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Helicopter flight over Victoria Falls

A helicopter trip is the best way of viewing the Victoria Falls. When viewing the falls by foot there is simply too much spray and rain (both from above and below) and clouds to get a clear view, and you cant see its enormity all at once. Microlight plane sounds ideal, but you are not allowed to take a camera up with you.


27 March 2012. The Zambezi Helicopter Company installs bubble-shaped windows into 3 of its helicopters, creating extra shoulder space.

Zambezi Helicopters

You can organise a helicopter flight with Zambezi Helicopters over the Victoria Falls (there is another company offering microlight and helicopter flights on the Zambian side). The helicopters are still branded "Shearwater", because of the fact that it used to be part of the Shearwater company (the owner of Shearwater unbundled the helicopter part of the operation and sold part of it). To make bookings it's easiest to work through Shearwater. They'll arrange to have you picked up from your hotel.

Zambezi helicopters landing with a warthog in the foreground

The helicopter we went on had a window through which we could point our cameras to take unobstructed photos. Zambezi Helicopters had somebody running around taking photographs of us, and for US$15 they were willing to write it to a CD.

view through a helicopter window of Victoria Falls

Elephant Hills Hotel

One of the first things we saw after taking off in the helicopter was the Elephant Hills Hotel.

Elephant Hills Lodge at Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

And here's the famous Elephant Hills Golf Club (watch out for the wildlife if you do decide to play).

Elephant Hills Hotel at Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

Princess Christian Island

At the bottom-left of the following photo is Princess Christian Island, just above which is Princess Victoria Island. Princess Christian of Schleswig Holstein was a grand-daughter of Queen Victoria (after whom the Victoria Falls were named) who visited the falls and stayed at the Victoria Falls Hotel.

Princess Christian Island at the Victoria Falls

Princess Victoria Island

On the left of this photo, in the middle of the Zambesi River, is Princess Victoria Island (I imagine this is named after Queen Victoria's mother, the Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld).

Princess Victoria Island at Victoria Falls

Cataract Island & Devil's Cataract

At the bottom of this photo is the Rainforest and just above it (on the crest of the Falls) is Cataract Island (also known as Boaruka Island). Even when the Zambesi River is at full flow, Cataract Island is big enough to divide the falls. The stream on the far left is known as Devil's Cataract (called Leaping Water by some) and contains the lowest lip of the falls. This is therefore a possibility for where the next major gorge will be cut. However, the falls have also started cutting back in the middle of Cataract Island in an east-northeast line of weakness across the Zambesi (this cleft does not usually carry a lot of water, except when the river is in flood, which is also when its erosive powers are at its greatest). It is possible that over time the cleft in the middle of Cataract Island will erode faster and capture more of the flow than the Devil's Cataract.

Cataract Island at Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

When visiting the Victoria Falls on the ground via the Rainforest, the Devil's Cataract is the easiest part of the falls to view (the remainder of the falls is often obscured by the mist that forms). In the following photo you can see Cataract Island from upstream (in the top-right of this photo you can see the Victoria Falls Hotel and The Kingdom Hotel).

Devils Cataract at Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

Livingstone Island

Livingstone Island is situated in the middle of the crest of the Victoria Falls and is named after David Livingstone, who visited the island on the 16th of November 1855 with help of the local tribesmen [the Kololo under Chief Sekeletu] using dugout canoes. Depending on the water levels of the falls, it is possible to visit Livingstone Island (approximately from August to November) - a 10m boat ride from the Royal Livingstone Hotel. Livingstone Island is a popular wedding venue, perched against the breathtaking backdrop of the falls (numbers limited to 20).

Livingstone Island at the Victoria Falls

Here's a photo of the Livingstone Island from the southern end (on right). To the left of the island are the main falls.

Livingstone Island in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

Victoria Falls Bridge

The dream of Cecil John Rhodes to build the bridge so that there was "spray of the falls over the train carriages", was realised after his death when the Victoria Falls Bridge was completed in 1905 (Rhodes never visited the falls). Another stunning view of the Victoria Falls Bridge is from the gardens of the Victoria Falls Hotel. The Victoria Falls Bridge is one of only 3 bridges linking Zimbabwe with Zambia, and is the only railway bridge linking the countries.

Victoria Fall Railway Bridge linking Zambia & Zimbabwe

Victoria Falls Rainforest

At the bottom-left of this photo we can see the entrance to the rainforest at Victoria Falls, and to the right of it the Zimbabwean border control post into Zambia.

rainforest at Victoria Falls


Rainbows are common at Victoria Falls, even from the skies. And if you come on a clear night at full moon, you may even be lucky enough to see a moonbow.

rainbow at Victoria Falls

Zambezi Sun

The Zambezi Sun is the closest hotel to the Victoria Falls on the Zambian (eastern) side. To the right of the Zambezi Sun you can see the end of the Royal Livingstone Hotel.

Zambezi Sun at the Victoria Falls (Zambian side)

The Kingdom Hotel

On the top left of the photo we can see the end of the Victoria Falls Hotel, and below it is the Kingdom Hotel & Casino. At the bottom-right of the Kingdom Hotel is Ilala Lodge. Note the railway line above The Kingdom Hotel. Towards the top-right just above the railway line is a lovely restaurant we ate at, called Mama Africa (vegetarians are reasonably well catered for - try the haloumi cheese starter).

The Kingdom Hotel at Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

Victoria Falls hydropower station

The Victoria Falls hydropower station is situated within the UNESCO World Heritage Site next to the Zambezi falls, and is owned and operated by the Zambia Electricity Supply Corporation (ZESCO). The power station was built in 1938, but had units added in 1969 and 1972 (the station can provide 108 MW).

Victoria Falls hydropower station in Zambia

Border control

On each side of the Victoria Falls Bridge are border control posts - on the far right of this photo you can see the Zambian border control post.

Zambian border control post at the Victoria Falls

Victoria Falls town, Zimbabwe

An aerial view of Victoria Falls town in Zimbabwe. To the left of the railway line from top to bottom are the Victoria Falls Hotel, The Kingdom Hotel and the Ilala Lodge. The actual falls is further to the bottom-left of this photo.

Victoria Falls town in Zimbabwe

Victoria Falls gorges

Victoria Falls consists of a series of gorges which the river has carved out over the ages (each representing a past waterfall). The First Gorge is the one where the waterfalls are at the moment, and the Second Gorge is the one straddled by the Victoria Falls Railway Bridge. The Third Gorge has at its end the Victoria Falls Hydropower Station.

gorgest at Victoria Falls

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