Exploring Magnificent Waterfalls
BY AWAKE! WRITER IN ZAMBIA
BY 1855, Scottish missionary and explorer David Livingstone had already spent years trekking across Africa—a continent then largely unknown to the rest of the world. As he traveled eastward along the mighty Zambezi River, local tribesmen spoke with awe regarding the immense waterfall ahead. Because of the tremendous noise and vapor it caused, the tribesmen called it Mosi-oa-Tunya, meaning “The Smoke That Thunders.”
Livingstone resolved to see the falls, now called Victoria Falls, at close range. Describing his first view, he wrote: “Creeping with awe to the verge, I peered down into a large rent which had been made from bank to bank of the broad Zambezi, and saw that a stream of a thousand yards broad leaped down a hundred feet [30 m] and then became suddenly compressed into a space of fifteen to twenty yards.”
At flood stage Victoria Falls, shared by Zambia and Zimbabwe, is today considered to be the largest sheet of falling water on the planet! At such times the torrent of 144,000,000 gallons [545,000,000 L] per minute plunges 355 feet [108 m] into a huge chasm. The entire volume of the Zambezi then rushes through a deep zigzag gorge less than 210 feet [65 m] wide. These unique geological features make Victoria Falls a truly staggering spectacle.
The area surrounding the falls is also stunningly beautiful. Designated as a national park, it is home to a wonderful variety of trees and plants, besides fascinating animals—including hippos, elephants, giraffes, wildebeests, zebras, and even lions. Beautiful birds such as eagles and rare taita falcons make their homes on the rocky cliffs.
In Livingstone’s words, “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.” Today, nearly 150 years after Livingstone first saw the site and named it Victoria Falls after Queen Victoria of England, hundreds of thousands of people annually come from around the world to experience its magnificence for themselves.
Victoria Falls justly deserves its reputation as one of the wonders of the natural world. But many lesser-known falls on Zambia’s numerous large rivers are also breathtakingly beautiful. Please join us for a look at some of them.
On a hot, dry November day, about two years before seeing Victoria Falls for the first time, Livingstone arrived at Ngonye Falls, also known as Sioma Falls. He wrote: “The islands above the falls are covered with foliage as beautiful as can be seen anywhere. Viewed from the mass of rock which overhangs the fall, the scenery was the loveliest I had seen.” Visitors to Ngonye Falls today heartily concur with Livingstone’s assessment.
Livingstone related: “For many miles below, the river is confined in a narrow space of not more than one hundred yards wide. The water goes boiling along, and gives the idea of great masses of it rolling over and over, so that even the most expert swimmer would find it difficult to keep on the surface.”
Many of Zambia’s other waterfalls are isolated and unspoiled. They vary greatly in size. Lumangwe Falls looks like a miniature Victoria Falls. But the falls are not at all tiny. One waterfall there drops approximately 100 feet [30 m] and spans over 300 feet [100 m]. Mist from the falls even sustains a small rain forest.
Kalambo Falls, the highest in Zambia, flows off the high plateau and down into Africa’s Great Rift Valley. It drops more than 700 feet [200 m] straight down sheer rock cliffs, where rare giant marabou storks breed in the dry season.
“Kalambo is thus the second highest uninterrupted waterfall in Africa [after Tugela Falls in South Africa] and the twelfth highest in the world—more than twice as high as the Victoria Falls,” says the publication National Monuments of Zambia.
Even though this waterfall is difficult to reach, local writer C. A. Quarmby describes Kalambo as “one of the unforgettable sights of Africa.” He predicts: “It will be a long time before it is on everyone’s circuit. . . . Only the chosen few ever get to Kalambo.”
Indeed, many of Zambia’s waterfalls and other natural attractions are well off the beaten path. National Monuments of Zambia notes that some “are only to be reached by Land-rover on difficult country, others only on foot.” Of course, that is part of what makes these places special. Nevertheless, visitors are welcome. Mr. Kagosi Mwamulowe, a conservation geologist at Zambia’s National Heritage Conservation Commission, explains that their goal is to enable people to enjoy these wonderful places while also protecting their pristine beauty.
Zambia’s Greatest Treasure
In his book Zambia, writer Richard Vaughan notes: “Zambia remains a land of great natural beauty, much of it unknown to visitors and Zambians alike. . . . The country is blessed with lakes, rivers, forests and mountains of fantastic variety.” But the country’s greatest wealth lies elsewhere.
“Its people are renowned for their warmth and cheerfulness and their resilience,” says Vaughan. As another writer, David Bristow, put it, “the heart of Zambia is its people, as warm as the African sun.” If ever you come to this beautiful corner of the world, we are sure you will agree.
[Map/Pictures on page 18]
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DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO
Lumangwe Falls—like a miniature Victoria Falls
Kalambo Falls—twice as high as Victoria Falls
Ngonye Falls—“on most days you’ll have the whole place to yourself”
Lumangwe and Ngonye Falls: Marek Patzer/www.zambiatourism.com; map: Mountain High Maps® Copyright © 1997 Digital Wisdom, Inc.
[Picture on page 16, 17]
Victoria Falls—“The Smoke That Thunders”