Today I’ve marked visiting the last of the world’s 3 greatest waterfalls: In April 2014 we violated international law crossing Iguazú Falls (the world’s largest waterfalls system) along the intersection of Brazil and Argentina, a year later we pushed a boat upriver and hiked for miles for Angel Falls (the world’s tallest waterfall) in Venezuela, and today we set foot in 4 different countries within 9 hours just to do Victoria Falls the monsoon way.
It was well worth it.
For the record — because I could never find this out online until I did it myself today — if you want to do the falls from both Zambia’s and Zimbabwe’s sides on the same day, you definitely:
- Have to pay twice for entry ($20 USD/person at Zambia, $30 USD/person at Zimbabwe)
- Have to pay twice for visas ($50 USD/person at Zambia, $30 USD/person at Zimbabwe)
At time of posting, the $50 USD Kaza/UNI visa that allows you to freely go in between Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Botswana without having to get another visa was still suspended.
This morning, the 9 of us packed all that we needed for the next 2 days in a single bag for carry-on only, leaving most of our belongings back at Curiocity Hostel (we planned to return on August 9th). We arrived at Johannesburg’s OR Tambo airport at around 9am, then splitting up into smaller groups to get breakfast at different places.
Although 7 of us reconvened at the gate for our 11am British Airways flight for Livingstone, Zambia, we all found out the hard way that OR Tambo airport has been notorious for never announcing final calls for missing passengers — 2 others, Mike and Sam, arrived at the gate only a few minutes after we got on the bus that would take us to the plane, where all of us had assumed they had already boarded an earlier bus to the plane (given they had cleared security way before us).
They then waited at the gate until it was too late; by the time the two asked an agent about their flight at 10:56am, we were already on the runway about to take off. Holy shit!
When we landed in Livingstone at 12:45pm, we learned that we had arrived at the newly constructed airport so we were stuck with no wifi, no service, no data, and no way to reach Mike and Sam about missing their flights. Moreover, the visa process to enter Zambia was a nightmare as a garbled mess of tourists lined up in meaningless lines, hopping from line to line in order to wait even longer for entry.
Only by publicly announcing that I was leading a group did I get expedited entry — all 7 of our passports were swiftly taken and stamped immediately in succession without the agent even looking up at us or scanning our passports in a computer. FYI, each visa on arrival costs $50 USD/person and they do not yet take credit cards at the new airport.
Once out of the airport we negotiated taxis to take us directly from the airport to the entrance to the falls. We were able to haggle the price down to $15 USD a car (4 passengers each).
After arriving at the entrance of the Zambian side of the falls, we paid $20 USD/person for entry.
It’s about another 3 minute walk from the ticket booth to the actual entrance to the park.
The Zambian side of the falls have 3 major sights: The Eastern Cataract, Knife Edge, and Boiling Pot. When you enter, you begin at the Eastern Cataract, where you’ll get your first glimpse of the falls.
Then walking more towards the main part of the falls, you’ll walk across a footbridge along a ridge called Knife’s Edge.
If you’re not busy looking ahead, don’t forget to enjoy the views from the footbridge:
Along Knife’s Edge, you can get take a quick detour for views of the the adjacent gorge and Victoria Falls Bridge.
You’ll then reach the end of the Zambian side of the park, which gives you the far view of Danger Point, located on the Zimbabwe Side.
You can then backtrack to the entrance and take a fork down to the 650m hike downhill to the Boiling Pot.
Once you reach the Boiling Pot, look for the maelstroms at the bottom of the falls.
Make sure you don’t get your stuff stolen by the curious baboons; one of them made a grab for Linda’s bag here (just like the rascals who took Chris’ bag at Iguazú Falls or the crazy apes at Gibraltar!).
Make sure you brought enough water for this particular hike as the trek back uphill can be grueling.
JC made some friends along the way.
We spent approximately a total of 2 hours on the Zambian side of the falls before heading back out the exit and towards the nearby exit border post of Zambia.
Getting stamped out was pretty quick.
Afterwards it was a 20 minute walk across no man’s land and Victoria Falls Bridge to Zimbabwe.
It’s at the middle of Victoria Falls Bridge where you can bungee jump for $150-$200 USD per person.
Follow the road past the bridge until you get to the ZImbabwe border offices on your left.
Once in Zimbabwe, you walk a little more towards the entry border offices to get stamped in, where like Zambia, the process is incredibly inefficient.
Although they do take credit cards here (visa is $30 USD/person), they have to do one transaction at a time to staple in each receipt to each visa application (therefore going in a group will take awhile).
Our immigration officer actually ran out of receipt paper for the credit card transactions so I gave up and just gave him the rest in US dollars.
Once you’re stamped in, you then show your visa stamps to another guard outside, and then it’s a quick 5 minute walk from the border offices to the entrance of the Zimbabwe side of the falls.
Entry is $30 USD/person. They do take credit cards!
Once inside, you begin at the Devil’s Cataract on the west side.
…from where you can walk south and eastwards towards Danger Point (about 1km away), stopping along various viewpoints along the way as you get back closer to main falls.
Where Zambia’s side is wild enough for being on top of all the action, you get to see all the action from the Zimbabwe side.
Once you reach Danger Point, take in the beautiful sunset and make sure you don’t fall down!
Can’t make this stuff up. All photos in this post have been #nofilter.
After the sun finally set at 6pm we headed the long way back to the exits (the falls officially close at 6pm) and got a $10 van outside to take all 7 of us to the nearby restaurant In Da Belly where our Botswana drivers were waiting for us.
You can reserve drivers to ferry you directly from the falls to your lodgings in Kasane, Botswana for $30 USD/person to save you the headache of running around to find taxis at the falls and then at the border (which will also cost you around $30 USD/person in total). And after about a one hour drive to the Zimbabwe/Botswana border, we barely made it before the border offices closed at 8pm.
Getting stamped out took a few minutes, with us signing out on a book and getting our passports stamped. Then we got back into the car and drove over for less than a minute to the Botswana offices to be stamped in.
Getting stamped in was not only free but immediate as after only a few minutes we were out the door.
Uniquely about this country (one of the few to have graduated from the UN’s World’s Least Developed Countries list to become one of the most developed countries in Africa), we had to have our car tires and our shoes disinfected for foot and mouth disease.
Afterwards, it was an another 30 minute drive to our accommodations in Kasane, Liya Guest Lodge by 9:30pm, where random animals such as elephants, lions, warthogs, monkeys and dogs crossed in front of us on multiple roads.
Once we settled in, a few of us headed back out into the city for a take out dinner. Your only other option at this hour is KFC or this local grill. We chose the latter.
Overall, it’s been a productive day.
And speaking of our missing Mike and Sam — when we arrived at the lodge and finally got data, we were able to communicate with them on their Plan B. In the end, they were able to get another flight tomorrow for Victoria Falls, after which they’ll do both the falls and a safari before reuniting in Cape Town on August 10th and resuming the adventure with us.
Nothing gets missed and it always works out in the end!
– At time of posting in Victoria Falls, it was 62.6 °F – Humidity: 36% | Wind Speed: 10km/hr | Cloud Cover: clear