Victoria Falls - The world’s largest curtain of plummeting water (31 May)
Interesting Facts about Victoria Falls
SCOTTISH EXPLORER David Livingstone first heard about a massive waterfall in southern Africa four years before he actually saw it. He was intrigued by what the local Kololo referred to as Mosi-oa-Tunya, “the smoke that thunders,” an apt description given that you can see the mist rising from the thundering cataract more than 12 miles (19.5 km) away.
When Livingstone finally came upon the falls in 1855, he described the “most wonderful sight I had witnessed in Africa.” His discovery captured the imagination of Victorian England and catapulted him to explorer fame. But of course, he wasn’t the first human to lay eyes on the falls: The Kololo had long been awed by them, and archaeologists found stone tools and jewelry indicating that early man was living there two million years ago. Today, the falls, which Livingstone named after Queen Victoria, remain on record as the world’s largest curtain of falling water. Africa’s fourth largest river, the Zambezi, originates about 1,000 miles (1,609 km) to the north. It rounds a bend at the Zambia–Zimbabwe border and plummets off a basalt plateau in one continuous sheet more than a mile wide (1.6 km). The best place to view this natural spectacle is from Knife-Edge Bridge in Zambia’s Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park. Standing there, high above Boiling Pot and taking in the booming, churning intensity below, it’s clear why Livingstone was mesmerized by the scene.
Visitors can also walk across Victoria Falls Bridge to a vantage point high above the Zambezi River just after its plummet. This parabolic arch bridge was built in 1905 as part of Cecil Rhodes’ grand scheme to connect Cape Town and Cairo by railroad—and though the railroad was aborted, it was the impetus behind the luxurious Victoria Falls Hotel. Larger-scale tourism followed in the 1960s, with amenities for travelers sprouting up on both sides of the falls. Microlight flights take visitors high over the landscape. There are gorge swings and helicopter rides and cliff hikes and bungee jumping. The truly adventurous can take a plunge in Devil’s Pool, on the lip of the falls.
The vintage Royal Livingstone Express train rumbles through the bush, revealing a stunning perspective of the falls from Victoria Falls Bridge, just as the sun drops behind them. Sipping a sundowner, admiring this famous scene in the heart of Africa, is an ineffable, humbling experience.