One of the greatest attractions in Africa and one of the most spectacular waterfalls in the world, the legendary Victoria Falls is located on the Zambezi River, the fourth largest river in Africa, which is also defining the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. Victoria Falls and the adjoining parklands were collectively designated a World Heritage site in 1989.
The Zambezi River is more than 1.25 miles (2 kilometers) wide when it cascades over the lip of a large basalt plateau and plunges as much as 354 feet (108 meters). The flow has been slicing slowly through this plateau for some two million years. During this time the river has slowly retreated and the remnants of earlier, ancient falls can be seen in the gorges downstream from the current cataract.
The waterfall was hardly visited by people up until 1905, when a railway to Bulawayo was constructed. Since then Victoria Falls quickly gained popularity until the end of the British colonial rule.
At the end of the 1960s the number of tourists started to decrease due to the guerrilla struggle in Zimbabwe. After Zimbabwe gained independence the region has been in relative peace and Victoria Falls started to attract a new wave of tourism.
The falls were formed in a zone of crustal faults. On the crest of the fall numerous islands divide the main flow into several branches. During floods, the water flow capacity reaches half a million liters of water per minute.
The water level varies throughout the year; it is at its peak in April, at the end of the rainy season when on average 500,000,000 liters of water flow and it is at its lowest level in October and early November.
Interestingly, during the dry season the water level in the Zambezi River drops sharply, and it becomes possible to walk through some parts of the waterfall. However, during the rest of the year Victoria Falls is a roaring machine that strikes anyone with its power.
The falls generate mists that can be spotted from more than a dozen miles (20 kilometers) away. Famed Scottish explorer David Livingstone dubbed this waterfall Victoria Falls; its older, Kololo name, Mosi-oa-Tunya, means “the smoke that thunders.”
The mists also sustain a rain forest-like ecosystem adjacent to the falls and on the opposite cliff that faces them like a dried-up mirror image, thick with mahogany, fig, palm, and other species of vegetation.
The alluvial flat lands are dominated by mopane (Colophospermum mopane). Klipspringers (a type of antelope) and hippopotamuses are commonly seen near the falls, and roaming the forests and grasslands are elephants, giraffes, zebras, gnus (wildebeests), lions, and leopards. The rock cliffs are home to falcons, eagles, and buzzards.
As a magnet for tourists of all descriptions – backpackers, tour groups, thrill seekers, families, and honeymooners – Victoria Falls is one of Earth’s great spectacles. View it directly as a raging mile-long curtain of water, in all its glory, from a helicopter ride or peek precariously over its edge from Devil’s Pools; the sheer power and force of the falls is something that simply does not disappoint.
Other than the falls, Victoria Falls town is nice to walk around and buy some souvenirs. There are various small markets with crafts. There are also loads of activities with options like: white water rafting, hi-wire gorge swing, zip line, canopy, canoe trails, crocodile diving, bungee jumping, helicopter ride over the falls etc. You can also choose to cruise through the Zambezi river.
Whether you’re here purely to take in the sight of a natural wonder of the world, or for a serious hit of adrenaline via rafting or bungee jumping into the Zambezi, Victoria Falls is a place where you’re sure to tick off numerous items from that bucket list.