An overgrown kite with a lawnmower motor. That is the essence of the vehicle I trusted to glide me over one of the world’s largest waterfalls, the croc-filled waters that feed it, and the sheer cliff faces that follow it.
like Da Vinci’s flying
machine,” a friend observed.
in Livingstone, Zambia,
home to the mighty Victoria Falls, is for the
serious adrenaline enthusiast.
situation has deteriorated, tourists have increasingly chosen to base their
exploration of the falls across the border in Zambia. And though they may come
for the falls, they are staying for the adventure sports based above, below and
on top of the more than 1,700-metre-wide torrent of water. From gorge swings to microlight
flights, Livingstone has become the new frontier for extreme travellers and nearly
every adventure aims to provide a new perspective on the awe-inspiring
landscape. Here is the wildest of the lot.
It may look
like the aerial daydreams of some Renaissance master, but this motor-powered hang
glider offers, literally, a bird’s eye view of Zambia. Your pilot hurtles the
microlight down a bumpy dirt runway, easing upward over herds of elephants
stomping through the bush, then glides along the Zambezi
River toward the thundering mouth of Victoria Falls. Here you spiral downward, swooping
through rainbows toward the mist, which sprays up as much as 2,600ft into the
air. Then it is back up the river, gliding low to see hippos and crocodiles
lazing along the banks before landing back on solid ground. One word of
warning: because these tiny aircraft are extremely susceptible to wind
currents, weather often causes flight cancellations. Your best bet is to book
during the calmer early morning or late afternoon hours and avoid the rainy
season between December and March. ($122 per person through Bushtracks.
Most tourism companies operate in United States dollars.)
It is hard
to truly wrap your head around the force of nearly 120 million gallons of water
roaring every minute over Victoria Falls. That
is, unless you take a similar plunge yourself. Your first option is a bungee
jump off the bridge connecting Zambia
($75). But you could also bungee jump at almost every carnival, tourist
attraction and park in the world. Instead, we suggest taking a plunge on the
world’s first gorge swing.
You will free-fall 160ft, reaching speeds of more than 100 mph before swooping
outward, swinging and soaring through the gorge. Book a full-day excursion,
which includes breakfast, lunch, drinks and unlimited gorge swings, zip lining,
and rappelling for only $100 (versus $60 for a single gorge swing through Africa Horizons).
Walk the falls
visiting the Zambian side of Victoria Falls is
an extremely wet and wild experience. You can hike the marked paths alone but a
guide ($17 per person through Bushtracks) offers context and a steady hand on
the slick paths. You start at the top of the falls, watching the churning
waters of the Zambezi and the curtain of mist
that gave the falls its Zambian name, Mosi-oa-Tunya,
or the Smoke that Thunders. Then pick your way down the side and along the
gorge facing the falls. The spray gets so thick that you feel like you are in
the middle of a monsoon. Single and double rainbows arc through the deluge, the
sunlight refracting off the ever-present moisture. When the waters are at their
highest, the downpour gives you the sensation of being suspended in the falls
themselves, an unsettling feeling given the violent churning waters thundering below.
above, hiking around and jumping near the falls are one thing. But to truly grasp
their scale, you have to push yourself to the edge, literally. From the end of
August to December, the waters of the Zambezi
are low enough to reveal a small naturally-formed swimming pool at the top of
the falls. Called the Devil’s Pool, this rock-enclosed lagoon allows you to
safely float at the edge before the water takes a nearly 340ft swan dive into
the gorges below. Swims are generally included in half-day tours of Livingstone
Island, the small lush outcrop in the middle of the Zambezi from which
explorer and local hero David Livingstone first viewed the falls (from
$65 through Bushtracks).