I was talking with my very best friend the other day and we were reminiscing about a very particular day from a few summers ago. Let me set the scene. My bestie was enjoying a little down time between Summer commitments and decided to take advantage of being close to the great Niagara Falls. She and her husband were hiking on the walkway when her phone rang.
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Half a world away, I expected her to pick up from home. I had no idea that she was at the Falls as I called her from Zambia. My view? The Great Victoria Falls. I was standing just to the side of Knife Point Bridge watching the Zambezi water spill over the top. Who would have ever thought that the two of us would be standing in front of the power of two of the most famous falls in the world!
Niagara and Victoria
Victoria and Niagara have a lot in common. They both provide a natural boarder between two countries. Both provide immense tourism for their local areas and both leave no doubt that the power of water is an awesome natural wonder on our planet. Moreover, both create moments of inspiration for every traveler that commits to experiencing them. However, it’s here that their two paths diverge.
Way over in Livingstone….
Way back in 1855, one of the most famous first tourists happened upon a place that locals called Mosi-oa-Tunya or the smoke that thunders. He promptly renamed the massive column of water Victoria Falls after his queen. (Ahhh… colonization.) These days, The Falls continue to thunder as they stretch just over a mile across and drop about a football field. They serve as the international border between Zambia and Zimbabwe and Zambia was exactly where I found myself the day of our phone call.
I was lucky enough to stay at Avani, a lovely hotel resort with free roaming animals and amazing Moroccan architecture. But, the true draw of this particular location is just steps from the entrance to the Falls. The Zambian side of the falls were easily accessible to anyone though the National Park Gate but Avani literally had a back gate entrance set up for its guests making it as convenient as possible. And P.S., it was not the most expensive hotel in the area!
The Upper and Lower Falls
Without any other exploration except the ride from the airport (I’ll leave that amazing video below), I headed out that back gate and went right to the National Park. As soon as I was through the gate, a wonderful college intern offered to take me through the pathways and tell me the story of this wonder of the world. I live for people like this. People who have no other agenda other than to impart their knowledge to you and make your experience better.
My walk began at the upper falls. My guide, Isaac, led me down pathways and explained the scientific side of things as well as previewing the power yet to come. He reminded me that at night, there are hippos that love this particular spot and one must be careful! I will. I promise. As Isaac continued to lead the way past bubbling water that stretched as far as the eye could see, he pointed out the famous Devil’s Pool. Used by daredevils to get as close to the drop as possible. I had already made up my mind not to take that dip because of the aforementioned hippos and the fact that I can not do a back flip into water.
Sam pointed out the visitors that were on the Zambia side had a bit more protection than the ones on the Zimbabwean side who had no safety rails or clear pathways between them and the 354 foot drop. No thank you!
While you could already feel the magic of the water in the air, it wasn’t until Isaac showed me the lookout over Rainbow Falls that I got my first glimpse of this massive force of energy. We continued walking around the gorge and into the pathways that become part of the micro rainforest. toward Jack Knife Bridge. This short span gives you one of the best views and ensures you feel your share of the water! It was in this very spot that I called my bestie…
Meanwhile, in upstate New York…
If Victoria Falls had a little sister, it would be Niagara. Standing 187 feet tall and about half a mile across, Niagara Falls comes in at about half the size of its African big sister. However, don’t be mistaken, this largest drop in North America receives far more visitors. While the days of honeymooning in Niagara Falls are over, lots of fun is still waiting for every kind of traveler out there.
Just like in Africa, Niagara serves as a famous border and has very distinct sides. The Canada side tends to be a better experience while others say that the magic of Niagara lies in its old school American Falls roots. Either way, there are plenty of amazing treasures to experience while you visit. And that’s exactly where Terri was when her phone rang…
Get Ready, Get Set
Terri drove in to Niagara Falls and made a beeline for the State Park. While the surrounding town is not much to look at, Terri says that once you park and get into the actual park, things are well worth your time. With plenty of pleasant and calm walkways, the state park gives you every opportunity to enjoy the falls from pretty much every possible angle. And it’s these walkways that tend to be overlooked the most.
Armed with a waterproof bag and a poncho to head for the marquee event, The Maiden of The Mist. Unlike many other waterfalls, Niagara allows its visitors to get behind the falls and see them from quite a different perspective. In turn, making it quite the draw. But, wait! Terri told me that you don’t want to miss out on the Cave of The Winds which, again gets you up close and personal to the water.
Terri and I had our laugh and spoke about what we were seeing in that exact moment. Then she continued on her way to The Cave of The Winds with a great documentary and tons of information about what makes these falls so special.
Top Of The Falls…
While Niagara Falls is not a foodie mecca, but the Top of The Falls may be a great choice if for nothing but the view. Otherwise, foodies will find better choices like great polish food. Or the famous Duff’s Wings not too far away in Buffalo. And PS- Buffalo has a lot to offer! Another great area is Lucille Ball’s hometown of Jamestown.
From anywhere on the American side, the Canadian side certainly beckons. And Terri agrees! Her advice is to sincerely explore both sides of the falls. Don’t miss out on the different views and experiences that each have to offer. Just remember, you need your passport!!!!
Moments when you feel the magic around you and you feel connected to someone who gets it like you do are rare. Terri and I were over the moon to have a chance to connect from half a world away at two of mother nature’s masterpieces.