The Zambezi valley is a malaria zone, and we recommend you follow standard health guidelines to take anti-malarials, known as malaria prophylactics, during your visit - please consult your doctor for specific advice before travelling. Anti-malarials, such as Malarone (also known as Deltaprim), are available through the local pharmacies in town should you loose or forget your pills, and often at very reasonable cost. Different countries recommend different malaria prophylactics, and brand names vary, so take advice and make an informed decision based on your circumstances.
Mosquito populations can be high during the rain season, from December to April, and the well watered gardens of Victoria Falls town suburbs can give them shelter all year round. We try to manage their presence through periodic mosquito control, but you should also take precautions against being bitten, if only for the annoyance and irritation they cause!
We have several different species of mosquito, but malaria is transmitted by only one, known as Anopheles, and even then only by the female. Anopheles is a silent flying mosquito, so if you are being kept up at night by buzzing mossies you can at least relax in the knowledge that they won't be the ones giving you malaria! Anopheles can be recognised by its characteristic black and white markings on the legs, and at rest holds its body more vertically upright than other species.
Long sleeved shirts and long trousers will help prevent you getting bitten at dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are most active. Bush advice is to avoid dark colours which are known to attract mosquitoes - dark blue is apparently a favorite, and lighter natural safari shades are better. Black and white stripes work well, apparently (well, that's the theory with zebra stripes!), so if you want to follow this advice to the max buy yourself a zebra onesie.
An insect repellent (preferably containing a high Deet concentration) is always a good idea. Again there are effective brands available in local pharmacies and supermarkets in various forms of application (sprays, rub-on sticks and lotions), although stocks sometime run out, so always best to bring a trust home brand with you.
It also a good idea to keep windows and doors closed at night, especially whilst you have electric lights on in the evenings.
If you fear you have contracted malaria it is essential to see a doctor for a blood test as soon as possible, as modern medicinal treatments are very effective at treatment, especially if taken early. If back in your home country specifically mention the places you have visited, and be aware that the form of malaria present in the Zambezi Valley/Victoria Falls is cerebral malaria, which if not treated effectively can result in death!
Generally tap water in Victoria Falls is to drinking standards, although sometimes it can look a bit cloudy! However, if you are here for a limited time and don't want to waste days with possible stomach upsets it is probably better to be safe than sorry, so we'd recommend you buy and drink bottled water, especially in the larger urban cities of Bulawayo and Harare.
If out and about during the day you will need to wear sunblock on exposed skin to protect yourself against sunburn (don't forget your ears!), and a shaded hat is recommended to keep the sun off your face. Good brands are available in the pharmacies and supermarkets, but often at a price, so bring a trusted home brand with you, the higher the protection the better.
A waterproof sunblock is highly recommended if you are spending time on the river, for example rafting, as the water can reflect and intensify the suns rays.
Zimbabwe, and Victoria Falls in particular, is a safe destination to travel, with locals welcoming tourists from all over the world to their country. You'll find Zimbabweans among the friendliest, and happiest, people on the planet, despite the difficult hardships that pre- and post-Independence years.
Victoria Falls is essentially a tourist town, with many locals employed in tourism one way or another, and crime is very rare. However the town is occasionally targeted by petty thieves from elsewhere, so the usual travel advice applies:
- Keep valuables out of sight and locked away in your room.
- Don't flash you wealth or leave money or expensive items, such a smartphones or tablets, unattended.
- Don't walk around at night - primarily because of dangerous animals. Get a taxi even for short trips.
Local tourism companies pay to employ the town's Tourism Police, who patrol town during the day in their highly visible jackets. Primarily their job is to move on the street hawkers who tend to pester tourists to buy curios such as wood carvings, and with who they enact a daily game of cat and mouse. Best policy here is not to buy anything off the street sellers or beggars, and to buy from shops and licensed markets, including the stalls outside the Victoria Falls themselves, which is run as a co-operative of local sellers.
If you are a victim of crime, the town's police will take any crime seriously and you should report it immediately.
Victoria Falls town is surrounded by National Park with a full compliment of African wildlife, from elephants, buffalo and antelope to lions and leopards. You don't have to travel far out of town to be in virgin bush. If out walking or cycling during the day stay on the roads and keep a sharp eye out for wild animals. Do not be tempted to go too close and in particular keep your distance from elephant and buffalo. At night and at certain times of year elephant and buffalo can be found in and around the edge of town, and the best advice is not to walk or cycle at night. Get a taxi.
Lion are also present around town, and to give you an example of the sort of thing that sometimes goes on here, just before Christmas in 2014 the large herd of buffalo that frequent the local area were chased into town by lions. Reluctant to leave they had to be driven out of what they thought was the safety of town (see here for report - external link, opens in a new window).