Vic Falls - unforgettable grandeur.


To the Tonga people who live along the Zambezi River's central reaches, the spectacle signifies the domain of God and they call it shuungu namutitima, 'rolling thunder'; to the Kololo further south it is the 'smoke that thunders'; to David Livingstone a scene so lovely must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight". To modern man, the majestic phenomenon is one of the world's great miracles: the Victoria Falls.

At its source, the infant Zambezi river gives no hint of the dramatics to come. It springs forth in a lonely grove of trees on the watershed between Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Joined by many tributary streams, the river soon grows and for 1,200km, it flows lazily over the surface of a vast sheet of lava which forms the plateau of central Africa.

The Aluyi people who live along this stretch of the Zambezi know it as Lwambayi 'great river'. They have great respect for its annual moods and each flood season move out of its way up into the hills.

David Livingstone became the first white man to see the falls on 16 November, 1855 and named them in honour of Queen Victoria.

Devil's Cataract

The Falls are one and a half times as wide and twice as high as the Niagara Falls. They are divided into the Devil's Cataract (27 metres wide and 60 metres high), the main falls which in turn are divided by a projecting rock (524 metres and 297 metres wide and 83 metres high), the Rainbow Falls (550 metres wide and 100 metres high), and the Eastern Cataract (304 metres wide and 94 metres high).

At peak volume, normally in April some 620,0000 kilolitres a minute plunge over the edge of the falls - more than four times Johannesburg's annual water consumption. The columns of spray sent up by the cascading water are at times seen from 80km away.

The sun forms countless rainbows that arc through the mist; the most striking display of light striking spray is the lunar rainbow created by the full moon.

There are various viewing points. One of the best is Knife Edge footbridge. It was built in 1969 and overlooks both the Eastern Cataract and Rainbow Falls.

The bridge that spans the gorge connecting Livingstone in Zambia with the Zimbabwean hamlet of Victoria Falls was completed in 1905.

The bridge, designed by Sir Ralph Freeman, was built in two steel sections that engineers hoped would meet in the middle. They didn't quite - they had expanded in the heat of the day. All the engineers could do was wait patiently for the sections to...

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