Victoria Falls in Zambia’s Zambezi

by Jay Otaigbe on October 21, 2009 · 1 comment

The Zambezi river, Africa’s fourth longest and parent to Victoria Falls, stretches 2’200 miles.  Starting at the Central African Plateau, the Zambezi passes through or serves as a border for six countries: Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique, Namibia and Angola.  Finally, it drains into the Indian Ocean after landing in the Mozambique Channel.  It hosts two major hydroelectric power stations, the Kariba Dam providing power to Zimbabwe and Zambia and the Cahora Bassa Dam serving Mozambique and South Africa.  This river is impressive, rough and rapid in some places and calmly flowing in others.  It supports an abundance of wildlife and feeds endless plants as it ‘s’ shapes it’s way from the Congo through to Mozambique.  Many an adventurous and sporty tourist have flocked to the Zambezi for whitewater rafting or Kayaking.  There are three navigable sections to the Zambezi river, the upper, middle and lower sections.

Victoria Falls

Victoria Falls

As spectacular as this mighty river is, we are only going to be looking closely at it’s largest water fall, Victoria Falls, in this blog.  So named by David Livingstone (the Scottish explorer) in honour of Queen Elizabeth of England.  The indigenous name for the falls is Mosi-oa-Tunya (The Smoke That Thunders) and this is the official name used to refer to it in Zambia.  Zimbabweans just calls it ‘Victoria Falls.’  Victoria Falls marks the end of the upper Zambezi and the start of the middle Zambezi.  It also forms part of the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Devil's Cataract

Devil's Cataract

You will not be dissappointed by the wonder of such a powerful and magnificent show of natural beauty and strength.  It was no wonder that David Livingstone, upon seeing these falls, remarked that “angels in their flight” must have “gazed” upon this awesome site.  David Livingstone is credited as being the first European to view Victoria Falls and as previously mentioned, he named them so.  Between 1852 and 1856, David Livingstone navigated the whole of the Zambezi river from it’s source right through to it’s mouth in the Indian Ocean.  I’ve always wondered what inspires such men to know all there is to know about whatever takes their fancy.  I imagine that it was no small task to say the least. 

Victoria Falls Bridge

Victoria Falls Bridge

The falls were not of much interest to Europeans until after 1905 when a railway crossing was built to facilitate Cecil Rhodes’ mining efforts and desire to conquer Africa in as many commercial ways as possible.  Cecil Rhodes’ drive to create a railroad running from Cairo to the Cape, brought about the plans for the first crossing of Victoria falls.  He made sure that the bridge was positioned so that trains would be sprayed by the falls as they passed.

Since the building of the bridge, tourism has steadily increased over the years until, by the turn of the millennium, more than quarter of a million people visited the falls annually.  Now, due to the affordable and easy access by road, there are more Zambian and Zimbabwean tourists than international ones.  This is unlike the game parks.

Things to See and Do

I'm sorry - I would pass out!

I'm sorry - I would pass out!

The falls themselves are enormous with lots of varying views of different aspects.  You can take micro-light or fixed winged flights over the falls if you’re not scared of heights.  I’m sorry, but I am a chicken, I couldn’t do it.  If I get to close to any deep drop I have to fight with the sheer fear of wanting to jump or fall coupled with a chilling shiver through my spine.  I’m not suicidal, it’s just a fear that many people have including me.  Okay, just me

On the opposite side to the falls you can walk through the rain forest and at times you’ll be able to see clearly enough to catch a glimpse of the falls.  You’ll soon reach Knife Edge Bridge where, during the dry season, you’ll be able to savour a stunning view of the falls.  In the rainy season the spray makes it more difficult to see but you’ll love the cooling mist all the same.

During the dry season, if the water is low enough, you can actually walk along the river to Livingstone Island, the place where David Livingstone first viewed the falls from.  Remember, you are walking across the upper Zambezi, by the crest, not along the gorge where the water crashes.  That would be suicide.

'Devil's Pool' - Natural 'SAFE' swimming.

'Devil's Pool' - Natural 'SAFE' swimming.

Devil’s Pool is allegedly safe to swim in when the water level is low enough.  Sorry, I just watched I’m afraid.  This natural pool sits right on the crest of the falls and swimmers are apparently prevented from being hurled over the edge, by a natural rock formation providing an ample lip to the pool.  It just scared the living daylights out of me.  I really wish I was a Steve Irwin type or Bruce Willis, but I’m just a big scared cat when it comes to  things that look dangerous, but supposedly are not.  However, I wish that I had the guts because the thrill must be intense.

There are quite a few wildlife parks in the Victoria Falls area, where you can see most of the spectrum of African animals both large and small.  Safaris are popular and a must see if you make it to Victoria Falls.  For more information regarding short and long tours to Victoria Falls visit:

Victoria Falls Short Tour

Victoria Falls Long Tour

Hotels in the area are usually extremely well appointed.  One that comes to mind is the Zambezi Sun Hotel.  The fine African designs inside and out, rivalled only by the excellence of service, make this hotel a very popular choice.

Zambezi Sun Reception

Zambezi Sun Reception

For five star accommodation then the first choice would have to be the Royal Livingstone Hotel.  I’ll let you all have a look around the pictures and reviews of this one in your own time, but if you can afford it, you’ll never forget the experience.

Have Fun.

Jay

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