Photo: David RogersThe sheer power of the natural world is both magnificent and terrible, and it is not unusual to feel an overwhelming sense of insignificance in the face of the relentless crashing of water on rock.It is hardly surprising that Victoria Falls has long been associated with mysticism and transcendence. David Livingstone recorded in his diary in 1865 that the ancient Batoka chiefs used Kazeruka and Boaruka Islands on the lip of the Falls as sacred places of worship.
Even the most hardened men have been moved. The hunter Frederick Courtney Selous was awestruck, describing the Victoria Falls in 1881 as "the most transcendentally beautiful natural phenomena on this side of Paradise". The intensity of human response to the Victoria Falls is rooted mainly in their sheer scale. One is confronted by one's own mortality. Death, after all, is a mere step away. Interestingly, very few people have decided to end their lives by leaping into the gorge.
Thomas Baines was an artist/explorer who joined Livingstone's second expedition to Victoria Falls in 1862. He spent 12 days sketching and painting his now famous artworks of the waterfalls. Baines and Livingstone had opposing temperaments and did not get on well together. They ultimately fell out over an argument about sugar rations.
See a view of the Falls from the rain forest close to where Thomas Baines painted "The Great Western Fall" in 1862
An interesting meditation is to reflect on the Falls as the natural embodiment of the circle of life - birth, death and renewal, for the Victoria Falls, as mighty and permanent as they appear, exist in all phases of this cycle at once.
We recommend that the visitor experience the Falls from both the Zimbabwean and Zambian sides, as the border post is only a short distance away - over the historic iron bridge - and cross-frontier excursions are relatively easy and encouraged by authorities on both sides.
One of the most impressive sights of Victoria Falls is at night during full moon when a Lunar Rainbow, or "moonbow" can be seen in the spray instead of the usual daylight rainbow.
The rain forest is open for these viewings every full moon, and you should ask your local tour operator for the details.
Safety Along the Walk
You are very safe in the National Park, and your greatest danger is probably your own lack of good judgment. Unlike many such spots in the world - thankfully - the Parks Service has chosen not to spoil your view of the Falls by putting up metal and stone barriers between you and the edge of the gorge. At most lookout points there are just some piled branches preventing you from crossing over and approaching the sheer cliff. DO NOT CROSS these barriers! If you do, you will find yourself on wet, slippery rock that often angles downward toward the precipice.
Do not be tempted to cross these barriers to get a great photo of the Falls, as it might be the last photo you ever take! Other precautions include carrying water with you, as the walk is several kilometres long and it can get very hot. Also, don't leave your valuables lying around - another tourist is likely to want your camera more than you do. Finally, adequately protect camera equipment and other sensitive electronics from the ever-present spray - it and you WILL get wet!