Learn about the Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. One of the most impressive, awe-inspiring sights in the world and one of the most famous tourist destinations in Sub-Saharan Africa. Otherwise known as “mosi-oa-tunya’ – The Smoke that Thunders, the waterfall is a heritage site and natural wonder famous the world over.
The waterfall is 1,708 metres wide at the precipice, falling between 70 and 108 metres at its deepest point, in a vertical fall of water into a gorge of thunderous noise and raging water. It is not the widest or the highest waterfall in the world, but calculating the dimensions, by the incredible flow rate of the water, this categorises it as the largest curtain of falling water on Earth.
What is spectacular about this landmark is that the surrounding African landscape is flat, with the waterfall not visible. They do not fall from a mountain or cliff from a plateau down to a valley like a traditional waterfall but plummets off a knife-edge into the earth. The only way to view this immense sight is to stand on the edge of a chasm of raging water and rising mists, and look down into an eroded gash in the earth. A truly incredible sight.
The span of nearly 2 kilometres is made up of five different sections. At its peak flow during the rainy season between February and March, the sections are not easily differentiated from each other because the high volume of water flowing in such massive quantity every minute creates a solid wall of water. This flow can reach a remarkable volume of up to 540 million cubic metres of water per minute.
In the drier months between April and October when the flow is reduced, these “falls” can be identified as The Devil’s Cataract, The Main Falls, The Rainbow Falls, The Horseshoe Falls and the Eastern Cataract. At its lowest in the month of October, the water can be just a trickle, making the view of the basalt rocks a feature in itself. Four of these sections are in Zimbabwe with The Eastern Cataract in Zambian Territory.
Being one of the natural wonders of the world has put the waterfall onto the world heritage list and joins an illustrious group of spectacular destinations to visit.
About the Victoria Falls – The Five Waterfalls
The Devil’s Cataract
Missionaries who came to this area described the ceremonies that took place on the nearby island in the river by the local tribe, as “devilish”. Hence, the name given to this cataract at the edge of the chasm, which is 70 metres high.
This part is the largest and makes up the main central view of the waterfall with an impressive peak flow rate of 700 000 cubic metres per minute. This incredible volume of water flowing over the edge is so great that the rising winds created from the force of the water hitting the rocks at the base of the gorge, pushes mist up the 93 metre high chasm and into the air creating a mist plume over 400 metres, and sometimes twice that height, high in the African sky. This mist cloud of spray from the falls can be seen up to 50 kilometres away and is the only indication that there is a phenomenon of nature nearby.
So-named because of its shape, this part of the waterfall has the least volume of water at a height of 95 metres, and is the first section of the waterfall that will dry up in the drier seasons of October and November, revealing the distinctive shape of its namesake.
At 108 metres, this is the highest section. A rainbow is a common sight at this point of the waterfall, with the sun shining through the mist droplets creating one of nature’s wonders. Similarly, a lunar rainbow is visible during a full moon at night, a moving sight to behold.
The Eastern Cataract
This is the second highest fall of water at 101 metres high, and although they are in Zambia, there is a stunning view point from the Zimbabwe side of the gorge of this part of the waterfall.
Describing the waterfall can not in any small way convey the immensity about the Victoria Falls, the noise or the sheer power emanating from the spectacle. Standing in front of this huge volume of falling water on the Zambezi River evokes emotions in your soul. Experience how small nature makes you feel and the awe that overcomes your senses. A remarkable and unforgettable experience that has to be seen first-hand to comprehend!