A Cruising Couple | December 17, 2015 9:00 PM ET
‘The Smoke that Thunders’: Visceral Victoria Falls
Photo courtesy of Thinkstock
After carefully meandering across the slippery stone, we climbed a few steps deeply carved into the jungle’s terrain and paraded along the dirt path as we felt the mist gently settling along our arms and faces. We could hear the roaring from the parking lot, and as we inched closer, the sound became all-consuming. Slowly, one-by-one, we reached the final ascent and peered out over the safety bar.
We were face to face with one of the most powerful scenes known to humanity, one that our ancestors were once afraid to take in: Victoria Falls.
Witnessing the power of the world's tallest waterfall is inspiring and humbling. Victoria Falls is one of the most breathtaking sights of on the face of this earth. Feeling the weight of such an immensely beautiful vista makes you feel small and encapsulated by the wonder of nature.
"The Smoke That Thunders"
Victoria Falls was coined "The Smoke That Thunders" by African tribesman as they tried to describe the magnificence of the mist and rolling waters they could hear from miles away. It's no wonder the tribes were too afraid to get close to the falls.
David Livingstone originally named the falls after Queen Victoria. He became the first European to discover the cataract in 1855 as he was making his trek from the south of Africa to the north. Overcome by what he saw, Livingstone later wrote, "No one in England could even imagine the beauty of this scene" and "scenes so wonderful must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight."
By the 1900s, after the construction of a railway that passed by Victoria Falls, tourists began to trickle in to see this powerful phenomenon for themselves. With the British colonial rule came fascinated travelers whose favorites destination was Victoria Falls. By 1990 nearly 300,000 tourists were visiting the falls annually.
Now Victoria Falls stands as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World and became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1989.
When To Come
June or July are fantastic times to visit Victoria Falls, when the cataract is filled to the brim with rushing water. If you go in March or April, the water may be so intense you will have a difficult time seeing through the thick clouds of mist. On the contrary, waiting until November or December when it's dry season means you could miss out on the magnitude of Victoria’s beauty.
Should You Choose Zambia or Zimbabwe?
While the vast majority of the falls are located on the Zimbabwe side, in recent years, Zambia has opened up her piece of the falls to tourists. Both sides come with their pros for choosing one over the other. While Zimbabwe may have more of the falls to explore, Zambia offers up-close views that Zimbabwe doesn't.
On the Zambia side, you can explore the narrow Knife's Edge Bridge, which offers the best viewpoint of the main falls. From this bridge, you can also see the Boiling Point, a huge whirlpool at the fall’s base. Additionally, in the dry season, the Zambia side offers you the heart-pounding chance to swim in the Devil's Pool, or the opportunity to walk down into the dry areas of the waterfall.
On the contrary, Zimbabwe offers tons of activities within the surrounding National Park and tends to be much cheaper. Zimbabwe also offers more choices for accommodation.
Walking across the main bridge and dealing with minor immigration logistics allows you the opportunity to view the falls from both sides of the country, and may be the best decision.
Photo via Flickr/Bruce Monroe
Extra Tips and Tricks
Victoria Falls is stretched along the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe. The most daring of the bunch can zip line between countries, or bungee-jump off the bridge that crosses the border.
Boat tours along the Zambezi River allow you to see the beautiful landscape of both Zambia and Zimbabwe on either side while witnessing hippos in their natural habitat. Alternatively, safaris are plentiful in the region and offer the unprecedented chance of seeing wildlife up close.
Don’t miss the perpetual rainbow shooting out from the falls as a result of the constant moisture. If you're lucky, you could even see a double or triple rainbow against the backdrop of rushing water.
Witnessing the power and beauty of Victoria Falls for yourself is something everyone must do in their life. It's one of the 7 Natural Wonders of The World for a reason, and you won’t be disappointed in the journey!
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