David Livingstone, the Scottish missionary and explorer, is believed to have been the first European to view Victoria Falls on 16 November 1855 from what is now known as Livingstone Island, one of two land masses in the middle of the river, immediately upstream from the falls on the Zambian side. Livingstone named his discovery in honour of Queen Victoria, but the indigenous name, Mosi-oa-Tunya — "the smoke that thunders" — is also well known. Official usage in Zambia, such as the national park, is Mosi-oa-Tunya, and on the Zimbabwean side, Victoria Falls applies to the national park and town. The World Heritage List officially recognizes both names.
Victoria Falls is listed as one of the seven wonders of the world. The others are the Grand Canyon, the Great Barrier Reef, Mount Everest, harbour of Rio de Janeiro, Paricutin Volcano, aurora borealis. I have now made it to three - another tick on the bucket list.
While Victoria Falls is neither the highest nor the widest waterfall in the world, it is claimed to be the largest. This claim is based on a width of 1,708 metres (5,604 ft - just over one mile) and height of 108 metres (354 ft), forming the largest sheet of falling water in the world. The falls' maximum flow rate compares well with that of other major waterfalls (see table below).
For a considerable distance upstream from the falls, the Zambezi flows over a level sheet ofbasalt, in a shallow valley bounded by low and distant sandstone hills. The river's course is dotted with numerous tree-covered islands, which increase in number as the river approaches the falls. There are no mountains, escarpments, or deep valleys which might be expected to create a waterfall, only flat plateau extending hundreds of kilometres in all directions.
The falls are formed as the full width of the river plummets in a single vertical drop into a transverse chasm carved by its waters along a fracture zone in the basalt plateau. In comparison to niagara falls the gorge is much more narrow, increasing the amount of spray which makes it difficult to see the falls at some points. Also, because the gorge is so narrow there are no boats that go under the falls. You either pay the $30 entry fee to the park (Zimbabwe does not have its own currency so US dollars are used and dispensed from bank machines) or $150 for a 10-15 minute flight over the falls. We chose the park option.
The First Gorge, varies from 80 metres (260 ft) at its western end to 108 metres (354 ft) in the centre. The only outlet to the First Gorge is a 110 metres (360 ft) wide gap about two-thirds of the way across the width of the falls from the western end, through which the whole volume of the river pours into the Victoria Falls gorges.
|Size and flow rate of Victoria Falls with Niagara and Iguazu for comparison|
|Parameters||Victoria Falls||Niagara Falls||Iguazu Falls|
|Height in meters and feet:||108m||360 ft||51 m||167 ft||64–82 m||210–269 ft|
|Width in meters and feet:||1,708 m||5,604 ft||1,203 m||3,947 ft||2,700 m||8,858 ft|
|Flow rate units (vol/s):||m³/s||cu ft/s||m³/s||cu ft/s||m³/s||cu ft/s|
|Mean annual flow rate:||1,088||38,430||2,407||85,000||1,746||61,600|
|Highest recorded flow:||12,800||452,000||6,800||240,000||12,600||444,965|
The Zambezi basin above the falls experiences a rainy season from late November to early April, and adry season the rest of the year. The river's annual flood season is February to May with a peak in April, The spray from the falls typically rises to a height of over 400 metres (1,300 ft), and sometimes even twice as high, and is visible from up to 48 km (30 mi) away. We could see the spray from the plane. During the flood season, however, it is impossible to see the foot of the falls and most of its face, and the walks along the cliff opposite it are in a constant shower and shrouded in mist. Close to the edge of the cliff, spray shoots upward like inverted rain. The cliff is opposite the falls and as you walk along there are numerous look out areas for spectacular views of the falls - depending on how much mist there is.
The whole volume of the Zambezi River pours through the First Gorge's 110-meter-wide (360 ft) exit for a distance of about 150 meters (500 ft), then enters a zigzagging series of gorges designated by the order in which the river reaches them. Water entering the Second Gorge makes a sharp right turn and has carved out a deep pool there called the Boiling Pot. Reached via a steep footpath from the Zambian side, it is about 150 metres (500 ft) across. Its surface is smooth at low water, but at high water is marked by enormous, slow swirls and heavy boiling turbulence. Objects—and humans—that are swept over the falls, including the occasional hippo or crocodile, are frequently found swirling about here or washed up at the north-east end of the Second Gorge. This is where the bodies of Mrs Moss and Mr Orchard, mutilated by crocodiles, were found in 1910 after two canoes were capsized by a hippo at Long Island above the falls.
After visiting the falls we took a couple of days to relax and catch some rays at our beautiful resort. Of course we could not resist trips to the market to pick up a souvenir or two. One day we were going to the market at about dusk (maybe not the brightest idea) and a local tourist police officer saw us and said he would accompany us to keep us safe - a police escort to shop, how thoughtful!
Bike and lady made of wire!
It is hard to figure out why the people are so poor here as the economy is based on American dollars and by no means is it cheap (eg. hotel was $200 a night). Also they charge everyone $30 to visit the falls, plus you must pay for a VISA to enter the country which range from $30 to $75 (Canadians pay $75). A 15 minute taxi to the airport is $30. The people do not seem to benefit from the tourism. They are desperate for clothes, shoes, pen and paper. Mag traded pens, sunglasses and a t-shirt for a souvenir. I wish I had brought pens and paper to give to the schools. They sell some of the most beautiful stone work I have ever seen (I did purchase one small piece) and one lady was sewing the most colorful bags and I just had to have one.
We stayed t the Kingdom Hotel where there is a casino and a number of restaurants - nobody in the casino nor the restaurants. I asked if the casino was open and was told no because they are having technical difficulties???
Our last night we went to a little restaurant 'Mama Africa' located on one of the back streets. One must remember there are no street lights here and it is winter so it is dark by 6pm. However, the restaurant looked so quaint and appealing. Once we ordered our dinner a bowl of popcorn and a bowl of locally roasted peanuts was brought to our table, followed by the most delicious homemade buns. Dinner was a traditional Zimbabwe hot pot - ostrich stew served with roasted vegetables and polenta - DELICIOUS!! Dessert was homemade chocolate for me and homemade ice cream for Mag! Great meal, great service and then the African dancers came to the restaurant to entertain us - they even got me up to dance and sing. By the time we left the restaurant was packed - I hope this type of patronage continues for this family run business!
Next day back to Johannesburg for a night before flying to capetown. Mag and I decided to get a hotel near the airport and meet Cassie and her sister (who are coming to capetown) at the airport the next morning. I found a hotel in the emperor's Palace - it is a very large gated community near the airport that consists of several hotels, numerous restaurants, casino, convention centre etc. The place is designed exactly like the hotels and casino in Las Vegas. Mag and I enjoyed our evening with dinner and gambling - feeling perfectly safe to walk around!
Even in Africa I cannot resist a dance and sing-a-long!