Victoria Falls is one of the seven great wonders of the natural world. At 360 feet it’s higher than Niagara or Iguazu, and that height combined with a 5,600+ width gives Victoria Falls the distinction of being the world’s largest waterfall. The falls aren’t as old as you’d think. In geological terms they formed a mere 100,000 ago. They were created by the Zambezi River, which relents on slight cracks in an otherwise strong basalt plateau. Weak cracks in the hard outer shell gave way to a sandstone layer of rock that eroded into giant gorges, the last of which is the current site of the falls. Over time the falls have moved upstream in zigs and zags as new cracks crumbled under the river’s power. This gorge, it turns out, is the main attraction in the area.
The Zambezi River forms the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia. We decided to stay a few nights in each country to experience the falls from both sides and they were impressive, although hard to capture on film. Water ricochets off the narrow gorge walls and creates the effect of rain. The ever present mist makes capturing a panorama view near impossible and with little warning we’d get drenched. Needless to say, our camera stayed at the hotel.
If the falls were the only attraction in the area, we’d be let down. Each side of the falls can be seen in just a few hours. And unlike Niagara and Iguazu which can be seen from a vantage point near the water’s surface (or even a boat), Victoria Falls is viewed from the top of the gorge — this means that your perspective is cut short as you can’t possibly see the water careen all the way down to the river below. However, there’s much more to do in the towns of Victoria Falls and Livingstone. At check-in we were given page after page of activities: helicopter rides over the falls and through the gorge, bungee jumping from the Victoria Falls Bridge, gorge swings, walks to the falls’ edge, the list went on and on.
We opted for three activities, zip lining across the gorge, white water rafting, and a sunset booze cruise. All were excellent but the white water rafting was a true adventure — the kind that would never be allowed in the US. First off, the descent to the river was treacherous. We basically walked down a cliff via a series of loose gravel paths and makeshift ladders made from tree branches. Anyone that didn’t have sneakers or hiking boots was screwed, as was anyone that weighed more than 200 lbs.
This certainly wasn’t the boozy Delaware River rafting trips we were used to. The water was ragging as it had just plummeted down the falls a short distance upstream. The rapids ranged from Class III to V and came in quick succession. It wasn’t long before we hit our first Class V, rode straight up a giant swell and were thrown from the raft, which landed in the water upside down and empty. It was quite the rush. My mind instantly went back to the directions we received. I got myself back, grabbed onto the ‘oh shit’ rope and looked for my crew. Mark was 20 yards away in the open river, one other girl was at the raft and three others, including the captain, were 30 yards downstream!
It took some time, but we all made it back to the raft and continued on our journey. In between sets of rapids, we admired the natural beauty of gorges. We even saw a crocodile! I’d recommend Victoria Falls for anyone who wants to experience a rush of adrenaline in an unforgettable setting. That’s certainly what we got.