Mosi-oa-Tunya Park
Exploring Victoria Falls

© David Rogers
Mosi-oa-Tunya Park is a protected area on the Zambian side of the river. Covering only 66km2, it is the smallest national park in Zambia, but includes the Zambian side of Victoria Falls and the river upstream, including the Old Drift settlement, and some of the gorges below the Falls.

Victoria Falls Walks

©David Berger

There are four walks in the immediate vicinity of the Zambian border post. The recommended walk is to Knife's Edge. The others are up the river, down to Palm Grove, and in the dry season, along the edge of the Falls to Livingstone Island.

The rainforest walk begins near the immigration buildings at the railway bridge. You enter past the small field museum (see page 149). The path takes you along Knife's Edge, over a narrow heart-stopping bridge to face the Eastern Cataract, which is at its most powerful in late summer.

From Knifes Edge there are memorable views of the Boiling Pot, which churns at the foot of the basalt cliffs some 90m below. Be careful. As is the case on the Zimbabwean side of the Falls, there are no safety barriers.

The fact that such danger is so close is part of the thrill. The view of the Falls from Zambia is excellent in the wet season. However, in the dry season the Eastern Cataract of Victoria Falls is often a dry cliff face.

Tree species found in the Knife's Edge rainforest include the African olive, ilala palm, natal mahogany, waterberry and a number of fig species. There are beautiful flowering shrubs and plants in the undergrowth, and the flora described on page 47 is applicable here. See page 105 for the Palm Grove walk (only for the fit) and pages 94 and 95 for the walk above the Eastern Cataract.

Walking Along The Top of Victoria Falls

©Lee Berger

Visit Armchair Falls

One of the advantages of visiting Victoria Falls from the Zambian side is that during the dry season you may walk across the Eastern Cataract to Livingstone Island for brunch.

If you're brave enough take a dip in Armchair Falls, a natural depression on the edge of the island, right on the lip of the Falls.

Mosi-oa-Tunya Park Wildlife

©David Rogers

Mosi-oa-Tunya hosted the first rhino relocation programme in the Victoria Falls area - four white rhino were imported from South Africa in 1996 and released in the park. Two succumbed to poachers and the surviving two are under constant guard.

Within its boundaries are the Dambwa Forest Reserve, the Mukuni cultural village and many sacred ancestral sites.

The park consists mostly of mopane woodland with solated pockets of teak and miombo forests as well as riverine bush along the river and the rainforest at the edge of the Falls.

Mosi-oa-Tunya Park is on an elephant migration route, and during the dry season, these large animals are often seen crossing the river. Mosi-oa-Tunya also hosts small herds of buffalo. Among the other animals to be seen are wildebeest, giraffe, zebra and a variety of antelope.

Baboons and vervet monkeys are common. Klipspringer are found in the gorges downstream from the Falls. These cliffs are reported breeding grounds for the rare taita falcon and Verreux's (black) eagle. Leopard have occasionally been seen in the riverine bush and around the gorges. Lion have been infrequently recorded.

There are 39 archaeological sites in Mosi-oa-Tunya, consisting mostly of Stone Age sites. You can visit the park on your own or on a guided tour. The best time to visit is early in the morning. The entrance to Mosi-oa-Tunya is at the Mukuni Craft Village.

Old Drift

Old Drift was the first colonial settlement in the Victoria Falls area and was established in 1898 by the first European settler, the self-styled trader, forwarding agent, barman, gambler and hotelkeeper, FJ "Mopane" Clarke. He built the first hut on the marshy and malarial northern banks of the Zambezi 9km upstream of the Falls where the river is at its narrowest point, less than a kilometre wide.

Historian David Phillipson, described Clarke as a "kind of honorary Lord Mayor, exercising hospitality to strangers and organising festivals and everything else that is nobody's business in particular but everyone's in general".

A meal at his lodge cost 4 shillings, a bed 15 shillings and the staple diet of the time - whisky and soda - was a shilling a shot. According to Phillipson:

"goods were ferried across the river on a pont towed by a small steam launch. Passengers were carried in an iron boat propelled by eight Barotese paddlers and the fare was one shilling each way".

Percy Clark described some strange characters who washed up here, including an aggressive American cowboy called Jimmy who had a "face like a gargoyle" and was always armed to the teeth.

"When Jimmy had 'one over eight' he came all over pathetic and would recite Over the Hills to the Poorhouse and then weep copiously."

Ultimately, Old Drift succumbed to malaria - an estimated 20% of the population died each year and, in 1903, the administration of northwestern Rhodesia decided to pull the plug and move its offices and the post office to what was then Constitutional Hill (now Livingstone).

The decision to site the Victoria Falls railway bridge at the Falls instead of at Old Drift sealed the fate of the settlement. Today all that remains of Old Drift are gravestones and a few eucalyptus trees.

Mukuni Legacy

©Lee Berger

Mukuni Cultural Village offers the visitor a window into authentic African culture. The Mukuni clan, part of the Leya people of southwestern Zambia, have a lineage in the Victoria Falls area that stretches back at least 700 years. Under the dual leadership of Chief Mukuni and the unrelated Queen Bedyango, about 7000 community members live in the traditional village close to the Zambian border post.

Chief Mukuni was the first African chief to do a bungee jump when he hurled himself off the railway bridge in 1995 to appease the ancestral spirits in the gorges. Livingstone was greeted at the Victoria Falls in 1853 by Chief Manokalya Mukuni who extended him hospitality and bestowed on him the name "Munali".
One of the legends of the Mukuni is that each living chief is given a "living stone", which is shattered upon his death.
Among the residents of Mukuni village are descendants of the two men who carried Livingstone's body for 1200 miles to the coast after he died in 1873.

Map of Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park

Brett Hilton-Barber and Lee R. Berger. Copyright © 2010 Prime Origins.

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