World Travel GuidesVictoria Falls, Zambia/Zimbabwe

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Victoria Falls, from the Zimbabwe side

Victoria Falls is a huge waterfall at the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe. Its native name is Mosi-oa-Tunya, which means "the smoke that thunders". Victoria Falls is claimed to be the largest waterfall in the world. This claim of "largest" is based not so much on its height or width, but rather on it having the largest sheet of falling water in the world, measured at 1.7km wide and 108m high.

Victoria Falls is formed when the Zambezi River drops off the Zambesi basin into a canyon forming a long series of gorges. It allows visitors to view it up close on foot. David Livingston was the first European to see the falls. He named it after the reigning British monarch, Queen Victoria.

Located on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe, Victoria Falls was first Today it is recognised as a Unesco World Heritage Site. Both countries have set up national parks to protect it, the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park and Livingstone National Park in Zambia, and the Victoria Falls National Park in Zimbabwe. The town of Victoria Falls is the tourism centre.

Victoria Falls gets its highest volume of flow during the rainy season between November to early April. During this time, the spray rises to over 400m (1300ft). The foot of the fall disappears under the continuous torrent which shower the walkways with sprays that look like inverted rain. During full moon, the fall creates "moonbows" just like the usual rainbows.

Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
John Walker

During the dry season, the single sheet of water is broken by islets on the crest. The bottom of the First Gorge can be seen along much of its length. The minimum flow in November is just one tenth of that in April, giving it a wider variation of volume than other major waterfalls.

The accessibility of Victoria Falls to major towns in Zambia and Zimbabwe makes it a big attraction to local tourists; in total, over 300,000 people visited it per year as of end 1990's, the majority being locals. Political unrest in Zimbabwe due to the policies of President Robert Mugabe caused a decline in tourist visits on the Zimbabwe side -- hotel occupancy dropped to 30% in 2006 while the Zambian side was at near capacity. Unesco has voiced concerns over the rapid development and often ineffective management of the falls' environment, and has threatened to revoke its World Heritage status.

How to get to Victoria Falls

Most visitors reach Victoria Falls from the Zimbabwe side, where the tourism facilities are better developed. For foreign visitors, there is a US$30 visa fee into Zimbabwe, and an admission fee of US$20 to Victoria Falls. British Airways, South African Air and Air Zimbabwe offers air connections between Johannesburg (JNB) and Victoria Falls Airport (VFA).

Most visitors to Victoria Falls find accommodation in Livingston, Zambida and Victoria Falls town in Zimbabwe. Livingston, also called Miramba, is the former capital of Zambia. Activities in addition to sightseeing and photography, include bungee jumping off the Victoria Falls Bridge, whitewater rafting and sunset river cruise. Shoppers may also enjoy hunting for handicrafts at the Miramba market. Tour operators can also arrange for you to join a safari, go elephant and horse riding, or take a helicopter ride (for about US$100) over the falls. And finally, the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge has a casino.

When to visit Victoria Falls

The best time to visit Victoria Falls is between May and August, when one can best enjoy the waterfall without having it totally obscured by its sprays.

Photo Album

  1. Victoria Falls Photo Album

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