Victoria Falls is the largest waterfall in the world based on the width of 1.7 km (1 mile) and height of 108 meters (360 feet). It is literally a wall of water! Experiencing Victoria Falls will leave you gasping for superlatives.The Victoria Falls is roughly twice the height of North America’s Niagara Falls and well over twice the width. The native name is Mosi oa Tunya or “smoke that thunders.” The first European to discover this waterfall was an adventurous missionary and explorer named David Livingstone who chanced upon this natural phenomenon in 1855 (and almost tumbled over the edge of it). Struck by its unbelievable size and power Livingstone named them the Victoria Falls (after his English Queen Victoria).
Surely this phenomenal spectacle was created by supernatural or Godly design, you might ask yourself. But, it is not easy to be coldly scientific and objective about Victoria Falls. Because, as massive as it is, it has an equally massive effect on one’s deepest feelings and emotions. As David Livingstone wrote in his diary – ‘THIS INDEED IS A SIGHT FOR ANGELS’. If you have the opportunity to see Victoria Falls count yourself one of the most privileged people on this planet.
Despite its worldwide fame and popularity it ranks as one of the world’s most unspoilt and undeveloped tourist destinations. Zimbabwe’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife Management has kept the falls, the rainforest and the river upstream much as they were when Livingstone made his discovery over 150 years ago. Today, a memorial of David Livingstone stands as a larger than life bronze statue on the Zimbabwean side of the river looking across to the island on the very edge of the falls where he first glimpsed them
THE VICTORIA FALLS BRIDGE
The Victoria Falls bridge is shared by Zimbabwe and Zambia. It carries a road, railway and footway. The Victoria Falls Bridge crosses the Zambezi River just below the Victoria Falls and is built over the Second Gorge of the falls. As the river is the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia, the bridge links the two countries and has border posts on the approaches to both ends, at the towns of Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe and Livingstone, Zambia
European settlement of the Victoria Falls area started around 1900 in response to the desire of Cecil Rhodes‘ British South Africa Company for mineral rights and imperial rule north of the Zambezi, and the exploitation of other natural resources such as timber forests north-east of the falls, and ivory and animal skins. Before 1905, the river was crossed above the falls at the Old Drift, by dugout canoe or a barge towed across with a steel cable. Rhodes’ vision of a Cape-Cairo railway drove plans for the first bridge across the Zambezi and he insisted it be built where the spray from the falls would fall on passing trains, so the site at the Second Gorge was chosen.
From 1905 the railway offered accessible travel to whites from as far as the Cape in the south and from 1909, as far as the Belgian Congo in the north. The falls became an increasingly popular attraction during British colonial rule of Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) and Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), with the town of Victoria Falls becoming the main tourist centre.
Victoria Falls is made of five different “falls”. Four of these are in Zimbabwe: The Devil’s Cataract, Main Falls, Rainbow Falls and Horseshoe Falls – and one, The Eastern Cataract, is in the bordering country of Zambia.
The Devil’s Cataract
The falls here are about 70 metres deep. They derive their name from an adjacent island in the Zambezi River where it is reported that locals used to conduct sacrificial ceremonies. With the advent of the missionaries, this practice was frowned upon and considered “devilish”, resulting in the name of the area.
The falls at this point are at their most majestic. With a wide curtain of water thundering down 93 metres into the gorge below and peak water flows of 700,000 cubic metres per minute, this section throws out a magnificent spray that continually nourishes the evergreen rainforest around the area.
This section is horseshoe shaped and is 95 metres deep. This section usually dries up at the height of the dry season between October and November.Rainbow FallsA beautiful rainbow can clearly be seen from this viewpoint. The falls are 108 metres deep at this point and are the deepest of the whole series.
The Eastern Cataract
These falls are situated completely on the Zambian side of Victoria Falls but have a stunning view from the Zimbabwean side. They are the second deepest falls of the series at 101 metres deep.
A unique view of the falls below can be found by descending 73 steps into the gorge.
David Livingstone Statue
The David Livingstone statue can be found at the left end of the Falls near the spectacular Devil’s Cataract viewpoint. On 16 November 1855, Livingstone (the first Western explorer to view the Falls) wrote in his journal: “…scenes so lovely must have been gazed on by angels in their flight.”
The rainforest area of Victoria Falls is filled with many unique species of flora and fauna. One can wander amongst the Fig, Mahogany and Date Palm groves while gazing at the falls from magnificent viewpoints. Many species of birds and small mammals may be spotted beneath the protective canopy of the forest.
The Boiling Pot
This place is appropriately named to describe the turmoil where water from opposite sides of the falls collide in the Zambezi River as it turns in a southeasterly direction passing through several gorges.
The Big Tree
This is a large baobab tree near the Falls. The tree which has withstood the test of time is 16 metres in diameter and 20 metres tall.
Victoria Falls Bridge
Having been designed in England, the bridge was transported from Europe in pieces and was assembled on site, bridging the Zambezi River and linking Zimbabwe and Zambia in 1906. The bridge is also renowned for its popular bungee jumping.
The Game Park
Zambezi National Park together with Victoria Falls National Park cover an area of 56,000 hectares. The northern border of the Park is formed by the great Zambezi River which also forms the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia for much of its length. A wide variety of larger mammals may be found within the Zambezi National Park including The Big Five: elephant, lion, buffalo, leopard and white rhinoceros. In addition, herds of sable antelope, eland, zebra, giraffe, kudu, waterbuck and impala as well as many of the smaller species of game can be viewed. The Zambezi River is home to a large variety of fish and is famous for its bream and fighting tiger fish.Zambezi National Park has two main game-viewing sections: the Zambezi River Game Drive, with an extensive network of roads along the river accessed through the main gate of the Park, and the 25 kilometre Chamabondo Game Drive in the southern part of the Park, which begins about 5 kilometres outside of Victoria Falls town – just off the main road to Bulawayo.