Victoria Falls in Zambia: a mist-cloaked abyss

Victoria Falls

Victoria Falls

One of the most amazing natural phenomena, a UNESCO World Heritage Site is located in South Africa on the Zambezi River. Its name for this awe-inspiring and awe-inspiring attraction is Victoria Falls.


Victoria Falls View

It is not only the cascade of water falling from a height of 120 meters, now splitting into many streams and then converging into a single plume, looking like a monolithic wall, but also the stream of gurgling water in a narrow gorge, which is 13 times narrower than the Zambezi River, which falls from the rocks. The downward rushing torrent, 1,800 m wide, rushes with a roar into the narrow passage, which is only 140 m wide at its widest point. Then the neck of the gorge shrinks to 100 meters and the water rushes into the crevasse, spitting clouds of tiny splashes, which hang in the air and surge from the blows for many hundreds of meters above the solid wall of the giant stream, falling from the height. It is not the highest waterfall in the world, but it certainly surpasses Niagara and Iguazu Falls in its majesty.

Victoria Falls on the Zambezi River

Yes, it’s not the highest, but it is the widest. Victoria is the only waterfall that is almost 2 km long and just over 100 meters high. But the most unique thing is the plume of water, which the waterfall tumbles down: it is so flat that it seems as if instead of water from a rocky peak descends a smooth transparent glass. Plume density: 1.804 million cubic feet per minute. No other waterfall in the world can boast such water plume density!

In addition, the crystal-diamond spray rises above Batoka Canyon, where there is a narrowing canyon that receives the stream of water (up to 400 meters), and it is visible up to 60 km away on a clear day.

Water falling from a waterfall in Africa

Near the western shore of Zimbabwe the Zambezi jets are divided into three parts by several islands covered with lush tropical vegetation. The eastern part of the river, which belongs to the state of Zambia, the smooth flow of the river is interrupted by about 30 large and small rocky islands.

Zambia and Zimbabwe “own” the waterfall on equal terms, the borders of these states lie along the calm banks of the Zambezi.

Flying over a waterfall

The river freely carries its waters across the flat Savannah plain to the Indian Ocean, beginning its course in black swamps and washing its course among the soft sandy rocks. Washing islets of small trees and shrubs, the river is wide and lazy until it reaches a rocky bluff, whence it plunges down steeply with a roar and noise. This is the watershed between the upper and middle Zambezi, the boundary of which is Victoria Falls.

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Who discovered

David Livingstone

The Zambezi River got its geographic name from the Scottish explorer and missionary David Livingstone. It is hard to say who he was more – missionary or researcher, but the fact remains: David Livingstone was the first European who was able to walk so far along the course of this fourth longest river in Africa, “bringing the Christian faith to black tongues,” and at the same time exploring the parts of the African continent, where no white man had ever set a foot. And only he has the right to be called the discoverer of Victoria Falls.

Waterfall Gorge

From the local Makololo tribe, who for centuries had made their rudimentary dwellings near the waterfall on the banks of the river, Livingstone learned that in the local dialect the name of the river sounded roughly like Xasambo-Wayzee. He labeled it “Zambezi” roughly as such on his map. Thus the river that feeds Victoria Falls got its official name on all geographical maps.

What’s Amazing

A beautiful waterfall in Africa

Some jets of the cascade are so small that they do not return in time to the stream and scatter thousands of diamond splashes right into the air, mingling with the rainbow haze that envelops the waterfall constantly. Livingston was blown away. The impression of Victoria Falls was probably heightened by the rainbow that the missionary scientist saw at the falls on a moonlit night. Few lucky people were able to observe this phenomenon. It happens when the high water level in the Zambezi coincides with a full moon.

A huge, silvery white moon floats in the sky, illuminating the silent forest, the smooth, white-starred surface of the river and the rushing waterfall like a ghostly lantern. And over all this hangs a multicolored rainbow, curved like a bowstring, resting at one end against the black velvet of the sky, and drowning the other in a myriad drops of water.

Victoria Falls at night with rainbow and moon

And all this splendor is possible in just three days. It is impossible to guess, despite the fact that the high water holds in Zambia from January to July, but the night rainbow at the falls at all “does not spoil” its frequent appearance.

Continuation of the story of the falls

A scientist who discovered for himself and for the whole world the unique beauty of the Zambezi’s clear, plunging stream of water from the rocks on 17 November 1855 was simply stunned.

Water in the Gorge

– It is the dust from the wings of angels! – he whispered. And added, like a true Briton, “God save the queen! And so the waterfall got its English name, Victoria Falls.

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Livingstone would later write in his diaries, “It is the only English name I have ever given to any part of the African continent. But, God knows, I could not have done otherwise!”

Viewing platform

Emil Holub (a Czech research historian) spent several years on the banks of the Zambezi, though it took him only a few weeks to make a detailed map of the falls, so drawn was he to the power of this waterfall. “I feed on its power! – Emile Golub said,” And unable to tear my gaze away from that power!” As a result, after arriving at Victoria Falls in 1875, he did not publish his detailed plan until 1880.

Swimming in the falls

British artist Thomas Baines, who arrived in Africa, intrigued by stories of yet another natural wonder, painted pictures in which he tried to convey all the unique beauty and mesmerizing power of Victoria Falls. They were the first images of Victoria Falls, which saw the inhabitants of Europe.

Meanwhile, the Falls had their own, local names. As many as three:

  • Soengo (Rainbow).
  • Chongue-Wazy (Sleepless Water).
  • Mosi-oa-Tunya (The Smoke That Rattles).

Rocks near the falls

Today, the World Heritage List recognizes the waterfall as having two equal names: Victoria Falls and Mozi-oa-Tunya.

Interesting Facts

Sunset at Victoria Falls

The island from which David Livingstone first had the opportunity to marvel at the majesty of the waterfall now bears his name and is located in the heart of the part of the canyon top that belongs to the country of Zambia. In Zambia, a national park has been organized around Victoria Falls, bearing the “national” name, Rattling Smoke (“Mozi-oa-Tunya”). On the side of the country of Zimbabwe there is exactly the same national park, but it is called “Victoria Falls” (“Victoria Falls”).

River by the falls

Of course, there are whole herds of zebras and antelopes roaming the territories of these reserves, a long-necked animal giraffe walks, lions and rhinoceroses are also found, but the special pride of parks is not fauna, but flora – the Singing Forest, also called the Crying Forest.

Landscape near the falls

A huge number of tiny drops of waterfall rises for miles around, and the water dust irrigates the constantly growing trees in the forest and the “tears” continuously flow down from them. If you move a little farther away from the abyss to attenuate the sound of water noise and listen, you can hear a tinkling, lingering sound like the humming of a string-the forest is “singing. In fact, this sound is produced by the same water dust constantly hovering over the green space.

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What else is worth knowing

Of course, the waterfall itself! In addition to its unique width, the ledges of the precipice where the water falls are also unique, so they are commonly referred to as “falls.”

There are five drops in all:

  1. Devil’s Eye . Often called “Cataract” or “Devil’s Pool”. This natural bowl, which stands about 70 m from the top edge of the precipice and is about 20 sq. m. in area, gets its name. The narrow stone pool formed by the falling water gets its name from a small island in the neighborhood where local pagan tribes used to make human sacrifices. The Europeans who came after Livingstone called such service to the black gods “devilish”, hence the name of the island and the bowl. Although it is now possible to descend into the pool with a guide (who knows exactly which descent is safest) to admire the unreal view of falling water from over 100 meters, the Devil’s Pool still harvests its pagan harvest, taking 2-3 people a year.
  2. Main Falls . It is by far the most majestic and widest curtain of water, peaking from a height of 700,000 cubic meters per minute. In some parts of it, the water does not make it to the Batoka Gorge and, caught by the mighty winds, crashes in the air, forming thousands of thousands of small splashes, creating a dense fog. The height of the Main Falls is about 95 m.
  3. The Horseshoe or Dry Falls . Height of 90-93 m. Famous for the fact that in the period from October to November it dries up, and during normal times the amount of water does not sparkle in the truest sense of the word.
  4. Rainbow Falls . The highest of all falls – 110 meters! On a clear day, rainbow mist of billions of hanging drops is visible for tens of kilometers, and only here at full moon you can see the lunar rainbow.
  5. East Threshold . This is the second highest drop at 101 meters. East Threshold is entirely on the Zambian side of Victoria Falls.

Nature in the Zambezi

So that Victoria Falls can be viewed and many great photos can be taken from different angles, several sites have been made. The most popular is the Blade of the Knife. It is right on the bridge across the falls, and you can see the East Threshold, the Boiling Cauldron, and the Devil’s Eye.

Water falling from height

The pictures that remain in your memory after visiting Victoria Falls are every bit as vivid as the experience of visiting this natural wonder. You can order a bird’s-eye view helicopter tour or a rafting trip in a canoe or kayak to make it even more memorable.

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Generally, after the construction of the railroad in 1905 the flow of tourists to the falls has increased to 300 thousand people a year, but since the political stability of the African countries, the last 100 years, this flow has not increased.

Victoria Falls


Victoria Falls, Africa’s main waterfall on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe, is one of the most unforgettable natural attractions in the world. Imagine a full-flowing river suddenly crashing its waters from a height of 100 meters into a narrow but long, nearly two-kilometer-long gorge – a huge crack in the earth’s crust.

Victoria Falls

Crumbling Waters

The Bantu natives have a nickname for Victoria Falls: Mozi-Oa-Tunya. This can literally be translated into Russian as “rumbling smoke. And these are not just words – collapsing streams of water, especially in floods, form a single water wall, which, falling, raises a myriad of splashes in the air, a real fog rising over the waterfall for several hundred meters. The noise of the water is amazing, and the water column can be seen tens of kilometers away.

  • The natives gave this place an almost sacred, mystical meaning – it is no accident that Louis Boussenard in his novel, The Diamond Snatchers, placed the treasure of the Kafr kings in a cave hidden behind the waterfall’s jets

Victoria Falls is located on the Zambezi River, one of the largest rivers in Africa (about 2,600 km long), with a central height of 108 meters and a width of 1,708 meters. According to these combined characteristics it is considered the largest in the world – none of the other waterfalls on the planet has such a length, and the height of Victoria exceeds the well-known Niagara Falls in North America more than twice.

During the rainy season, which lasts from late December to April on the Zambezi, the falls are the most magnificent spectacle, almost uninterrupted cascade of water – the peak power of the flow reaches in March and April. During the dry season Victoria Falls are much more humble and a tourist watching them at this time may not realize that this is the biggest waterfall in the world.

Victoria Falls from a helicopter

Victoria Falls from a helicopter

The first European to see where the Zambezi fell into the abyss was the English explorer David Livingstone, a truly legendary figure in the discovery of Africa. On November 17, 1855 the astonished Englishman saw for the first time this wonder of the world and named it after the British Queen Victoria. Curiously, his compatriots did not believe him at first – there are no significant hills in this area and the existence of such a grandiose waterfall was perceived with skepticism.

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Victoria Falls - a rainbow


In addition to the majestic sight, visitors are in for a very nerve-racking entertainment, such as flying over the falls and the winding canyon, where the Zambezi rushes further, by helicopter or hang glider, canoeing through the rapids or swimming at the top, above the abyss, in a small reservoir known as the “Pool of the Devil”.

  • The latter is a basalt pool to a depth of two meters and fenced off from the crack of 100 meters high something like a natural rim. Adrenaline-hungry tourists love to be photographed lying on this rim and looking straight into the bottomless abyss – and their feet do not usually get in the frame, because this end is held by a caring African guide. However, it is said that one or two falls happen in a year.

A helicopter flight (12-13 minutes, $150 per person – is also one of the most popular activities because it allows you to enjoy unforgettable panoramas from above (where, as you know, “you can see everything”). You can also order a private flight for 4-6 people: prices on request. Then you can be taken for a ride over the winding canyon of the Zambezi River at top speed over the water, which is incomparable with any roller coaster.

Victoria Falls are quite naturally included by UNESCO in the list of World Heritage Sites. Several hundred thousand tourists a year visit the place and most of them want the most spectacular views. Which can be enjoyed from the north side (i.e. opposite the waterfall).

  • The main access point to Victoria Falls is Livingstone, Zambia: there are daily flights from Johannesburg in South Africa and buses from Lusaka, the capital of Zambia.
  • To visit both sides of the falls, you should stock up on a utility such as a KAZA visa. Just pay $50 and you can stay on the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia for up to 30 days with no problems
  • Official website: – Your guide to the sea of sights


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