Victoria Falls, affectionately known as Mosi-oa Tunya by locals, meaning “the smoke that thunders.”
Victoria Falls is one of the most famous and iconic destinations in Africa. It is also one of the most visited tourist destinations on the continent. Your trip to Zimbabwe or Zambia, whichever side you decide to visit, is simply incomplete without a visit to Vic Falls.
As travel experts, we visit the Victoria Falls frequently, and there is only one word to describe our experience: breathtaking.
Vic Falls stretches along the Zambezi River and forms the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia. The Kololo tribe, who lived in the area in the 1800s, named it “Mosi-oa-Tunya“—’The Smoke That Thunders’. You can see columns of spray from miles away when, during the peak of the rainy season, more than five hundred million cubic meters of water per hour plummet over the edge. This is a distance of almost two kilometers and into a gorge of over one hundred meters below.
This is largely dependent on your safari expectations. Both sides have breathtaking views of Vic Falls, but your lodging choices and leisure preferences may impact your stay. Luckily, we have camps in both Zimbabwe and Zambia. In fact, you’ll be spoilt for choice when deciding.
It is important to note that the Victoria Falls Zimbabwe is home to about three-quarters the Falls, which means, it has the best vantage point.
If you want the best of both worlds, the Victoria Falls Bridge allows you to quickly cross the border. All you’ll need is a passport and a double-entry/multiple-entry visa, which you can get at the border. This means that if you live on the Zambian side and wish to see the Falls from the Zimbabwean side, you can do so on a day trip—and vice versa.
Walking down the footpaths of Victoria Falls National Park can be quite an experience. You’ll find yourself in a lush rainforest, and then reach gorge-edge viewpoints. Here, you will be met by the majestic Main Falls, which thunders down into the rock chasm below, causing tremors beneath your feet.
If you’re more interested in getting close to the cascades of water, then you should make your way to the Zambian side of the Vic Falls. During high-water season, you will be able to stroll along the paved trails on the waterfall’s edge and traverse the heart-racing Knife-Brink Bridge—an exhilarating (and drenching) trek along the edge of the precipice, about 100 meters (328 feet) above the gorge.
Even during low-water season, you can follow the trail down to the boiling pot, a large vortex at the bottom of the waterfall. Look up and be amazed at the sheer size of this natural phenomenon!
The Victoria Falls is known as the greatest falling curtain of water on the planet and is now one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.
The Victoria Falls is the world’s largest waterfall.
Though it may not be the widest or the highest , Vic Falls is classified as the largest because of its combined width of 1,708 metres and height of 108 metres. Surpassing the magnificent Niagara and Iguacu Falls.
Vic Falls comprises of five different ‘smaller’ waterfalls. One is in Zambia and four are in Zimbabwe. On a Zimbabwe safari, you can expect to see the Devil’s Cataract, Main Falls, Rainbow Falls, and Horseshoe Falls. In Zambia, you will find the Eastern Cataract.
Let’s Take a Closer Look at Each of These Smaller Falls:
Devil’s Cataract is 70m high and named after the nearby island which local tribes still inhabit today. These tribes often partake in ceremonies, which were referred to as ‘devilish’ by missionaries who frequented the island. This is why the cataract was named Devil’s Cataract.
Main Falls is 93 meters high and is the biggest falls of the five. It also offers the most spectacular view of the Falls. Main Falls is surrounded by a wide curtain of water with a peak flow rate at 700 000 cubic metres per hour. The volume of water at the top of the falls is so large that the water is battered and transformed into a thick mist by strong rising winds.
Horseshoe Falls is 95 meteres high. This falls takes the shape of a horseshoe and has the lowest volume of water. It usually dries up between October and November.
The Eastern Cataract is found in Zambia and is 101 metres high. You will also be able to see the Eastern Cataract when visiting Danger Point, an exposed, rocky, raised mass of land with low shrubs and grasses, which is often battered by strong winds. The rocks here are extremely slippery and travellerss should stay away from the edge.
Rainbow Falls is 108 meters height, which means that it is the highest point among all five. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to see a beautiful rainbow on a clear day. On occassion, when a full moon is on display you may even see a lunar rainbow.
The Victoria Falls does attract wildlife, including warthogs, zebras, giraffes, chacma baboons, vervet monkeys, and banded mongooses. Depending on where you stay, you might be able to spot some of these animals around your camp.
If you’re an avid birdwatcher, you’re in for a treat. Hornbills, fork-tailed drongos, African paradise flycatchers, and Goliath herons are all around the Vic Falls.
Remember, there are three national parks around the Vic Falls, Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park, Chobe National Park, Hwange National Park, and the Lower Zambezi National Park.
The Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park provides an opportunity to view the most common animals found in national parks across the country. The Park has an abundance of elephant, buffalo, hippo, zebra and many antelope species. Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park is also one of very few parks where the white rhino can still be tracked. White rhinos are rare in many parks so this is an excellent opportunity to see them. It’s also an unforgettable experience to track these amazing creatures on foot.
Chobe National Park is home to the wild dog, leopard, lion, and hyena. You will also find large herds of buffalo and elephants in the park. The rhino population has been reduced, but it is being slowly and successfully reintroduced to Chobe National Park’s private areas. Chobe is therefore one of the national parks around the Victoria Falls that is home to the Big Five.
Hwange, Zimbabwe’s largest national park, is home to elephants, buffalo, wildebeests, gemsbok, and sable. The apex predators include lions, leopards, and wild dogs, as well as hyenas, servals, honey badgers, and African wildcats. You will find a variety of landscapes, including teak forests, ilala Palm islands, sandveld, savannah, acacia woodlands, sandveld, ilala Palm islands, and savannah, making for a fascinating Zimbabwe safari.
Lower Zambezi National Park is home to a wide range of faunal species, including reptiles and amphibians, mammals, birds, fish, and insects. They are found in different densities, in diverse eco-systems, and with varying degrees of complexity.
Depending on when you decide to visit, you may see elephants, buffalo, waterbuck, hippo, and crocodiles during your stay. These animals usually grace the waterbanks of the Lower Zambezi River. There are also good numbers of leopards, lions, and hyenas among the carnivores. The wild dog (african hunting dogs), serval, and the African wildcat are other commonly seen animals. including the side striped jackal, dwarf, slender, and banded monkeygoose, and the aardvark, which are classified under the smaller animals.
Because there is ample water and food, these animals are dispersed widely during the dry season. They are concentrated on the valley floor, banks and islands of the Zambezi River during the dry season.
The best time to experience the Vic Falls is during Feburary to May, just after the summer rains. You’ll be able to see the largest falling water column in the world flowing at its highest volume. Although the green season only begins in November, the first spring rains usually start in May. However, it takes time for the water from the Angolan Highlands to flow down into the series of huge gorges. After a dry winter, the Falls take a while to gather steam. Vic Falls can be overwhelming. The combination of noise, heat, and moisture creates an incredible natural spectacle.
The Victoria Falls is twice as high as North America’s Niagara Falls. You can hear the thunderous roar for miles. The water’s sheer force propels a column of spray high into the air, drenching and engulfing the Falls’ edge in fine mist. This is what gave rise to the traditional name Mosi-oa Tunya, or ‘The Smoke that Thunders’.
It is important to note that Victoria Falls’ most spectacular spray does not coincide with the peak safari season in Chobe, Botswana, or in Hwange, Zimbabwe. Swimming in the Devil’s Pool or certain sections of whitewater rapids are dangerous activities that you shouldn’t do when the water is high and fast.
If you aren’t comfortable travelling in the green season, February to May may not be the best time to take advantage of the Fall’s proximity to Botswana. Combining a Chobe river safari and a Victoria Falls safari is best from June through August. You can expect great game viewing, cool days and nights, little rain, and lots of water thundering above the precipice.
The climate is subtropical in the vicinity of Victoria Falls, which is located approximately 900 metres above sea level. The winters are mild and dry from the middle of May until the middle of August, but the nights are cold during this time.
The climate is subtropical in the vicinity of Victoria Falls, which is located approximately 900 metres above sea level. The winters are mild and dry from the middle of May until the middle of August, but the nights are cold during this time. Temperatures easily reach 35 degrees and sometimes even up to 40 degrees, even though the humidity is not as high as it is in the summer.
This hot period occurs between September and November, just before the rainy season, and is actually the hottest of the year. The warmest temperature of the year occurs in October. On the other hand, during the winter months, the weather is pleasant during the day, but the temperature at night can go quite close to freezing.
The Zambezi River’s most notable characteristic is the spectacular waterfall known as Victoria Falls, which forms a curtain of cascading water that is the largest in the world. After travelling a distance of 150 metres (500 feet) via first gorge’s exit that is 110 metres wide (360 feet), the entire volume of the Zambezi River then enters a succession of gorges that wind in a snake-like pattern.
The water that is flowing into the second gorge takes an abrupt curve to the right, which has resulted in the formation of a very deep pool known as the Boiling Pot. This section of the canyon is approximately 150 metres broad, and it is known as the Boiling Pot because of the massive, sluggish swirl and severe boiling turbulence that occurs at times of high water. Access to the Boiling Pot is possible from the Zambian side via a difficult trail; nevertheless, the view looking back up the falls makes the ascent more than worthwhile. The Boiling Pot is frequently surrounded by wildlife that have been swept over the falls, such as hippos, and elephants.
The walls of the chasm are virtually vertical and have an average height of around 120 metres; however, the level of the river within the walls can vary by up to 20 metres depending on the time of year (rainy vs dry).
The Zambian side offers views of the remaining one quarter of the Falls, while the Zimbabwean side offers views of 75% of the waterfall.
A moonbow is a rare and extraordinary natural occurrence that can only be seen in two locations on the face of the earth; one of those locations is Victoria Falls. A rainbow is a stunning natural phenomena. When the light of a full moon shines on the Falls, an incredible phenomenon known as a lunar rainbow may sometimes be seen there.
You can locate the Victoria Falls Rainforest on the Zimbabwean side of the Falls. This rainforest is the only area on world where it rains every single day of the year. It is highly advised that guests go into the forest and check out the verdant new growth that the recent rains have brought to the region.
In the event that you are a traveller with a high level of adrenaline, you can find it enjoyable to swim up to the edge of the Falls at Devil’s Pool with your guide. Due to the fact that it requires you to swim in the Zambezi River and rely on the river to transport you, this is not something that should really be tried without careful contemplation first.
However, when you finally get there, the sensation is one of pure exhilaration. Think of it as the most spectacular infinity pool in the entire planet! This is something that can only be done from September through December, when the water levels are at their lowest.
The quantities are so large that they are virtually difficult to fathom. To put that into perspective, that is the same as having 200 olympic swimming pools . It moves at a pace of 1088 metres per second.