Victoria Falls, South Africa

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Watch a 19:13 minute video to see and hear the falls

The Zambezi River
The Zambezi River, at Victoria Falls, tumbles 340 feet into this amazing slit in the rocks. The slit is a mile long, but only 250 feet wide. Except in the summertime, when the river is very low, the gorge is so filled with clashing spray and vapor that the Falls itself is completely hidden. The big island in the center of the river is the point from which Dr. Livingstone first saw the Falls. (CC BY 2.0 ©2007 Jorge Láscar)


The Smoke that Thunders
The Smoke that Thunders—in southern Africa (Zimbabwe). This is the native African name for Victoria Falls (Mosi-oa-tunya) and its curtain of mist that rises 1000 feet above the booming, plunging cataract. The Zambezi River (Barely visible through a rift in the mist) is a mile wide above the falls. Below, it is squeezed into an outlet 100 feet across. (CC BY-SA 4.0 ©2018 Diego Delso)


The Falls drops 340 feet, but only 200 feet can be seen here. Wherever we look, across the roaring chasm, we see rainbows shining in the tropical sun. Along this lower brink on which we stand, the sun and drenching mist give so much heat and moisture to the vegetation that a dense jungle, called the Rain Forest, has sprung up. Every tree and vine grows big as Jack’s Beanstalk. Standing here we are bathed in spray and deafened by the Falls’ roar. No artillery battle could make more noise. The natives who live in this part of Africa are frightened by the Falls. They say the gorge is the home of evil spirits, and they will not go near it. The white people of South Africa insist that Victoria is the biggest waterfall on earth. North Americans say Niagara is the biggest. The people of Brazil and Argentina say Iguazu is the biggest. Certainly these three giants stand in a class by themselves, far above all other rivals. And each has a good claim to being king of waterfalls. Victoria is much the highest—340 feet against 220 for Iguazu, and 160 for Niagara. Niagara has the most water most of the time, but both Victoria and Iguazu have more water than Niagara during the brief flood season. Iguazu’s crest line is two miles longer—longer than Niagara and Victoria put together. Niagara is the most visible. Iguazu has the wildest and most beautiful surroundings. Victoria roars the loudest. Iguazu was discovered by Spanish explorers in 1542; Niagara by Father Hennepin in 1678; Victoria by Dr. Livingstone, a Scotch missionary, in 1855. Two million people a year see Niagara. Perhaps ten thousand a year see Victoria (a railway goes right to it). But only a few hundred a year can make the long difficult journey to Iguazu. Each of these three waterfalls ranks high among the natural wonders of the world. (CC BY-SA ©2018 Diego Delso)