The Mighty Zambezi Expedition
In 1866, David Livingstone, a medical missionary and Victorian-era explorer, embarked a transcontinental expedition across Africa in search of the source of the Nile River. With almost half a decade past in the dark continent without word from his end, The New York Herald charged Henry Stanley with the task of searching out Livingstone. On November 10, 1871 Stanley found Livingstone in an African village with the immortal introduction: "Dr. Livingstone, I presume?"
This is where our story of the Victoria Falls begins.
In 1855 Dr. David Livingstone arrived at the Falls, called Mosi-oa-Tunya by the people; The Smoke That Thunders, and christened it with its current western name, in honor of Queen Victoria (1837–1901). He wrote in his journals,
“No one can imagine the beauty of the view from anything witnessed in England. It had never been seen before by European eyes; but scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight.”
Classified as the largest falling sheet of water on Earth, Victoria Falls is nearly double the height of Niagara falls and twice-over the width of Horeshoe falls. It is one of the most popularly visited areas in the southern half of Africa. The two islands on the crest of the falls are: Cataract Island, near the western bank and Livingstone Island near its middle, where the 1800s explorers first viewed the Falls.
The Zambezi River flowing upstream of the Victoria Falls experiences a rainy season from late November to April (during which the weather is hottest and the Falls at their fullest by February). During this time the spray rises to almost 1300ft, visible from 30 miles away. It is impossible to see the foot of the falls and most of its visage, with walkways shrouded in constant shower, shooting upward like inverted rain closer to the edge of the cliff, resulting in heavy mist. The remainder of the year is dry. Over the years given drought factors and damming efforts by the cities to provide town water, the Victoria Falls have been less impressive than the fullness of width possessed in years past.
At full moon, a “moon bow” appears over the Victoria Falls. The site of the Falls has offered discovery of many archaeological artifacts, some dating 3 million years. These stone age tools are presented in the museum at Livingstone.
The Victoria Falls are typically at their highest flow in the early dry, winter months from May through June. At this time the falls may generally span the entire width of 1.7km of the Zambezi crest; regrettably however, at this time the spray is far too great to be up close! Flights over the Zambezi river, by helicopter or en route on commercial aircraft schedules provide an exceptional view.
In the hot, rainy, summer months typical to the region, from October through December the falls divide into strands of subgroups instead of the postcard illusion of “fullness” from a single sheet, leaving much of the bedrock wall exposed. At this time, water activities are possible at the Victoria Falls. Those unaccustomed to high humidity however, will not find this a preferable time to travel to the Victoria Falls. From January onward, especially the area becomes more prone to thunderstorms and humidity is exceptionally high. However, at this time the Falls are at their fullest, perhaps, depending upon the flow of the Zambezi River on that given year.
July through September, in the full swing of the dry winter season (and its global relation to summer holidays) is generally the busiest time for the Victoria Falls and a high tourist season, given a more pleasant climate and fewer problems with mist and a relatively acceptable volume of spray.
The best time for visiting the Victoria Falls can be determined for our guests, according to their safari itinerary by the veteran safari team at Guided Safaris.