Victoria Falls – the most impressive waterfall in the world


Remember we’ve walked with you through some of the most beautiful waterfalls of the planet, and a few days ago I showed you Devil’s Pool where I promised to tell more about the waterfall itself. Here you go and see.

Victoria Falls is located on the Zambezi River, the fourth largest in Africa, on the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia. It is one of the most spectacular waterfalls. In the language of the Kollo tribe who lived here in the 1800s, “Mosi-oa-Tunya” means “the smoke that rattles. Victoria Falls is the name given to them by David Livingstone, British missionary, when he discovered the falls between 1852 and 1856. The first European to visit the falls was David Livingstone. He first heard about the colossal size of the falls in 1851. It took him several years to organize his expedition and in 1855 he went in search of the falls.

To get you started, I encourage you to take a virtual tour and fly over the falls. Click on the picture below:

Down the Zambezi River, Livingston made his way to the falls. In a small canoe he paddled to the precipice and stopped at a small island, which years later would be called Livingstone’s Island. The first European was simply amazed by the picture opened to him from the edge of the cliff.

Livingstone later described his first impressions of what he saw: “I crawled up to the cliff and looked into a huge crack. Streams of water about a mile wide were rushing off and falling down into the gorge. It was the most wonderful thing I’d ever seen in Africa.”

Livingstone was credited with naming the falls after Queen Victoria. The local tribesmen called the falls Mozi-oa-Tunya, which means “rumbling smoke.

In the following years many Europeans visited Africa to see Victoria Falls. People were not afraid of exhausting multi-day hikes (scorching sun, dangerous illnesses, deadly insects – that’s what awaited travelers on the road), they were willing to do almost anything to see this wonder of nature.

Victoria Falls is a breathtaking spectacle of frightening beauty and splendor.

It is, by some accounts, the largest waterfall in the world, and one of the most unusual in shape, with perhaps the most diverse and easily observed wildlife of any section of the falls.

Although Victoria Falls is neither the tallest nor the widest waterfall in the world, its status as the largest is based on a width of 1.7 km (1 mile) and a height of 108 m (360 feet), forming the largest sheet of falling water in the world. The maximum flow rate is well comparable to other major waterfalls.

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The waterfall is formed by a sharp drop of the Zambezi into a narrow chasm carved by its waters in the fracture zone of the earth’s crust. Numerous islets on the crest of the falls divide the water current into several branches. One can feel the dense fog and thunderous roar of the waterfall from a distance of about 40 kilometers. The boiling cauldron at the beginning of the winding gorge 80 km long, through which the streams from the waterfall rush, is crossed by a bridge 198 meters long and 94 meters high. During the flood the capacity of the water flow is about 546 million liters of water per minute.

There are two islands at the crest of the falls that are large enough to separate the curtain of water even in a full flood: Boarooka Island (or Potoka Island) near the west bank, and Livingston Island near the middle. The main streams are called Jumping Water (called by some the Devil’s Stream), Main Falls, Rainbow Falls (the highest), and East Stream.

The depth of the chasm, called First Gorge, varies from 80 m (262 ft) at its western end to 108 m (360 ft) in the center. The entire volume of the Zambezi River pours through the (360-foot) wide 110 m outlet of the First Gorge for approximately 150 m (500 ft), then enters a zigzag series of gorges, defined in accordance with the order in which the river reaches them. The water entering the Second Gorge makes a sharp sharp turn and cuts through a deep basin called the Cook Inlet. Victoria is a complex system, often referred to as the Victoria Falls.

When viewed from an airplane in a west-to-east direction, the system looks as follows: Devils Cataract (Devil’s Falls), Cataract Island, Main Falls (Main Cascade), Livingston Island, Horseshoe (“horseshoe”), Rainbow Falls (“rainbow”), Armchear Island (“chair”) and Eastern Cataract (East Falls). The river exits the chasm in a natural 70-120 m wide “proran” located closer to Eastern Falls. The Proran is called the Boiling Pot, which means “boiling cauldron. The raging river passes through a zigzag canyon of three bends, each 1.5 km long, and only when it reaches the plain its current calms down.

First Gorge: Here the river falls into Victoria Falls Second Gorge: (joined by the Victoria Falls Bridge) 250m south of the falls, 2.15km long (270yds south, 2,350yds long) Third Gorge: 600m south, 1.95km long (650yds south, 2,100yds long) Fourth Gorge: 1.15km south, 2.25km long (1,256yds south, 2,200yds long) 25 km long (1,256 yards south, 2,460 yards long) Fifth Gorge: 2.55 km south, 3.2 km long (1.5 miles south, 2 miles long) Songwi Gorge: 5.3 km south, 3.3 km long, (3.3 miles south, 2 miles long) named after the small Songwi River, coming from the northeast, and the largest depth of 140 m (460 feet) at the end of the dry season. Batoka Gorge: the gorge below the Songwi. This gorge is approximately 120 km (75 miles) long, and guides the river through a basalt plateau to the valley in what is now Lake Kariba.

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The gorge walls are nearly vertical and about 120 m (400 ft) high, but the river level varies by 20 m (65 ft) between wet and dry seasons.

But it is impossible to feel the statistics. It is worth a visit to see that the mighty cascade of the Zambezi River rushing into the Batoka Gorge is the widest curtain of falling water on the planet.

Many of Africa’s animals and birds can be seen in close proximity to Victoria Falls, and the range of species of river fish is also well represented in the Zambezi, allowing you to combine wildlife viewing and sport fishing with sightseeing.

Victoria Falls is one of Africa’s major tourist attractions – a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The waterfall is divided between Zambia and Zimbabwe, and each country has a national park to protect the waterfall and the town serving as a tourist destination: Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park and Livingstone Town in Zambia, and Victoria Falls National Park and Victoria Falls Town in Zimbabwe.

Below Boiling Pot, almost at right angles to the waterfall, there is a bridge across the gorge, one of five located on the Zambezi River. The arch-shaped bridge is 250 meters long, the top of the bridge is 125 meters above the lower level of the river. Regular rail service connects Victoria Falls City and Livingston to Bulawayo, with another line connecting Livingston and Lusaka.

“Leaping Waters,” the westernmost stream of Victoria Falls formed the line of least resistance where the falls subsequently formed. The recent geological history of Victoria Falls can be seen in the shape of the gorges below the falls. A basalt plateau along which the Upper Zambezi streams have made many large cracks filled with weaker sandstone. In the area of the current waterfalls, the largest cracks run roughly from east to west (deviating slightly from northeast to southwest), with smaller cracks from north to south connecting them.

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Over at least 100,000 years, the falls have receded upstream through Batoca Gorge, fracturing the sandstone-filled fissures to form gorges. The river has fallen at different epochs into different chasms that now form a series of sharp zigzag gorges downstream from the falls.

Ignoring some of the dry sections, Second to Fifth Gorge and Songwi Gorge represent past sections of the falls at a time when it fell into one long, straight chasm, as it does now. Their dimensions indicate that we are not living in the period of the widest Mosi-oa-Tunya ever. The waterfall has already begun to cut through the next main gorge, in a fall on one side of the “Jumping Water” section of the falls.

David Livingston, a weaver turned physician, famous traveler, explorer, discovered Victoria Falls to the world. During all his years in Africa, he allowed himself only once to change the local name and only once carved his initials and the date “1855” – the year of the great discovery – into a tree. Livingstone’s heart was consigned to African soil in Ilala and his body rests in Westminster Abbey, London. The great traveler left us a hand-drawn picture of Victoria.

The majestic Zambezi, having absorbed waters from a vast basin area of 1.3 million square kilometers, approaches a basalt crevasse and plunges into the abyss with a terrific rumble. Mosi-oa-Tunya – Rumbling Smoke, or Seongo (Chongue), which means “Rainbow” or “Rainbow Place” – this was and still is the name of the waterfall, which Livingstone named after the Queen of England.

Victoria Falls are a completely unusual phenomenon in the world’s nature. In the distant past, the Earth’s deepest tectonic forces have split the strongest rock – basalt – into blocks, and across the Zambezi River was formed a crack 100-120 meters wide from one bank to another, but at a depth that could hide a 40-story building. If you swim upstream to the waterfall, the impression is as if the river goes underground, because right in front of you you will see the “shore” crossing the river! The waters of the Zambezi, squeezed by a narrow gorge, boil and boil like magma, foaming and raging with a wild roar. “The whole mass of water overflowing over the edge of the falls, three meters below,” as David Livingstone wrote, “becomes like a monstrous veil of snow driven by a snowstorm. The water particles are separated from it in the form of comets with flowing tails, until the whole avalanche of snow becomes a myriad of small comets, rushing in one direction, and each of them leaves behind its core a tail of white foam.”

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Charles Livingston, brother of the famous traveler, who had been to Victoria Falls and had previously seen Niagara, gave the palm to the African wonder and noted that he had not observed the phenomenon described above at Niagara. D. Livingston suggested that it was caused by dry air. None of the later researchers after the Livingstone brothers mentions the microstructure of Victoria’s jets. It is difficult to say what the reason is: either lack of observation, or lack of attention to the effect. Meanwhile, it deserves a title: “The Livingston Brothers Effect.”

“Every drop of Zambezi water,” David Livingston wrote, “gives the impression of having an individuality of its own. It drips from the oars and glides like beads across the smooth surface, like drops of mercury on a table. Each droplet with a continuation in the form of pure white steam. “

The force of the impact of the multi-ton masses of water against the rock from below is such that the water turns into “steam” and is knocked back out in columns of “smoke” several hundred meters high, visible from a distance of tens of kilometers. A thunderous roar can be heard at almost the same distance.

In the last century, getting to Victoria Falls was not easy. D. Livingstone was accompanied by three hundred warriors of Chief Selektu. But the locals were afraid to approach Mosi-oa-Tunya itself, believing it to be the home of some formidable deity. David Livingstone was accompanied directly to the falls by only two brave men, Thakeleng and Tuba Makoro. They sailed up from the headwaters to Kaseruk Island (today – Livingstone Island), located at the crest of the waterfall, and the great traveler was able to look into the boiling abyss and view almost the entire system. Livingstone described with delight the rainbow over the waterfall, a rainbow rare, worthy of “the miracle of nature”: it was unusual to the European eye circular rainbows, one within another, concentric circles of many rainbows. Livingstone later wrote in his diary, “The sight was so beautiful that overflying angels must have admired it. Victoria Falls is witness to a rare natural phenomenon – lunar rainbows. After all, the rainbow arises as a result of refraction and decomposition of the spectrum of light rays of not only the sun, but also the moon. Like at Iguazu, nighttime rainbows over Victoria are particularly splendid during the full moon, twice a year, when the Zambezi is at its fullest.

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Some travelers have described Victoria’s water dust as particularly impressive in the evenings, when “the fading sun casts a golden-yellow stream of rays on the water columns, turning them gray-yellow, and then it seems as if some fantastic giant torches are standing over the water.

The waterfall is located in two national parks, Rattling Smoke (Mosi-oa-Tunya) in Zambia and Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. Both national parks are small, covering 66 and 23 square kilometers, respectively.

The national parks are rich in wildlife. There are significant settlements of elephants, giraffes, and hippos. There are also two white rhinos, which were brought there from South Africa.

There is a small cemetery on the site of the old English settlement.

The Falls were practically unvisited by humans until the railroad to Bulawayo was built in 1905. After the railroad went into operation, they quickly gained popularity and remained so until the end of British colonial rule. A tourist town grew on the Zimbabwean side. In the late 1960s the number of tourists declined due to partisan fighting in Zimbabwe (Rhodesia) and the detention of foreign tourists under the rule of Wennet Konda in independent Zambia.

Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980 brought relative peace, and in the 1980s a new wave of tourism took hold in the region. By the late 1990s, nearly 300,000 people were visiting the falls annually. In the 2000s, the number of tourists visiting Zimbabwe began to decline due to the unrest associated with Robert Mugabe’s rule.


Zimbabwe and Zambia allow visas for day trips at border crossings without prior application, but these visas are considered expensive.

Just after the falls begins a stretch of river with numerous rapids, which attracts fans of kayaking and rafting. The rapids are safe enough for beginners, with a large flow of water there are no dangerous rocks, and after all the rapids go sections of smooth water.

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