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Victoria Falls

Victoria Falls

Mosi-Oa-Tunya. “The Smoke that Thunders.” One of the seven wonders of the natural world. Victoria Falls.

Located on the Zambezi River between the southern African countries of Zambia and Zimbabwe, Victoria Falls is neither the tallest nor widest waterfall in the world and neither does it have the greatest water flow. Its claim as the largest waterfall on earth is based on the combination of its width (over 5,600 feet) and its height (over 350 feet), which together create the largest sheet of falling water in the world. In comparison, North America’s Niagara Falls is barely 4,000 feet wide and just 170 feet high.

Uniquely, the Zambezi River leading up to the falls is not bounded by cliffs nor does it flow through a vast gorge. Instead, the river flows across a level plateau in a broad shallow valley until plunging into the deep Victoria Falls chasms. During the late rainy season as the Zambezi reaches flood stage, the falls flow rate rivals earth’s other large waterfalls, yet its mean annual flow is not even half that of Niagara. Below the falls, the Zambezi continues its descent through various falls, gorges, and rapids over the next 150 miles.

The falls famously received their modern name honoring the British queen from the Scottish missionary and explorer, David Livingstone, who in the mid-nineteenth century became the first European to view the falls. During the British empire’s rule of Northern and Southern Rhodesia (Zambia and Zimbabwe, respectively), the falls became an increasingly popular attraction with the newly built Victoria Falls Town becoming the hub of local tourism.

Today, Victoria Falls hosts over a quarter of a million tourists each year. Commissioned in 1900, the Victoria Falls bridge provides a spectacular perspective. Any activity you can imagine is offered at the falls, from swimming to the very lip of the falls from above to whitewater rafting in the gorges below. Zambia’s Mosi-Oa-Tunya National Park offers the region’s best game-viewing opportunities.

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