You might like your thundering natural wonder with all the tourist trappings, or in a wilder, more untamed place. Our experts make the case for both.
By Mal Chenu
I think TLC got it wrong when they warned us not to go chasing waterfalls. To completely miss the point of the metaphor of the group's 1995 hit song, waterfalls are one of nature's dazzling extravaganzas, and travellers should take the plunge and pursue them at every opportunity. And of all the places where gravity does a number on Dihydrogen monoxide molecules, Niagara Falls is the one to chase.
Niagara is comprised of three waterfalls at the southern end of Niagara Gorge on the border of Ontario in Canada and New York state in the USA. The largest is Horseshoe Falls, which the Canadians call Canadian Falls, while Bridal Veil Falls and American Falls, which everyone calls American Falls, complete the tumultuous triptych.
Niagara has seen quite a culture of crazy over the years. Seemingly more in line with TLC's sage counsel, ballsy daredevils have variously jumped, swum, jet skied, tight-roped and gone over in barrels. While most of these stunts were performed by dumb blokes, the contents of the first barrel in 1901 was a 63-year-old schoolteacher called Annie Taylor, who lived to tell the tale.
These days there is a veritable spectrum of ways to experience Niagara in complete safety (falls without balls, if you will), including bridges, towers, jetboats, helicopters, a cable car and even horse-drawn carriages.
Ballsy daredevils have variously jumped, swum, jet skied, tightroped, and gone over in barrels.
Niagara's oldest and best-known adventure is the Maid of the Mist boat cruise. Maid operates from the American side of the falls, while Hornblower Cruises sets sail from the Canadian side. Both companies run two boats on 20-minute excursions, ponchos (which you will need) included.
On the US side you can get an eyeful of waterfall from Prospect Point Observation Tower and then cross the bridge to Goat Island, don another poncho and take the elevator 50 metres down to the Cave of the Winds and Hurricane Deck. Just metres from raging Bridal Veil Falls, this is Niagara's fullest sensory immersion: a humbling, engulfing, bone-shaking roar with spray on your face and evanescent rainbows in the mist, just out of reach.
The Canadian side offers the highest view of the falls at Skylon Tower, 160 metres above the street and 236 metres above the bottom of the falls. Niagara SkyWheel's fully enclosed gondolas provide another unique view, especially at night when the cascades are colourfully illuminated. Fireworks also blaze overhead between May and October.
Both sides have dozens of restaurants and hotel options, many within easy walking distance of the spectacle. For a combination of surpassing views, great tucker and quality digs, check out Red Coach Inn in New York and Embassy Suites Fallsview in Ontario. There are also three casinos, if you want to go chasing losses as well as waterfalls.
By Amy Cooper
Ever seen a moonbow? It's a rainbow's sexier night-time cousin; a stunning, shimmery rarity created by the full moon's rays refracted in watery mist and seen in just a handful of locations around the world. Victoria Falls is one of the only two places with dependably visible monthly moonbows.
Niagara is not the other one. Too much light pollution there. That's what happens when you clutter up a natural wonder with manmade stuff.
Both these tremendous torrents span two countries. Niagara Falls straddles the Canada-US border, and Victoria Falls connects Zambia and Zimbabwe.
That's where the resemblance ends. While Niagara Falls competes with a deluge of casinos, resorts, wax museums and amusement parks, Victoria Falls and its mainly untamed surroundings personify the wild African landscape.
Niagara has neighbouring Buffalo, the city. Victoria Falls has neighbouring buffalo, the magnificent horned member of Africa's Big Five alongside elephant, leopard, lion and rhino.
You're guaranteed sightings of these safari superstars plus zebra, giraffe, antelope and more in the 56,000-hectare Victoria Falls and Zambezi National Parks surrounding the waterfall's Zimbabwe side, while in Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park on the Zambia side the critter count is boosted by crocodile, hippo, baboons and various raptors.
Then there's the cascade itself. Twice the size of Niagara, Victoria Falls is the world's largest sheet of falling water at 1708 metres wide and 108 metres high. Its spray rises higher than the Empire State Building and is visible from up to 50 kilometres away.
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During high-water season, from February to July, about 280 Olympic swimming pools worth of Zambezi River surge over the falls every minute. No wonder its African name is "the smoke that thunders". For the closest encounter, head to the Zambia side to follow paths perched right on the Falls' edge, and cross Knife Edge Bridge over the precipice, 100 metres above the gorge.
You can swim in Devil's Pool, probably the world's most insane infinity pool, right on the edge of the Falls, in low-water season from August to December.
On the Zim side, you can follow Victoria Falls National Park's rainforest footpaths to multiple viewpoints of the main cascade. It's easy to cross from one country to the other with your passport and a double entry visa - purchasable on the spot - via the Victoria Falls Bridge, and you can even bungee jump while traversing the border from 111 metres up with the Falls as your backdrop.
Whether you decide to Zim or Zam there's a range of accommodation, from grand old luxury hotels to riverside lodges. A sensational southern African safari around the Smoke That Thunders, or an off-brand Vegas with added waterfall? I know which Falls I've fallen for.