The mighty roar and the huge white smoke that rises above the ground which is visible from kilometres away is just a part of the grandeur and enticing beauty of Victoria falls. Locally known as ‘Mosi-oa-Tunya’ – the smoke that roars aptly fits the description of the waterfall.
The mighty water drop takes place at one of the widest points of Zambezi River on the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe. Spanning over more than a mile, the water plunges into a maximum depth of 108m (355 ft) with mean flow of 935 cubic metres (33,000 cubic feet) per second on its wildest day.
A brief history
The region surrounding the waterfall has evidence of stone artifacts and Oldowan tools from the early stone age period. Early Iron age artifacts were also excavated along the river near the region. The southern Tonga people known as the Batoka/Tokalea called the falls Shungu na mutitima. The Matabele, later arrivals, named them aManz’ aThunqayo, and the Batswana and Makololo (whose language is used by the Lozi people) call them Mosi-o-Tunya. All these names mean essentially “the smoke that thunders”.
Scottish missionary and explorer David Livingstone is the first European to document the waterfalls. After his first visit, he named the mighty waterfall after the queen of Imperial British, Queen Victoria. The construction of the railway line attracted numerous tourists from the year 1905 onwards. Victoria falls became a huge attraction under the British rule of Zambia and Zimbabwe. When both the nations got independence, Victoria Falls town became an important tourist attraction and saw further development.
Stretching over a mile width and plunging to a depth of 108m, Victoria Falls is one of the largest waterfalls with respect to the largest sheet of falling water. The depth of the chasm, called the First Gorge, varies from 80 metres (260 ft) at its western end to 108 metres (354 ft) in the centre. The only outlet to the First Gorge is a 110-metre-wide (360 ft) gap about two-thirds of the way across the width of the falls from the western end. The whole volume of the river pours into the Victoria Falls gorges from this narrow cleft.
The two islands, Boaruka Island near the western bank and Livingstone Island near the middle on the crest of the falls divide the curtain even at full flood. During the less flood, numerous islands rise to form several parallel streams of water.
The columns of spray that is visible to a long distance resulted in the rain forest like in the region surrounding the waterfall.
Devil’s Pool on the Zambian side close to Livingstone Island is a small pool that sits on the edge of the waterfall. Located at almost midway of the mile stretch waterfall, the Devil’s pool offers a close-up view of the gauging the water plummeting down the might waterfall. Accessible only during the low flood season, swimming to the edge is once in a lifetime experience that provided an exhilarating view.
Other than the view from Devil’s pool by guided tours, the river near the waterfall offers bungee jump, boating and Kayaking.
There are two national parks nearby Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park and Victoria Falls National Park and are home to several animals like elephants, Cape buffalo, giraffe, Grant’s zebra, and a variety of antelope while Vervet monkeys and baboons are commonly found. The river above the falls contains large populations of hippopotamus and crocodiles. Lions, African leopards and South African cheetahs are also occasionally seen.
Best time to visit
The best time to witness the mighty roar of the waterfall is from the months of February to May. The waterfall receives huge floods resulting in a water spray and smoke rising up to 400 meters. Amidst the huge roar, the visibility from nearby the fall is very less during the peak water flood. However, a chopper ride offered by the tours over the waterfall offers one of the gorgeous views rivaling the natural wonders of the world. When the flood is relatively low from June to October, a much clearer view with several parallel streams of water plummeting the depth is seen.
Literally known as the smoke that roars in Lozi, the Victoria Falls is one of the natural wonders of the world and offers a grandeur view in all its mighty and glory.