Welcome to the majestic Zambezi River, where breathtaking natural beauty and thrilling adventures await! If you find yourself in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, a Zambezi River cruise is a must-do. This awe-inspiring river, known as the lifeblood of the region, provides a picturesque backdrop as it flows through the heart of Southern Africa, offering an unparalleled opportunity to immerse yourself in its beautiful surroundings.
In this guide, we’ll take you on a virtual journey through the tips and tricks for making the most of your Zambezi River cruise in Victoria Falls. Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, an adventure seeker, or simply looking for a serene escape, this guide will provide you with valuable insights to enhance your experience.
Here are 7 tips for taking a Victoria Falls boat cruise on the Zambezi River and beyond.
Get to Know the Zambezi River
Before diving into these tips on taking a Zambezi cruise safari, let’s look at the river itself and why it is so important to the region and Africa as a whole.
The Zambezi River is one of Africa’s most iconic and spectacular waterways, flowing through six countries in Southern Africa: Zambia, Angola, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique. With a length of approximately 2,574 kilometres (1,599 miles), it is the fourth-longest river in Africa.
The river begins its journey in the northwest corner of Zambia, where it emerges from a marshy area called the Zambezi Marshlands. It then meanders eastward, forming the border between Zambia and Namibia for a short distance before entering Angola. In Angola, it takes a southward turn, forming the border between Namibia and Angola, and eventually flows back into Zambia.
As you embark on your Zambezi River cruise, you’ll witness the raw power and grandeur of the world-famous Victoria Falls, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.
The Zambezi River, with its impressive cascades, creates a thundering spectacle as it plunges into the Batoka Gorge, enveloping the area in mist and creating a mesmerizing rainbow. The sheer magnitude of this natural wonder is an awe-inspiring sight that will leave you in awe.
In addition to its natural wonders, the Zambezi River has played a significant role in the lives of the people living in the region. It serves as a vital water source for agriculture, supports local communities with fishing opportunities, and offers tourism opportunities, including Victoria Falls river cruises, Zambezi cruise safaris, and canoe safaris.
The Zambezi River’s beauty, power, and ecological importance make it a captivating destination for nature lovers, adventure enthusiasts, and those seeking a unique African experience.
Whether you choose to explore its waters by boat, witness the awe-inspiring Victoria Falls, or simply relax on its banks and take in the breathtaking scenery, the Zambezi River promises an unforgettable journey through one of Africa’s most remarkable natural wonders.
So, get ready to embark on an unforgettable journey along the Zambezi River, where every twist and turn promises a new discovery. Let us be your virtual guide as we navigate through the tips and insights for a remarkable Zambezi River cruise in Victoria Falls.Find the best Victoria Falls hotel rates with Booking.com
Tips for Taking a Victoria Falls River Cruise
1) Take a Zambezi Cruise Safari In the Dry Season
The best time of year to take a Zambezi River cruise is generally during the dry season, which typically runs from May to October. During this period, the river’s water levels are lower, allowing for better visibility of wildlife along the banks and in the river itself.
The dry season also offers more stable weather conditions with less rainfall, making it a comfortable and enjoyable time to be on the water.
Additionally, during the dry season, the Zambezi River is less likely to experience heavy flow, resulting in calmer waters for a smoother and more tranquil cruise experience. The reduced water levels may also expose sandbanks and islands, providing opportunities for closer wildlife encounters and bird watching.
It’s important to note that the exact timing can vary slightly from year to year, and it’s always recommended to check local weather and river conditions before planning your cruise. If you’re interested in specific wildlife sightings, such as migratory bird species or certain animal behaviours, it’s advisable to research their seasonal patterns to align your visit accordingly.
That being said, it’s worth mentioning that the Zambezi River can be a captivating destination year-round, and each season has its unique charm.
I took a Victoria Falls boat cruise during the wet season (November to April) which has higher water levels and lush greenery and enjoyed the experience. On top of that, the falls were in full force which was a mindblowing sight.
2) Pick the Victoria Falls River Cruise That’s For You
The Zambezi River offers a variety of cruise experiences throughout the day, catering to different preferences and occasions. Here are the different types of Zambezi River cruises based on specific timings:
Sunrise cruises are a wonderful way to start your day on the Zambezi River. These cruises usually depart early in the morning, allowing you to witness the tranquil beauty of the river as the sun rises. It’s a peaceful and serene experience, perfect for nature enthusiasts and those looking to capture the soft morning light and the river’s awakening wildlife.
Lunch cruises provide a delightful midday experience on the Zambezi River. These cruises often depart around midday, offering a leisurely and scenic journey while enjoying a delicious meal onboard. You can enjoy the flavours of local cuisine, soak up the views, and perhaps even spot wildlife along the riverbanks during this relaxing cruise.
Dinner cruises on the Zambezi River are an enchanting and romantic experience. These cruises typically depart in the early evening, allowing you to enjoy a stunning sunset and the transition into a starry night sky. Enjoy dinner accompanied by music and a soothing ambience, you can revel in the beauty of the river and create lasting memories.
That said, dinner cruises are offered on larger boats which makes for a less intimate and peaceful experience.
Sunset cruises are among the most popular types of Zambezi River cruises. Departing in the late afternoon, these cruises provide a magical experience as you witness the breathtaking colours of the setting sun reflecting off the water.
It’s a serene and captivating journey that allows you to unwind, enjoy the scenery, and observe the wildlife that congregates near the river at this time.
Each of these cruises offers a unique perspective and ambience, allowing you to connect with the Zambezi River in different ways. Whether you prefer the serenity of a sunrise, the indulgence of a meal, the romance of an evening, or the awe-inspiring beauty of a sunset, there is a Zambezi River cruise tailored to suit your needs.
3) Take a Zambezi River Cruise that Includes Snacks
If you aren’t taking a dinner cruise, be sure to select a Zambezi River cruise that includes snacks. You will be out on the river for a couple of hours in the heat and may get hungry. Most operators include drinks so it’s also a good idea to have something in your stomach.
I took a Ra-Ikane river tour which included a small bar paired with excellent bar snacks.
4) Take a Ra-Ikane Sunset Cruise in Victoria Falls
Although you can take a Victoria Falls boat cruise in the morning or for lunch, departing early evening offers the best overall experience. Taking a Ra-Ikane sunset cruise in Victoria Falls offers the most intimate and relaxing experience.
A sunset cruise in Victoria Falls offers a truly magical and memorable experience. Animals are more active during this time so you can witness a vibrant array of wildlife. This includes elephants, hippos, and various bird species, as they come to the riverbanks. The opportunity to observe these majestic creatures against the backdrop of a stunning sunset is truly remarkable.
A Ra-Ikane Zambezi River cruise offers an exceptional and immersive experience. With small, luxurious boats and silent electric-powered operation, the intimate setting allows for a personalized journey without disturbing wildlife. Up-close encounters with animals create memorable wildlife interactions.
Knowledgeable guides provide insightful commentary, enriching your understanding of the ecosystem. The scenic beauty, especially during sunset, offers breathtaking views and culinary delights add to the indulgence of the experience, showcasing local flavours.
Whether you’re seeking a romantic experience or simply want to create lasting memories, the idyllic setting, gentle boat sway, and breathtaking views make it the perfect choice. With opportunities for photography, you can capture the changing colours of the sky, silhouettes of wildlife, and the cascading water, ensuring that the beauty of the experience stays with you long after the cruise ends.
5) Bring Sunscreen
That said, a sunset cruise in Victoria Falls can be very hot. Until the sun dips low enough, the cover in your boat may not be enough to keep you out of the rays. I got roasted on our Victoria Falls boat cruise and spent most of the ride rotating seats.
If your Victoria Falls sunset cruise is busy, you may not have this option. Best to bring sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat that can also cover your neck.
6) Don’t Forget Your Camera
Taking a Victoria Falls river cruise gets you the unique opportunity to see wildlife from the water. In a sense, it is very much a Zambezi cruise safari. As such, don’t forget your camera!
Having a good quality camera and zoom lens is recommended as you won’t get as close to some of the animals as you would on a traditional safari. That said, a good cell phone camera works in a pinch.
On my Zambezi cruise safari, I saw plenty of hippos coming up for air as well as a pair getting out of the water for an evening stroll. We also saw plenty of crocodiles, colourful birds, and antelope.
7) Take a Chobe River Safari
To increase your chances of seeing animals from the water, I highly recommend taking a Chobe River safari from Victoria Falls.
The Chobe River flows through Botswana and forms part of the Botswana-Namibia border. It’s a tributary of the Zambezi River and is renowned for its exceptional wildlife viewing opportunities.
During the dry season, the river attracts a diverse range of animals, including herds of elephants, buffalo, zebras, giraffes, and various antelope species. A Chobe River safari offers a chance to get up close to the wildlife and explore the picturesque landscapes.
The Chobe River also provides a habitat for a rich variety of bird species, making it a haven for birdwatching enthusiasts.
The full-day Chobe River tour starts early AM with pickup from your Victoria Falls hotel and includes transport across the border and then to your boat. It is a full-day outing, getting you back to Victoria Falls late afternoon.
This tour gets you the best of both worlds combining a Victoria Falls river cruise with a chance of seeing a wider range of wildlife.
Best Place to Stay in Victoria Falls to Enjoy a Zambezi River Cruise
After my Rovos Rail journey to Victoria Falls, I stayed at the amazing Palm River Hotel. On top of it being a top-notch lodge with an amazing restaurant, they operate a Zambezi cruise safari company from their front lawn! This made taking a Victoria Falls river cruise super convenient and helped me maximize my short visit to Zimbabwe.Book a tour of Newgrange with a local guide!
A Victoria Falls River Cruise is a Must-Do
Taking a Zambezi River cruise in Victoria Falls is an experience that should not be missed. To make the most of your adventure, remember to choose the right type of cruise that aligns with your preferences, whether it’s a sunrise, lunch, dinner, or sunset cruise.
If you want to make the most of your time on the water, you book a Ra-Ikane for an intimate and luxurious experience.
Take advantage of knowledgeable guides who can enhance your understanding of wildlife and the ecosystem and don’t forget your camera to capture the stunning scenery, wildlife encounters, and breathtaking sunsets. Taking a sunset cruise in Victoria Falls was a highlight for me and hope you make the most of your visit with these tips!