Destination Guides

Victoria Falls opens up

Following a redevelopment to accommodate larger aircraft later this year, will Victoria Falls International Airport be a game-changer for tourism around the Zambezi river at the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe?

Victoria Falls opens up
Image: Robin Pope Safaris

When the Scottish explorer David Livingstone first set eyes on Victoria Falls in 1855 he mused how “scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight”. Now, thanks to a $150m expansion of Victoria Falls International Airport slated for completion in September, many more travellers will be able to behold this thundering wonder of the natural world.

A second runway and new terminal will allow long-haul wide-bodied aircraft to fly direct to this tourist hot-spot on the border of Zimbabwe and Zambia – most international visitors currently route via Johannesburg.

Could this be a game-changer for tourism to southern Africa? “Yes, providing the airlines back it” suggests Chris McIntyre, MD of London-based tour operator Expert Africa. “Flying direct will be easier and cheaper, and September is the best time to visit this area.

Victoria Falls has become famous for its adrenaline activities, such as white-water rafting and bungee-jumping, with the Zimbabwean side arguably the best place to stay if you like to explore independently.

Victoria Falls Hotel

Here the Victoria Falls Hotel, which opened in 1904, comes with polished wooden floors, vintage photos, an Edwardian-style pool and lawns with splendid views to the misty Falls and the mighty railway bridge that stretches across to Zambia.

A joint visa, the Kaza Visa, costing $50 and valid for 30 days, has also been introduced to enable smoother travel between both countries. Zambia has long had a reputation as a destination for the serious safari-goer – game-viewing by foot, rather than sitting in a vehicle, is a specialty. The well-respected Robin Pope Safaris, founded in 1986, now runs seven lodges across the country including the hill-top Stanley Safari Lodge, 3km from the Falls.

Stanley Safari Lodge, a Robin Pope Safaris lodge

Image: Robin Pope Safaris

From here it's just a two-hour drive to Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe's largest game reserve, where in May luxury operator Wilderness Safaris will open Linwakasha Camp, its fourth in the country. At long last, there really could be a pot of gold waiting at the end of the rainbows that famously dance above Victoria Falls.

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