At 1708 metres wide, Victoria Falls is the most expansive curtain of water in the world and drops more than 100 metres into the sheer Zambezi Gorge. Located in the south-west corner of Zambia, these Falls and the Zambezi River are the central points in an area of spectacular scenic beauty: from the Falls themselves to the broad, picturesque course of the Zambezi River upstream, the adjacent rainforest and the stark jagged gorge downstream, the power and timelessness of nature's forces are evident throughout.
The Tonga and Makalolo peoples lived here for centuries before the Falls were 'discovered' by David Livingstone in 1855. He gave it the highest honour he could think of: naming it after his Queen. Its local name, Mosi-Oa-Tunya - "the Smoke that Thunders" - more accurately defines the essence of the place: the rising, shining spray that can be seen 30km away. This vapour has the effect of adding moisture in the form of humidity to the air in the "splash zone", so that a unique, small rainforest ecosystem clings to the edge of the Falls, providing a toehold for no less than 70 shrub and 150 herbaceous species, as well as trees such as pod and Natal mahogany, ebony, Cape and strangler fig and Transvaal red milkwood. Further away from the constant spray, the surrounding area comprises mopane and teak woodlands with luxuriant riverine forest along the banks of the Zambezi River. The presence of several protected areas in the vicinity, from the Zambezi National Park in Zimbabwe to the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park in Zambia, means that herds of big game such as elephant and buffalo, as well as smaller species and even predators such as lion persist in the area.
As mesmerising as the Falls are, the paths through the rainforest at their edge allow one to catch a glimpse of some of the mammals that live here: bushbuck stare shyly from behind a bush, banded mongoose scurry through the undergrowth and vervet monkey and baboon flit through the trees; wailing Trumpeter Hornbills sail past in their characteristically undulating flight and the crimson-blazoned wings of the Schalow's Turaco can be seen by patient birders. Interestingly, there is a distinct difference in the fish species above and below the Falls, which clearly form a comprehensive barrier to fish movements upstream: 39 species are recorded from below and 84 above the Falls. Nile crocodile and hippo are common above the Falls.
Vic Falls, as it is affectionately known, straddles the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia and both countries share its World Heritage Site status.
The Victoria Falls is where the wide Zambezi River simply drops some 100 meters into a narrow gorge. The Falls lie across the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe and Livingstone is the town on the Zambian side. Called "Mosi-oa-Tunya", (the smoke that thunders) in the local language the Falls are one of the seven wonders of the world and when you first come to Zambia Livingstone is must visit destination.
There are many hotels from large to small, from high to low cost but there are some wonderful small personalized lodges that fit perfectly with a safari. Of course there is more to Livingstone than just visiting the Falls. The gorges themselves create many high adrenalin stunt-like opportunities, the wide and very beautiful Zambezi upstream of the Falls is wonderful for boating and canoeing. And of course the bridge is famous for jumping off! One of the top things to book is a few hours on Livingstone Island - this is a small island right on the edge of the Falls. Here you are not looking at the Falls but are right on the edge, as the water starts to tumble over. Quite a feeling. Then there is viewing the Falls like the angels, from above - by helicopter or microlight.
Livingstone is an interesting town and you should take a morning to spend time here. It has not been modernised and the old colonial buildings are still there. In places you certainly feel like you are dropping back fifty years. The museum is a gem and well worth a visit and if you don't mind being a little pushed, so is the market.
“The Smoke that Thunders” - Not only is it one of the world’s most spectacular waterfalls with clouds of spray billowing and can be seen as far away as 30kms. The wide basalt cliff, over which the falls thunder, transforms the Zambezi from a wide placid river to a ferocious torrent cutting through a series of dramatic gorges. The sight and sound of the Zambezi River in full flood, crushes into the Batoka Gorge and a fine mist drenches visitors while it transforms into colourful rainbows. A path along the edge of the forest provides visitors to brave the tremendous spray with an unparalleled series of views of the falls - spectacular and spellbinding.
People from around the world come to Victoria Falls to marvel at how the broad, placid and slow-moving Zambezi River violently becomes a raging torrent as it crashes down in a chasm, creating clouds of spray that billow back up into the sky, creating dancing rainbows.
This breath-taking event is accompanied by a clamerous roar and a fine mist of spray that curves up into the heavens above creating dancing rainbows. The river is the great Zambezi River and the falls are the world’s largest waterfall, the Victoria Falls, which tumble into the Zambezi Gorge below. This grand display also explains the Falls' local name, Mosi-oa-Tunya, which means ‘the Smoke that Thunders’.
“Scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight” wrote Dr David Livingstone.
Most travelers prefer to view the falls from the Zambian side and some claim the views are even more spectacular than from the Zimbabwe side. The Royal Livingstone is a short walk from the falls and further upstream is Zambia’s award winning safari lodge Tongabezi. Also the newly built Toka Leya has tented suites raised on wooden decks to experience the fantastic river views.
Best times to visit:
Victoria Falls are impressive year-round. When the Zambezi reaches peak flood (March- April) the clouds of spray look spectacular from the air, but close-up on foot are often obscured. Views improve in later months until the low water period (September - November), when the cataracts dwindle and it’s possible to raft to the base of the Falls or walk to Livingstone Island.