Or in English, the smoke that thunders, otherwise Victoria Falls. It’s huge.
So big that, like Iguazu, you can’t take it all in at once. On the ground you have to move from view-point to view-point and add it all up in your head. The only way to photograph the whole thing is from the air.
Visiting in November the falls were at their minimum flow, virtually nothing was going over the eastern end. The western half remains spectacular. It may not be the worst time to visit however, in April, peak flow, the spectacle is obscured by the spray rising out of the gorge, hiding the foot of the falls and soaking visitors and their cameras. Even in November the spray rising above the falls can be seen from kilometres away.
Mark and I left Ilala lodge bright and early. A short distance down the hill there is a broad footpath sweeping away to the right. There is no signage on it but it is the most direct route to the falls. Joseph and a cabal of carving sellers were waiting for us there. They were only able to accompany us as far as the gate because you have to pay to go in. It’s $30 US for foreigners, somewhat less for locals.
It’s probably best to make your way to the west end first. Here you will find Livingstone’s Statue. A Scot, he went to Africa in 1841 as a medical missionary with the London Missionary Society. In 1855 he was supposedly the first white fellah to see the falls which he named after his queen. He spent most of his adult life in Africa and it was a life far more beneficial than say the King of the Belgians or the present führer of Zimbabwe.
Not far from the statue you can stand above the western end of the falls. From here the far end of the falls is 1,708 metres away. The water drops 108 metres in the centre. The first chute is called the Devils Cataract. It is separated from the next broad expanse, the Main Falls, by Boaruka Island. Then comes Livingstone Island, from where the good doctor first saw the falls, then Rainbow Falls (the highest) and the Eastern Cataract.
The waters of the Zambesi pour into a gorge which sweeps around a number of horse shoe bends before heading off towards the Indian Ocean. When the water level is low you can get down into the gorge but not to a position that will give you a great view. Your $30 gives you a number of splendid views from above. The Devils Cataract …
The Main Falls, looking west …
Rainbow Falls looking from the east, a small party on the Zambian side are getting ready to swim in the Devil’s Pool. Only a tiny minority are swept to their death.
You could spend the day there, and we did …