48 Hours in Victoria Falls

Helicopter over Victoria Falls

I spent less than 48 hours in Victoria Falls, but I managed to squeeze a lot in to that 48 hours! Arriving on a Saturday afternoon to the Victoria Falls airport on the Zimbabwe side of the Falls, I waited an annoyingly long time for my airport shuttle to whisk me away to my hotel, the Ilala Lodge.

I picked Ilala for a few reasons, the most important of which being it was just a short walk from the entrance to the Falls (from what I can tell, overall that is a plus to staying in Victoria Falls instead of in Livingstone on the Zambia side).  I also found a good deal on Hotels.com and had a coupon, so that helped too! Ilala also made it possible for me to book several activities in advance, which I really appreciated given how little time I would be there.

Although I arrived around noon, it was close to 2:30 p.m. by the time I made it to my room – just enough time for a quick nap and even quicker shower before departing for a sunset cruise on the Zambezi River. Despite some jetlag, the cruise was a great start to the trip. It was on a small houseboat with just me, two couples and two women with a couple adorable kids. Our choice of adult beverage and a selection of light snacks was included. It was cloudy, so there wasn’t much of a sunset, but we floated leisurely past a group of hippos and even got close to an elephant munching away on grass on the side of the river. My first elephant in the wild!

The next morning, I was up early to head to the Zambezi for a canoe trip. Now, you may have recently read about an American tourist who was attacked by a hippo during her trip to Africa. It just so happens I took my canoe trip on the same river with the same company on this trip back in April 2017.

(Spoiler alert: I was not attacked by a hippo).

Not only was I not attacked by a hippo, I barely even saw any hippos while paddling down the fourth longest river in Africa. But that didn’t make it any less scary. It was raining when we departed for the Zambezi, driving through Zambezi National Park on our way to the launch spot several miles upriver. Before we got into the canoes, we listened to a short safety briefing, grabbed life jackets and packed our valuables away in the jeeps we came in. I kept my iPhone with me in a plastic, waterproof case, but I didn’t want to risk something happening to my DSLR.

The canoes were inflatable and since our group had an odd number, I got to ride in a double canoe with our guide (I was slightly terrified to start with, so I did not want to be in a canoe all by myself!). This was great until he decided to stop and take a bathroom break along the river bank while the rest of the group continued ahead, leaving us far behind and needing to paddle like crazy to catch up! And while the river was mostly calm, we hit what felt like enormous rapids to me (they were probably small rapids to anyone else) and I freaked out, screaming with terror as I was convinced the canoe was going to capsize every time we went over a wave. My guide, however, found this hilarious and just laughed the entire time. After a couple hours on the river, we stopped for a delicious barbecue lunch before driving back through Zambezi National Park to the hotel.

After the canoe trip, I barely had time to shower and warm up before it was time to head out for a helicopter ride over Victoria Falls. I splurged on the 25-minute ride and it was well worth it, flying not just over the falls, but also over the national park, which allowed us to spot dozens of animals from up above! And even on a cloudy day, flying over the Falls was spectacular.

I returned to Ilala Lodge around 5 p.m. and decided to finally venture out on foot to see the town, which took about 15 minutes! On my second lap around, I spotted a barber shop that had a sign for pedicures. In desperate need of some new polish on my toes, I popped my head in to see if they had anyone free to give me a pedicure. Ten minutes later, a twenty-something girl appeared with a bucket of water for me to soak my feet in as she gathered a variety of pedicure tools and a few polish colors for me to choose from. As she did my pedicure, I listened in on the surrounding “barber shop talk,” which included a heated argument about rules and timekeeping in English Premier League football!

I wrapped up my time in Victoria Falls the next morning by finally visiting the Falls themselves. I went around 6:30 a.m., shortly after what would have been the sunrise if it hadn’t, once again, been completely cloudy. I spent about an hour walking along the main path and stopping at several viewpoints for pictures and some video. Because it was late April and the Falls were incredibly full, I wore a poncho and only brought my iPhone, again protected by a waterproof case, prepared to get soaked (I didn’t).

People way more intrepid than I can bungy jump off this bridge!

By mid-morning, I was back at Ilala Lodge, packing my bags and getting ready for my ride to Kasane, across the border in Botswana, where I would continue my trip with a few days in the famous Okavango Delta. While my time in Victoria Falls was rushed, I feel like it was the perfect amount of time with the perfect number of activities. There wasn’t anything I really wanted to do there that I didn’t have time to do. The only thing I would’ve changed was the weather!

1 thought on “48 Hours in Victoria Falls”

  1. Welcome back to blogging! This looks like a great trip. I wish that you had posted it last week so that I could have answered a Jeopardy question correctly – “What river has Victoria Falls?”

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