Victoria Falls used to be an incredibly popular self-drive destination for South Africans. The drive was an easy one with good roads, and of course the gorgeous falls and surrounds were on the other end. That changed over the years sadly, with Zim spiralling into tourism decline as politics got in the way.
When I visited in 2009 however, it was still apparent how beautiful this country is and it’s sad to think that people don’t visit as much anymore other than just to get see the Victoria Falls. A lot of people even opt to rather visit from the Zambian side, bypassing the country altogether.
I was extremely lucky to get the chance to view the town of Victoria Falls as well as the falls itself from the air in a helicopter. Arriving at the helipad, there was a small group of people waiting to go up as well as plenty of info about the area and what we could expect to see pinned up in the office. We were weighed, signed an indemnity form and popped inside the heli!
My first impression was how much open land there was surrounding the town. Grand hotels were dotted along the Zambezi, but there was so much space in between. It showed how protected the surrounding land actually was and also a relief that it was still being looked after rather than falling to wasteland. We saw plenty of bokkies running around, but didn’t spot any of the Big 5 while we were in the air.
The pilot pointed out several ‘landmarks’, mostly well-known hotels along the river, and then began his approach to Vic Falls itself. You don’t really understand the sheer magnitude and size of the Falls until you’ve seen it from the air. We had spent the previous day walking along the cliffs that edge the waterfall and tributaries, but it’s unbelievable that this massive natural wonder straddles two countries and gives no perception of how large it is from the ground. The bridge between Zimbabwe and Zambia slinking over the river is another wonder in itself really.
When I visited, it was August, meaning that the falls weren’t in full flood like they would’ve been had we visited in February to May. We were just ahead of the dry season and it was still an incredible sight. I can only begin to imagine what it must look like spitting out mist and water just after the rainy season here. We circled the falls a few times before heading back for a low swoop over the Zambezi and towards the helipad.
If you can afford the flight, or even if you need to skimp on something else to do this, I really would recommend you do. It’s a great way to get some awesome pics and also get a better sense of Vic Falls while you do. Also, it’s a story to tell years later…