Africa is a continent much maligned by public perception. The world seems to think that it is a curiously backward place, run by tyrants and dictators and beset by hatred, prejudice and violence. The truth, however, is not so dark and hopeless. The people are by and large peace loving, bent on living their lives as best they can, much like everyone else in the world. The towns and cities don’t all lack for amenities or luxuries, and technology is embraced as widely in Africa as any other continent. One thing that sets Africa apart from the rest of the world, however, is its natural beauty, which has a raw, savage quality to it that is perfectly offset by its majesty.
People flock to Africa in droves to see the magnificent deserts, tropical rain forests, mountains, lakes and seas, and wildlife. No where else in the world can you be more in touch with nature than Africa. It is too vast to enjoy all of its wonders in one trip, so it’s best to make the most of your chosen destinations while you can. The Victoria Falls, found along the Zambezi River that forms a natural border between Zambia and Zimbabwe, offers a variety of activities as well as a prime example of nature at her most imposing.
The local African tribe who lived in the area before the Falls were discovered called it “Mosi-oa-Tunya” which means “the smoke that thunders”. In comparison, the more modern term for it, “the greatest known curtain of falling water” seems to lack poetry and imagination.
The statistics that accompany the Falls are impressive. In the wet season, 546 million cubic metres of water go over the edge every minute of the day, while in the dry season the flow is reduced to little more than a trickle. The Falls span the entire breadth of the river, which is roughly 2 km across. The gorge into which the water pools is a mammoth 100 m deep. The spray that results from such a large body of water plummeting such a great distance can be seen from miles away.
The grandeur of the Vic Falls can be enjoyed in a variety of ways. There is the Victoria Falls Bridge, which was commissioned by Cecil John Rhodes so that trains crossing the Zambezi would be drenched in the spray. This was probably so that they could fully appreciate the magnitude of the Falls, as well as the transport system that carried them safely through. It offers a panoramic view of the Falls and the rain forest on the opposite bank. There is another bridge, the Knife Edge Bridge, which goes along the bottom reaches of the Falls on the opposite side. But be warned, all those who walk it emerge completely soaked from the spray. During the dry season it’s possible to walk along the top of the Falls themselves. Daring soles can venture right up to the lip to see the dizzying drop below. It was probably this view that inspired writer Jumbo Williams to write, “The moving water creates a magnetism that sucks you closer, so that you recoil in horror to quench a subliminal sacrificial urge.”
Possibly the best view of the Vic Falls is an aerial one. From the air you can take in the sheer enormity and scale of the Falls, and the mighty power of nature. Various micro-lights, helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft are available to charter for this purpose.
But the Falls isn’t only about a sheet of water falling to the depths below: it is also about shopping. The Mukuni Victoria Falls Craft Village is ideally situated in the parking area above the Falls, and caters to all your tourist needs. Travel guides warn that the vendors can be relentless, so you must be prepared to be resolute when negotiating. You must be prepared to barter or trade, and to shop around, as the quality of products differs from vendor to vendor.
Nearby the Falls is the Mosi O Tunya National Park, where you can satisfy your safari whims. The Park contains no predators so guests can safely drive themselves around without a guide.
For those whose adrenalin needs are not fed by the sight of the Falls, there are a host of options available. There is bungee jumping, sky diving, abseiling, kayaking and elephant back trails to keep them occupied.