Victoria Falls, Awe-Inspiring, Beautiful & Mystic
Victoria Falls, one of the world’s greatest natural wonders, is named after Queen Victoria, then reigning English monarch.
by Enestle Zimba
Dr David Livingstone, a Scottish missionary “discovered” the falls on November 16, 1855.
It was declared as a World Heritage Site in 1989 for being one of the most spectacular waterfalls in the world. It is a place of legend, romance and myth.
The smoke that thunders
However, and long before the Dr David Livingstone “discovered” the falls, the Kololo tribe living in the area in the 1800’s described it as ‘Mosi-oa-Tunya’ - ‘the Smoke that Thunders’ and now known as ‘the greatest known curtain of falling water’.
Victoria Falls are a spectacular sight of awe-inspiring beauty and grandeur on the Zambezi River, bordering Zambia and Zimbabwe. Most visitors agree that the Zambian side gives a far much better view of the Victoria Falls. What with the spectacular 1,701 metres span, the 1,200 metres is in Zambia.
Standing 111 meters (300 feet) high, at the height of the floods the Victoria Falls has the largest sheet of falling water in the world with over 545 million liters a minute (9 million liters /sec) cascading over the rocky cliffs. The sound is exhilarating, the sight is astounding and the experience is breathtakingly spectacular in the extreme.
The Lasting Impressions
Of the surrounding area wrote Dr. David Livingstone in 1855, "No one can imagine the beauty of the view from anything witnessed in England. It had never been seen before by European eyes, but scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight"
In 1881 F.C. Selous description was, “…Such are the Victoria Falls - One of, if not the most transcendentally beautiful natural phenomenon on this side of Paradise"
Columns of spray can be seen from 30 kilometres away as the huge mass of water plummets over the edge of the wide basalt cliff, over which the falls cascades and thunder.
The Zambezi is transformed from a wide placid river into a ferocious torrent cutting through a series of dramatic gorges. Facing the falls is another sheer wall of basalt, rising to the same height and capped by mist-soaked rain forest. The only known place on earth where it rains 24 hours a day, seven days a week.(24/7)
Where to Go!
A path along the edge of the forest provides the visitor who is prepared to brave the tremendous spray with an unparalleled series of views of the falls. One special vantage point is across the Knife Edge Bridge, where visitors can have the finest view of the Eastern Cataract and the main falls as well as the Boiling Pot. Here the river turns and heads down the Batoka Gorge. Other vantage points include the Falls Bridge and the Lookout Tree which commands a panoramic view across the main falls.
The Victoria Falls area is rapidly becoming known as the ‘Adventure Centre’ of Southern Africa, with various adrenaline sports, unmatched scenery of breathtaking proportions, and many other leisure options for outdoor lovers.
The Livingstone town has much to interest the visitor, including the Livingstone Museum, which houses many of the explorer’s possessions and journals, and the Railway Museum, with a rich history of steam trains and railway memorabilia.
A few kilometers upstream of the falls is the Mosi-Oa-Tunya National Park which runs along a strip of riverine forest. Although the park is only 66km² it provides a home for numerous antelope species, zebra, giraffe and white rhinoceros.
Activities include bungi jumping off the railway bridge, white water rafting through the Batoka Gorge downstream of the falls (said to be the world’s most exciting stretch of rafting), river boarding the huge standing waves set up as the river bounces off underwater boulders, or floating above the Falls in a tandem microlight.
Sundowner cruises on the broad sweep of Zambezi River upstream of the Falls are an exquisite way to experience an African sunset, while the more energetic can hire canoes for gentle, guided paddling trips.
The best place for a wide range of crafts and curios is the Victoria Falls Craft Village. There are intricate animal carvings in stone, wood, or the beautiful green malachite, masks, drums, marimbas, spoons, book ends, walking sticks, jewelry and much more. Venders display these wares for sale.
You’ll find this ‘village’ in the parking area just above the falls where most of the walks begin and near the Victoria Falls Field Museum. A network of trails leads through the rainforest surrounding the smoke that thunders. The museum explains the how the falls were formed.
When the river is at its lowest, as little as 20 000m³ flows over the lip of the falls per minute into the Devil’s Cataract, but when the mighty Zambezi is raging in April and May, this can be as much as 500 000m³.
The Zambezi River continues down stream to the east African coast. But before that and while still in Zambia there is the mighty
Lake Kariba, a huge man-made lake with an interesting history.