Mosi-Oa-Tunya, Victoria Falls

Victoria (waterfall).

Victoria Falls on the Zambezi River between Zambia and Zimbabwe, Africa.“Mosi-oa-Tunya” – “the rumbling smoke.”

Victoria Falls are named after Queen Victoria of England. In 1855, it was discovered by the famous Scottish missionary and explorer David Livingstone. The local parlance for the falls is Mosi-oa-Tuña, meaning “Smoke that rattles. It was the name of the Makololo people who arrived in the area in the nineteenth century. Neither the Makololo tribe, nor Livingstone were the discoverers of these places – stone artifacts testify that the first people appeared here more than 3 million years ago. Livingstone was the first European to see the falls on November 16, 1855. He wrote in his diary: “The sight, so beautiful it must have been, looked upon by angels in flight. The waterfall is surrounded by the biggest water curtain in the world, the width of which is 1688 meters and the maximum depth is more than 100 meters. The roar of falling water and splashes flying high into the sky tells you that the waterfall is close to you long before you see it with your own eyes. The water falls over a cliff in a narrow gorge, the width of which ranges from 60 to 120 m at different times of the year. The waterfall is most impressive in April and May, and then the volume of water gradually decreases until December, when it starts raining again to fill the Zambezi River bed. The lush rainforest along the river banks is also part of Mosi-Oa-Tunya National Park in Zambia and Victoria Falls and Zambezi River Park in Zimbabwe. Together these parks cover an area of 56,000 hectares. The parks also include portions of the river 5 kilometers downstream and 35 kilometers upstream of the falls. The rainforest surrounding the river is home to a variety of endemic plants, most notably ferns, which are rarely found elsewhere in Zambia or Zimbabwe. The splashing clouds that cover the entire area surrounding the waterfall create a high humidity that encourages vegetation. Some of the trees found here include teak, phytelephus (mat palm), golden ficus, and ebony. Further away from the river and waterfall begins the typical Kalahari forest covering most of the area. It is home to about 30 species of large mammals, including elephants, monkeys, and baboons. Crocodiles and hippos live in the river, and the riparian forests are home to over 400 species of birds, including the rare Livingston’s turaco with its bright green breast, the trumpeter rhino, and several species of nectarine. During the rainy season, the coastal forests bloom with many flowers, such as red lilies, wild yellow gladioli, palm blossoms, and a host of other local flora.

Geologically, Victoria Falls is a very young formation. Scientists believe that about 1 million years ago the course of the Zambezi River ran along a wide valley along the plateau to the middle sill of the Zambezi, where today the mouth of the Mathesi River is located. At this fracture point the river plunges 250 metres down a vertical outcrop. The swift current erodes the edge of the waterfall, cutting a deeper and deeper channel in the basalt plateau. The basalt was formed by large layers of lava that poured out before the Zambezi River. The volcano erupted here between 100 and 50 million years ago. Streams of lava flowed along cracks in the Earth’s crust, gradually cooling and solidifying. Inside, the basalt consists of soft rocks that are easily eroded by water. By the middle of the Pleistocene period, 35,000 to 40,000 years ago, erosion had gradually formed the Batoka Gorge, flowing about 90 km from the present-day waterfall. Gradually, falling water eroded the edge of the falls, and the valley began to turn northward until it was almost at right angles to the basalt fault lines running east to west. Over time, the water had flattened the fault lines, turning them into stone walls. The river was trapped inside the narrow rifts, the walls of which kept collapsing under the pressure of the water. Because the fractures run east to west, a waterfall can only form when.


Over the millennia, the water kept on eroding the rock, until a weak point was reached where the pressure of the water caused the rock layers to collapse, creating a new fault that acted as a wall for the falling water.

The Scotsman who discovered Victoria Falls was a missionary who had spent much of his life traveling through Africa. He journeyed eastward from the west coast of Africa and reached the Zambezi River at Sesheka in 1851, but did not see the falls until November 16, 1855, when he wrote in his diary, “I saw three or five great columns of water vapor rise to a height of a hundred feet or more. Livingston was so wary of exaggerating the size of the waterfall that he seriously underestimated its true length and height. Livingston returned to Africa again in 1865, hoping to discover the source of the Nile, after which he disappeared. The New York Herald sent a journalist and traveler, Henry Stanley, to find him and, in 1871, succeeded in finding the Scot. Soon afterward, Livingstone set out again in search of the source of the Nile, though weakened by malaria. He died at the village of Chitambo, in present-day Zambia, in 1873, never having reached his goal. His remains were transported to England and buried in Westminster Abbey, London.

PATHWAYSVictoria Falls on topographic map, travel guide.

1. The Victoria Falls Bridge was built in 1905. This 198-meter-long bridge spans the river near the waterfall and offers magnificent views. The bridge is open to trains, cars, and pedestrians. The bridge connects Zambia and Zimbabwe. 2. Knife Blade ledge – this is the best view of the waterfall from the Zambian side. The trail leads downhill along the splash-wrapped bridge to an island surrounded on all sides by water. 3. “Devil’s Threshold,” the westernmost point of the falls, where stone erosion is now continuing. Nearby is a monument to David Livingston, the first European to see the falls. 4. Field Museum, built on the site of archaeological excavations. Some of the items found during the excavation are on display here, including evidence that the first humans appeared in these areas about 3 million years ago. 5. The trail along the Zambezi River runs through a tropical forest that gives you the opportunity to observe wild animals: baboons, monkeys, crocodiles and elephants – as well as various species of birds and plants. 6. “The Boiling Cauldron” – the point where streams of river water merge, beginning their descent down into the Batoka Gorge. 7. The river cruise provides a great opportunity to observe wildlife life and experience the tranquility that reigns on the river above the falls. 8. The White Water Crossing – This adventurous journey can only be taken with an experienced guide who knows the river rapids. The Zambezi is one of the ten largest timber-floating rivers in the world.

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Curious Facts

Surrounded by coastal rainforest, Victoria Falls on the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe is considered one of the most spectacular waterfalls in the world. The Zambezi River, 2 kilometres wide here, crashing down over basalt cliffs, lifts a water curtain into the air, which can be seen over 20 kilometres away. The waters of the Zambezi River rush over the bluffs, creating a cloud of spray that can be seen for miles away. During floods, about 500 million liters of water fall over the cliff every minute. The Big Tree, a type of baobab, grows near where the discoverers of the falls camped before they crossed the river. Scientists estimate that this tree is more than 1,500 years old.

The enormous amount of spray and water vapor produced when the waters of the Zambezi River fall from the basalt cliffs, leading to the formation of small cumulus clouds. Crocodiles sometimes appear above the waterfall from the river, wanting to bask in the sun in the coastal silt. There are more than 400 species of birds around the falls, including weavers, which make their amazing nests from grasses or other plant material. The Victoria Falls Bridge was built in 1905. It connected the copper and coal mines around Nwange with the railroad. With the advent of the railroad, people began to settle where the town of Livingstone later arose.

Victoria Falls

Victoria Falls

From the Zambian side: Adult – US$ 20. Moonlight Tour – US$ 25. Children 6 to 15 years old – 50% of adult cost. Children under 6 years old are free.

On the Zimbabwe side: Adult – US$ 30. Moon tour – US$ 40. Children 6 to 15 years old – 50% of the cost of an adult. Children under 6 years old are free.

Victoria Falls – Africa’s most famous waterfall and one of the largest waterfalls in the world. A large basalt plateau, where the Zambezi River flows, is interrupted by a strong cliff, which is just rippled with cracks. From this precipice, streams of water pour down from great heights – this is the famous Victoria Falls.

Every day many tourists come to Victoria Falls to admire the local beauty and see the full power of the natural attraction of Africa.

Panorama of Victoria Falls from the Zimbabwean side, opposite Livingstone Island on Google Maps:

Upstream of the waterfall, small islets can be seen along the course of the river; closer to where the waterfall falls, their number increases. These islets on the edge of the abyss divide the falls into 4 parts: near the right bank of the river there is an inclined stream 35 m wide and 61 m high called Jumping Water; then behind Boaruca Island comes the Main Falls, 83 m high and almost 460 m wide, then Livingston Island separates the Main Falls from Rainbow Falls, about 530 m wide and 99 m high; and near the left bank of the river is the East Falls, 98 m high, which is entirely on the Zambian side.

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Victoria Falls is located above a deep gorge, so unlike Niagara Falls, it is not viewable from afar.

There is an unusual site on the Falls, the Devils Pool Victoria Falls. Devils Pool is a swimming pool located at the very edge of the falls. The pool can only be accessed by the edge during the dry season. The Devil’s Pool is surrounded by rocks that protect you from falling. The pictures in this place are spectacular.

Devil's Pool

You can see the famous Victoria Falls from the observation deck. One of the most popular is the one on the iron bridge called Knife Edge Point. It is from this angle you can see the East Stream and the Main Falls. The Devil’s Cataract on the Zimbabwe side and Gorilla Head ViewPoint on the Zambian side are also available.

Not far from the waterfall itself, near the parking lot where tourists are brought, everyone can visit the Victoria Falls Museum. The museum is dedicated to the history of the waterfall, and its exhibit tells how the waterfall has changed and how the water acts on new areas of this natural wonder.

View of all 4 parts of Victoria Falls

Where is Victoria Falls and its coordinates

Victoria Falls is located on the border of the two African countries Zambia and Zimbabwe, namely the Zambezi River. Both states own the territory of the falls to an equal extent.

Victoria Falls has found its place in two national parks. One is called Rattling Smoke (Mosi-Oa-Tunya) with an area of 23.4 km² and the other is Victoria Falls with an area of 59.3 km². Both parks have rich flora and fauna. Plant life is represented by grasses, vines, shrubs and trees-red and ebony, wild date palm, phytelephus and others. Among the animals here are birds, elephants, giraffes, hippos, zebras, antelopes, rhinos, crocodiles and many others.

Zambia's wildlife

Who discovered Victoria Falls?

The first person to see this waterfall and tell the world about it was the explorer from Europe, the Scotsman David Livingstone. He was able to view the waterfall from the present-day Zambian side, a place that was later called Livingstone’s Island. The discoverer named the waterfall after Queen Victoria of Great Britain, the ruler at the time.


Victoria Falls in Africa were formed where the Zambezi River falls into a 120 m wide rift cut by water in a rift in the earth’s crust. Many islets divide the waterfall, forming channels. Over time the waterfall has retreated upstream, creating new crevasses for itself. These fissures now form a zigzag riverbed with steep walls.

Victoria Falls was discovered on November 17, 1855 during the journey of the explorer and missionary from Scotland Livingstone from the upper Zambezi River to the mouth of the Zambezi River.

Zigzag riverbed

The natives of Africa were afraid to approach the place. Brave Livingstone, while in Africa, decided to travel downriver to explore the little-explored parts of the continent. Passionate about his expedition, he traveled a great distance and swam to a waterfall. As Livingstone later wrote in his book of travels, it was the most incredible sight he had ever seen.

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For a long time nobody visited Victoria Falls until in 1905 when the railroad was built enabling many people to see the falls with their own eyes. The Victoria Falls Bridge crosses the Zambezi River on the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe and is the border bridge between Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, and Livingstone, Zambia. Its total length is 198 meters, its span is 156.5 meters, and its height is 128 meters. Currently, there are rail connections on the lines Livingstone – Bulawayo and Livingstone – Lusaka.

Victoria Falls Bridge

The waterfall became an even more popular attraction during the British colonial rule of Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) and Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe). By the end of the 1990s, almost 300,000 people were visiting the Falls annually.

Today, Victoria Falls is one of the most popular natural attractions in the world, admired by many tourists and the locals themselves, who consider the falls their pride.

Victoria Falls

Facts of interest

Victoria Falls have the following interesting facts:

  • The island from which David Livingstone saw the waterfall, today bears his last name. The island is located in Zambia, where there is also a monument in his honor, on the pedestal of which Livingstone’s motto is written: “Christianity, Commerce and Civilization” (“Christianity, Commerce and Civilization”).

Monument to David Livingstone

  • A colossal number of small waterfall droplets rise all around, allowing irrigation of the surrounding vegetation, from which the droplets constantly run off. If you step farther away from the abyss and listen, you can hear a humming sound, as if the forest were “singing.
  • Before the waterfall got its present name, it had several others: Soengo (Rainbow), Chongue-Weizi (Sleepless Water), and Mozi-oa-Tunya (Smoke that Rattles).
  • The highest point of water fall is the Rainbow Falls – 110 m.
  • During the rainy season, the flow rate is over 500 million liters of water per second. But in 1958 there was an absolute record, when the figure exceeded 770 million liters per second due to flooding in the Zambezi.

Victoria Falls

  • Tourists originally came to see the falls via Zimbabwe, but the economic crisis in the country has had a negative impact on its popularity. Today, Zambia hosts the main number of tours to the waterfall.
  • The vast area of land around Victoria Falls is classified as a national park, as a result of which there are restrictions that include a ban on any construction in the area.
  • Victoria Falls has found its place on the border of once feuding countries.
  • Victoria Falls is the only waterfall considered one of the seven natural wonders of the world.
  • In 2019, a severe drought caused the waterfall to dry up completely, which has become so severely shallow that a single stream remains.

A shallow Victoria Falls


Victoria Falls is one of South Africa’s top attractions.

The waterfall is about 1,800 m wide and reaches a height of 120 m.

Victoria is the only waterfall in the world that is both over 100 m high and over 1 km wide, and the fourth widest in the world and one of the largest in terms of water flow. Thus, the waterfall is approximately 8-9 times lower and simultaneously 16 times wider than Angel, the highest waterfall in the world.

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Numerous islets the river flows through.


Now Victoria Falls is one of the most striking and popular tourist attractions in Africa, a sought-after tourist destination included in the main tourist routes of the continent. Despite the fact that Africa at the moment can not guarantee stability and safety, tourists still come here to see its unusual world, wild animals, learn its customs and, of course, to see the waterfall itself firsthand.

You can come to Victoria Falls on your own or take a tour in Zambia. The duration of the tour is about 1.5 hours. To get more emotions from the falls, you can book a tour to the waterfall by helicopter or ultralight aircraft. The route of such an excursion runs along the river and opens all the most picturesque places. In time, the helicopter tour lasts from 15 minutes and longer, at the discretion of tourists.

Helicopter tours over the falls

For the brave there are special descents in a canoe or rubber raft, walks on a boat on the Zambezi River, horseback riding on the Zambezi and surrounding forests, safari jeep or elephant in the national park, walking with lions without leashes and collars through the African wilds, riding quad bikes, mountain bikes or jet skis on specially paved tracks along the gorge, and even organized fishing on the Zambezi River. For the bravest, adrenaline-loving, here is the entertainment of bungee jumping, which is the most “scenic” jump from the highest point of a waterfall on a rope.

Bungee jumping

Safari tours and other Victoria Falls attractions offered by tour operators can be booked in advance at the link.

Victoria Falls is located in the southern hemisphere of the Earth, with a subtropical climate and 3 seasonal periods with different weather conditions. The most favorable time to visit the Falls is during winter, which lasts from May to August. During this time, there is less rainfall and air temperatures go down. The most unfavorable time is from September to November, when the season of drought, heat and lack of precipitation begins, and the waterfall begins to become shallow.

Victoria Falls

How to get to Victoria Falls in Africa

Since the Falls are in Southern Africa, many people wonder how to get there.

The whole route to Victoria Falls can be divided into 3 parts:

  1. Flying by plane to Zambia.
  2. Flight to the city of Livingstone.
  3. Transfer to the waterfall.

The first part involves flying to Lusaka, the capital of Zambia. Flights to this city are via Moscow and only with connections. Click here to see flight times and prices.

After landing in Lusaka, you will fly to Livingstone. You can also do it by plane. You can check the timetable by clicking here.

The third step, getting from Livingston to the waterfall, can be done in several ways: as part of a tour group or by transfer from Livingston Airport to the main site.

Video: Victoria Falls, Mosi-oa-Tunya, Zambia & Zimbabwe

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