We just returned from our second trip to the famous Victoria Falls which is formed as the Zambezi River drops into the gorge that separates Zambia and Zimbabwe. During our January visit, we did several short hikes on the Zambia side and swam out to Devil’s Pool at the top of the falls next to Livingstone Island. Now that it is near the end of the rainy season, the water volume is much greater, and the roar of the falls and the spray is even more impressive. After a couple of days relaxing in Livingstone, we met our friends Christine and Mike on the Zimbabwe side. We had a great time hearing about the start of their trip in South Africa touring some private game reserves near Kruger National Park. The next day, we took a walking tour of the Zimbabwe side of Victoria Falls where we got soaked from mist and the localized rainfall caused by the falls themselves.
We then took a helicopter tour over the falls themselves which was a great way to really appreciate their scope.
Both Zambia and Zimbabwe have protected much of the land near Victoria Falls from development and numerous animal and bird species are thriving including kudu, zebra, giraffes and elephants.
The town of Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe is within walking distance of the falls themselves. It is a compact little tourist town, the English language skills of the residents are great, and the national currency of Zimbabwe is the USD so it is very easy to figure out the prices. Overall it did seem more expensive than the town of Livingstone in Zambia, but we found a great deal on lodging and camped at Shoestrings Backpackers for US$8 per person per night.
Besides the expense, the only negative to the town is the number of very persistent vendors who try to sell tourists the old valueless Zimbabwe currency with bills printed in the billions of dollars from the time when hyperinflation occurred in the country. In July 2008, inflation was estimated at 231,150,888.87% and it got worse from there. Here is a short Economist article on the changeover to the USD.
Our friends also booked a visit to a nearby village which we probably wouldn’t have thought to do, but it was a very educational experience to see the differences between Kavango and Zimbabwe rural life.
The village headman, Mpisi (meaning Hyena) is a very charismatic and energetic person who explained his role as village consensus builder and took us on a tour of his homestead.
When Mpisi found out Lisa was a teacher, he told us that his daughter was also named Lisa and is a teacher at the local village school. He introduced us to her and then she took over the rest of the tour. The two Lisas discussed their schools and challenges, and it was a great experience for both to learn firsthand about education in another Southern African country.