Victoria Falls

Victoria Falls

The Victoria Falls presents a spectacular sight of awe-inspiring beauty and grandeur on the Zambezi River, forming a natural border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. It was described by the Kololo tribe living in the area as ‘Mosi-oa-Tunya’ – ‘The Smoke that Thunders’ for the immense spray and incredible noise caused by the rushing water. Victoria Falls is now also known as the greatest curtain of falling water in the world when its width and height are combined.

Columns of spray can be seen from miles away as, at the height of the rainy season, more than five hundred million cubic metres (over 17 billion cubic feet) of water per minute plummet over the edge, over a width of nearly two kilometres or over a mile, into a gorge over a hundred metres or 300 feet below.

The wide basalt cliff over which the Falls thunder transforms the Zambezi from a placid river into a ferocious torrent cutting through a series of dramatic gorges.

Facing the Falls is another sheer wall of basalt, rising to the same height, and capped by mist-soaked rain forest. A path along the edge of the forest provides those prepared to brave the tremendous spray with an unparalleled series of views of the Falls.

One special vantage point is across the Knife-edge Bridge, where you can have the finest view of the Eastern Cataract and the Main Falls as well as the Boiling Pot, where the river turns and heads down the Batoka Gorge. Other vantage points include Livingstone Island, the Falls Bridge, Devil’s Pool and the Lookout Tree, both of which command panoramic views across the Main Falls.


If action, adventure and a surge of adrenalin are your thing, then why not experience it all while  visiting the adventure capital of Southern Africa? The wide basalt cliff of the Falls transforms the placid Zambezi River into a furious torrent, cutting through a series of dramatic gorges. This allows for a multitude of adventures from aerial and death-defying, or up-close-and-personal. Peak flood season is around March and April when the full power of the Falls can be experienced in all its glory.

More Information

  • Width: 1 688m / 5 538ft
  • Height: 108m / 354ft
  • Flow rate: 1 088m³ / 3 570m³
  • Known as: The Smoke that Thunders
  • Named after: Queen Victoria of Great Britain
  • National Park: Mosi-oa-Tunya

Different seasons throughout the year offer entirely unique encounters at the Falls. The peak flood season typically occurs in March and April, during which the Falls reveal their full splendor and power. However, due to the enormous mist created by the rushing waters, it may be impossible to see the entire width of the Falls on foot, and visitors might need raincoats or umbrellas. Viewing the Falls from the air, whether by microlights, helicopters, or planes, is particularly breathtaking during this period, as billowing clouds of mist ascend high into the sky.

As the floodwaters recede, the Falls gradually become more accessible and visually striking, reaching their pinnacle by September. From October onwards, as the dry season intensifies, certain parts of the Falls begin to dry up. By November and December, during their lowest flow, the Falls transform into small rivulets trickling over the edge, and in some areas, no water cascades at all. Visiting the Falls during this season offers a unique perspective, highlighting the imposing basalt cliffs that form the canyon walls, and allowing a full appreciation of the vast abyss. For those seeking adventure, there are low-season rafting trips to the base of the Falls known as the "float of angels."

In 1851, Dr. David Livingstone first learned about the magnificent waterfall. However, it wasn't until 1855 that he embarked on a journey to see it for himself. After trekking downriver on foot, he spent the night on Kalai Island, situated upstream from the Falls. The following morning, he embarked on a small canoe to approach the resounding "smoke" created by the Falls. He eventually landed on the largest island at the precipice of the Falls, now known as Livingstone Island, from where he obtained his initial view of the Falls.

"In profound awe, I cautiously edged towards the brink and peered into a vast crevice that had been carved from one bank to the other of the wide Zambezi river. There, I witnessed a majestic spectacle – a stream spanning a thousand yards in width plummeted a hundred feet and suddenly converged into a narrow space of just fifteen to twenty yards. It was, without a doubt, the most extraordinary sight I had ever encountered in Africa."

In 1857, when describing the surrounding area, he remarked, "No one can fathom the sheer beauty of this panorama compared to anything witnessed in England. This breathtaking vista had never been seen before by European eyes. Scenes of such exquisite splendor must have been beheld by angels during their celestial flights."

It is believed that geological shifts in a previous era altered the course of the upper Zambezi River, redirecting it from a south-easterly to a general easterly direction, which ultimately set in motion the formation of a waterfall. This waterfall emerged in an area characterized by a massive bed of basalt approximately 305 meters (1,000 feet) thick.

The basalt, through which the Zambezi River flows for a distance of 209 kilometers (130 miles) in the vicinity of Livingstone, exhibits distinct, well-defined joints or cracks. These fissures may have developed as the molten lava cooled. One dominant set of these joints runs from east to west and is associated with areas of softer material within the basalt.

In the Livingstone area, the Zambezi River flows directly southward, and as a result, these softer materials are susceptible to erosion, leading to the formation of extensive east-west gorges. The retreat of the Falls upstream is attributed to a second major set of joints that run from north to south. The gradual erosion of smaller north-south-oriented joints funneled the river into a narrow crevice, abandoning the broader fall line. Once this change occurred, it was only a matter of time before the narrow gorges cut into another transverse fracture zone containing softer materials, re-establishing a broader waterfall. This process has iterated over numerous years, and the meandering gorges represent the remnants of seven previous waterfall positions.

The Devil's Cataract on the Zimbabwe side, which is lower than the current Falls, demonstrates how the water's force is gradually eroding along such a line of vulnerability. It is likely to continue eroding its path until it reaches another east-west joint, where a forthcoming waterfall line will eventually take shape.