The Victoria Falls

Victoria Falls is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. Statistically speaking, it is the largest waterfall in the world. This recognition comes from combining the height and width together to create the largest single sheet of flowing water.

Victoria Falls is located on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe, and travelers can access the falls through either Livingstone, Zambia or Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. The falls are also close to the border of Botswana. The Zambezi River, which originates in northern Zambia, serves as the fall's water source. The name Victoria Falls was given to the falls by the Scottish explorer Dr. David Livingstone. He named the falls after the reining queen at the time. The locals called the falls Mosi-oa-Tunya meaning “smoke that thunders.” Many people still refer to this nickname, which accurately defines the falls.


When Zambia gained independence in 1964, officials went through the entire country and changed the streets, cities and buildings from British names to African names except for the city of Livingstone and Victoria Falls. This reflected the deep respect and appreciation the people of Zambia had for the Scottish missionary. Zimbabwe established a sister city to Livingstone, Zambia. This city, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, mirrors the name of the falls. Officials of Zimbabwe also kept the name post their independence.


By the end of the 1990s almost 300,000 people were visiting the falls annually, and this was expected to rise to over a million in the next decade. Unlike the game parks, Victoria Falls has more Zimbabwean and Zambian visitors than international tourists; the attraction is accessible by bus and train, and is therefore comparatively inexpensive to reach.The two countries permit tourists to make day trips from each side and visas can be obtained at the border posts. Costs vary from US$20-US$50. Visitors with single entry visas will need to purchase a visa each time they cross the border. Regular changes in visa regulations mean visitors should check the rules before crossing the border..


There are numerous activities to add excitement and adventure to a trip to Victoria Falls. However, when it comes to viewing the falls, there are two unique and distinctive views of the falls that should both be explored to help you capture the true splendor and amazement of this wonder of nature. The first, and potentially the most impressive, view of the falls comes from the air. You can accomplish this by leveraging a flight over the falls using either a helicopter or microlite. The microlite is the more adventurous route, but either will provide you with a breathtaking and spectacular aerial view of the falls and the surrounding area. You will have a fair chance of seeing elephants or other wildlife while taking in the awe inspiring view of the falls. Although there are no guarantees, witnessing wildlife along the way will enhance your natural wonders experience.
The second and almost equally impressive view of the falls comes from the various trails that follow alongside the falls. This unique trail places you face-to-face with the tops of the falls. The falls are head on and only about 200 feet (60 meters) away. As you enter the park and turn the corner you are instantly presented with the magnificence and glory of the falls. As you take the path and hear the water pounding and witness the vapor rising, you quickly understand the name, “smoke that thunders.” The majority of trails occur on the Zambian side of the falls, however the Zimbabwean side of the falls provides visitors with the greater panoramic view of the falls. Sightseers and photographers can see approximately 80% of the falls as compared to about 25 to 30% from the Zambian side.
There are basically two seasons for the Victoria Falls area. The rainy season runs from late November to early April with the remaining months accounting for the dry season. One would imagine that the rainy season with more water would make the falls more spectacular, however the additional water and subsequent mist in the air makes it nearly impossible to see the base of the falls. The months of June and July are probably the best time to view the falls. The water levels are still high enough to showcase the splendor of the falls, but the amount of water is less creating less spray and more visibility of the falls.
As you move into the later part of the dry season, August through October, it is quite possible you will see more rock face than falls. However, this also opens the door for walking across the top of the falls which can be a unique and exhilarating experience as well.
During the rainy season and high water, Victoria Falls can be a challenge to capture with a camera because of all of the mist in the air. It is also a challenge to navigate the trails along the gorge with the constant and heavy falling spray from the falls. It is important to have rain gear and something to protect your camera. The high water levels creates a greater amount of mist in the air. This increases the probabilities that you will be able to capture rainbow images around the falls. More than likely you will want to use a polarizing filter which will help with the reflecting light from the sun and mist in the air.
The lower water levels can create more dramatic pictures with the various rocks cropping out between the falls. You should also be able to see the canyon and base of the falls. You will also be able to walk across the top of the falls and take images down the face of the falls.
There are several hotels and lodges to choose from for a great stay at Victoria Falls. Lodges and hotels are available on both the Zambian and Zimbabwean sides of the falls. More information on recommended places to stay coming soon.
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