Last Updated on
From the World Heritage inscription:
The Mosi-oa-Tunya/Victoria Falls is the world’s greatest sheet of falling water and significant worldwide for its exceptional geological and geomorphological features and active land formation processes with outstanding beauty attributed to the falls i.e. the spray, mist and rainbows. This transboundary property extends over 6860 ha and comprises 3779 ha of the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park (Zambia), 2340 ha of Victoria Falls National Park (Zimbabwe), 741 ha of the riverine strip of Zambezi National Park (Zimbabwe). A riverine strip of the Zambezi National Park extending 9 km west along the right bank of the Zambezi and islands in the river are all within the Park as far as Palm and Kandahar Islands, with the Victoria Falls being one of the major attractions. The waterfall stands at an altitude of about 915 m above mean sea level (a.m.s.l.) and spans to about 1708 m wide with an average depth of 100 m and the deepest point being 108 m. Sprays from this giant waterfall can be seen from a distance of 30 km from the Lusaka road, Zambia and 50 km from Bulawayo road, Zimbabwe. Basalts have been cut by a river system producing a series of eight spectacular gorges that serve as breeding sites for four species of endangered birds. The basalts of the Victoria Falls World Heritage property are layered unlike those of the Giants Causeway World Heritage site which are vertical and columnar.
I’m sure most people are already aware of Victoria Falls. Widely considered one of the natural wonders of the world, the reality actually lives up to the hype.
Straddling the border of Zimbabwe and Zambia, the falls are the largest waterfall in the world as measured by the volume of water. If you visit when the water is high, like I did in February, the mist can be so great that it is often difficult to impossible to even see the falls.
If you visit during the wet season, expect to get drenched. The mist can be so strong that there is a perpetual rain nearby. My ability to take photos was seriously hampered by the mist many times.
Visiting the falls can be done from either side of the border. I’d recommend crossing the border to experience both sides, regardless of which side you come from. If you come in via Zimbabwe, they offer a dual entry visa for US$45 and you can get a day trip visa to Zambia for just US$20. Park fees are US$30 on the Zimbabwe side and $20 on the Zambian side.
Mosi-oa-Tunya / Victoria Falls is a natural UNESCO World Heritage Site in Zambia. This fall is known simply as Victoria Falls worldwide. The falls are located along the Zambezi River that is located on the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe. Hence, this waterfall is attributed to both countries, along with the UNESCO site Mosi-oa-Tunya / Victoria Falls.
The term “Mosia-oa-Tunya” originates from the Lozi language, which is used in Zambia and Zimbabwe. The national park that consists of the famous falls span 66 square kilometers in land area. It was inscribed by UNESCO in 1989 and is currently managed by the Zambia Wildlife Authority.
About Mosi-oa-Tunya / Victoria Falls
The Mosi-oa-Tunya / Victoria Falls UNESCO site is not just a World Heritage Site; it is also one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. The term Mosi-oa-Tunya literally translates to “The Smoke that Thunders”. This waterfall has earned its recognition despite the fact that it isn’t the widest or the highest waterfall in the world. It earns the recognition based on the combined width of the waterfall, which produces the largest sheet of falling water.
Mosi-oa-Tunya / Victoria Falls is double the height of the Niagara Falls and twice the width of the Horseshoe Falls. Only the Iguazu Falls in Brazil and Argentina can compete with it in terms of height and width.
The water that flows through the falls is from the Zambezi River, which drops the entire flow of water onto a vertical wall where it descends into a narrow gorge. The volume of water that flows through Mosi-oa-Tunya / Victoria Falls is estimated at around 300-3,000 cubic meters per second. In fact, this is such a high volume of water that passes through the falls that mists can be seen from several kilometers away from the mouth of the waterfalls itself.
Tourism in Mosi-oa-Tunya / Victoria Falls
Even prior to it being named as a UNESCO site, Mosi-oa-Tunya / Victoria Falls is already a tourism hot spot in Zambia and Zimbabwe. But the building of the Victoria Falls Bridge had initiated more tourism campaigns to the site. Prior to the construction of the Victoria Falls Bridge, the settlers to the area crossed the river via canoe or barge that is towed by a steel cable.
Since the bridge links two sides of the borders (to which the falls is a part of), there are border posts on the approach to the bridge. One end of the post is located at Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe while the other end is located at Livingstone, Zambia.
The bridge is made from steel and is 198 meters long. The main arch of the bridge spans 156 meters with a height of 128 meters. The bridge acts as a road, railway, and footway in one. This is the only rail link connecting Zambia and Zimbabwe.
View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Zambia.