on October 23, 2012
Victoria Falls has national parks located on both sides of the Zambezi River, in both Zambia and Zimbabwe. Since we were staying in Zambia, we only visited that side of the falls. We had hoped to visit the Zimbabwe side as well, but unfortunately time and an approaching thunderstorm did not permit us to do so. After we returned to the Royal Livingstone Hotel from our tour Livingstone Island, we headed over to the park to view the falls from across the gorge. This small park contains several paved walking trails across the gorge from the falls that parallel the gorge. During the wet season these paths allow for amazing views of the falls stretching out ahead, and put visitors right into the middle of the mist. In the dry season, we were mostly viewing the rocky cliff that the falls flow over, with only several small streams of water flowing. The main falls were visible at the end of the gorge, but because of the way the gorge twists, the most direct views of that portion of the falls year-round is from the Zimbabwe side. Still, the view was impressive, and the walking path and footbridges gave us great views of the gorge and bridge that spans the gorge between the two countries.Victoria Falls National Park is not a very large park, and it takes less than an hour to explore all of the trails along the gorge, view the falls, and take photos. However, despite the park’s small size, it is well worth a visit for the views of the falls and gorge. There are portions of the trails that have very little in the way of railings, allowing for close-in photos that are unobstructed by railings. This is both a good and bad thing – great for photos, but it does require paying careful attention to where one is, since the fall to the rocks and river below is nearly 400 feet. It is definitely not the place where photographers want to walk around looking through their viewfinder.Once we had finished viewing the gorge and falls, we exited the park to visit the small shop and craft stalls that are set up in the parking lot at the park. The shop sells cold bottled water and sodas, which we desperately needed after spending most of the day in the oppressive African sun and humidity. We then took advantage of the craft stalls, purchasing a few small items to take home. The craft vendors do tend to be a bit aggressive in their bargaining, and since we were visiting during the slow season, there were not very many tourists to sell to, so they were quite aggressive with us. They are all very friendly merchants, but the sales experience is a bit high-pressure, as many of the vendors sell essentially the same items. As a result, they are all concerned with being the first to get a customer, and then to complete a sale because they know that if someone walks away, they may buy the same item from another vendor two stalls down. We purchased a couple of small African sculptures carved out of the local rock, as well as a novelty item – a full set of Zimbabwean dollars in denominations of billions and trillions of dollars (Zimbabwe’s devalued currency has become a bit of a souvenir and collector’s item).If we are ever able to make a return trip to Victoria Falls, I would love to time our trip so that it hits during a full moon in the wet season. When the falls are at their peak, the views from the Zambian side are quite spectacular. And, year-round, the park opens on nights where there is a full moon for a nighttime tour of the falls, including views of the moonbows the full moon’s light on the falls generates. Unfortunately we missed the opportunity to visit during a full moon by a week or so.
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