The Mightiest Waterfall in the World
Africa’s Victoria Falls is Known as “The Smoke that Thunders”
by Amira Caire, age 14
In November of 1855, explorer David Livingstone became the first European to visit Victoria Falls. What he didn’t know at the time is that he was looking at the largest waterfall on Planet Earth. Livingstone was a missionary and adventurer from Scotland. He found this waterfall while visiting Africa on a missionary venture, hoping to open up this landlocked region to other Christian missionaries.
Livingstone traveled north from southern Africa, through Bechuanaland to the Zambezi River, which flows from Victoria Falls and is the border between modern Zambia and Zimbabwe. Livingstone stated that such a “magnificent natural wonder” should be named after the British queen, Victoria (my editor says this is an example of nineteenth-century thinking). The local name for Victoria Falls is mosi-oa-tunya, which translates to “the smoke that thunders.”
Victoria Falls is impressive for many reasons. Its river, the Zambezi, flows into a narrow groove that runs for about 45 miles. The river’s path was formed by faults in rock that have been eroded by the force of the water over thousands of years. The spume of spray from the falls can be seen up to 25 miles away.
Victoria Falls is not only famous for its looks and geography, but also for its daring “Devil’s Pool.” This is a rock pool resting at the very edge of the Zambian side of Victoria Falls. It is a real goose bump provider. Many tourists from around the world come to visit for a swim in its shallow water. Pictures of this pool may look very dangerous to most people, but it is actually safe if you come in the right season.
The photo that you see beside this article was taken by Simpson Street Free Press volunteer Editor Jane Coleman, who visited Victoria Falls and relaxed in the “Devil’s Pool.” She snapped this breath-taking photo during her visit.
At the edge of Devil’s Pool is a rock wall that slows down the waterfall’s currents and prevents swimmers from falling over. The best time to visit Devil’s Pool is during the dry season when the water is shallow enough for swimmers to safely reach the edge without worrying about dropping more than 300 feet.
At 345 feet, Victoria Falls is claimed to be the world’s tallest sheet of falling water. It is approximately twice the height of America’s Niagara Falls and well over twice the width of Niagara’s Horseshoe Falls.
In height and width, South America’s Iguaçu Falls is the only waterfall that is almost a match for Victoria. The Iguaçu Falls is located in the Brazilian state of Paraná and the Argentine Province of Misiones. The name Iguaçu comes from the Guarani word meaning “great water.” Guarani is the official language of Paraguay. The first European to discover the falls was a Spanish conquistador, Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca.
Iguaçu Falls is about 2.5 miles wide, and its river falls down a crescent-shaped cliff. Many rainbows can be seen dancing on the waters of Iguaçu Falls.
A jungle surrounds the falls with many types of trees including palms, bamboo trees, and lacy tree ferns. Beneath these trees are many wild tropical flowers—begonias, orchids, and bromeliads, to name a few. Parrots, macaws, and other bright-feathered birds fly through the canopy.
In both Brazil and Argentina, national parks are the best places to view the most beautiful parts of Iguaçu Falls. The catwalk that extends over River Iguaçu allows one to view the entire waterfall from the front.
Iguaçu Falls and Victoria Falls are two not only amazing, but also beautiful, waterfalls to visit over the warm and dry seasons.
[Sources: 100 Great Wonders of the World; en.wikipedia.org]