(* The main falls of Victoria Falls)
The Victoria Falls or Mosi-oa-Tunya (the Smoke that Thunders) are located in southern Africa on the Zambezi River between the countries of Zambia and Zimbabwe. The falls are not the highest or the widest in the world, but are the largest. Victoria Falls is one mile wide and 360 feet high, forming the largest sheet of falling water in the world.
Above the falls the Zambezi River flows over a level sheet of basalt and into a shallow valley surrounded by low and distant sandstone hills. The river is dotted with many small island, which increase in number as the river reaches the falls.
(*A view of the First Gorge during lower water levels)
The falls are formed by the full width of the river as it plummets in a single vertical drop into a transverse chasm 5604 feet wide. The depth of the chasm - the First Gorge - varies from 262 feet on the western end to 360 feet in the centre. The only outlet to the First Gorge is a 360 feet opening about two-thirds of the way across the width of the falls on the western end, where the full volume of the river pours into the Victoria Falls gorges.
(*The Eastern Cataract, on the Zambian side)
There are two islands on the crest of the falls large enough to divide the curtain of water even at full flood: Boaruka Island (or Cataract Island) near the western bank, and Livingstone Island near the middle. Additional islets divide the curtain of water into separate parallel streams named, in order from Zimbabwe (west) to Zambia (east): Devil's Cataract, Main Falls, Rainbow Falls (the highest) and the Eastern Cataract.
(*The "Smoke that Thunders" during the rainy season)
The Zambezi basin above the falls experiences a rainy season from late November to early April, and a dry season the rest of the year. The river's annual flood season is February to May with a peak in April. The spray from the falls typically rises to a height of over 1,300 feet, and sometimes higher, and is visible from up to 30 miles away. At full moon, a "moonbow" can be seen in the spray instead of the usual daylight rainbow.
(*The Devil's Swimming)
It is possible to swim at the edge of the falls in a naturally formed safe pool, accessed via Livingstone Island. The Devil's Swimming Pool can be accessed when the river flow is at a safe level, usually during September and December. This is possible due to a natural rock wall just below the water and at the very edge of the falls that stops their progress despite the current. (There is a YouTube video of The Devil's Swimming Pool at the end of this post)
The two national parks at Victoria Falls are relatively small — Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park is 16,309 acres and Victoria Falls National Park is 5,683 acres. Next to the southern bank of Victoria Falls National Park is the Zambezi National Park, extending 25 miles on west along the river. Animals can move between the two Zimbabwean parks and can also reach Matetsi Safari Area, Kazuma Pan National Park and Hwange National Park to the south.
(Victoria Falls, shot from the Zambia side of the waterfall in December 2006. Original Guitar Music provided by David James Stuart. Copyright 2007)
(YouTube video of The Devil's Swimming Pool by schroederlol - July 24, 2007)
*(Photos licensed under Creative Commons Attribution License unless otherwise noted.)
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