Victoria Falls: World’s Largest Waterfall – in the Dry Season

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It’s called the “Smoking” canyon – but there’s no fire, cigarettes, or ganja in sight … It’s just water.

But a-hell-of-a-lot of WATER.

A massive, misty – smoking – cloud of thundering water most-famously known as Victoria Falls.

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My impression-ism of Victoria Falls on a fine afternoon as seem from Zimbabwe looking over to Zambia.

Amazing. But are they worth seeing in the dry season?

Simply, YES.

While Angel Falls in Venezuela is the world’s highest waterfall and Iguassu Falls in Brazil and Argentina are the widest – I’ve visited them both; it’s Victoria Falls that earns the super-heavy-weigh title: ‘The Largest Waterfalls in the World’.

GEEK SPEAK: This is based on a 1708 meter width and height of 108 meters, resulting in the world’s largest sheet of falling water, and this averages at a flow rate of 1088 m³/second !!!

So rest assured, even visiting the Falls in the beginning of the dry season, I can vouch for their intensity. Yes there’s still a lot of water – surely, enough for a long shower with a loved one. And even, for a cup of tea or two. And yeah, with still a bit more to spare 😉

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During the dry season, parts of the gorge floor where water normally thunders down and obliterates this view with spray, but now dry and revealing. This cliff is over 100 meters high.

Numerous African tribes have inhabited the area around Victoria Falls for centuries.

And essentially all the indigenous names translate as “The Smoke That Thunders”.

But today on the Zimbabwean side, it’s called the colonial name: Victoria Falls.

Yet on the Zambian side, the indigenous name Mosi-o-Tunya rules.

local tourists at victoria falls
Local tourists at Victoria Falls

Africans have been aware of the Falls since the birth of mankind, I assume, yet Europeans were somewhat slower in their “discovery”.

You know the name David Livingstone – yes?

Well, he put the Falls on the map.

You see, Livingston encountered the waterfalls on 17th November 1855 (on his journey from the upper Zambezi to the mouth of the river). And while other explorers – including Arab traders – were aware of them before Livingstone, they were so named after Great Britain’s then Queen.

My first impression of the Victoria Falls, just beyond the path where a large David Livingstone statue looks out over the Zambezi and beginning of the Falls from the Zimbabwean side.

TRAVEL ADVICE for Victoria Falls

Getting there is easy – and adventurous – by an overnight train from Harare. Otherwise there’s flights.  Or better, get a hire car and include a journey to nearby Chobe National Park in neighboring Botswana. Once in Victoria Falls town, you have dozens of accommodation options and the walk from the town to the Falls is pleasant and easy.

Tickets cost $40 – but are only good for one entry on the Zimbabwean side. So chose your timing – morning or afternoon. And you will pay again for any additional entries, including another inflated fee to visit during a full moon evening.

When to go? The dry season means you can see bare cliffs and the full extent and depth of the Victoria Falls canyon. Also, this is the only time that it’s safe to dip into Zambia’s Devil’s Pool on the opposite side. However, the wet season offers the Falls in its wild rushing water-clouded best. Yet great views are often obscured by waves of misty ‘smoking waters’.

zimbabwe girl
Beyond rushing water … there are other sights within the Falls National Park. Humans … (this young girl and family were from Harare. And her Mum said that her daughter loved to pose for photos) . And then, there was the wildlife along the Falls track – birds, monkeys, warthogs … all quite tame and used to humans.

While I crossed the border to Zambia and into the town of Livingstone, I decided not to visit the Zambian side of Victoria Falls.

Why? Well, I believe the view is not as encompassing or spectacular.

Also it meant yet more steep fees to enter their National Park and then extra fees for a compulsory tour guide to visit the Devil’s Pool (was at the end of an Africa overland trip from Cairo to Cape Town and running low on cash, so will keep that perspective for next time).

The main Falls are left and well out this pic, which shows the end of the mighty crack and the Zambezi River looping thru the gorge and out. The far cliffs and the central peninsula are in Zambia.

WATCH THE VIDEO


NOTE ON THE VIDEO: Amid thunder and smoke a group enjoys Devil’s Pool on the Zambian side. Often youth tour groups come to the Falls to tick-off bucket-lists such as bungee, rafting, elephant safaris, booze cruises, etc.

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