The Victoria Falls, also known as the greatest curtain of falling water in the world, stretch for more than a mile in length and with a height of about one hundred meters, are the world’s largest water falls and one of the main attractions in Africa. The facts about the Victoria falls are fascinating and incredible making them one of the seven natural wonders of the world. They became a World Heritage Site in 1989.
The Victoria Falls are not only an attraction for of tourists around the world, it is also of economic importance; supplying energy to several cities in Zimbabwe and Zambia.
History of the Victoria Falls
It is widely believed that the local African tribes had a sacred fear of Victoria Falls and had fear approaching it.
David Livingstone first heard of the great waterfalls called Mosi-oa-Tunya – the smoke that thunders – in 1851, but it was only in November 1855 that he set out to visit it. He landed on the biggest island at the edge of the falls – now called Livingstone Island – and from there obtained his first view of the falls; naming them Victoria Falls in honor of Queen of Victoria of England.
Since 1983, the falls have been protected by the Zambezi National Park; while Victoria Falls National Park took charge as well in January 2013.
Location of the Falls
The Victoria Falls lie along the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe though two-thirds of the falls can best be viewed from Zimbabwe. If it is the view of the moonbow that you seek, the Zambian side is better.
The Zambezi River is the fourth longest river in Africa (after the River Nile, the Congo River and Niger River) divided into three sections; the Upper Zambezi, the Middle Zambezi and the Lower Zambezi. The Victoria Falls make the boundary between the upper and middle Zambezi.
Accessing the Victoria falls can be done using three main options
- By air to Zimbabwe through Victoria Falls Airport to Vitoria Falls town is approximately 22 kilometers.By air to Zambia through Harry Mwanga Nkumbula International Airport is the recommended route. It takes less than 30 minutes to travel from the airport to the falls through Livingstone town. It is approximately 16 kilometers.
- By rail, the falls can be access from Cape Town, South Africa using the Luxury Rovos Rail or the Shongololo Express train. This journey takes 6 days.Bulawayo – the second largest town in Zimbabwe – has an overnight train to the falls. The Botswana Rail services also links Botswana to the fall via Bulawayo.
- By road to the Victoria falls is an alternative that works as well. Depending on the location of the hotel you have booked, you can easily access the falls by shuttle services, hired vehicles, taxis and even bicycles.
The Best Time to Visit
The months of January to March are in the peak rainy season while the months of March and May lie in the peak water season. It is when the falls are at their best especially in the month of April. The foot of the falls cannot be seen due to the spray that rises from falling water, even an umbrella is of no use. The aerial view (The flight of the Angels) is the most spectacular.
The finest viewing of the falls is in the medium to high water season in January, February, June to August. Water-based activities can be enjoyed at this time. Moonbows or rainbows can be seen during this time giving photographers a moment to enjoy.
Though from September to December is a low water season – where the Falls become little streams while in some places along the width of the falls, no water falls at all – the Victoria Falls remain a spectacular place to visit all year round.
What makes the Victoria Falls spectacular?
The Devil’s Cataract
This 60 to 70 meter cataract is on the Zimbabwe side of the falls, separated by the other falls by the Cataract Island also known as the Boaruka Island. It is an inspiring beauty of the Zambezi River.
It was where local tribes used to perform sacrificial ceremonies which were termed “devilish” by the missionaries who arrived in the area. That is how the cataract got its name.
The Devil’s Pool
During the low water season (September to December) the water levels of the Zambezi River drop considerably allowing swimmers who can dare, to swim to the very edge of the Victoria Falls in a naturally formed pool. This pool overlooks the edge of the falls and is made by a rock wall that halts the current just enough for a swim.
The Victoria Falls Gorges
There are seven main gorges with uniquely designed vertical walls some 120 meters high though water levels of the river can only reach 20 meters. These gorges have varying lengths but the longest gorge being the Batoka gorge which is approximately 120 kilometers long.
This natural phenomenon happens regularly in few places in the world including the Victoria Falls. When the moon is full and bright, and its light refracted by water particles from the spray of the Falls in the air, it creates a moonbow or lunar rainbow.
The finest view can be got from April to July with a cloudless sky.
The Victoria Falls Bridge
Originally referred to as the Great Zambezi bridge, this 128 meters high and 198 meters long spectacular bridge was completed in April 1905. It is the only link between Zambia and Zimbabwe by rail across the Zambezi River.
At the bridge you are able to try out the 111-meter bungee jump just for the thrill of it.
The view at the bridge is marvelous since you get a view of the falls and the flow of the river. You can also visit railway museum; learn about the history of the bridge and even get aboard a steam train.
The Canoeing trips
The Zambezi River is ideal for canoeing and kayaking trips and it helps if you have canoeing experience. This experience can be tapped in all year round at the upper Zambezi River above the falls.
The beauty of canoe trips is the encounter with big game. The jungles surrounding the falls are visited by cheetahs, leopards and lions; while rhinos have been introduced in the region too. You can easily see grazing buffaloes, bush bucks, impalas and waterbucks. You cannot miss the hippopotamuses as you do live fishing.
You won’t be doing the fishing alone, birds like the peregrine falcon and the white-backed night heron will be seen in the act too.
Victoria Falls offer a memorable experience to remember for the rest of your life; and for a standard entry fee of USD 30 for all tourists. Don’t forget to carry a waterproof pouch to protect your electronic gadgets.