On 28 September 2012, we stood at the border of Brazil and Argentina marvelling at the majestic Iguazu Falls. Consisting of almost 300 individual falls (depending on water levels) spanning 2.7 km with a maximum height of 82 meters, no other waterfall in the world comes close to being as impressive as that. Except one.
Fast forward 3 years and we find ourselves standing at another border – this time between Zambia and Zimbabwe – marvelling at another waterfall that’s possibly even more impressive than Iguazu. Victoria Falls.
True, it’s not as wide as Iguazu. But here what’s so spectacular about it – at 1.7 km wide and 108 meters high, it is the single largest sheet of water anywhere in the world.
We had two options to get there from where we were staying in Kasane, Botswana – book a direct transfer which would cost USD 55 per person or find our own way there for a fraction of the price. With our haversacks on our backs and limited cash, we decided to try our luck and go with the second option. It started with a short taxi ride to the border (USD 5). At the border, we jumped on what looked more like a floating platform than an actual ferry to cross the 400 meter wide Zambezi River that separates Botswana from Zambia (USD 2 per pax). Soon after we set foot in Zambia, taxi drivers descended on us like vultures, offering exorbitant prices to get us to Victoria Falls. One driver opened negotiations at around USD 30. We asked for about USD 23. He initially declined, but when another driver tried to swoop in for our business, he quickly agreed and that ended the negotiations. We probably still paid double what a local would have paid but it was still a lot less than the first option.
The hotel where we stayed – Zambezi Sun – is located right next to the Falls. It’s a nice, comfortable hotel. But what we love most about it are the animals that roam freely within the hotel compound. Zebras were eating the grass right outside our room. As we were leaving our room one night, we almost walked into something huge – all we saw was a huge silhouette in front of us before it galloped off into the dark. Took us a second to realize it was a giraffe.
Anyway, back to the Falls. Like Iguazu, it can be seen from both sides of the border – about one third of it from the Zambian side and the rest from the Zimbabwean side. While it’s definitely worth viewing the falls from both sides – which we did – it does however mean that we could not see the entire Falls at one go. At least not from the ground. The Falls is so large that the only way to see it in its entirety is from the air.
So that’s exactly what we did. But we didn’t fly over the Falls in a helicopter – that would have been too “safe”. We opted to fly in a “microlight” instead – a motorized glider with two chairs, one for the pilot and the other for the passenger. No floor, no walls, not much else. There is the inevitable fear of falling off when we first took off but my pilot did a good job distracting me with facts about the Falls as we flew over it. He also pointed out the occasional elephant, hippo and buffalo that we could see 1,600 feet below us. I believe it’s the best way to see the Falls. Plus, we didn’t have to get wet.
Every once in a while, when the moon is full, the skies are clear and the water levels are high, a very unique phenomenon occurs at the Falls. Nope, it doesn’t involve werewolves. When the conditions are right, the moonlight is so bright that a rainbow can be seen over the Falls at night. That’s what they call a “moonbow”. Personally, I don’t think it’s as spectacular as a regular rainbow (which by the way can be seen at the Falls throughout the day), it is however quite a rare phenomenon. In order to capture it in a photo, we had to set the exposure on our camera to over 5 seconds to allow sufficient light in. And be really still. Despite our best efforts however, we could not get a really sharp photo.
With Victoria Falls, we’ve been blessed to have laid eyes on three of the most impressive, commercially-accessible waterfalls in the world – Niagara (US-Canada), Iguazu (Brazil-Argentina) and now Victoria.
Next: The Big Five!