Waterfall in Zambia
Victoria Falls, or Mosi-oa-Tunya, is a waterfall in southern Africa on the Zambezi River at the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe. It has been described by CNN as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the world.
Number of drops: 1
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Location: The border of Zambia and Zimbabwe, Africa
History of Victoria Falls
This magnificent curtain of water which descends into a narrow abyss between Zambia and Zimbabwe is a UNESCO Heritage Site. Victoria Falls has been a sought after destination since the late 1800’s and is thought to be the largest falls in the world, one of the seven greatest wonders. Painting by Larry Norton.
It is clear from archaeological sites around the falls that the area has been occupied from around 3 million years ago. Stone artifacts from that time have been found as well as items from the Middle and Late Stone Age. Stone Age inhabitants were eventually displaced by the Khoisan, who were hunter-gatherers that used iron implements. Later, Bantu people moved into the area and the Batoka tribes became dominant. Over time other tribes arrived including the Matabele and the Makololo. Descendants of these tribes are still living in the area today.
Members of the Makololo tribe were the ones who actually took the intrepid explorer David Livingstone, in dugout canoes to see the falls. Livingstone, a Scottish missionary, was on a journey to find a route to the East Coast of Africa. Between 1852 and 1856 he explored from the Upper Zambezi through to the river mouth. The falls were well known to local tribes and it was Chief Sekeletu who escorted Livingstone on 17 November 1855 to the viewing site.
The local indigenous name for the falls is Mosi-oa-Tunya meaning “the smoke that thunders”. Livingstone, on seeing the massive waterfall named it after the British Monarch at the time, Queen Victoria. Later he recorded in his journal these famous words.
‘No one can imagine the beauty of the view from anything witnessed in England. It had never been seen before by European eyes, but scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight”.
David Livingstone became the first European to see Victoria Falls. He returned again in 1860 for a more comprehensive study and was accompanied by John Kirk, a fellow explorer. Other European visitors that followed included a Portuguese explorer, and Emil Holub a Czech explorer who made the first detailed plan of the area, also British artist Thomas Baines who painted some of the earliest pictures of the falls. Once word got out, Anglo traders started to arrive in increasing numbers and a rustic settlement was built on the riverbank (now Zambia) called Old Drift, the crossing place for the Zambezi River prior to 1905.
Visitors from what was the Transvaal region of South Africa began to make their way by ox wagon, on horseback or on foot, to see Victoria Falls. However, malaria was a serious problem in Old Drift causing the settlement to be relocated to its present site, now the town of Livingstone, Zambia. Victoria Falls really came into its own when Cecil John Rhodes, a politician, and entrepreneur commissioned the building of the now famous landmark Victoria Falls Bridge, to cross the Zambezi River. The Victoria Falls bridge was completed in 1905 and became a major transport route for road and rail traffic, trade, and enterprise in Africa.
How to Visit
The falls are massive and invite contemplation from many different viewpoints. Trails invite you to walk around the area and enjoy vistas. Unique views are also to be had from the Knife Edge Bridge and Victoria Falls Bridge. River-level views from below the falls are a good way to experience their power up-close. At certain times of the year, the daring may even swim in pools on the very crest of the cataract.
How to Get There
Most visitors visit from either Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe) or Maramba (Zambia), where complete tourist facilities exist. Each town is accessible by road, rail, and air.
The Victoria Falls Bridge
It was Cecil Rhodes whose ambition drove construction of the railway from Cape Town to the banks of the Zambezi at the Victoria Falls. The discovery of coal at Hwange brought the line from Bulawayo north, and it was Rhodes’s dream to build a “bridge across the Zambesi where the trains, as they pass, will catch the spray of the Falls”, even though he had never visited them.
However, the construction of the Victoria Falls Bridge was not without controversy. Many claimed that the bridge would mar the natural beauty of the Victoria Falls and that is should not be built so close to their vicinity. Despite his death in 1902, the bridge went ahead as Rhodes envisaged it, just below the great Falls.
Victoria Falls Animals
Elephant (Loxodonta africana) are regular visitors on both sides of the river, small herds frequently encountered. They freely cross from either bank to the islands as the water level drops to feed on the fresh island vegetation, being particularly fond of the fruits of the vegetable ivory palms (Hyphaene ventricose).
The Zambezi itself supports large numbers of hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibious), which can often be seen and heard upstream of the Falls along the Zambezi as they wallow in the waters of the river.
Also to be noted are the buffalo (Syncerus caffer), thirsty grazers which appreciate water available along the river. A large heard is often seen in the area around Safari Lodge, Elephant Hills Hotel and Zambezi Drive, crashing down to the water to drink.
When to Visit
The river is typically in full flood during February and March, when as much as 540 million cubic meters of water fall over the edge every single minute. During the rainy season, however, the spray plume can obscure the view of the falls themselves. By November, when the water is at low ebb, visitors may see the curtain split into many smaller channels of falling water.
Victoria Falls RainForest
The main section of the Rainforest extends only over a small section of the Victoria Falls Park, at its western end, on Cataract and Livingstone Islands on the lip of the Falls, and opposite the Main Falls, on the Zimbabwe side, where the never-ending rain from the shadow of the Falls supports the development of a rich and diverse plant community. This diverse flora, in turn, supports a varied diversity of insects, amphibians, birds and mammals.
Further along the lip of the Falls, opposite the eastern half of the Falls and towards Danger Point, the water seasonally dries up and there is only heavy rainfall from the spray during high water periods. In these sections the developed forest flora of the Rainforest are absent and grass, bush and scrub dominate.
However, it is the ground-growing herbaceous flora which is of greatest interest to the botanist, with many rare and some even unique species adapted to the almost constantly saturated conditions.
Facts about Victoria Falls
- Victoria Falls on the Zambezi River is located on the border between the countries of Zambia and Zimbabwe on the continent of Africa.
- The Zambezi River is the largest river in Africa and one of the longest. It flows
- 1,687 miles across Zambia, Angola, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique until it reaches the Indian Ocean.
- 550 million liters of water drops 305 feet (93 m) every minute over the cliff at Victoria Falls and continues flowing downstream as the lower Zambezi River.
- The width of Victoria Falls in the wet season is a bit over a 1 mile wide (1,609 meters).
- The water depth at the base of the falls is 229 feet (70m).
- The European explorer, Doctor David Livingstone called the falls after Queen Victoria in England when he visited there in 1855.
- The falls have been protected by the Zambezi National Park since 1983 and Victoria Falls National Park since January 2013.
- Tourists visit Victoria Falls in the dry season between May to October.
- Tourists can bungee jump from a bridge crossing the river downstream of the falls. With strong ropes tied to their ankles, they fall 364 feet until they hang upside down just above the water.
- The African elephant can live for 70 years and is the largest land animal on Earth, growing to a height of 8.2 to 13 feet tall (2.5 to 4 m) and weigh between 5,000 to 14,000 lbs (2,268 to 6,350 kg).
- Elephants visit the falls to feed on grasses and fruits growing along the banks of the river and on islands in the middle of the river above the falls.
- Lions, Cheetahs, and sometimes Leopards visit the jungles surrounding the falls but they are shy and not often seen
- Rhinoceros have been re-introduced to the region surrounding the falls. They have had their horns removed so that poachers won’t kill them for their horn.
- Buffalo graze on both sides of the Zambezi River near the falls. You can also see Antelopes such as Impala, Waterbuck, and Bushbuck.
- The hippopotamus swims and rests in the Zambezi River upstream of Victoria Falls. They love to eat the swamp grasses growing in the water and along the banks.
- Fish live in the river above and below the falls. Water birds such as the White-backed night heron feed on them and shellfish in the river mud above the falls.
- The Peregrine falcon will fly across the surface of the water and grab fish out of the river with their strong talons.
- Birds such as the Trumpeter hornbill will eat the fruit growing on the trees in the rainforest surrounding the falls.
- Humans have lived around Victoria Falls for at least 2 million years.
- The native African people who live in Victoria Falls today speak the Bantu language. They also speak Portuguese and English.
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