Vic Falls, Africa's Adventure Capital

by
Janine Maré
6 February 2015

As we lined up for the canopy tour, one of my fellow flyers asked our guide, ‘On a scale of one to white water rafting, how scary is this?’ I laughed because I didn’t understand her question. Yet.
Not far away, another group lined up for the gorge swing. Hysterical screams echoed across the Batoka Gorge as a woman (or perhaps it was a man) jumped off the cliff to swing over the wild waters of the Zambezi River. I had booked my white water rafting adventure with Wild Horizons for a few days later – New Year’s Day at 7am to be exact. Maybe not the best timing, but trust me, I was wide awake and decidedly sober by the end of the first rapid. In fact I may as well have fastened my lifejacket, put on my helmet, grabbed my paddle and jumped headfirst into the raging waters beneath Victoria Falls because I tumbled out before we even reached the first rapid.

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Flying and jumping in all of its forms, including the 111m jump from Victoria Falls Bridge and a tandem swing over Batoka Gorge, can be had at Vic Falls. ©Tom Varley.
Rafters get ready to take a plunge. ©Wild Horizons.
People leapt from cliffs to swing like pendulums over
our heads

So there I was heading towards what is known as The Wall – a rock face that turns the cascadng water up into a perpetually exploding white froth, holding on to my paddle for dear life with a finger that was broken in three places (in a sailing incident a few days before). But I made it, and I made it down nineteen more raging rapids, passing under the Victoria Falls Bridge where bungy jumpers put their faith in elastic cords, between the cliffs of the Batoka Gorge where people leapt to swing like pendulums over our heads, and past the smallest crocodile in the world, watched over by its much, much larger mother.
As we floated between rapids with names like The Washing Machine, The Devil’s Toilet Bowl and The Three Ugly Sisters and Their Mother, I marvelled at a place that can only fully be experienced in this way. Sheer cliffs covered in emerald foilage towered on either side of the dark green water, baboons watched from the branches laughing at our white-knuckle antics, and a fish eagle sat in a tree, picking at the catch of the day. Apart from the daredevils in the boats, not another soul could be seen. This was bliss. Not the same bliss we had experienced on the Zambezi pleasure cruise along the calmer waters above the falls, replete with G&Ts and bathing hippos. Not the colonial, high-tea that the brochures advertised. This was the Vic Falls adventure we had come for.

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Oh my %å$*#© &*$! ©Janine Maré

We had arrived in Zimbabwe a few days before, eschewing the fancy hotels and percale sheets for a little tent at the Vic Falls Rest Camp – one of the best campsites I have ever stayed at. Despite loving adventure, I find the actual putting-up-of-tents part of camping particularly challenging, but thankfully Gypsy Outpost had set up and kitted out our tent for us, leaving us to focus on our primary goal – enjoying ourselves and seeing in the New Year with adventure and fun. We were all ready, sporting our Jameson Vic Falls Carnival armbands.

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There’s even time for selfies on the Batoka Gorge Canopy Tour. ©Wild Horizons.
Mosi-oa-Tunya or ‘The Smoke that Thunders’ is an apt local name for Victoria Falls. ©Tom Varley.
Some chose the extreme adventure experience of bargaining
for curios

On the first evening we boarded a train to Zim-knows-where, and stopped way out in the bush to view the setting sun, and rock out to some of Southern Africa’s top DJs. The next day, and a little worse for wear, we harnassed up and ziplined over the Batoka Gorge on the Canopy Tour. It is not at the pointy end of the one-to-white-water-rafting scale, but it was an adventure nontheless with spectacular views through what should be renamed “The Gorge of Adventure” towards the iconic Victoria Falls Bridge. Others in our group opted for more sedate, yet still wild, adventures with game drives, canoeing and all manner of wildlife activities, while some chose the most extreme of all adventure experiences – bargaining for curios at the local market.

 

The high flyers among us took to the skies in microlights or helicopters for a fish eagle’s view of what we had all come to see: Victoria Falls itself. Words cannot describe it, so I will not try. Perhaps the fact that it is one of the seven natural wonders of the world says it all. Or maybe the local name Mosi-oa-Tunya, which means The Smoke that Thunders. It simply left me awestruck.
Standing at the edge of the falls with my mouth agape, I looked across the misty chasm, to neighbouring Zambia where more adrenaline junkies sat or swam in Devil’s Pool – a calm, protected pool on the very edge of the falls, just inches from where the Zambezi plunges into the abyss.

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Headline act Goldfish get the crowd into the spirit of new year at the Jameson Vic Falls Carnival. Revellers enjoy Zimbabwe’s first colour festival. ©Khyle Henderson/Jameson Vic Falls Carnival.
An African sunset is best enjoyed with a helicopter ride over Victoria Falls. ©Wild Horizons.
Revelers party the night away (©Khyle Henderson/Jameson Vic Falls Carnival) before crawling into tents neatly set up by The Gyspy Outpost.

After soaking up the romance of the falls, we turned our attention back to our New Year adventure and the Vic Falls Carnival. We danced ourselves psychedelic at Zimbabwe’s first colour festival before welcoming in the New Year to the opening track of the Lion King thundering through the speakers: Nants ingonyama bagithi Baba! (Here comes a lion, father!). A torrential thunderstorm soon accompanied the music, but headline act Goldfish took it in their stride, playing “Oo, when we come together, no matter the weather” to an adoring crowd. The thunder rolled through the clouds and the rain cascaded down, but that wasn’t stopping the revelers. We had all come for adventure, and the storm was just another part of it.africa-geographic-logo

victoria falls seven wonders
It’s no surprise that Victoria Falls is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. ©Tom Varley.

 VISIT VICTORIA FALLS 

Travel in Africa is about knowing when and where to go, and with whom. A few weeks too early / late and a few kilometres off course and you could miss the greatest show on Earth. And wouldn’t that be a pity? Read more about Victoria Falls here or contact an Africa Geographic safari consultant to plan your dream vacation.

 

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  • Fantastic article Janine. Thanks for the vote of confidence in our crazy, beautiful country.

  • Melanie van Zyl

    Awesome story Janine. Gets the feet itching!!!

  • Simon Espley

    This feature makes me want to be there…

  • Carl L Adams

    Having lived in and experienced Vic Falls, Janine brings it to life once again and highlights what it is to really enjoy the mighty thundering smoke, can’t wait to go back. Thank you Tom for those awesome pics too!

  • VisitZimbabwe

    Great marketing tool for Zimbabwe, Awesome mouth watering photographs thank you very much!

  • Craig

    It wasn’t zim’s first colour festival..

  • paul sims

    got flashbacks to my microlight flight 5 years ago. the best place on this earth. glorious.

  • Riverboy19

    blast off coming up for december 2015/2016 victoria falls rest camp,best place to be on the planet,see you all there again, music hippos baboons beer girls guys
    music party dance…
    from california usa.thank you zimbabwe ..be back we will

  • Joy Moyo

    Very proud to call this place home and phenomenal photography by Tom Varley as always.

  • Mamerito Lyazzi

    Irresistible images!