Victoria Falls, Zambia

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Victoria Falls, or Mosi-oa-Tunya (The Smoke that Thunders), is a waterfall in southern Africa on the Zambezi River at the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe. While it is neither the highest nor the widest waterfall in the world, it is classified as the largest, based on its width of 1,708 metres (5,604 ft) and height of 108 metres (354 ft), resulting in the world’s largest sheet of falling water. Victoria Falls is roughly twice the height of North America’s Niagara Falls and well over twice the width of its Horseshoe Falls. In height and width Victoria Falls is rivalled only by Argentina and Brazil’s Iguazu Falls.

By the mid-2000s, almost 300,000 people were visiting the falls annually, and this was expected to rise to over a million in the next decade. Unlike the game parks, Victoria Falls has more Zimbabwean and Zambian visitors than international tourists; the attraction is accessible by bus and train, and is therefore comparatively inexpensive to reach.

The two countries permit tourists to make day trips from each side and visas can be obtained at the border posts. Costs vary from US$45-US$80 (as of 01 December 2013). Visitors with single entry visas will need to purchase a visa each time they cross the border. Regular changes in visa regulations mean visitors should check the rules before crossing the border.

A famous feature is the naturally formed Devil’s Pool, near the edge of the falls on Livingstone Island on the Zambian side. When the river flow is at a certain level, usually between September and December, a rock barrier forms an eddy with minimal current, allowing adventurous swimmers to splash around in relative safety a few feet from the point where the water cascades over the falls. Occasional deaths have been reported when people have slipped over the rock barrier.

The numbers of visitors to the Zimbabwean side of the falls has historically been much higher than the number visiting the Zambia side, due to the greater development of the visitor facilities there. However, the number of tourists visiting Zimbabwe began to decline in the early 2000s as political tensions between supporters and opponents of president Robert Mugabe increased. In 2006, hotel occupancy on the Zimbabwean side hovered at around 30%, while the Zambian side was at near-capacity, with rates in top hotels reaching US$630 per night. The rapid development has prompted the United Nations to consider revoking the Falls’ status as a World Heritage Site. In addition, problems of waste disposal and a lack of effective management of the falls’ environment are a concern.

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Posted: 22/12/2013

Author: Andy Hayward

Category: Africa, Favourite Destinations, Locations

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