Although Victoria Falls are neither the widest nor highest in the world, no place on Earth sees a larger curtain of water cascading over a canyon into a gorge below. The falls, which actually comprise five separate cascades, are a staggering 5,603 feet wide -- almost a mile -- but drop just 360 feet into a 400-foot-wide gorge. On average, the falls dump 38,422 cubic feet of the Zambezi River over the edge per second, but the flow is considerably higher during the wet season from March to April. During November and December, by contrast, flow can be restricted to a trickle.
Named in honor of Queen Victoria by explorer Dr. David Livingstone in 1855, Victoria Falls remain Africa’s only representative among the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. The falls form a natural part of the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Despite the ferocity of the waters around the falls, the Zambezi River has been gradually forging a path through the surrounding plateau for some 2 million years. Because of the upward air currents in the gorge, most of the water reaches the canyon floor as mist, thus the original name for the falls -- Mosi-oa-Tunya -- meaning “the smoke that thunders.” The spray from the falls condenses and falls uninterrupted as rain on a modest patch of rainforest on Cataract and Livingstone islands at the foot of the gorge. One of the few places on Earth where it rains without pause, the rainforest supports a rich ecosystem of rare plants, amphibians and insects.
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