Situated right on the border of Zimbabwe and Zambia, is a truly amazing sight. Originally called “Mosi-oa-Tunya” or the “Smoke that Thunders” by the natives, the Victoria Falls is one of the world’s most majestic water spectacles. It is also a World Heritage Site and one of the biggest and most awe-inspiring waterfalls in the world. These days, Victoria Falls also offers some of the best and most exciting adventure sports.
At this point along its route, the Zambezi River is over 1.25 miles wide, as it cascades over the edge of a huge, basalt plateau, plunging almost 354 feet down. This has apparently been going on now for around 2 million years and in the meantime the river has retreated somewhat. The remnants of earlier, and much older, falls can be found downstream in the various gorges along the way.
Mist and rainbows at Victoria Falls
The mists spraying upwards from the falls can be seen from around 12 miles away, and a sound, very much like thunder, can be heard emanating from them. This gave the falls the Kololo name, “Mosi-oa-Tunya” which translates to the “smoke that thunders.”
The more modern name, Victoria Falls, was given to them by the famous Scottish explorer, Dr. David Livingstone, the first European to ever see the falls. He is well-known to have said of their beauty that it was a scene “gazed upon by angels in their flight.”
Incidentally, it seems Livingstone was a little off course at the time of finding the Victoria Falls. He was apparently the head of an expedition to try and find the headwaters of the Nile River. Contact was lost with Livingstone for around four years, and a fellow explorer, Henry Stanley was sent out looking for him. When he finally found him in an African village, Stanley said those famous and immortal words, “Dr. Livingstone, I presume.”
Getting back to the Victoria Falls themselves, the mists over them sustain an ecosystem similar to a rain forest and visitors are often soaked while walking alongside the drop through the forests of mahogany, palm and fig trees.
The border between Zimbabwe and Zambia is actually midstream and on both sides, beautiful national parks flourish. Within these parks can be seen many raptors, including black eagles and falcons. While evidence was found in the area of prehistoric habitation, these days visitors are treated to several modern affordable or luxury hotels, along with campgrounds and restaurants catering to the tourist trade.
While at present the falls are still in their natural state, there is, apparently, some risk that tourism developments could get out of hand, with more hotels planned and possibly a dam being built below the falls, which would flood several gorges in the park.
Anyone wanting a really impressive view of the falls in all their glory can take a helicopter flight over them and more daring visitors can enjoy bungee jumping, ziplining and other adventure activities. According to a Zimbabwean travel blog, a recent addition to the list of adventure options is crocodile cage diving, where you literally go under the water in a cage surrounded by crocs.
The really daring can even swim in pools right on the very crest of the falls at certain times of year, but this is only for the brave, without any fear of heights. White water rafting is also available in the gorge below the Falls.