You can hear the Falls before you’re even close to seeing them. A gentle murmur slowly transitioning to a deafening roar as a fine mist generated from the world’s largest curtain of water soaks you through. There’s no doubt that Victoria Falls, one of natural wonders of the world, is a riot for all five senses. Whether it be from the Zambian or Zimbabwean side of the border, a visit to Victoria Falls is a highlight for any tourist itinerary. But what should you know before you go, and what are the top facts and history behind Africa’s most famous natural landmark? Read on to find out!
Take Photos Leave Footprints Top Victoria Falls Facts
Although most people associate Victoria Falls with its “discovery” by David Livingstone, the area surrounding the Falls has been the site of numerous settlements dating back as far as 3 million years ago. That said, it wasn’t until Livingstone, a Scottish missionary exploring the Upper Zambezi between 1852 and 1856, was introduced to the Falls by the Makololo tribe that it came to the collective conscience of the Western world on November 17, 1855.
Until that time the Falls were known by their local name, “Mosi-oa-Tunya”, which translates to “the smoke that thunders” and is still the name of a National Park on the Zambian side of the Falls. But on that fateful day in 1855 the Falls got their better-known name in honour of the British Monarch of that time.
Here are the Take Photos Leave Footprints top 10 facts about the Falls:
- Together with the Aurora, Rio de Janeiro harbor, the Grand Canyon, the Great Barrier Reef, Mount Everest and Paricutin Volcano in Mexico, Victoria Falls is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.
- Whilst Victoria Falls can’t claim to be the highest or the widest waterfall in the world, the combination of the Falls’ width and height do make it the largest falling curtain of water in the world.
- Victoria Falls is home to a unique phenomenon known as a moonbow. When the sun sets on a full moon, the moonbow lasts from sunset to sunrise as a result of the light reflecting off the Falls’ spray.
- The Falls have five primary sections that span 1,700m. One of the five, the Eastern Cataract, is in Zambia. The other four, Devils Cataract, Main Falls, Horseshoe Falls and Rainbow Falls, are in Zimbabwe.
- At its deepest point the gorge below the falls is 360ft deep.
- During the annual rainy seasons up to 300,000 gallons of water pour over the Falls every single second.
- Victoria Falls officially awarded UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 1989.
- During the height of the rainy season the spray from the Falls can be seen from up to 30-miles away.
- That same spray means that a number of species of flora otherwise unseen in the area are able to grow in and around the falls. This includes several palm species and ebony.
- The name “Victoria Falls” was given to the Falls by David Livingstone as a tribute to Queen Victoria.
Victoria Falls – Practical Info
When is the Best Time to Visit Victoria Falls?
Put simply, there a lot to factor in to the equation and there is no perfect answer (except to say that any time is a good time). Some specific “Falls” related factors to consider include:
- You can only visit Devil’s Pool between late August and early January.
- The Falls are at their roaring best in the wet season between November and March (although, to be honest, they’re stunning year-round).
There’s also a strong chance that you’ll want to factor in more than just a visit to the Falls themselves (after all, you’re unlikely to spend a full 2-week holiday gazing in awe at the Falls alone). Some things to consider in that regard include:
- Safari wildlife is always best viewed during the dry season which is from June until October in Zimbabwe.
- If you’re more worried about the weather, then you’ll need to remember that the summer, which lasts from about September until April, can get hot (and humid from November). Winters, which last from May until August, are much milder.
- During the wet season, particularly between December and April, the mosquitoes are more prevalent.
Where Should I stay?
As the Falls are on the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe you have the option of staying in ether country. On the Zambian side is Livingstone Town. If you want to stay on the Zimbabwe side then you’ll need to find accommodation in Victoria Falls Town. Both sides have an abundance of accommodation options and getting across the border is a breeze, particularly if you can get yourself a KAZA visa. That means you can see the Falls from both sides within a single day if that floats your boat.
How Do I Get There?
The area is served by two international airports; Victoria Falls Airport – which is a 30-minute drive from the Falls and Livingstone International Airport (also known by its new, less catchy, name which is Harry Mwanga Nkumbula International Airport) which is about a 15-minute drive from the Falls. Quite frankly, accessibility couldn’t get much better. If you’re flying long-haul then you’re likely going to have a layover in Johannesburg (South African Airlines), Addis Ababa (Ethiopia Airlines) or Nairobi (Kenyan Airlines) before the final short leg into the Falls area.
How Much Are Entry Permits and Which Side is Best?
At the time of writing it’s USD 30 to enter on the Zimbabwe side and USD 20 to enter on the Zambian side. If you want to visit both sides that obviously means a total of USD 50 (excluding extra visa costs you might incur to traverse between the two countries.
Now I know what you’re thinking. Why would I pay to visit both sides? The simple answer is that each side offers a unique perspective. 75% of the Falls is visible from the Zimbabwean side whilst only 25% is viewable from the Zambian side. That might automatically make you think that the Zimbabwean side is the better bet. It’s true, the Zimbabwe side is definitely the better option for sweeping panoramic photos. However, that ignores that the Zambian side gets you up close and personal with the falls; during peak flow that means getting absolutely drenched and feeling the Falls full power. The Zambian side is a sensory experience that shouldn’t be missed. My advice is to take the Falls in from both sides.
How Else Can I Experience the Falls?
If you’re looking for more than just seeing the Falls, then you’ll be pleased to know that both Victoria Falls Town and Livingstone Town offer an abundance of other ways to experience them. That includes white water rafting, bridge tours, luxury train tours, by microlight and by helicopter. If those options don’t get your adrenaline pumping sufficiently then there are also bungee jump and gorge swing options nearby.
Have you visited the Falls and have any further guidance? Comment below!