The Smoke that Thunders – Victoria Falls
Ancient & unrivaled
The Victoria Falls or (Mosi-oa-Tunya: The Smoke that Thunders) is a waterfall located on the Zambezi River stretching across the countries of Zambia and Zimbabwe. The Falls are believed to be the largest in the world in terms of the sheer volume of water that flows over it.
These ancient, and truly spectacular Falls were first made known to the outside world in 1855 by Scottish explorer extraordinaire, Dr David Livingstone. Livingstone had been attempting to find a route to the East Coast of the African continent, when he stumbled upon this magnificent site. Travelling south-east from Luanda (Angola) to Sesheke (Zambia), he encountered this most magnificent waterfall and renamed it The Victoria Falls after the British Monarch, Queen Victoria. Livingstone was led to The Falls by the Makalolo tribe’s people in a dug-out canoe.
Soon after Livingstone’s reports about the Victoria Falls spread across borders, The Falls began to attract Anglo traders. A rustic trading settlement was set-up on what is now the Zambian riverbank and became the original Victoria Falls town called Old Drift. The number of foreign visitors rose steadily and people walked, rode on horseback or travelled by ox-wagon from the Transvaal in South Africa to view The Falls. Malaria began to take its toll on the settlement and at the turn of the century, Old Drift was shifted to the site of the present-day city of Livingstone in Zambia.
There are two islands on the crest of The Falls that are large enough to divide the curtain of water even at full flood: Baoruka Island (or Cataract Island) close to the western bank and Livingstone Island near the middle—the point from which Livingstone first viewed The Falls.
The Zambezi River, upstream from The Falls, experiences its rainy season between late November and early April. The river’s annual flood season is from February to May, peaking in April. The spray from The Falls typically rises to a height of over 400 metres (1,300 ft), sometimes even twice as high, and is visible from up to 48 km (30 mi) away.
During the flood season, it is impossible to see either the foot of The Falls or most of its face and the walks in the Rainforest along the cliff opposite it are in a constant shower and shrouded in mist. However, as the dry season takes effect, the islets on the crest become wider and more numerous, and in September to January up to half of the rocky face of The Falls may become dry. It’s during this time that the bottom of the First Gorge can be seen along most of its length.
The New Falls
The Victoria Falls undergo a continuous process of formation as the mighty waters cut though rock and forge new paths.
The falls are currently just over a mile long (1.7 kilometres), and are broken up by various islands, including Cataract Islands.
The present falls is currently wearing a new path from the location of Cataract Island. When eventually all the soft matter has been worn away by the powerful water, the Victoria Falls will move back, and a brand-new gorge will appear.
A visit to Cataract Island is a truly remarkable opportunity to witness these magnificent New Falls in the making.