“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
You feel it before you can hear it or see it. A soft drizzle brings relief from the summer heat – but there isn’t a cloud in the sky.
And as you make your way down the winding path between the moss-covered trees, the chorus of birds becomes muffled. A faint murmur becomes a gentle rumble and eventually a roar – and as you reach the edge of the cliff, you catch your breath.
The sheer power of the great white roar – the magnificent crescendo which began as a trickle of streams and rivers a few hundred kilometres away becomes a tumultuous, awe-inspiring curtain of smoky water.
Named by the indigenous Lozi tribe, Mosi-oa-Tunya “the smoke that thunders”, it soaks its captivated audience in a celebratory spray – a gentle touch in contrast with the chaos below the cliffs…
The Victoria Falls
Carved over millennia by the Zambezi River which snakes along the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia, the Victoria Falls was first seen by a European person in 1855. Scottish missionary and explorer David Livingstone approached the falls from the Zambian side and named his ‘discovery’ in honour of Queen Victoria who ruled Britain at the time.
This is what Livingstone wrote on observing the falls: “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.”
It’s a wonder
Recognised as the largest waterfall in the world (a combination of its width of 1,708 metres and height of 108 metres), it is also one of the seven natural wonders of the world, and it’s not difficult to see why. It truly is an awe-inspiring sight.
The best place to view the full beauty of the falls is from the Victoria Falls National Park on the Zimbabwean side. For SADC visitors, US$20 (around R280) entry to the park will give you access to the well sign-posted cobbled path which leads along the edge of the falls. There are 15 viewpoints beginning with the Chain Walk – 73 steps leading down into the gorge with a view of Devil’s Cataract and the first glimpse of the main falls.
The best view
The seventh view point offers one of the best combination views of the Victoria Falls in full force. Panning from left to right the Devil’s Cataract merges into the main falls – sending up a shower of spray, drenching the spellbound visitors. The sound of the cascading water is overwhelming. It thunders into the depths below, and with the spray, a deep vibration begins in your toes, races through your lungs, and exits with every astonished breath.
The Horse Shoe Falls is on the far right – closest to Zambia with a drop of around 95 metres. During the high water season, the rising mist is so dense that visitors can hardly see through it. During the dry season, the raging waters dry up revealing the stark rock face behind the misty curtain. This also provides a handy spot for swallows to nest before the next rainy season comes around.
The final view point on the Zimbabwean side of the falls is at the Victoria Falls Bridge – completed over 100 years ago in 1905. The 198 metre steel construction crosses the divide between Zambia and Zimbabwe, with a rail line running down its centre. Commissioned by Cecil John Rhodes, it took two years to complete, and was part of his vision to connect the Cape to Cairo.
A unique experience – every time
A short walk back along the well-kempt pathway will lead you to the main entrance of the national park where you can enjoy a local beer at the restaurant and reflect on a truly unique and wondrous experience.
And the best part? You can return to the majestic Victoria Falls over and over again, and it will be different every time. Never the same water, never the same season, never the same views.
What to take with you when viewing the Victoria Falls:
Take a rain jacket if you don’t want your clothes to get wet. A hat for shade from the summer sun, sunscreen and mosquito repellent (it is a malaria risk zone), a waterproof camera, and a thirst for adventure.
How to get to the Victoria Falls?
South African tourists can now take advantage of FastJet’s three weekly flights between Johannesburg and the Victoria Falls International Airport (Monday, Thursday, Sunday). Return tickets start from R2,740 including airport taxes.
Where to stay when you’re visiting the Victoria Falls?
The Victoria Falls Safari Lodge offers a wide range of accommodation options from a five star luxury lodge to self-catering cottages suitable for families. Keep a lookout for regular packages and specials.