are in the first few rows of the plane, because when you disembark at Victoria Falls Airport, you'll need to walk really quickly to border control first as there are forms to fill out (forms they could have given you on the plane like most other airlines and countries do) before queuing at a counter. I swear, it was like it was the first time that any of the airports staff had done this exercise. It takes a really long time. Best, you be at the front!
We booked three tours whilst at Victoria Falls, through Zambezi Explorer who were very good. The first was a sunset cruise on the signature deck which included all wines cocktails and finger food. The deck was on the top level and had lounges and comfortable sitting areas. The lower decks were just chairs and less comfortable well worth the extra. I highly recommend the sunset cruise we saw elephants, lots of hippos crocodiles, bird life.
After the sunset the boat docked most people disembarked however we stayed on for dinner. The boat stayed docked for dinner and we were served a three course dinner on the Zambezi River. Would I book the dinner again? No, most probably not as the package stated it included wine and cocktails but on the night they said they don't serve drinks with dinner!! WTF! My paperwork showed drinks included but the package had changed after I bought the package. To their defence they did give us limited drinks. In the meantime, Steve took this awesome shot in the still of the night on the boat deck. Starry starry night!
Next morning we were booked for a helicopter flight at 9.30am, which took us over Victoria Falls. We highly recommend doing this. It was just awesome. Steve got the front seat coz I asked the pilot nicely prior to the flight, so he got to take lots of awesome pics. This was probably the highlight of the Vic Falls experience and a great way to cap off our short visit there.
Would I stay at Kingdom hotel again? Yes. Would I do the sunset cruise again? Yes. Would I do the dinner cruise again? Hell no. And would I do the helicopter flight again? Hell yes! Just don't pay for the extra flying time 12-15 min is enough the 25 min is an upsell!
And just to finish off, here's the welcome wagon that greeted us at the airport upon our farewell! Worth the trip, just for this farewell...