The Smoke that Thunders

The earliest inhabitants of the area around Victoria Falls were Khoisan hunter-gatherers (bushmen). They were followed by the Tokaleya people, who called the falls ‘Shongwe’. Later, the Ndebele named them ‘aManza Thunqayo’, and the Makololo named them ‘Mosi-oa-Tunya’, meaning "The smoke that thunders".


It was the mighty Zambezi which led missionary Dr. David Livingstone on his greatest and final adventure. In search of a means to access the interior, Livingstone tagged the Zambezi "God's highway" to the Indian Ocean and set off down the river. That year, 1855, he stood on an island in the middle of the Zambezi and stared in wonder at this creation of nature.

He wrote of the falls "No one can imagine the beauty of the view from anything witnessed in England. It had never been seen before by European eyes; but scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight".



The falls are formed as the Zambezi plummets into a narrow chasm about 120 m (400 ft) wide, carved by its waters along a fracture zone in the earth's crust. Numerous islets at the crest of the falls divide the water to form a series of falls. The Falls are divided into five separate waterfalls: Devil's Cataract, Main Falls, Horseshoe Falls, Rainbow Falls and Eastern Cataract. Over the centuries, the falls have been receding upstream, falling at different eras into numerous chasms which now form a series of sharply zig-zagging gorges downstream from the falls.
The falls are extremely broad at about 1.7 km across, and the height of the cascade varies from 80m at the right bank to 105 m in the centre - about twice the height of Niagara Falls. The falling water generates spray and mist that can rise to heights of over a mile (1.6 km), and is visible from up to 40 km (25 miles) away.

Just below the boiling pot, and almost at right angles to the falls, the gorge is spanned by a bridge, one of only five over the Zambezi river, which was completed in April 1905 and was initially intended as a link in Cecil Rhodes’ Cape-Cairo railway scheme. The bridge is 250 metres across and the top of the bridge is 125 metres above the low-water level of the river. Today, regular rail services connect the towns of Victoria Falls and Livingstone with Bulawayo in Zimbabwe via the bridge, with another line running from Livingstone to Lusaka in Zambia.

This bridge is also used as a structure from which thousands have now experienced bunjee jumping. The ‘white waters’ that push and shove their way through the gorges that follow the falls have become one of the most exciting venues for white water rafting in the world.

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