No doubt about it, Mosi-oa-Tunya (meaning "The Smoke That Thunders") -- but more commonly known as Victoria Falls -- is one of the most amazing sights in the world. Just a few miles outside Livingstone and Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe), the Falls are twice as tall as Niagara Falls, and several times longer.
It took thousands of years of erosion for Victoria Falls to appear as and where it does now. Mosi-oa-Tunya, or "the smoke that thunders” only became known to the western world as Victoria Falls after David Livingstone first set eyes on this astonishing natural wonder in 1855, a heartbeat ago in geological time.
The big question is which side? Zambia or Zimbabwe? The answer is quite simply Zimbabwe. If you are traveling through Zambia then Zimbabwe's reputation may put you off, but it shouldn't! Although the US$30 visa and US$20 entry fee (US$10 for SADC residents) to the Falls may do more to deter you, if you are only coming over for the day. Still it is another African country to brag about visiting and the visa has an impressive hologram on it! That said, the money from the visa may well go to support the Mugabe government.
Victoria Falls is CASH ONLY. Furthermore, there are NO ATMs that accept foreign cards in the Victoria Falls area. If you are out of cash, you will have to go to Zambia to withdraw and will likely have to exchange Zambian Kwachas for US Dollars or South African Rands. Do NOT get stuck without adequate cash on hand.
How the Falls Were Formed
During the Jurassic Period (150 - 200 million years ago) volcanic activity resulted in thick basalt deposits covering large parts of Southern Africa. As the lava cooled and solidified, cracks appeared in the hard basalt crust, which were filled with clay and lime. Erosion and the course of the mighty Zambezi River cut through these softer materials, forming the first of a series of waterfalls. Over at least 2,000 years, the Falls have receded 8km upstream, as the Zambezi carved its way through seven gorges. This geological history can be seen in the dark basalt in the series of rocky gorges below the Falls. It is guessed that the Devil's Cataract, which is presently the lowest point of Victoria Falls, will eventually become the next gorge as the river continues to cut its way back upstream.
The Railway Bridge
The discovery of coal in Hwange and reports of copper in Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) brought an influx of people into the area around the Falls. The Victoria Falls Bridge was commissioned by Cecil John Rhodes in 1900, as part of his ambitious plan to build a Cape to Cairo railway. The railway line never made it as far as Cairo, but the bridge was completed in 1905, opening up the area to colonization. An interesting snippet of information about the railway bridge is that the first living creature to cross it was a leopard.
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