Below we have compiled some of the most fascinating facts about Victoria Falls, an awe-inspiring cascade.
Victoria Falls in southern Africa is one of the world’s most magnificent waterfalls.
From its sheer size and walls of mist to its unique environment and opportunities for daredevil activities, Victoria Falls is a natural wonder to behold.
1. Victoria Falls, located on the Zambezi River, straddles the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe in southern Africa. Zambia is on the east side of the Falls and Zimbabwe is on the west, with the border running through the middle of the river and falls.
2. The Zambezi River is the 4th largest in Africa, the largest east-flowing one, and the largest river from Africa flowing into the Indian Ocean. Victoria Falls is located around 2/5th of the way from the river’s start.
3. Scottish explorer David Livingstone named the falls in honor of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom. There are dozens of other places in the world named after the same queen, including Victoria State in Australia, Victoria Peak in Belize, Victoria City in British Columbia of Canada, Victoria Island in Nigeria, Mount Victoria in Papua New Guinea, and Lake Victoria in New Zealand.
4. Livingstone visited the falls in 1885. While he may not have been the first European to see them, he was the one who brought the falls to the world’s attention.
5. Victoria Falls appears on the Zimbabwe 100 trillion-dollar banknote (that’s one plus 14 zeros!) It appears along with a cape buffalo.
6. With a width of about 1.7 km (1.1 mi) and a height of approximately 108 m (354 ft), Victoria Falls is considered the largest waterfall in the world based on its combined width and height. In other words, it is the world’s largest sheet of falling water.
7. In has the 12th largest flow rate in the world, with around 1000 cubic meters, or 1 million liters of water, per second. It reaches this amount at the height of the rainy season in April. Waterfalls such as Iguazú Falls in Brazil and Niagara Falls in Canada/USA have higher flow rates.
8. The continuous spray and mist created by the powerful waterfalls can be seen and felt from miles away, giving Victoria Falls its local name, “Mosi-oa-Tunya,” which means “The Smoke That Thunders” in the indigenous Lozi language.
9. The spray from the falls can be so intense that it has even created its weather system. The mist can rise to 400 m (1300 ft) in the air, forming rain clouds that shower the surrounding area and even cause rainbows to appear in clear skies.
10. The lunar rainbow, also known as the “moonbow,” is a mesmerizing natural phenomenon that can be seen at Victoria Falls during the full moon. The spray from the falls combined with moonlight creates a colorful rainbow at night.
11. Due to the force of the waterfall and the constant spray, a microclimate is created near Victoria Falls. This unique environment has given rise to a “rainforest in the sky,” with lush vegetation and vibrant plant life thriving in the mist. This lush environment supports a rich variety of plant and animal species, including rare orchids and colorful butterflies.
12. The mist also nourishes unique “moonflowers.” These night-blooming flowers open their large, fragrant blooms only after dark, attracting pollinators in the moonlit rainforest setting.
13. The Zambezi River upstream from Victoria Falls is home to a unique species of fish called the “African Tiger Fish.” Known for its sharp teeth and aggressive nature, you wouldn’t want to swim with one of these!
14. Victoria Falls is also known for its beautiful sunsets. The golden hues of the setting sun reflecting on the spray and mist of the falls create a magical and romantic ambiance for visitors.
15. There is a local legend that the waters of Victoria Falls have a petrifying effect on objects. According to the tale, if an object is thrown into the falls, it will turn into stone.
16. Near the falls, Zambezi National Park in Zimbabwe and Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park In Zambia offer opportunities to spot elephants, lions, zebras, giraffes, and over 400 bird species.
17. There are two major islands on the falls which are large enough to split the falls, even at its highest flow. They are Boaruka Island (or Cataract Island) near the western bank, and Livingstone Island near the middle.
18. Livingstone himself viewed the falls from what is now called Livingstone Island. He was taken to the island in a canoe.
19. In the dry season, more islands appear, with nearly half of the waterfall’s crest being taken up by them.
20. After plunging over Victoria Falls, the Zambezi River goes through a series of 6 zigzagging gorges.
21. Victoria Falls Bridge spans the first gorge. It was built in 1905 to connect Zambia and Zimbabwe. This iconic steel bridge provides stunning panoramic views of the falls and is a popular spot for bungee jumping and bridge swinging activities.
22. The Victoria Falls Bungee Jump was once the highest bridge bungee jump in the world, at 111 m (364 ft). Today it is surpassed by the Zhangjiajie Glass Bridge Bungee in China, which is more than double the height.
23. In late 2011, the cord snapped when a 22-year-old Australian tourist named Erin Langworthy was bungee jumping from the bridge. A government inquiry later found the bungee jump to still be safe. With 50,000 people making the jump per year, they called it a “one in 500,000 jumps incident.”
24. There is also a 425 m (1394 ft) zipline across the Zambezi River below the falls and bridge, one of the longest in the world. Riders zip along 120 m (293 ft) above the river.
25. In 1999, a German tourist named Franz Stein decided to take an unconventional approach to experiencing Victoria Falls. He attached a pair of homemade wings to his back and attempted to fly off the edge of the falls. Thankfully, he was equipped with a parachute and was able to deploy it, allowing him to land safely in the Zambezi River below.
26. The Devil’s Pool, a natural infinity pool formed near the edge of Victoria Falls, is a popular attraction for daring visitors. During the dry season, when the water levels are low, it allows swimmers to experience the thrill of looking over the edge while being safely protected by rocks.
27. No one has ever died from Devil’s Pool, either from falling over the falls or from the hungry crocodiles and hippos swimming upstream (mostly they avoid coming too close to the falls). However, many people have died in a pool of the same name in Australia!
28. Unfortunately, though, one tour guide died in 2009 after plunging over the falls. He got swept away while trying to save a tourist near the pool.
29. During periods of low water flow, it is possible to walk across the lip of the falls from the Zambian side to Livingstone Island. However, this daring activity, known as the “Angel’s Armchair,” requires extreme caution as the water rushing by is just a few meters away.
30. At the bottom of the falls, there is a natural rock formation called the “Boiling Pot.” This swirling whirlpool is created by the powerful currents of water after plunging over the falls, giving it an appearance reminiscent of a boiling cauldron.
31. The Victoria Power Station, a hydroelectric station, is located in the third gorge down from the falls. It is operated by Zesco, the state power company of Zambia.
32. Batoka Gorge, located downstream from Victoria Falls, is one of the world’s most exciting white-water rafting destinations. It offers thrilling rapids and breathtaking views of the surrounding natural beauty.
33. Further downstream on the Zambezi is the mighty Kariba Dam. The dam was officially opened by Queen Elizabeth, the great-great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria.
34. In 2019, during the worst drought in 100 years, Victoria Falls was reduced to a trickle. Said to be caused by global warming, the incident had a major economic impact on the region.
35. Millions of years ago, long before the waterfall was formed, the Zambezi River flowed south to what is now Botswana, where it joined the Limpopo River. Uplift in the land caused this drainage route to close, forming a huge lake. This lake eventually began draining to the east, cutting out the gorge where Victoria Falls now is.
36. Victoria Falls is moving upstream as the land continues to shift. In the past, the falls plunged from eight different places in the six gorges that are now downstream from it. Geologists believe the falls are now beginning to cut a new future location, at the western end of the falls near Boaruka (Cataract) Island.
37. Victoria Falls has served as a backdrop for various movies and documentaries, including the 1966 film The Boy Who Turned Yellow, Ewan McGregor’s motorcycle documentary Long Way Down, and the BBC series Africa. There is also a Sherlock Holmes film called Incident at Victoria Falls.
38. Famous visitors to Victoria Falls have included Arnold Schwarzenegger, David Hassellhof, and Mel C of the Spice Girls.
39. Michael Jackson was so impressed by Victoria Falls that he suggested creating a replica of the falls at the back of his stage.
40. In recent years, Victoria Falls has even become a popular destination for weddings. Couples can exchange vows amidst the thundering cascades and picturesque surroundings.