The Many Ways to Measure and See Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

As a non-sociopath, I’ve always hated the phrase, “There are many ways to skin a cat.”

And as I learned at Victoria Falls, there are many ways to measure a waterfall.

You can measure by height, with Angel Falls in Venezeula reigning at number 1.
You can measure by volume, with Inga Falls on the Congo River reigning at number 1.
You can measure by width, with Khone Phapheng Falls in Laos reigning as number 1.

Of course, this is if you consider water flowing off a ledge as a waterfall, like rapids. Many people claim that a waterfall’s measurement must be from a single drop. Victoria falls is often touted as the largest when you combine its width (1,700 meters) and height (108 meters). Though many claim that Iguazu Falls is even larger. There’s no standard way to measure or record, so all rankings should be treated with a skeptical eye.

Seasonal changes, rainfall, erosion, dams, and storms all affect how a waterfall flows. The rankings change on a minute-by-minute basis for each category.

For some reason, I find this concept calming. Humans always strive to be the best. The richest, the most powerful, the smartest, the strongest, the best-looking person in the room. But we quickly learn that these rankings will change. Supple skin wrinkles and sags. Power topples. Intelligence can be replaced with technology. Wealth can be lost in an instant.

There are many ways to measure success.

No matter how much water flows from Victoria Falls or how many people lay their eyes on its cascades that day, Victoria Falls remains as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World and a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Vactoria Falls

There is no proper measurement that rationalizes why or how Victoria Falls was named to be one of the Seven Natural Wonders, but when you see how wide it is and how much water must flow each day to its ledge, you’ll easily understand.

Visiting Victoria Falls from the Zimbabwe side

Victoria Falls flows in between the border of Zimbabwe and Zambia, from Zambia’s cliffs. Visiting Victoria Falls from the Zimbabwe side is a much more beautiful view and allows you to see it wholly. Victoria Falls from the Zambia side limits you to only experiencing it at a distance, where you won’t be able to see it from all angles. The Devil’s Pool, one of the most exciting places to swim for thrill-seekers, is only accessible from the Zambian side.

The tour of Victoria Falls starts at a viewpoint that overlooks the vast canyon and reveals a close-up view of the edge of Victoria Falls. Here, you’ll also find a statue of David Livingstone, Scottish missionary and explorer.

He wrote, “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.”

All throughout Zimbabwe you’ll see relics of colonialism. One fact you’ll read again and again is that so-and-so was the “first European” to visit a destination. Even the name Victoria Falls is a colonial nod to the queen.

Victoria Falls has an indigenous Tonga name, Mosi-oa-Tunya, which translates roughly into, “The Smoke that Thunders.” It’s called that because the spray rising from the canyon, especially during rainy season, often resembles smoke with the crashing water as a thundering background. Mosi-oa-Tunya is also the name of the surrounding Zambian national park.

Bones of Homo habilis, a species that existed over 1 million years ago, have been found around Victoria Falls. The ancestors of southern Africans have been witnessing the waterfall’s beauty long before Europeans knew the continent of Africa existed.

Victoria Falls peek through

As you walk along the path that leads to each new vantage point, your perception of Victoria Falls changes. Some views reveal a large portion of the falls, while others only show a sliver. Mist bellows from below and rises like a cloud into the canyon. The wind lifts the water droplets, whirls it into the air, and spits it onto the viewers standing at the cliff’s edge.

Victoria falls is a place that feels like it doesn’t have a single distinct image.

There are many ways to measure a waterfall.

There are many ways to look at it, too.

What you need to know about visiting Victoria Falls before you go

How to get to Victoria Falls: You can drive from Harare or visit from Victoria Falls Airport. There is a visa program that allows visitors to spend time in both Zambia and Zimbabwe for up to 30 days. It’s worth spending at least two days in the region so that you can admire the wildlife and take in all that there is to see.

If you want to visit the Devil’s Pool, you can only swim during certain times of the year. There are no known deaths that have occurred from Devil’s Pool, but it’s still a terrifying experience.

Devil's Pool in Zambia

What else can you do around Victoria Falls? There’s no shortage of other activities. You can take a sunset cruise on the Zambezi River and spot wildlife, go bungee jumping, ziplining, and swinging through the gorge, take a helicopter ride, and more.

Where to eat in Victoria Falls

The Boma: It’s a little cheesy and there’s some doubt to how authentically Zimbabwean the experience is, but The Boma, a restaurant with dancing, drumming, and all-you-can-eat food, is worth the visit nonetheless. Dance with the performers and taste a mopani worm! If it’s your first trying this salty and chewy insect, you’ll even get a customized certificate.

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