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Victoria Falls Overview

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Important Notice
Please be advised that effective May 01, 2010 the National Parks and Wildlife Management has reviewed their rates as follows:
Rainforest entrance $30pp for Internationals
Rainforest entrance $20pp for all SADC passport holders
Sunset Cruise $10pp
Helicopter Flights $8pp

The park fees for the following experiences will not change:

White Water Rafting $10pp
Canoeing $10pp

This is a statutory requirement and as you all know the fees are paid directly to the Department of National Parks & Wildlife Management. Activity rates remain the same what will change is the component of the National Park fees in the pricing structure.

Note that due to these changes, clients will now have to pay us directly for the surcharges as of 01 May as top up from what is on the current rate sheets. The Following will be affected, since the prices include the Parks fees:

Guided Tour of the Falls $10pp surcharge for internationals
Guided Tour of the Falls $5pp surcharge for SADC
Sunset cruise $5pp surcharge



Best Time To Go


The Victoria Falls has two main 'viewing seasons' and depending on the time of year, you may fall anywhere in between these two. The peak flood season takes place during March and April and is ideal if you'd like to see the falls in their full glory. Masses of water cascade down into the river below creating a magnificent cloud of spray around the area. During the height of the flood season, this cloud can be seen from 80km away! As a result, the full magnitude of the falls cannot be viewed in its entirety from afoot. We therefore recommend you take a helicopter ride or, if you're really brave a microlite flight for breathtaking aerial views.

As we approach the dry season between November and December, the amount of water that passes over the falls decreases until only small rivers of water can be seen, but as a result the view from below becomes increasingly impressive. One can really begin to appreciate the scope and magnificence of the falls during this period.

Zambia


The best time to visit Zambia depends on the reason for your visit. Popular activities include game viewing, bird watching, water sports and viewing the magnificent Victoria Falls.

Game viewing
The ideal time for game viewing is between August and October. Be prepared to face temperatures of up to 32 degrees by the end of October though, especially at low altitudes (most national parks fall in these areas). If you prefer cooler, greener surrounds; we recommend the months of May to August.

During the very wet rainy season of December to April the abundant vegetation in game parks make it difficult to spot wild life. For this reason most of the parks are closed. Those that do however stay open tend to offer very attractive rates, but note that many of the rural roads become extremely muddy during this period, making it quite difficult to travel.

Bird watching
Birdwatchers will be happy to know that Zambia's birdlife can be viewed all year round. The breeding season for most of the migrant birds in the southern hemisphere falls between September and mid April, with the best sightings from November to December.

Water rafting
During August to December the Zambezi is at its lowest levels, making for ideal rafting conditions. During high water activities are limited.


Zimbabwe


Zimbabwe's and Zambia's seasons fall on very similar months, give or take a month. Zimbabwe's winter lasts a month or so longer (May to September/October vs. Zambia's May to August), while its rainy season starts and ends a month earlier than Zambia's (November to March vs. Zambia's December to April).

Travel and Wild life
The Zimbabwean winter months are much more pleasant than the hot summer months, making them ideal for travelling and game viewing. But don't be deceived - the winter nights can become surprisingly cold (temperatures can drop below freezing). Make sure to pack a jersey or jumper for early mornings and evenings. The days are ideal for game viewing as the animals tend to congregate near water holes and are therefore more easily observed.

Water sports
For river rafters and other water sport enthusiasts, the best time of year falls between August and December when the levels of the mighty Zambezi River are low.

Crowds
During the South African school holidays (mid-April to mid-May and mid-July to mid-September) the tourist sites and national parks are quite crowded. December and early January are slightly better (Namibian school holidays) but the best time is in June when the weather is also pleasantly cool.

Climate



Vic Falls temperatures in summer usually reach a maximum of 34C and during winter they decrease to around 7C. During summer the heavy cloud of spray creates a constant wet environment , and waterproof coats/rain macs and waterproof shoes or all weather sandals are a must.

Zimbabwe / Zambia

Winter: May to September/October
Summer: October to April
Rainy Season: November to March Winter May to August
Summer: September to April
Rainy Season: December to April

Zimbabwe
Although Zimbabwe is entirely situated in the tropics, its high altitude causes much milder conditions than one would expect.

Its dry winter season (May to September/October) is pleasantly temperate with warm sunny days and cool, clear nights. This is the best time of year to view wildlife as the animals stay within close proximity of the watering holes and are therefore easy to locate. Day temperatures average around 20C, while nights can be much colder , dropping to as low as 5'C. However, freezing temperatures are not uncommon on the plateau.

Zimbabwe's summer lasts from October to April when temperatures can rise up to 30C, with nights at a moderate 14 degrees. The rainy season runs from November to March and is often characterised by afternoon thunder showers. These come as a great relief and usually fall in brief but heavy surges. Rainfall ranges from 630mm in Kariba (Zimbabwe's driest region) to 2000mm in the Eastern Highlands where it rains all year round. The Zambezi Valley and Lowveld regions are hotter and more humid than the rest of the country and may also receive rain during winter months.

Zimbabwe doesn't really have distinguishable springs and autumns, although the mopane trees found on the highveld change colour throughout the winter months, ranging from orange to yellow to red.

Zambia
Similar to Zimbabwe, Zambia lies in the tropics but has a moderate climate as a result of its altitude. This however, does not mean that it can't become unbearably hot, especially in the valleys and low lying areas. The highlands experience cooler conditions. Generally speaking, Zambia is hot all year round. The three distinct seasons can be described as the cool dry season from May to August; the hot dry season from September to November and the hot rainy season from December to April.

The summer rainfall varies from region to region but is heaviest in the Northern provinces where averages of 1250mm per year are common. This decreases towards Lusaka (750mm) and hits a low in the south and south western regions (500mm). The beginning of the rainy season is characterised by heavy tropical storms. Very little rainfall is experienced during the rest of the year.

During winter the central plateau may experience light frosts.

Average temperatures for the whole country range between 25C and 35C in summer and 6C to 24C in winter, while Lusaka's temperatures are slightly less extreme, ranging between 9C and 23C in winter and 18C and 31C in summer.

Clothing that will suit the climate include lightweight, tropical outfits and rainwear (when visiting in summer). Although it never gets extremely cold (compared to the climates of Europe), a couple of jerseys or warm coats are recommended for winter months.

Time Zones



Zimbabwe and Zambia
Time: GMT + 2 Hours

Money



US$ are widely accepted and in some instances the only acceptable currency.

To avoid theft, scams and fraud, make sure to only exchange your money at licensed bureau de changes and banks which are available in the major towns and cities. When planning to visit the rural areas, ensure you obtain a supply of the local currency before your departure.

Zimbabwe
The unit of currency in Zimbabwe is the Zimbabwean Dollar (Z$), which is divided into 100 Cents. Notes come in denominations of five, 10, 20, 50 and 100 dollars. Coins are available in 1, 5, 10, 20, and 50 cents and ZW$1 and ZW$2.

The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) is understood to be considering introducing new Z $5 000, Z$10 000 and Z$20 000 notes to replace its "bearer's cheques" because of widespread abuse of the cheques, ZimOnline has learnt. (Millions of cheap counterfeit cheques have been circulating the banking system).

Zimbabwe is going through a time of great economic turmoil, which often leads to really cheap prices for foreign visitors. This does not however mean that you should let your guard down, as it is very easy to be overcharged for simple products and services. The best way to avoid getting taken for a ride, is to exchange your foreign currency for the local Z$ upon arrival and then to only pay for local goods in Z$. If you do however decide to pay in foreign currency, make sure to ask for the most recent exchange rate.

It is custom to tip taxi drivers and international-class hotel and restaurant staff 10% of the bill. Some places automatically include this fee in their service charge.

At the informal establishments (street markets and stalls), you'll be able to negotiate a better price for most items. Swapping is also quite popular and the local vendors will welcome the odd pen, set of batteries or personal item in exchange for their arts and crafts.

Zambia
The unit of currency in Zambia is the Zambian kwacha (K, Zk or kw), which is divided into 100 Ngwee. The currency has denominations of 50, 100, 500, 1000, 5000 and 10 000, 20 000 and 50 000 kwacha notes. Coins used to be available in 1, 2, 5, 10 and 20 Ngwee and K1 but have since become redundant as a result of the past devaluation of the currency.

The same goes for K20 notes as most markets and shops will only accept k500 and above.
All the adventure and tourism operators quote their prices in US Dollars but accept the local currency at the daily exchange rate.

As in Zimbabwe, 10% of your bill for taxi drivers and restaurant staff is custom.

For professional guides, drivers (safari trips) and lodge or camp staff it is usually appropriate to tip between US$3 and US$5 per day. Exceptional service sometimes calls for more, but you may use your own discretion. Many lodges have a staff tip box located in their reception area which ensures that all tips are divided equally between porters, waiters and other staff. Exceptional service from a particular member of staff can be rewarded with a personal tip.



Fast Facts




Victoria Falls
  • David Livingstone was the first European to discover the Victoria Falls in November 17, 1855. He named the falls after his country's queen.
  • The native name for Victoria Falls is Mosi-oa-tunya and means "the smoke that thunders".
  • Victoria Falls is classified as one the seven wonders of the natural world.
  • The waterfall is so large that it is divided into five different parts namely: the Devil's Cataract, Cataract Island, the Main Falls, Rainbow Falls and the Eastern Cataract.
  • Victoria Falls is twice as large and twice as wide as Niagara Falls.

Zimbabwe
  • Zimbabwe is the country with the highest adult literacy (90 percent) and the highest female literacy (86 percent) rate in Southern Africa.
  • Zimbabwe was the centre of the wealthiest and most powerful society in southern Africa from the 11th to 16th century (because of trade between the local Shonas and Swahili traders).
Zambia
  • Zambia has 73 identified language groups, all of these are Bantu speaking and each of these has its own cultural identity including social systems and its own tradition territory.
  • In a poll taken among foreign diplomats in 1996, Lusaka was voted the capital city with the most pleasant climate worldwide.
  • The nearest ocean to Zambia is 965 kilometres away.
  • Zambia has the largest edible mushroom in the world (Termitomyces titanicus). It can reach and astonishing 3m in diameter!

Medical services



Both Zimbabwe and Zambia have limited medical facilities. Most large towns have public hospitals, clinics and doctors but the further one moves from the urban surroundings, the poorer the services become.

Visitors are responsible for their own medical requirements and are advised to take out comprehensive medical insurance before embarking on their visit. Such insurance should include casualty evacuation to South Africa in case of political unrest.

Zambia
Lusaka, Livingstone and Ndola are the only locations where adequate medical services are available. There are also a few small clinics in Lusaka which are less adequate than the above facilities but still in a better state than the general hospitals. Rural clinics should be avoided, wherever possible.

The overall standard of the private hospitals in Lusaka are satisfactory although their facilities are limited. Private doctors, chemists/pharmacies and other medical practitioners are also available in Lusaka. Wherever possible, we recommend that you make use of their services instead of seeking assistance outside of the city.

Some rural areas have mission hospitals which provide a fair service, usually superior to that of government hospitals.

Zimbabwe
Private Hospitals, offering good quality medical services are available in Harare and Bulawayo. Although these hospitals operate with limited facilities, they offer reasonably good medical services. Most of the larger towns, including Harare and Bulawayo have private doctors, chemists/pharmacies, and other medical practitioners for all your medical requirements.

Malaria
Both Zambia and Zimbabwe are classified as Malaria regions. Most areas in Zambia are vulnerable, while Zimbabwe's Lowveld areas (South East), low-elevation areas along the Limpopo River and in the Zambezi River Valley along the entire Northern Zimbabwe/Zambia border.

We highly recommend that visitors take the necessary precautions when visiting these areas. In addition to taking anti-malaria tablets (Prophylactics) which can be obtained from your local pharmacist/chemist or doctor, visitors should wear ample amounts of insect repellent, especially during the evenings or when planning to walk through tall grass. Various repellents are available from Zambian and Zimbabwean supermarkets and can be applied directly to the skin. Long-sleeved clothing and socks are also recommended at night. Most hotels and resorts have mosquito nets in their rooms which provide relief.

Visitors should start taking their Prophylactics at least 24 hours before entering the country. Make sure to inform your doctor or pharmacist of the exact areas you plan to visit, as different areas have different types of malaria parasite. You will also need to continue taking the pills for at least six weeks after your departure from the malaria regions to ensure you don't develop symptoms.

HIV and AIDS


HIV/AIDS is very prevalent in Zambia and Zimbabwe. Visitors are strongly discouraged to engage in any high-risk sexual or drug-related activities.

While condoms are available from pharmacies/chemists and some supermarkets, their effectiveness can sometimes be a bit questionable. Visitors are therefore encouraged to check them thoroughly before use, or alternatively to purchase a supply before leaving for their destination.

Vaccinations:

Victoria Falls
All visitors to the Victoria Falls need to have been vaccinated against yellow fever and require an International Certificate of Vaccination as proof.

Zambia
Visitors to northern and western Zambia require an International Certificate of Vaccination against yellow fever. Those who pass over a yellow fever and cholera region also need to produce a valid certificate of immunisation.

Zimbabwe
Visitors planning to enter Zimbabwe from a yellow fever or cholera infected area (further north in Africa, including Zambia) will be required to show proof of vaccination against these diseases in the form of a valid International Certificate of Vaccination.

We recommend that visitors keep their certificates close at hand at all times, as proof of vaccination is sometimes required. If you like, you can staple it in to the front of your passport. The following vaccines may be recommended although not compulsory for your travel to Zimbabwe and Zambia: Hepatitis A and B; Rabies; Typhoid; Meningitis; booster doses for tetanus-diphtheria, measles and a one-time dose of polio vaccine for adults.
We advise you to discuss your itinerary with your doctor to establish which vaccines will be required.

Swimming in Zambia and Zimbabwe's rivers and dams is not advisable as some of them have been known to carry bilharzia. However, water sport fanatics needn't be too worried as regular towelling off, as soon as one leaves the water, reduces the risk.

Attractions



Wet
  • White Water Rafting (day trips and expeditions)
  • River Cruises (Breakfast, Lunch, Sundown and Ornithologist's cruises available)
  • Tandem Kayaking
  • River boarding
  • Jet Boating
  • Canoeing (upper and lower Zambezi)
  • River Safaris
Dry
  • Victoria Falls Bridge
  • The world's highest free-standing bungee jump
  • The Zambezi Swing (For about $100, this South African group lets you abseil, rap jump, do a zip line, and -- the highlight -- a gorge swing. While Bungi Jumping is over in a few minutes, these guys let you play all day).
  • Hot air ballooning
  • Abseiling, high-wiring, rap-jumping and gorge-swinging
  • Game drives (half and full day, night drives)
  • Tours (Traditional, Cultural, Zambezi Nature Sanctuary, Falls Tour)
  • Aerial trips (microlight, ultralight, helicopter and fixed-wing flights)
  • Hiking trails and nature walks
  • Horseback and Elephant Trails
  • Steam Train Rides
  • Snake Park
  • Mukuni Victoria Falls Craft Village (Curios )
  • Adventure Centre in Livingstone Town
  • Livingstone Island (where David Livingstone had his first glimpse of the falls).
  • Victoria Falls Field Museum.
  • Railway Museum
  • Mosi O Tunya National Park
  • Mukuni Village (authentic tribal village)
  • Quick access to Namibia, Botswana and Zambia.

Things to buy



Victoria Falls
A variety of crafts and curios are available at the Mukuni Victoria Falls Craft Village.

Look out for elaborate animal carvings in wood, stone, or green malachite. Masks, drums, marimbas, jewellery, spoons, walking sticks, book ends, and other authentic African items.

Compare items before purchasing as quality differs from vendor to vendor. Bartering is welcome and vendors will usually part with their work for items such as shoes, batteries, t-shirts etc. If you are courageous enough to try brave the Bungee Jump, the mighty Zambezi on a raft or any of the various other extreme activities - make sure to buy the t-shirt. This will serve as your "badge of honour" to show off to your friends back home.

Zambia
Good quality baskets can be found at the Livingstone Museum.

Zimbabwe
Look out for articles made from Zimbabwe Copper and semiprecious gemstone jewellery.




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3 Travellers Comments
Written by Anthony Psillos
Hi Nicolien, 
 
I hope you had a good break as well. 
 
My holiday was absolutely awesome. I have recommended to all the people I have spoken to that it is one holiday that has to be done. 
 
Everything was on track from Durban right through to landing in Livingstone. As soon as we cleared security, I saw my name on a board 'Psillos x 2'. A Very friendly driver told us to wait in the shade while he went to go get the bus because it had been parked a bit of a distance away. 
 
While enroute in a very comfortable air conditioned bus (definite bonus), we got a bit of a tour from the driver explaining a few of the places we were driving through. 
 
When we arrived at the waterfront we went straight to the bar before even checking in. The beers were cold:-) The check in went swiftly and we had the keys to the room in no time at all. The room was as I expected. I really wasn't expecting any luxuries. I knew this when I asked you to book it, but I had friends staying there and I wanted to be together. Besides there was very minimal time spent in the room, between closing the bar every night and throwing ourselves off everything we could there wasn't much time for sleep, hence the relaxing week I spent in the Berg when I got back. 
 
The country itself is beautiful. As to be expected there is a lot of poverty as well. The roads are probably some of the worst I have travelled on. When driving to certain places we found travelling next to the road was a bit less bumpy then the roads themselves. There are potholes the size of craters.  
The locals have pretty much killed all the wildlife in the area. There were no buck seen and even vervet monkeys were scarce. There were however a few baboons roaming around. We did see an elephant on the side of the road while driving, which was quite a nice surprise, and we did fly over a herd of buffalo in a helicopter that was around 100 strong. 
The sunsets over the Zambezi were amazing and a sunset booze cruise is a definite must for anyone travelling there. We saw quite a few hippos and 2 crocodiles while booze cruising. 
 
We had so many things to do that we actually ran out of time.  
 
I thoroughly enjoyed my holiday and I have a million pictures and a few DVD's to prove it. 
 
I have used you guys in the past and once again I haven't been disappointed.  
 
Thanks very much 
 
Anthony
Written by Andiswa

Vic Falls Holiday

Hi Melinda 
 
I would like to thank you for the service you and your collegues provided, from booking flights, accommodation and activities. The trip was very good - even the flight being late departing Johannesburg worked to our favour. It was a nice suprise to us all to find that the package included dinner. This meant more money to shop!  
 
The Ground Handler - Victor - was very good to us. He ensured all our activities were confirmed and we were happy with the times. He took us to Bulawayo. This was a very nice experience and so different for the closed life of Victoria Falls. 
 
The negatives: 
- shopping at the market put us off because you are not given the time to browse as people keep telling you they will give you a god price for this and that! I know this is how its done in most African countries in the market but it still feels like harassment and hence we did not buy anything at the market which was a pitty as they had really good things but there was no space to properly shop as the idea was not to buy what is cheap but what you wanted. This was a shared feeling by a group of Americans who were looking to buy craft but felt too harassed at the market at the end they did not buy. 
- an entry fee for more than a day for the falls would be nice instead of the $20 each time you wanna go in. Something like a 3 day pass or 5 day pass which works out cheaper than $20 each day. 
 
Oh the people were friendly, reminded of how it use dto be like growing up in the villages where you greeted a stranger as if they were family :-) 
 
The bags we received from Africanencounters were very handy indeed! 
 
Thank you so much, I will definetely use you again to plan the next African trip.
Written by Kelly

Miss

Hi Candis; 
 
May I just say that I love dealing with African Encounters! I feel as an agent that everything is always looked after so well and I dont have to worry that something hasnt been booked properly because you are all so efficient. 
 
I just called my clients, they had a wonderful trip they thought the hotel was fantastic. All the staff from their transfer drivers to the hotel staff were friendly and professional. 
 
Thanks for everything. 
 
Kind regards 
 
Kelly

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