I have just returned from a trip to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe (Oct 25-28, 2007). I had been on an 11 day hiking trip in S. Africa and decided that couldn't go such a long distance and miss seeing the falls. In spite of some discouraging press reports about Zimbabwe, I stayed at the Victoria Falls Hotel for all 3 nights and found it to be a wonderful experience. Although the hotel gives the appearance of an elegant lady somewhat down on her luck (starched linen napkins for lunch at the pool, yet not enough chimneys for the candles on the tables at dinner on the terrace), I found it to be a comfortable place to stay in a breathtaking setting. From my window, I could watch warthogs, baboons, monkeys & meercats play on the hotel lawn and the falls were only a 5-10 min walk away. Before I took this trip, I noticed that complaints about agressive vendors were high on people's complaint list about Vic Falls. The "tourist police" (hired by the hotels) heavily patrolled the path to the falls and the area around the Victoria Falls Hotel and The Kingdom Hotel (next door) and kept the vendors from pressuring tourists. When I walked to the falls, I usually had one of the hotel bell staff or a member of the tourist police accompany me and any vendors that were around left the path when they saw us coming. I'd tip $1 each way. When I went to the craft market in the town of Victoria Falls, one of the hotel bell staff offered to accompany me and I was glad he did, since it was a very slow day for them and I think I would have been beseiged by vendors had I not had him along.
Victoria Falls National Park was all I expected and even though the water was low, there were plenty of spectacular waterfalls to admire. There were no vendors at all inside the National Park and I got around fine on my own. One thing to note is that the price of admission to the park depends on your nationality, so if you're going to visit the park on your own, you need to bring your passport . US citizens pay $20 each time you enter (no such thing as a 24 hr ticket). The one thing I wish I had done, but didn't, was sign up for a trip to Livingston Island and swim in the Devil's Pool at the lip of the falls. This happens on the Zambia side of the falls and I could see the people swimming from the Zim side.
As far as "unrest" or "safety", I felt perfectly safe traveling alone at the hotel and in Vic Falls National Park. I wouldn't go out walking alone at night (but I wouldn't do that in most cities in the US either). Every where I went, people went out of their way to be pleasant and helpful. Vic Falls seems in better shape than the rest of the country, probably due to the fact that the tourism industry is still strong there and trade in conducted in US$ or SA rands. No one (not even people at the local craft market) would accept Zim currency. All of the excursions I took would accept only cash payment in foreign currency (no credit cards). I did 3 "excursions" - a sunset cruise on the Zambezi where we saw elephants and hippos, an AM canoe trip on the Zambezi (breakfast on an island while we watched a pod of hippos) and an elephant back safari. All three were great. All in all I had a wonderful time and I'd urge anyone going to southern Africa not to miss the falls.