Victoria Falls River Boat Cruises

Victoria Falls is famous for its sunset booze cruises and this is a “must do” experience. But you don't have to be an alcohol drinker to enjoy the experience of being on Southern Africa's largest river.

There are a variety of operators offering cruises from both the Zimbabwean and Zambian sides of the Zambezi River. The sunset cruises are a fine way to enjoy the beautiful vegetation lining the Zambezi as well as limited game viewing and lots of birding.

You are certain to see hippo and crocs and possibly elephant during the excursions, which last about two hours on average. During the dry season, elephants often swim to the islands to feed and there are a couple of pachyderms that have taken up full-time residence on the island of Kalunda opposite the jetty on the Zimbabwean side of the river. Generally, tour operators arrange for you to be picked up from the hotel, lodge or B&B, and driven to one of the many launch sites along the western bank of the Zambezi.From the Zimbabwe side, the ride out to the boarding points varies depending on where you are staying and how many pick-ups the drivers have to make, but generally the wait is not more than 10 to 15 minutes. From the Zambian side, boats tend to depart from hotel docks.

Zambezi River Sunset Cruise

Zambezi sunset cruises vary in boat size - from essentially private boats that take 8 to 10 people to large party boats that can take 120 or more. When booking, ask the name of the boat and its size if you have a specific group size in mind or want a larger or smaller boat experience.

Also, some boats are more luxurious than others - although some of the older, more rustic boats have their own charm. The experience varies tremendously according to the number of people and who you are sharing the sundowner cruise with, and every boat has its own unique character.The cruise begins with a safety briefing shortly after launching and then, typically, journeys up river towards the Zambezi National Park. There are plenty of crocodiles and hippos to be seen and the bird life is quite spectacular. Watch for elephants along the banks or, if you are extremely lucky, elephants swimming or snorkelling across the river.The boats usually turn back down river and continue for several kilometres towards Palm Island - often meandering in and out of the islands and channels. At this point, you can look down river towards the Falls and witness the mist rising from them.These big sunset cruise boats cannot go beyond this point as the river is too swift and there are a number of rocks. Just before sunset, the boats usually turn and head back up river, stopping a kilometre or so before the landing point to catch the last rays of the dying sun.Drinks are typically free and snacks are usually served. Booking a cruise is essential and we recommend - time permitting - doing two cruises in two different sized boats, as each experience is very different.

Experience the Zambezi by River Boat

The Waterfront operates two cruise vessels - the "MV Makumbi" and the "Jambesi". Both vessels are suitable for private functions and can be booked on an exclusive basis on request. The cruise is along the river boundary of the Mosi Oa Tunya National Park, around Siloka Island and back to the Waterfront jetty. The total cruise time is approximately 3 hours. Sunset cruises arrive back after sunset.From the boats, sightings of Elephant, Giraffe and even Rhino coming down to the river to drink are common. There are also abundant Hippos, Crocodiles and birdlife. All cruises have a complimentary bar and serve freshly baked snacks. An experienced guide accompanies each cruise and had good knowledge on the wildlife and local history of the area.

Look Out For Hippos

Hippos reportedly account for more human deaths in Africa than any other mammal. This is because of their instinctive territorial aggression rather than specifically anti-human behaviour. There have been recorded incidents of hippo males being killed by other hippos in a battle over territory. Hippos spend most of their days in the water and their nights grazing up to several kilometres away from water.

Their well-worn feeding paths are used by humans and the meeting of the two often results in human tragedy. The hippo "yawn", in which it appears to be yawning, is actually a sign of aggression, literally baring the fangs. A distant relative of the zebra and rhino, the hippopotamus is generally a vegetarian but has been known to steal meat from crocodiles.

Brett Hilton-Barber and Lee R. Berger. Copyright © 2010 Prime Origins.

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