Victoria Falls

Victoria Falls

Zimbabwe

The largest waterfall in Africa, and, by some measurements, the world, Victoria Falls is located on the Zambezi River between the two nations of Zambia and Zimbabwe. Known as Mosi-oa-Tunya, or the Smoke that Thunders, by the Makololo and Batswana people who live nearby, this mighty deluge moves 38,430 cubic feet of water into the First Gorge every second, a stunning sight during the wet season. Victoria Falls is more than twice the height of the Niagara Falls, as well as twice the width of the Horseshoe falls. In fact, measuring some 5,604 feet wide and 354 feet tall, the Victoria Falls can rightfully claim to be the biggest single sheet of falling water in the world.

Though locals had long known about this huge cataract, with Middle Stone Age remains dating back almost 50,000 years unearthed nearby, its global significance was not fully recognised until Scottish missionary and explorer David Livingstone chanced upon the falls on November 17th, 1855. Livingstone, an ardent supporter of the Empire, dedicated the falls to Queen Victoria, and they bear her name to this day. Word soon spread of this discovery, and explorers like Serpa Pinto and artists such as Thomas Baines flocked there to take in this spellbinding torrent, which was without parallel in Europe. Since then the waterfalls have turned into one of Africa’s prime tourist destinations, with over 300,000 people visiting the site each year. A railway was even built to serve the area, and the Victoria Falls Bridge, a 650 foot steel bridge dating from 1905, allows trains to cross the Second Gorge close to the falls. Passengers are afforded one of the world’s greatest views when crossing this feat of human ingenuity and perseverance.

One of the most adventurous and surreal ways to experience the falls is to don your swimsuit or trunks and jump into the Devil’s Pool, a naturally occurring, and mostly safe, flat water pool right at the fall’s edge. This is perhaps the most sublime infinity pool on earth, and thousands of tourists swim there every year, hanging over the clifftops or floating in the calm waters right next to the surging crest. However, the Devil’s Pool can be dangerous during the rainy season, and bursts of high water can, and have, swept swimmers to their doom.

Surrounded by Mopane woodland savannah, visitors to the falls can also make memorable excursions to protected safari parks to witness elephants, baboons, giraffes, and zebras in the wild.

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