Our Africa trip started in Chobe park, Botswana and from there we tranferred to the town of Livingstone, Zambia. The transfer involved one vehicle from Kisane airport to the Zambezi River. From there we took a boat across the river where four countries meet; Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. After passing through border control and paying for a Zambian visa, we traveled just over an hour in a second vehicle to Livingstone. I’m sure that it would have been fairly straightforward to arrange this transfer on our own, but I was glad that we had pre-booked everything and that we didn’t have to worry about figuring things out for ourselves, especially at the hectic and busy border crossing.
In Livingstone, we stayed at the huge, modern Zambezi Sun, the closest hotel to Victoria Falls. It was a lovely complex with multiple restaurants and bars, a large pool and acres of green lawns. It felt a bit sterile and removed from the reality outside the gates, but it was a nice change between our busy days on safari. The biggest selling point for the hotel was it’s proximity to the falls. Guests enjoyed unlimited access to the falls, and the Zambezi Sun and it’s sister hotel, the Royal Livingstone, were actually the only hotels within walking distance of the falls; all the other options were in the town of Livingstone, ten km away. The two hotels are within a wildlife preserve, and have monkeys, zebras, impala and even giraffes wandering the grounds. There’s nothing quite like opening your curtains in the morning to find a group of wild zebras grazing right outside your window!
The falls themselves were amazing, stretching for almost two km, with the Zambia/Zimbabwe border running down the middle. The spray from the falls can be seen for miles, and to get close you had to be willing to get wet. The spray up close ranged from gentle mist to heavy downpour, depending on how the winds were blowing. There was almost always a rainbow in view, but the angles changed continuously depending on the position of the sun.
In order to see the entire falls, you have to go to the Zimbabwean side, which was a bit of a challenge. There is a rail bridge you can easily cross to get to the border, but in order to walk to the viewing area you need to purchase a visa at the border. You also need to get the more expensive multiple entry visa for Zambia if you want to get back across afterwards. It seemed like a huge expense just for the view. But then I did some math and realized that we could do the helicopter flight over the falls for about the same cost as crossing over to Zimbabwe. It seemed like a no-brainer to me. See the falls from the air for the same price as walking to the viewing point in Zimbabwe? Why not?
The flight was short, but was one of the highlights of the trip. Getting randomly assigned to the front seat of the helicopter was icing on the cake!
We loved our time in Zambia and have already decided that we’ll be back with the kids some day. The area had some challenges, but felt safe overall and the amenities of the hotels near the falls were excellent. It is in a malarial area and you need either a yellow fever vaccination or a yellow fever waiver from a doctor in order to return from Zambia through South Africa, which is something that could be an issue for families, especially those with very young children. But once you get there, you realize it’s well worth the challenges.