After landing at the airport in Zambia, and a short overland transfer involving border formalities that were so slow and antiquated that we were reminded that we are in developing countries, we arrived in Zimbabwe eager to see the falls. But just like us, you have to wait. In your case, before you get to view the falls, we are going to subject you to some history. No groaning, just read along and it won’t be so bad.
Victoria Falls was known to locals for some time, but gained world attention after a visit from the legendary English explorer Dr. David Livingstone in 1855, who named them after Queen Victoria. Livingstone spent over 25 years exploring uncharted territory in Africa, eventually traveling over 28,000 miles! He spent the last 5 years of his life dedicated to ending the slave trade in East Africa.
QUIZ QUESTION: It was in East Africa where his famous meeting with Henry Morton Stanley took place, where Stanley greeting him with the now famous line, “____ __________ , ___ _________?” What did Stanley say? (Answer at the end of this post.)
Livingsone’s statue stands along the rim of the gorge near the falls.
Victoria Falls is located on the upper Zambezi River, which eventually empties into the Indian Ocean. See the four main rivers in Africa on the map below.
Here is detailed information for the true intellectuals amongst you…
If you made it through that, your reward is waiting. Victoria Falls extends across a wide section of the rim of a zig-zagging canyon. It cannot be seen in its entirety except from the air. Here is the main cataract…
And farther down the rim, the flow is much less; part of the reason for this is due to water diverted for generation of hydroelectric power in Zambia, but the main factor is simply less flow at this time of the year. We visited about half way between peak flow and low flow, which was just about right. If there is too much flow, the mist obscures views of the falls and the canyon. We are standing in Zimbabwe, looking across to Zambia.
Here is a photo we took of an informational poster in the visitor’s center, showing the aerial view of the falls at peak flow. As you can see, the water actually falls along the side of a crack in the earth’s crust, rather than the more typical configuration of the falls being located at the head end of a canyon.
Even though the flow was not at peak, there was plenty of mist. Indeed, the name for the falls in the native Lozi language is “Mosi-Oa-Tunya” which translates into “The Smoke That Thunders.”
See what we saw by viewing this video…
Of course, where there is mist and sunshine, there may be a rainbow. We were not disappointed.
After the heart-pounding thrill of the falls, we shifted into a slower gear with a sunset cruise on the wide and tranquil Zambezi River. There was not a cloud in the sky, and the cool twilight was a welcome change from the intense African sun.
We saw several hippopotamuses, a crocodile, and many birds. We also glided close to this guy munching on the lush grasses on the river bank. As far as African elephants go, he was not a huge one, but he was impressive nonetheless. By the way, this is one of the first photos we took with our trusty i-Phone 6s using our new add-on 60mm telephoto lens. See a future post for a review of this equipment, which is working great so far.
The light was fading as the captain turned the riverboat back towards the landing. It was a smooth and relaxing few hours on the river.
As we sail off into the sunset, we bid fairwell to Zimbabwe and to you, our guests. Tomorrow is a travel day, with an overnight in Nairobi before heading out on safari in Kenya.
And the answer to the quiz question: Stanley’s greeting words were: “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?” Congratulations if you got it right!