Victoria Falls – Natural Wonder or Just Some Noisy Water?

Victoria Falls Zimbabwe

In 1855 David Livingstone found himself in a canoe traveling down the Zambezi River towards what the locals called ‘smoke that thunders.’ The sound is what he heard first, a tremendous roar heard from miles away. Then as they approached the thick columns of spray, like a morning fog rose up and he knew that he had found the long presumed imaginary falls, what he would later name after his monarch – Victoria Falls.

The falls are neither the highest nor widest such mega-fall in the world, but they are nonetheless impressive. Unlike Livingstone, I approached as most visitors do on land but just like the famous explorer, I heard the thundering smoke long before I first saw it. Victoria Falls rests between Zambia and Zimbabwe and visitors have their choice from which country to view the famous waterfall. The Livingstone airport in Zambia makes getting there easy and most people spend a couple of days exploring both sides of the falls.

I had never been to a world famous waterfall before so I didn’t know what to expect. I had seen some large ones in Iceland and other places, but I have never been to Niagara, Iguazu or any the other world renowned falls and was excited for the visit. The mist flew upwards as if on a great wind soaking my camera as I approached the side. I looked down and was instantly underwhelmed.

As I said, I didn’t know what to expect but the reality of Victoria Falls certainly wasn’t it. Don’t misunderstand me, the falls are very nice but it wasn’t a transformative experience nor would I consider Victoria Falls to be one of the top natural wonders in the world. But I hadn’t really seen the full beauty of the falls yet and decided to reserve judgement, at least to give the wonder the benefit of the doubt. The Zimbabwe Victoria Falls park features a variety of walking trails to different points of the falls so visitors can see the powerful wonder from all angles. And that’s what I never fully appreciated, the shear size of the falls. While it doesn’t beat the other falls in height, some consider Victoria Falls the largest in the world because it has the largest sheet of falling water in the world. Sure, this could just be a case of the locals trying to create more buzz, but there’s no doubt the falls are impressive.

Over the course of an hour I followed the path, peering over the edge at the best viewing points. I seemed as if I was slowly approaching the most impressive section of the falls, a natural crescendo accentuated by the watery mist that enveloped me at every stop. There’s so much water flowing back up from the falls that many people bring umbrellas and ponchos to keep dry. Finally, drenched under the hot noonday sun I finished the circuit at Rainbow Bridge where, fittingly, I saw a rainbow. I stood up on the rocks and looked across what may or may not be the largest waterfall in the world and wondered what Livingstone thought as he stood there. Was he relieved to finally locate the falls of legend or was he as unsure about its notoriety as I was?

What do you think? World wonder or just another nice waterfall?

By: Matt Long

Matt has a true passion for travel. As someone who has a bad case of the travel bug, Matt travels the world in order to share tips on where to go, what to see and how to experience the best the world has to offer.

12 thoughts on “Victoria Falls – Natural Wonder or Just Some Noisy Water?”

  1. World wonder! I was there during the dry season and we were able to swim in a very small watering hole on top of the falls. Scary but so cool. My favorite picture I have is of these falls with a rainbow too! Plus the people of Zambia were very kind.

  2. That’s a hell of a lot of water falling over a cliff. Your picture of the falls definitely does it justice.

  3. I’ve never been but I didn’t know there was a possibility to visit without all the hoards of tourists – great tip!

  4. Some sites (not many) have left me wondering the same, but honestly, I would have been bowled over by Victoria Falls, just looking at your photos. But everyone’s experience is different–that’s the beauty of it all.

  5. Thanks for writing about the Victoria Falls. I am Zambian and very proud of the Falls. I see from the pictures that there wasn’t a lot of water when you visited and maybe that’s why you were underwhelmed. You should go during or just after the rain season, that is about January – June. You would get drenched within seconds if you ventured near it without wearing a raincoat. In the last photo that guy would have been wet to his bones being so close to the Falls :) It is an awe inspiring place.

  6. If it wasn’t amazing, how did you manage to take such amazing pictures?! But I am a keen waterfall enthusiast so I’m sure I’d love it. I do know what you mean about being underwhelmed sometimes, especially when a particular thing is hyped up and your expectations are sky high.

  7. Hi Matt!
    Were you there during dry season? The falls are a lot less impressive then…I’ve been a few times and I remember being incredibly awed by the falls. Much more so than Iguazu – Victoria Fall is a lot higher than Iguazu and the power and mist of the water during rainy season is really something.
    Always love your photos,
    Frank (bbqboy)

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