History of Victoria Falls

Victoria Falls, also known as “Mosi oa-Tunya” (“the smoke that thunders”) is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. Victoria Falls is not the tallest or the widest waterfall.  However, combining the width and height of the waterfall makes Victoria Falls the largest single sheet of flowing water in the World.

Located on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe, Victoria Falls can be viewed from either side. The Zimbabwe side provides panoramic views where you can see approximately 80% of the falls.  On the Zambia side you can expect to see 20 – 30% . However, both sides offer walking trails along the falls as well as activities such as bungee jumping and helicopter rides.  The perfect vantage point to witness the falls from above enjoying incredible 360-degree views.

According to archaeological discoveries, the area around the falls has been occupied for approximately 3 million years. Middle Stone Age tools, late Stone Age weapons and stone artefacts from that time have been found. The Stone Age inhabitants were eventually displaced by the Khoisan, (hunter-gatherers that used iron implements). Later, Bantu people moved into the area and the Batoka tribes became dominant. Over time other tribes arrived including the Matabele and the Makololo. Descendants of these tribes are still living in the area today.

Scottish explorer, David Livingstone had heard of the falls. During his 1852–56 journey from the upper Zambezi to the mouth of the river, Livingstone spent the night on Kalai Island. Kalai Island is located a few kilometres upstream from the Falls, having come down river by foot. On the 7th November 1855, members of the Makololo tribe escorted Livingstone, to the site they called “Mosi oa-Tunya” (“the smoke that thunders”). He landed on the biggest island on the lip of the falls (now called Livingstone Island), and from there, first viewed the great Mosi oa-Tunya.

Livingstone was the first ever European to witness the majestic falls. He named the falls: ‘Victoria Falls’ in honour of the reigning queen at the time, Queen Victoria.

Cecil Rhodes had a vision of a Cape-Cairo railway which drove plans for the first bridge across the Zambezi in 1905. Rhodes’ insisted it be built where the spray from the falls would fall on passing trains. Prior to 1905, the river was crossed above the falls by dugout canoe or a barge towed across with a steel cable.

The falls became an increasingly popular attraction during British colonial rule of Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) and Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe).  The town of Victoria Falls on the Southern side, becoming the main tourist centre.

Today, the Victoria Falls continue to increase in popularity, with at least a million tourists visiting each year.

References: Thank you SiyaBonaSeven Natural WondersRhino AfricaNational Geographic and  Zambia Tourism

Get In Touch

Contact Us

For tailor-made itineraries or enquiries…