The great pyramids at Giza, EgyptElephants crossing the Zambezi river in Mana Pools National Park world heritage site, ZimbabweThe great mosque in the Old Towns of Djenne world heritage site, MaliBlack and white ruffed lemur, Rainforests of the Atsinanana world heritage site, Madagascar

Victoria Falls - Zimbabwe and Zambia

Map showing the location of Victoria Falls (Mosi-oa-tunya) National Park and world heritage site, on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe

Website Category:  Earth’s Crust

Area: 68 km2

Inscribed: 1989

Criteria: (vii) aesthetic; (ix) ecological processes 

Values:This is perhaps Africa's single most outstanding feature, and one of the most spectacular waterfalls in the world. The Zambezi River, which is more than two kilometres wide at this point, plunges 108m into a narrow chasm and noisily down a series of basalt gorges. The world heritage site covers both banks of the Zambezi River, including the Victoria Falls National Park on the Zimbabwe side and the Mosi-ao Tunya National Park in Zambia. When the river is in full flood in February and March, it forms the world's largest sheet of falling water with some 540 million cubic meters of water per minute pouring over the edge and creating a spray plume which is visible 20km away.  The local name for the falls - Mosi-ao Tunya - means the ‘smoke that thunders', a suitable description for a place that stirs every sense.


Slideshow of the Mosi-oa-Tunya / Victoria Falls world heritage site (for description see below).


Slideshow Description

This comprehensive slideshow (89 photos) aims to convey a ‘sense of place’, covering the main features of Victoria Falls (Mosi-oa-tunya) from both sides of the international border.  It starts with an image of the plume of spray that fills the sky around the falls, with the rising sun giving meaning to the local name of the falls –Mosi-oa-tunya – ‘the smoke that thunders’.  The tour begins on the Zimbabwean side of the border and shows the falls from the cliff-tops opposite, where the visitor gets an unparalleled sense of the awesome power of the falls.  Here there is a constant heavy spray, sufficient to support a permanent rainforest on the cliff-tops.  There is a good path through the rainforest, with look-out points along the way, some of which are so drenched with spray at certain times of year that they are more useful as ‘cooling off’ points than positions to view the falls.  The photos of the Zimbabwean side include views along the length of the falls from western end, where there’s a lookout point at the Devils Cataract, next to a statue of David Livingstone (who ‘discovered’ the falls and named them after British Queen Victoria).  There are pictures of some of the rainforest fauna and flora, as well as the fish that lurk below the water surface.

A rainbow created by the plume of spray generated by the waters of the Zambezi River at Victoria Falls/Mosi-oa-tunyaNo visit to Victoria Falls would be complete without an aerial view of the area, best done by helicopter (although some prefer to use a light aircraft, or microlight).  The aerial tour starts on the eastern bank above the falls, following the wide, flat expanse of the Zambezi above the falls until it disappears into a great fissure in the Earth’s crust at the falls.  The helicopter follows a route around the falls in an anti-clockwise direction affording tremendous views from every angle including the iconic Falls (railway) Bridge and the grand old Victoria Falls Hotel.  Returning to land, the slideshow covers a wonderful self-guided walk along the banks of the Zambezi above the falls, where close encounters with wildlife – sacred ibis flying over, baboons and zebras – can be enjoyed on your own terms.  Later, the same section of river above the falls can be enjoyed on a sunset cruise, the calm water and its islands contrasting starkly with the noise and clamour of the falls and rapids below.   The slideshow continues with some stunning views from the bridge below the falls, showing the swirling rapids and steep-sided Batoka Gorge.  Here, bungee-jumping and white-water rafting are popular activities.  The views of the falls from the Knife Edge on the eastern (Zambian) end are impressive, the spray generating a perpetual rainbow across the narrow chasm where the Zambezi plunges. 

The slideshow ends with a sampling of tourist and visitor facilities and activities on the Zimbabwean side, outside the park area.  Two of the big hotels that lie within walking distance of the falls on the Zimbabwe side are The Kingdom – a huge modern establishment modelled around a water feature that draws its architectural inspiration from Great Zimbabwe – and the iconic old colonial Victoria Falls Hotel with its extensive lawns and far-reaching views towards the falls.  Nearby, the luxury Shongololo Express train brings passengers to the area from South Africa in style.  Every night, Makishi dancers perform, displaying their traditional masks, which represent the spirits of the ancestors returning to the world of the living to guide people and pass on their knowledge.



Visitor highlights 

If you are planning a visit to Victoria Falls or Mosi-oa-tunya National Parks, don’t miss these Top Ten highlights….if you dare!  It’s well worth crossing the international border and visiting the falls from both sides:

Trumpeter hornbills live in the rainforest that is sustained by the plume of spray from Victoria FallsGet soaked!  Stand on the cliff-tops opposite the main falls and get soaked by the spray! 

Experience the rainforest.  The perpetual spray on the cliff-tops opposite the falls supports a true rainforest with a diverse assemblage of true rainforest species of fauna and flora. 

Helicopter rides are amongst the best ways to see the Victoria Falls/Mosi-oa-tunya National Parks and surrounding areasTake to the air.  Flying over the falls in a helicopter, light aircraft or micro-light is an unbeatable experience, offering unmatched views of the wider landscape, including the Zambezi River and its islands above the falls, the falls themselves and the zig-zag series of gorges below.

Throw yourself off the Falls Bridge!  If you’ve got the stomach for it, the bungee jump off the iconic Falls Bridge is said to be one of the best jumps in the world.

One of the cruise boats that offers visitors the opportunity to experience wild Africa on the Zambezi River above Victoria FallsTake a sunset cruise.  For a more sedate experience, enjoy sundowners on the deck of a cruise boat through the channels and tropical islands of the Zambezi River above the falls.  It’s a wonderful way to see ‘wild Africa’ at its best, spotting crocodiles and hippos in the river and a wealth of birds and other wildlife.

View of the iconic Victoria Falls Bridge and the Zambezi River rapids in Batoka Gorge from the base of the fallsClamber down to the Boiling Pot or use the stepping stones to walk out to Livingstone Island at the top of the falls.  For the more energetic visitors on the Zambian side of the border, the steep path down to the waters edge at the base of the falls - passing through the Palm Grove and clambering over the boulders at the bottom (where white-water rafting trips begin) – gives a completely different perspective on the ‘Falls experience’.  The thundering noise of the water and the sheer scale of the place are overwhelming.  Back at the top of the falls, in the dry season (September to December) tread carefully – with an experienced guide to show you the way – across the islands and stepping stones from the Zambian riverbank onto Livingstone Island in the middle of the Zambezi at the top of the Falls.  Some hotels will offer you tea or a champagne breakfast in this extraordinary location, and the more daring visitors can take a plunge in the armchair falls, a natural pool hanging dangerously close to the lip of the falls!

View along the length of Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe) from the Devils's CataractView the length of the falls from the Devils Cataract.  There’s a superb viewpoint below Livingstone’s statue at the extreme western end of the falls, next to the thunderous Devil’s Cataract.  From here, in the dry season (when the volume of spray is reduced) you can see most of the length of the falls.

Walk the banks of the Zambezi.  An exciting experience – with an element of risk – is to take a walk ‘on the wild side’ along the banks of the Zambezi on the Zimbabwe side.  This can be done without an escort, in your own time – but take care as you will be sharing this place with crocodiles, hippos, elephants and plenty of other large wild animals.  Start at the Big Tree, an isolated baobab reckoned to be more than 1000 years old, which local people from both sides of the river have historically used as an open-air market for centuries.

White-water rafting is a popular activity in the Zambezi River rapids below Victoria FallsRaft the rapids.  Victoria Falls has become a centre for extreme sports, one of the long-established activities being white-water rafting through the Zambezi River gorges below the falls.  A thrilling start is made from a point just below the ‘Boiling Pot’, with the Falls Bridge spanning the gorge high overhead.

Zebras are amongst the wealth of big game animals to be seen in the Victoria Falls (Mosi-oa-tunya) National Parks and surrounding areasExperience Africa’s big game animals.  Victoria Falls (Mosi-oa-tunya) is situated in the heart of one of the world’s great wilderness areas, where an endless diversity of ‘big game’ roams free in a landscape of interlinked parks and reserves.  In the immediate vicinity of the falls, these include the Victoria Falls and Zambezi National Parks in Zimbabwe and the Mosi-oa-tunya National Park on the Zambian side.  These parks are at the core of a visionary project to create a 300,000 km2 mega-park – the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Park, which will be the largest conservation area in the world, straddling five countries (for map and further details download the ‘resource pack’ available here) .  So visitors to the falls have an endless array of opportunities for experiencing wild Africa in the vicinity.


Further visitor information

Victoria Falls and Zambezi National Parks brochure



A 4-page tourist brochure about Victoria Falls and Zambezi National Parks, produced by the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority can be downloaded here. It provides additional information on facilities and activities offered by the parks authority






Low-elevation satelite image of Victoria Falls from Google Earth, showing the eastern end of the falls and Boiling Pot

You can get a great view of the falls and surrounding landscapes on Google Earth, which has very high resolution images of the falls themselves.  The image alongside shows the eastern cataract and Boiling Pot in mid-season, as well as the path opposite along the Knife Edge.  Click here to go to the Google Earth page.  In addition, for a portfolio of maps and satellite images in pdf format click here.  This portfolio includes maps of the trail network around the falls, roads and infrastructure, a copy of the first map of the area, and a map of the proposed Kavango-Zambezi Trans-frontier Park which is destined to become the world's largest conservation area - with Victoria Falls at its core.


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Links to other places in the Earth’s Crust category:  Wadi Al-Hitan  I  Land of the Dogons  I  Vredefort Dome  

Links: Google Earth | UNEP-WCMC Site Description | Official UNESCO Site Details |OurPlace Photos |Management Authorities:  Zimbabwe Parks |Zambia Wildlife Authority | Birdlife IBA Zambia | Birdlife IBA Zimbabwe

 Victoria Falls National Park world heritage site, aptly called 'Mosi au Tunya' by local people, meaning 'the smoke that thunders' (Zambia/Zimbabwe border)White water rafting, bungy jumping and other sporting events are carried out around the Victoria Falls National Park world heritage site (Zambia/Zimbabwe border)Below the falls the mighty Zambezi river carves its way through a steep gorge at Victoria Falls National Park world heritage site  on the Zambia/Zimbabwe borderThe mighty Zambezi river falls into a deep gorge in the Victoria Falls National Park world heritage site (Zambia/Zimbabwe border)



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