Grandeur, breath-taking beauty, and dramatic power have earned Victoria Falls a spot as one of the seven natural wonders of the world. Here the Zambezi River tumbles over a basalt cliff, transforming the placid river into a fierce deluge that roils and churns in the chasm below. It also forms the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe, with the best view of the falls coming from the Zimbabwe side.
In November 1855, David Livingston became the first European to set eyes on Victoria Falls’ magnificence. Transported in a canoe by the local Makalolo people to the precipice, he was overwhelmed at the sight.
The spectacle has attracted interest from humans for millennia and continues to be steeped in history and legend.
10 Fascinating Facts about Victoria Falls
- Victoria Falls is actually a compilation of five falls: Devils Cataract, the Main Falls, Horseshoe Falls, Rainbow Falls, and the Eastern Cataract. Devil’s Cataract is the lowest with a drop of only 60m.
- The constant pounding of the currents of the mighty river continues to shape the falls as it cuts through fissures and crevices. The falls would have looked very different to our ancestors who inhabited the area 1.5 million years ago.
- At 1,708 metres wide and 108 metres high, Victoria Falls is neither the world’s highest or widest, yet the large sheet of falling water it creates has earned it the title of the world’s largest waterfall. (Victoria Falls is 1.5 times wider than Niagara Falls and twice as high.)
- During the rainy season, 300,000 gallons of water pour over the falls every second, creating a spray that rises 1,000 ‘.
- The local Kololo tribe called the falls “Mosi-oa-Tunya,” meaning ‘the smoke that thunders,’ after the vast cloud of mist and spray created by the cascading water.
- After tumbling over Victoria Falls, water flows through the Batoka Gorge and enters Lake Kariba. In mythyology of the local Tonga tribe, this is the home of the River God Nyaminyami, a creature with the body of a snake and the head of a fish. According to legend, the water stains red when he swims past. Unfortunately he’s been in hiding since Europeans arrived and although there were reported sightings in 2012, most believe he has not been seen for many years.
- As the sun sets on a full moon, Victoria Falls displays a rare and beautiful moonbow, visible from sunset to sunrise.
- The spray from the falls creates a constant year round rainfall, giving rise to the Victoria Falls Rainforest. Unique plant and animal life live here, including some indigenous to the area. Baboons and monkeys are seen most often, but you may catch a glimpse of buffalo, elephants, giraffes, leopards, and lion. The water provides a lush habitat for otters, crocodiles, fish—and their prey, like eagles and falcons.
- Opportunities abound for thrill seekers. During dry season, the water in Devil’s Pool atop the falls, mere inches from the brink, is shallow and calm enough to swim in. The Falls also attracts bungee jumpers (like Karen Jones), white water rafters, and gorge-swingers.
- A hike down to the Boiling Pot, a permanent whirlpool at the base of the falls offers a unique perspective for those daring enough to tackle the steep and strenuous hike.