To visit Victoria Falls is more than paying homage to a time gone by. It is to witness one of the most remarkable geological events taking place on the planet as the water carves its way through the ancient rock. What to Do at The Falls
Experiencing Victoria Falls
The key experience in visiting the Victoria Falls area is to visit the Falls themselves. However, there are a range of other activities and experiences on offer, which are detailed below. Always ask your booking agent or operator what to bring along, and check on the appropriate clothing to wear, as this may change seasonally. Based on the concept devised by locals, we have divided the activity zones as follows (note that, for the first four zones, we ignore the divide between Zimbabwe and Zambia and treat the entire Falls as a holistic experience):
At the Falls - Rain forest walk, Bungee jumping
Over the Falls - Aerial experiences
Above the Falls - Cruises and activities upstream from the Falls
Below the Falls - Adrenalin actitivities in the gorges
Around the Falls - A guide to other activities and attractions divided into a Zambian section and a Zimbabwean sectionThe current curtain of water is actually the eighth waterfall in a geological march through time. At some point - in who knows how many years - the ninth Victoria Falls will form. The Zambezi River is carving its way through a series of fault lines in the underlying basalt. These cracks generally run from east to west, while the river flows from north to south and this is why the Falls and gorges are formed in a zig-zag pattern.
But the Victoria Falls will not go beyond its twelfth or fifteenth manifestation, because, by that time, it will have worked its way right back through the ancient fault lines into the Kalahari sands. At the point at which the basalt ends and the sands begin, the Victoria Falls will become a series of powerful rapids and the extent of the drama of what we witness today will be no more.
Victoria Falls StatsFalls width - 1708m
Maximum height - 108m
Lowest height - 62m
Narrowest point of gorge - approx. 60m
Highest water flow (March/April) - approx. 500 million litres / minute
Lowest water flow (Late Nov/early Dec) approx. 10 million litres / minute
Greatest flow ever recorded - March 1958 > 700 million litres / minute
Distance from source - approx. 1 200 km
Distance from the Indian Ocean - approx. 1 500 km The tumultuous plume of spray created by the half-a-million cubic metres of water dropping over the 100m basalt rock face each minute is a phenomenon that has given rise to its poetic African name, Mosi-oa-Tunya - "the smoke that thunders". There is significant seasonal variation in the flow - the river is at its fullest during the summer rainy season when the spray is at its most dense, and at its lowest at the end of the dry season.
The spray is the solitary reason why there is a permanent rainforest on the edge of the gorge opposite the Falls. The Falls consist of a number of individually named waterfalls, each with its own dynamic.
The heaviest flow of water is on the extreme west, on the Zimbabwean side of the river, at a section known as the Devil's Cataract, which is about 10m lower than the rest of the Falls. Here, beneath the stony gaze of the statue of David Livingstone, the water plunges 60m into the gorge below.The Devil's Cataract is separated from the rest of the watercourse by Boaruka Island (also known as "Cataract Island"). East of Boaruka Island is the 150m-wide Main Falls, which almost always has an impressive display of water falling across its face. Here, the fall is slightly higher than Devil's Cataract, measuring up to 93m from lip to gorge, where it edges up against the next island - the 100m-wide Kaseruka Island, also known as Livingstone Island.It was from this island that Livingstone reportedly first saw the Falls, having come downstream by canoe. The spray is heaviest at Devil's Cataract and Main Falls, which has led to the development of a permanent rain-forest on the southern side of the gorge opposite these falls. During the rainy season, when the most water is falling over the Falls, walking through the rainforest can be like walking in a perpetual thunderstorm. During the dry season, when water volumes are at their lowest, the rainforest can give one the feeling of walking in a gentle mist.To the east of Kaseruka Island are the Rainbow Falls, which take their name from the fact that the play between light and water here result in a permanent rainbow, which may be viewed from Danger Point, on the opposite side of the river. Here the Falls are at their highest, with the bottom of the gorge 108m below the lip.Next to Rainbow Falls are Horseshoe Falls, named for a horseshoe-shaped fissure in the basalt. When the water level is low, hippo and elephant may be seen in the shallow pools slightly upstream from Horseshoe Falls. The next set of waterfalls is called Armchair Falls, named for the fact that, during low flow periods, visitors can actually sit in an armchair-shaped rocky pool right on the edge of the precipice.
The Eastern Cataract is the final set of falls and the one most prone to drying up. Before the summer rains come, there is often no water at all passing over the Eastern Cataract, which butts up against the Zambian mainland.A Landscape Shaped in Human Time
When some of our early ancestors inhabited the area 1,5 million years ago, the Victoria Falls was most probably not where it is today but would have flowed over the edge of one the gorges downstream. Where you stand witnessing the Falls today would have been at that time the middle of the great Zambezi River. But, as we have evolved, so has this landscape and, eventually, the fault that now forms the present-day Falls was carved out by the mighty push of water. The process is still ongoing, and faster than you might think.
The isolated islands of basalt that sit at the top of the present Falls have even withered and worn away in living memory. Some scientists believe that, since Baines painted the Devil's Cataract in 1862, the river has cut back as much as 7m. Whether or not the erosion is happening this quickly in geological terms or not, the underlying concept is not up for question.
Sometime in the future, there will be a new Falls, with the Devil's Cataract being the cornerstone of a realignment of the falling Zambezi, and the current lip of the Falls will develop into the next new rainforest while the present rainforest will wither and die due to lack of moisture.Brett Hilton-Barber and Lee R. Berger. Copyright © 2010 Prime Origins.
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