The Breathtaking Victoria Falls Rainforest
The beautiful Victoria Falls rainforest is part of the 2300ha reserve of the Victoria Falls National Park that was established in 1937.
Victoria Falls Rainforest Facts
The Victoria Falls Rainforest is a natural area of dense vegetation within the national park that has taken root under the almost constant rainfall that is created by the spray forced up from the gorge.
On the Zimbabwe side, the rainforest is located on the cliffs opposite the waterfall, facing the Main Falls.
There is no rainforest on the Zambian viewpoints as the spray is not so dense or as constant on their sections of the waterfall. This section tends to support more grass with fewer trees making the area more open to the views of the waterfall.
On your walk through the dense rainforest and beyond, you will come across 19 spectacular viewpoints. These viewing points give you the opportunity to see the entire waterfall, including the iron railway bridge.
Viewpoints 1 to 15 are on the Zimbabwe side with 16 to 19 on the Zambian side of the waterfall.
This rainforest is a fragile ecosystem that is totally dependent on the abundant water and high humidity of the constant rain. This “rain” is created by the spray that is carried upwards on the air currents that rise up from the bottom of the gorge.
As the spray from the waterfall rises up, the tiny droplets condense and fall as rain.
During the Zambezi River’s high season, the spray is so dense that visibility is very poor. The constant mist and dense moisture levels tend to obscure the view of the waterfall keeping the area of the rainforest under 24 hours of constant rain.
It is quite an amazing miracle of nature which is very rare and makes for an unforgettable experience.
Plants In The Victoria Falls Rainforest: The Flora
Although this dense vegetation has been given the name “rainforest” most of the vegetation is the same that grows along the Zambezi riverbanks and islands of the Zambezi River upstream of the waterfall.
These plants just grow in more abundance and stature than their counterparts on the river’s banks.
The flora of the Victoria Falls rainforest includes:
- Liana vines
- Date palm groves
- Fig Trees
Some of the trees are not indigenous to the region, like the Mahogany for instance.
Plants In The Rainforest
There are plenty of ground-growing plants that make up the base of the rainforest. As these plants are protected by the overhead canopy and are fed by the ever dripping water – it is very lush and green.
There are several types of plants in the tropical rainforest – but one stands out in particular.
The Flame Lily
The national flower of Zimbabwe – the Flame Lily (Gloriosa Superba).
The genus name “gloriosus” means glorious – which is the perfect name for this stunning flower.
This unique flower is a climbing vine that clings by using its tendrils. The unusual flower is flame-like with red and yellow colors and a lily-like structure.
Another stunning flower that you can’t miss when it flowers in November/December is the Haemanthus Filiflorus and Haemanthus Multiflorus. These plants showcase red fireball flowers that really stand out in the green growth.
Throughout the year ferns are endemic and create the lush tropical feel of the rainforest. The most common ferns you will see are the maidenhair (Adiantum Capillus-Veneris) and the Cheilanthes Farinose.
Grasses In The Rainforest
Something you may notice on your walk along the waterfall is the absence of trees and large shrubs at the edge of the gorge. Tall, lush grass and indigenous wildflowers populate the first few meters of ground from the edge of the chasm.
This occurrence is created by the winds rising and buffeting the walls of the gorge creating turbulence as it spills over the edge as it reached the top of the chasm. These high winds are not conducive to large plant growth.
Trees In The Rainforest
There are 2 main species of trees that make up almost 80% of the canopy of the rainforest.
These trees include 2 species of waterbooms – the Syzygium Guineense and Syzygium Cordatum. The common name for this beautiful tree is the water berry as they are always found near water.
These trees are fairly common along the riverbanks above the waterfall. They produce dark red or purple oval berries that are edible. Monkeys, birds, and children seek out this slightly acidic-tasting fruit.
The other species of tree is commonly known as the Red Milkwood. Its Latin name is Mimusops Zeyheri and is native to Africa. It is a large shady evergreen tree with a fruit that is very popular with baboons, monkeys, and birds.
These fruit trees do encourage the birds and monkeys that you see on your walk into the rainforest.
The other types of trees in the tropical rainforest that make up the 20% are the:
- Wild date palm (Phoenix Reclinata)
- African olive (Olea Africana)
- Natal mahogany (Trichilia Emetica)
- Cape fig (Ficus Capensis)
- African ebony (Diospyros Mespiliformis)
You will also notice a strangling creeper (Ficus Ingens) that grows up the trees. Sadly this creeper eventually kills the host on which it grows.
The rainforest is a beautiful section in which to walk, with designated paths that lead you through. It is important that you keep to these paths and do not wander off into the forest.
This is a protected area and as such, it is not correct to take plant samples or disturb the natural ecosystem that you are enjoying.
As you progress deeper into the rainforest you will notice the roar of the waterfall is muffled beneath the protective canopy and a quiet peace pervades the area. This is a moment of relative quiet before you reach another viewing point and the thunder of the water surrounds you again.
Animals In The Victoria Falls Rainforest: The Fauna
There are many resident small mammals living in the rainforest area. And you may well ask how many species in the rainforest will you see.
During your walk, you may come across some of these animals in the rainforest.
The most commonly seen residents are the Vervet Monkeys (Chlorocebus Pygerythrus) and the Chacma Baboons (Papio Ursinus).
They may be wandering along the pathways or sitting in the undergrowth or the trees. Generally, they keep their distance, and tourists are not encouraged to feed them or tempt them closer.
Groups of charming, inquisitive Banded Mongooses (Mungos Mungo) are also a common sighting.
If you are quiet and look carefully you may be fortunate and spy the other rainforest animals – the Bushbuck (Tragelaphus Scriptus) or Warthog (Phacochoerus Africanus) that have made the rainforest area their home.
There are plenty of other smaller reptiles that abound. These include lizards, geckos, and occasionally snakes. The African python (Python Natalensis) have been spotted occasionally over the years.
Generally, snakes stay away from people – so no need to worry about encountering any.
Birds And Insects In The Rainforest
You will always find a multitude of insects and butterflies in this type of environment – and this rainforest is no different.
The birdlife is boundless with exciting sightings of the Trumpeter Hornbill (Bycanistes Bucinator), Schalow’s Turaco (Tauraco Schalowi), the Coppery Sunbird, ground-feeding Fire-finches, and the Blue Waxbill making the walk a nature lovers paradise.
This special place is part of the Victoria Falls National Park. The park was established in 1937 and covers an area of 2300ha from just above the waterfall. The park includes the town, the waterfall, and the rainforest, reaching 12km downstream.
Rainforest Walk Tips and Precautions
- Stay on the designated paths at all times
- Do take protective gear to keep your cameras, phones, and passports dry. The rainforest walk can be very wet at certain times of the year.
- Do wear shoes that have a good grip – the path may be slippery in places and is on a slope in various areas.
- Do take care when sighting any wildlife or possibly snakes. Do not make sudden noises or attempt to get up close to them.
- Do not cross the barriers along the rainforest walk – they are there for your protection. The sheer cliff face of the gorge is not very far off the path and the rocks and grass are slippery when wet.
- Do not attempt to take samples of the plants anywhere along the Victoria Falls walk. This national park is a protected area – you may take as many photographs as you wish though.
- Do not use drones – these are strictly prohibited.
- Do not attempt to feed any of the wildlife.
Painting From The Rainforest By Thomas Baines
Thomas Baines was an artist/explorer who was the artist of David Livingstone’s 1858 expedition to the Zambezi. Baines quarreled with Livingstone on this trip and he was unfairly dismissed for theft.
In 1862 he made it back to the area where Baines painted many of his famous scenes which were reproduced in the album of prints “The Victoria Falls, Zambezi River” which was published by Day in London 1865.
He had gone back to the waterfall to meet Livingstone and clear his name, but by the time he arrived Livingstone had already moved out of the area. He then spent 12 days sketching and painting his now-famous artworks of the waterfall and produced at least 9 paintings from various vantage points around the waterfall.
Below is a view of the Falls from the Victoria Falls Rainforest from where Thomas Baines painted “The Great Western Fall” in 1862.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why does it rain every day in the rainforest?
It rains every day in the Victoria Falls rainforest because of the spray the rises up the cliffs of the gorge. The huge amount of water falling onto the rocks below the waterfall creates a mist that falls as rain on the rainforest near the waterfall.
Is there grass in the rainforest?
Yes there is grass in the Victoria Falls rainforest. Along the edges of the gorge, grass dominates as the turbulance of the air rising from the gorge keeps the trees and shrubs at bay for a few metres. In these conditions, grass thrives with indigenous wildflowers showcasing themselves too.
Can you see Victoria Falls from Zambia?
You can see the Victoria Falls waterfall from Zambia but you do have a limited view. Most of the waterfall is seen from Zimbabwe and has the best views.
Is it safe to walk around Victoria Falls?
There is no danger in walking around Victoria Falls Town or in the Victoria Falls National Park to view the waterfall. The only danger may be from the baboons trying to steal some food from you or maybe a bag of goodies.
Is Victoria Falls worth visiting?
Yes – without a doubt. It is a natural wonder of the world – and for good reason. The waterfall is magnificent in size, splendor, and noise factor. It is definitely worth a visit.