Straddling Zambia and Zimbabwe, Victoria Falls is one of the most spectacular waterfalls in the world, and one of the seven natural wonders of the world. It’s also considered the world’s largest waterfall based on “its combined width of 1,708 metres and height of 108 metres, resulting in the world’s largest sheet of falling water” (Wikipedia). The falls are formed where the Zambezi River plummets in a single vertical drop into a wide chasm, which has been carved by the water along a fracture zone in the basalt plateau.
The falls were named by David Livingstone – the first European to see the falls – in 1855 in honour of Queen Victoria. He described them as “scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight.” They were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1989.
Victoria Falls from above
An aerial view is the only way to see the entire length of the falls, and to appreciate their sheer size. Regular helicopter flights circle over the falls in a figure-of-eight pattern, providing different birds-eye perspectives of the falls. You can also see the large floodplain above the falls, and the deep valley carved by the Zambezi River. Two “islands” divide the curtain of water at full flood (there are more of these islands when the water level is low): Boaruka Island (or Cataract Island) and Livingstone Island near the middle.
Victoria Falls from Zimbabwe
A path that follows the top of Victoria Falla on the Zimbabwe side, which offers a changing perspective of the ‘smoke that thunders’. From the Zimbabwean side, there are more vantage points of the falls as you walk along the top.
Victoria Falls from Zambia
The Zambian side of the falls has (arguably) better views, and give you a greater sense of the length of the falls.
It’s worth viewing Victoria Falls from both sides – you can walk across the Victoria Falls Bridge which spans the Zambezi River, connecting Zimbabwe and Zambia. The border is in the middle of the bridge – but you will need to get a visa.
When to visit Victoria Falls
There is a significant difference between the wet or rainy season (late November to early April) and dry season (the rest of the year) in the volume of water. The Zambezi River’s annual flood season is February to May, with a peak in April. When the river has its peak flow, the spray from the falls rises to over 400 metres and is visible from up to 50km (30 mi) away, and the foot of the falls can’t be seen. By comparison, most of the the Zambian side of the falls dries up during the dry season, with the low water season being from July to December and the driest months being October and November. So
- Highest flow – January to June, peaking around March
- Lowest flow – July to December, with driest months being October and November.
It does vary from year to year (some years are drier than others), and there activities like white-water rafting and swimming in the “devil’s pool” on the edge of the falls that you can only do in in the dry season. It’s also much harder to photograph when the water flow is at its highest.