Victoria Falls is destination, not just an 'add-on'

Nikki Meyer & Seolo Africa • 8 December 2022

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In 2019 approximately 1 million people from all over the world made a pilgrimage to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. The majority of them seriously regret spending only 2 nights. They were unfortunately sold it as an ‘add-on’ to another destination.
What is the main attraction?
The industry knows that the prime reason people flock to the vibrant town of Victoria Falls is to see for themselves one of the 7 natural wonders of the world. The 1.7km long Victoria Falls ‘discovered’ by Dr. David Livingstone in 1855. Of course, the local Batonga people knew they were there long before Dr Livingstone’s arrival, they’re hard to miss!
The locals call the falls “Mosi-oa-Tunya” meaning “The smoke that thunders.” But, only after Livingstone’s arrival, were they studied in greater detail. That’s how today we know that they are approximately 108m high and that up to 500 million litres of water tumble over the falls per minute in the peak rainfall season. 

What agents and tour operators are discovering is there is so much MORE to see and do on the doorstep of the falls. 

The falls are the gateway to treasures largely undiscovered: gorgeous lodges with distinct and unique interactive safaris combining both river and reserve.

Most of us know that Victoria Falls & the Zambezi National Park offer a myriad of activities, from river cruises, traditional game drives, safari walks, steam train trips with high tea, to canoeing on the mighty Zambezi. Not to forget the extreme sports and adventures that attract both the young and young at heart.

The Zambezi National Park, however is a hidden gem only recently recognised and valued by the industry as a destination in its own right. This is where the astute professional gives their guest maximum value for their travel time. The opportunity to immerse themselves in the wild beauty of this incredible area and the warm welcome of Zimbabwean hospitality. Zambezi National Park together with the Victoria Falls National Park covers 56 000 hectares of spectacular scenery on the banks of the vast Zambezi River.

Game drives and bush walks offer diverse wildlife sightings including elephant, buffalo, zebra, giraffe, sable antelope, eland, waterbuck, hyenas, lions, leopards and even wild dogs. Baboons are also frequently seen, a fascinating, intelligent species with humanlike social interactions.

What makes it a safari on steroids for me though, is the magnificent river and the fact that you can utilise it. I am spoilt in terms of safari, having lived in the Kruger National Park for 30 years, but I get a special thrill every time I enter the Zambezi National Park and even more so when I cross the water by barge to the breath-taking Chundu Island. The freedom of getting out onto the water in a wildlife reserve is a rare privilege. A privilege your clients will thank you for.

A few hours fishing from a boat, or canoeing down the river can be both exciting and sublimely peaceful. You can add an element of sparkle and romance to your client’s safari by arranging drinks and snacks on a sundowner cruise enveloped in the magical sunset reflected from the river below.

Birding is second to none. There is an abundance of birds, roughly 470 species, that can be seen in the Victoria Falls and Zambezi National Parks area. This includes some rarities, such as African Skimmer, African Finfoot (pictured below), Rock Pratincole, Pel’s Fishing Owl, White-Backed Night Heron and the endemic Schalow’s Turaco.

Yes, trees. Chundu Island, my home away from home, has taught me to love trees. The 1.4km island boasts huge riverine trees. Here you dine under the canopy of a massive Ana tree (Faidherbia albida). There are baobabs (aka upside down trees) growing on the island and… palm trees! It would take a lot to beat lying at the swimming pool above a squeaky clean white sand beach and shimmering river with the rustle of palm fronds whispering in the breeze.   

The stunning lodges in the Zambezi National Park all offer the opportunity to experience local culture in amazing settings. Local delicacies are offered such as Nembwe bream, crocodile steaks, sadza (a ground maize dish similar to the US grits or South African Pap) and Mupunga Unedovi (a surprisingly delicious peanut butter rice dish). All of which can be washed down with a Zambezi Lager or the refreshing Mazoe, a sweet-tart orange drink manufactured locally. A variety of more cosmopolitan dishes and wines are also available.

A little pamper
Did I mention you can arrange a massage for them too? Yes, they can have a massage at home, but not in the warmth of the African sun on the banks of a rippling river with birdsong in the background. 

There is only one quadripoint in the world. A place where the borders of 4 countries meet. This is just 75km from Victoria Falls at Kazangula, and makes Victoria Falls the perfect base for exploring Africa. It is just a hop and a jump from Zimbabwe, to Botswana, Zambia and Namibia. 


I would recommend booking a night or two in town. Or, even better, just 7kms outside of town at Masuwe Lodge on the edge of the Chamabonda National Park, a cool, calm refuge your guests can escape to when the street buzz gets too much. From there they can visit the falls and even view them from above in a helicopter or micro light. You can offer them a Boma dinner and drumming session in town or even a dinner cruise on the river. If extreme sports are their thing, they can test their metal then cool off in the lodge’s glitter stone pool in the heat of the day. Bonus: There’s no need to hire a car, the lodge provides regular transfers to and from town.

Once they’ve viewed the falls and had some fun in town, I suggest you maximise their travels by encouraging them to explore the Zambezi National Park and the mighty Zambezi River. There are a number of newly built lodges in a variety of styles, from chic and modern to historically charming in the park. 

I admit that I’m biased, but from the first time I set foot on the surreal haven of Chundu Island I was smitten. I’ve had the privilege of visiting many times in the course of my work and its enchantment captivates me every time. Whether I stay for a week or a month, I always leave with a sense of longing. 

I would suggest spending at least 3 nights to participate in the many activities on offer and enjoy the leisurely pace of charmed island living.

So, how long SHOULD you recommend they stay?
Imagine your clients travelling all the way to Japan to see Mount Fuji. But failing to experience a Japanese tea ceremony, eat sushi or teppanyaki, checkout a Sumo wrestling match, take a slow ride in a rickshaw or a fast one on the bullet train. 

The money spent on their flight wouldn’t be wasted, but it sure as heck wouldn’t have given them bang for their buck!

Times and perceptions are changing. People want to see more. Do more. Immerse themselves in local culture and experience what their host country has to offer. And, believe me, Zimbabwe has plenty.

It can’t all be done in one day - a 2 night stay.

Only your clients will be able to work out how long is right for them to stay at Victoria Falls. All I can tell you is a paltry 2 nights, only 1 full day and a quick tick off the bucket list is definitely not enough! 

I suggest you advise them of everything they can see, do and experience. Recommend that they allocate a half day for each activity and make sure they build in time to relax, wind down and enjoy the natural beauty and local hospitality. Recommend a place of scenic beauty where they can properly relax after a busy schedule of safaris and tours so that they leave feeling refreshed and that they’ve had a holiday not just a sightseeing tour.

Whatever you do, don’t let your clients be amongst those disappointed that they travelled all that way for any less than 4 nights. 



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