The Smoke That Thunders

Locals christened this place Mosi-oa-Tunya, or “the smoke that thunders.” The overwhelming mist greets visitors first, providing a prelude to the raw power this sheet of water summons. Its sound can be heard from several kilometers away. Rainbows, bright and complete, stretch their wings overhead. British explorer David Livingstone first introduced this site to the Western world in 1855: “Scenes so lovely must be gazed upon by angels in their flight.” It’s one of the seven natural wonders of the world and perfect for your next vacation. 

Victoria Falls is straddled between the countries of Zambia and Zimbabwe. It is the largest curtain of falling water on the planet, stretching an impressive 1,700 metres wide and 108 metres tall. It’s twice as high as Niagara Falls, and it dumps 625 million litres of water over its edge every minute. It’s fed year-round by the Zambezi River, which weaves its way through tens of thousands of kilometres of surrounding national park on its way to the Indian Ocean. Visitors can walk, drive, or canoe through the neighbouring Zambezi National Park to discover elephants, hippos, zebras — and if lucky, may even spot a lion. 

This part of Africa is nature’s playground, a place where she exhibits herself in her rawest form. This UNESCO World Heritage site can be accessed from either the town of Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe or Maramba in Zambia. The best viewing is from Zimbabwe, which houses three-quarters of the falls. Taking a guided tour to the falls is your best bet. Just be sure to pack a poncho, otherwise the engulfing mist will leave you soaked. The area surrounding the falls receives such an abundance of water that it creates a rain-forest-like ecosystem. 

The Victoria Falls Bridge, which unites the two countries, stretches over the Zambezi River and offers one of the most picturesque views of the falls. The bridge was designed in England and shipped over, piece by piece, where it was assembled in 1906. Don’t be alarmed if you happen to see people plunging themselves off the bridge, though the more adrenaline-seeking visitors take to bungee jumping, a popular falls-area activity. 

Victoria Falls is just one of wonders that make this area of Zimbabwe so excitingly raw. You’ll also want to take advantage of the safari options within the nearby Zambezi National Park. Still relatively undeveloped, the beauty of the park lies in its wilderness state, where it isn’t uncommon to see hundreds of elephants swimming together in the river. The park is home to an abundance of exotic wildlife such as giraffes, impala, warthogs, and buffalo. Lions are more rarely seen, but you may just get lucky! Local guides can be hired to drive you through the park, or if you’d prefer, you can also canoe through the wilderness atop the Zambezi River. 

Several lodging options exist within walking distance of the falls and have all the modern-day amenities you’d need. Visiting between July and September gives the best option to avoid the May and June heavy flooding, while still being able to glean the full experience from the falls and the surrounding national park. No matter which time of year you end up travelling, the wonder of the natural landscape in this corner of the African continent will surely be a trip to remember.