Victoria Falls, Mosi Oa Tunya, is a huge waterfall that crashes on the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe. This was our second trip to visit the magnificent Victoria Falls but I was no less excited. My geography geek will never be calm when it comes to waterfalls! Join us for a sunrise tour of Victoria Falls and our Wild Horizons review.
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Mosi Oa Tunya
Victoria Falls is the name given to this natural wonder by David Livingstone. Being the good Brit he was, he decided to name it for his Queen back home (Queen Victoria I). However, before he arrived it had another name, The Smoke that thunders, Mosi Oa Tunya. The local tribe used descriptions like this as names for lots of things in nature and I think it is beautiful. You can see the spray rising above the gorge from far away, especially in the high water months but it is only as you approach that you can hear the roar of the falls. It truly does thunder.
A Good Morning
We were up bright and early to get to the falls. I think we were running about 15 minutes behind as it was just a little too bright and early for speedy make-up application, we hopped in the Wild Horizons car and began the 15-minute drive into town. There were loads of people jogging along the roadside, taking advantage of the cooler morning air. Getting up to avoid the 38°C afternoon run is 100% worth it!
We parked up in the car park opposite the entrance to the National Park. There were lots of shops and one or two of the proprietors were already in full salesman mode despite the early hour.
Victoria Falls National Park
Our first stop was the large bronze statue of David Livingstone. This Victorian British explorer first came to the falls in 1851 during his 33 year exploration of Africa. Of course the presence of a 34m tall reminder of colonialism has its controversial side. Some Zimbabwean war veterans did try to have it removed in 2001. It stood as a distressing reminder of colonialism but the local community resisted and so it remains, looking over the Devil’s Cataract.
The Devil’s Cataract
Walking towards the first viewing point is so exciting. At 70m high, this is actually the shortest of the falls but it is one of the most impressive. The view is side on and the water thunders past. It is the closest you can get to water on the Zimbabwean side. The island here is called Boaruka Island which means “Water Divider” but it was named “Devil’s Cataract” by European missionaries. They were rather alarmed at people using this spot to throw offerings, one describing the drop as “Hell itself”.
The next viewing point is down several steps. They are uneven and deep so be careful if it is wet. We made our way down and just stood gazing at the cascading water, plummeting from above and pummelling the side of Boaruka Island (Cataract Island). This is an amazing photo spot but honestly, we were so overexcited that we totally forgot.
The Main Falls
Following the curving path, you can hear but not see the falls until you round the corner and there, in front of you is a wall of water. The sound bursts forth and it really does take your breath away…even in the dry season. Victoria Falls is twice the height of Niagara Falls and, when full, it is the largest waterfall in the world. It is up to 109m high and 1,708m wide 500 MILLION litres of Zambezi river water surges over the edge every minute. The curtain of white water is so beautiful and it roars! It must be overwhelming in the wet season. The mist of the crashing water already rose in misty drizzle up to the places we were standing. It must be a deluge.
Now comes a series of viewpoints. You feel like a rabbit popping out of its warren entrances. Each spot gives a new view and then it is gone again. The paths winds through the rainforest, kept lush by the permanent mist from the falls. Keep an eye out for wildlife as many animals live in the National Park. We saw a pretty little robin (not big game) and a deer but our guide did point out some pretty fresh leopard scat so you never know!
The Devil’s Pool
From stop number 5 or 6 you can just see the Devil’s Pool next to Livingstone Island on the Zambian side of the gorge. This natural infinity pool comes right up to the edge of the drop. In dry season you can take a tour and swim here. The guides will take pictures of you right there at the edge, with the rainbow behind which is just beautiful.
The Zambian Falls
My biggest regret for our second visit is that it was nearly at the same time of year as our first. It was nice to walk around the National Park without getting thoroughly drenched (especially with a flight to catch just a couple of hours afterwards) but it was low water. On our last trip, it was also low water so we have yet to see Victoria Falls at full force, or the Zambian Falls flowing.
Down here, you can see the huge island that has been carved out between two branches of the Zambezi. It is dramatic how steep the sides are I would love to see what had become of it in a few hundred thousand years. The whole gorge is incredibly steep. The dramatic turns of the waterfall over time have really left a twisted scar across the landscape.
The final stop is a lovely vantage of the Victoria Falls Bridge that spans the second gorge. The steel structure was constructed in 1905 and is made of British steel. The bridge is a128m high with the river flowing beneath. Its height means it is now home to a bungee jumping spot and a bridge swing. Above that you’ll find the border crossing to Zambia. People can be seen crossing by foot, by car and by truck. Occasionally, a train clatters across too. The Rovos Rail train takes the bridge on some of its routes and the Royal Livingstone Express dinner train stops here for photos.
Final Thoughts on Our Sunrise Tour of Victoria Falls
I am a geography geek. I will continue to be blown away by incredible waterfalls no matter how many times we visit them. It was so nice to have a guide who could bring the National Park to life and let us gaze like slackjawed idiots at the water too. This was our second trip to Victoria Falls and I would go again tomorrow given the chance. We haven’t seen a moonbow next (the rainbow that the ist creates int he full moon’s light..a good excuse to return.