Victoria Falls is the only waterfall in the world with a length of more than a kilometer and a height of more than hundred meters. It is also considered to be the largest fall in the world.
The noise of Victoria Falls can be heard from a distance of 40 kilometers, while the spray and mist from the falling water is rising to a height of over 400 meters and can be seen from a distance of 50 kilometers. No wonder that the local tribes used to call the waterfall Mosi-oa-Tunya “The smoke that thunders”.
Scottish missionary and famous explorer of Africa David Livingstone (1813-1873) named it after Queen Victoria. Livingstone who was the first European to cross Africa from south to north discovered this awe-inspiring waterfall in 1855, while preaching Christianity in Africa. Livingstone wasn’t very pleased with his discovery: it was just an obstacle on his way!
Despite the inconveniences, he was fascinated by the beauty of the falls. In 1857 he wrote that no one in England can even imagine the beauty of this scene. Religious Livingstone also wrote that most probably angels are admiring the scenery while flying nearby. He was accompanied by soldiers but only two of them took the risk of approaching the waterfalls with Livingstone, because for centuries local African tribes had lived in sacral fear from the waterfall.
Just an obstacle on his way!
The waterfall was hardly visited by people up until 1905, when a railway to Bulawayo was constructed, resulting in increasing popularity until the end of the British colonial rule. At the end of the 1960s the number of tourists started to decrease due to the guerrilla struggle in Zimbabwe. However after Zimbabwe gained independence in 1980, the region has been in relative peace and Victoria Falls started to attract a new wave of tourism.
By the end of 1990 nearly 300,000 people were visiting the Falls each year. Victoria Falls is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the citizens of both Zambia and Zimbabwe no longer have fear of the “the smoke that thunders”, and are successfully developing tourism on both sides of the river.
The falls were formed in a zone of crustal faults. On the crest of the fall numerous islands divide the main flow into several branches. During floods, the water flow capacity reaches half a million liters of water per minute.
The water level varies throughout the year; it is at its peak in April at the end of the rainy season, when on average 500,000,000 liters of water flow, and it is at its lowest level in October and early November.