Travel in Zambia and Zimbabwe: Microlight Flight over Victoria Falls

Victoria Falls is a massive waterfall, which borders both Zambia and Zimbabwe.

17103739_1595434533817545_1512181410152250994_nIt is the only waterfall listed as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, and based on volume, it is the largest curtain of falling water on Earth. 😮16729070_1595430397151292_9101510809260951262_nOver 500 million liters of water pour over the falls every minute, which creates a thunderous roar as the water crashes down, and a misty haze that fills the air.

20170301_130328For its misty haze and thunderous roar, the locals have nicknamed the falls, Mosi-oa-Tunya, or ‘The Smoke that Thunders.’

The real name, on the other hand, was given to it by famous British missionary, Dr. Livingstone, in honor of his queen, Victoria.  20170301_125656When touring Victoria Falls (30 USD), visitors walk a path alongside the rushing water, where the thick mist literally saturates your clothing. Our group brought no more than a waterproof GoPro for photos, and some were smart enough to wear their swimsuits.fallsThe visit gives you a feeling for the true power of these falls,  and the reward of many stunning vantage points with glorious rainbows.16865020_1592863457407986_5401131404991838834_nNow aside from walking next to the waterfall, Victoria Falls is also a top destination for adrenaline junkies. Geographically it rests along the mighty Zambezi River, home to a collection of Class V rapids, making it a top spot for whitewater rafting. 20170301_125532Millions of years of rock erosion have also carved seven dramatic gorges that snake behind the waterfall, making it the perfect spot for other extreme sports, like bungee jumping. 20170301_130901After reviewing my options, I decided I wanted the best view of this massive marvel, so I chose to do a microlight flight over Victoria Falls. 😀G0010766 - Edited

Microlight Flight over Victoria Falls
A microlight plane is a lightweight, two-seat, fixed-wing aircraft, capable of flying at low speeds. G0010719 - EditedThe only operator, Batoka Sky, located in Zambia, offers both 15-minute and 30-minute scenic flights of Victoria Falls and the surrounding landscape.batoka
Now since March is the rainy season, many microlight flights have been cancelled, making this flight booking quite risky. rain-rain-go-away-copyYou would’t lose out on money if your flight is cancelled; however, you will lose money if you cross into Zambia (20 USD day visa + 30 USD re-entry in Zimbabwe) and the weather takes a turn for the worse. For this reason, I was the only one in my group to take a chance and sign up. 😮
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some risks are worth taking 🙂
On the day of my flight I walked over to Victoria Falls from my hostel. The company was to pick me up at the Zimbabwe border, and transfer me into Zambia. As I made my way to the border,  the blue skies started to turn gray, and rain began to trickle down.  I started to get nervous about a cancellation, and as I waited at the fence of the border with a warthog, I was sure the flight would be cancelled.
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waiting with a warthog 😛
When the driver arrived; however, he told me that, for now, we were OK to fly. I hopped into the car with Dennis, the driver, from Batoka Sky. The van was comfy and air conditioned, and as we made our way to the company’s landing strip, an African elephant walked by our van. He said that was a sign of good luck. 😀
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my good luck charm 😉
Sure enough, when we arrived at their office, the blue skies were out again, and my worry turned into excitement. I was actually going to fly. After filling out necessary forms, and going through a short safety briefing I waited for them to bring the plane from the hanger. After around 10 minutes my plane made its way to the landing strip and I paired up with my pilot named Grant. The ground crew strapped me into the plane, and gave me a helmet with a microphone,  so that Grant and I could communicate throughout the flight.
G0010705 - EditedThey also attached a mounted GoPro camera to the wing, which took pictures every ten seconds. I chose the photos; however, there is also the option of a video. You’re not allowed to bring your own camera on board for safety reasons. They wouldn’t want anything loose flying into the engine. I wasn’t even allowed to wear my sandals. G0010704Anyway,  Grant steered us to the landing strip and soon we were on our way. G0010718 - EditedIt was a smooth take off, and as we approached the falls, the whole experience began to feel totally surreal.G0010737 - Edited (1)We first flew to the falls on the Zambian side, then crossed over into Zimbabwe. G0010762 - EditedAfterwards we dropped down closer to the falls, where we had breathtaking views of the boundless gorge and winding waterway.G0010746 - EditedOn the way back from the falls Grant spotted out local wildlife.  G0010780 - EditedWe saw impala and Chobe bushbuck standing around a local golfcourse, plus two hippos and a crocodile on the Zambezi River.G0010785 - Edited
For the entire 15-minute flight I was just in awe of the scenery. 😍
G0010775 - EditedThe combination of terrain was absolutely extraordinary, with the lush greens of the vegetation set against the deep blues of the sky, and the powerful falls emitting a heavy mist next to the drama of the plunging gorge. At one point, we even saw a rainbow. 🙂
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rainbow behind our aircraft
Before I knew it, my time was up, and we had safely returned to steady ground.G0010807 - Edited
Overall this was one of the best ways to view Victoria Falls, and should be added to everyone’s bucket list.  😀G0010745 - Edited (1)
Cost: 185 USD + 20 USD for photos
Now Victoria Falls itself is a very commercialized town.20170303_192931The main drag is full of souvenir shops, and our hostel, Shoestring Backpackers, even had a fire and drum show for us one evening. Their economy very much thrives on tourism.20170301_202009
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our group banging on the bongos
Side note on the economy and currency in Zimbabwe: 
One surprising thing you’ll notice in Zimbabwe is that they operate in US dollars. This is because, in 2009, they had an economic crisis which rendered their local currency, the Zimbabwe dollar, worthless. At one point, in an impressive display of hyperinflation, the country’s exchange rate was 23 trillion Zimbabwe dollars to 1 US dollar! 😮
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Zimbabwe’s old currency printed during their period of hyperinflation (denominations up to 1 trillion dollars) 😮
For this reason they dissolved their own currency, and now operate using USD, among other foreign notes. The only catch is that they can’t print their own USD, and have recirculated the same American bills for the past eight years. This makes for some very dirty dollars. Yuck!
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Caution: Apply one bottle of hand sanitizer after touching! 😮
To combat this problem, in the past year, they have started producing bond notes with an exchange rate equal to the dollar. This funny money; however, won’t be accepted elsewhere, so use it while in-country.
bond-noteNow Victoria Falls is also be the place where we lost two people from our truck, one of them being my tent mate. She only signed up for the 52-day tour and would be flying back to Australia. 😦girls
As a send off to her and another guy from New Zealand, we went out for dinner at Three Monkeys Restaurant, which had American fare like burgers and fries, and also had drinks at a local cafe.
20170303_183621
half priced piña coladas

Anyway, from Victoria Falls we made our way into Botswana, where we would be enjoying water views of various tributaries in the Okavango Delta. Stay tuned to hear all about it. Until then. 🙂

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7 thoughts on “Travel in Zambia and Zimbabwe: Microlight Flight over Victoria Falls

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