These are among the most spectacular waterfalls in the world. The Zambezi River, more than two kilometres wide at this point, plunges noisily down a series of basalt gorges and raises an iridescent mist that can be seen more than 20 kilometres away.
The Victoria Falls are the most significant feature of the Victoria Falls National Park, and when the Zambezi is in full flood (usually February or March) they form the largest curtain of falling water in the world. During these months, over 500 million litres of water per minute go over the falls, which are 1708m wide, and drop 99m at Rainbow Falls in Zambia.
At low water in November the flow can be reduced to around 10 million litres/minute, and the river is divided into a series of braided channels that descend in many separate falls. Below the falls the river enters a narrow series of gorges which represent locations successively occupied by the falls earlier in their history.
Victoria Falls attract many ‘extreme’ sports lovers; bungee jumping off the Zambezi Bridge, white water rafting and body boarding are just a few options available.
Less adventurous visitors will enjoy walking through the National Park, where there are excellent viewing points. The spectacular views that can be obtained by taking a helicopter or light aircraft ‘flight of the angels’ are unforgettable!
South Luangwa National Park
South Luangwa National Park in eastern Zambia, the southernmost of three national parks in the valley of the Luangwa River, is a world-renowned wildlife haven. It supports large populations of Thornicroft’s giraffe, and herds of elephant and buffalo often several hundred strong, while the Luangwa River supports abundant crocodiles and hippopotamuses.
It is one of the best-known national parks in Africa for walking safaris. Founded as a game reserve in 1938, it became a national park in 1972 and now covers 9,050 km2. The Muchinga Escarpment in Northern and Central Provinces forms the park’s western or north-western boundary, it slopes down from there to the river, lying mostly on its western bank. The eastern bank of the river is in Eastern Province, and as access to the park is only from that side, it is usually thought of as being wholly in Eastern Province.
Lower Zambezi National Park
The Lower Zambezi National Park lies on the north bank of the Zambezi River in southeastern Zambia. Until 1983 when the area was declared a national park, the area was the private game reserve of Zambia’s president. This has resulted in the park being protected from the ravages of mass tourism and remains one of the few pristine wilderness areas left in Africa. On the opposite bank is Zimbabwe’s Mana Pools national Park. The two parks sit on the Zambezi flood plain ringed by mountains. The area is a world heritage site. In fashion with the current trend in Southern Africa, there is talk of linking the two parks to form a massive trans-frontier park.
The park gently slopes from the Zambezi Escarpment down to the river, straddling two main woodland savannah ecoregions distinguished by the dominant types of tree, Miombo and Mopane: Southern Miombo woodlands on higher ground in the north, and Zambezian and Mopane woodlands on lower slopes in the south. At the edge of the river is floodplain habitat.
The park itself is ringed by a much larger game management area (commonly referred to as GMA); there are no fences between the park and the GMA and both animals and people are free to roam across the whole area. The attraction of the Lower Zambezi park and its surrounding GMA is its remote location. Unlike South African parks, there are no paved roads and you are very unlikely to encounter another tourist whilst traveling around. Tourist numbers are minimized due to the park being inaccessible by road, unless one has advanced 4×4 driving skills and even then only at certain times of the year. Tourists visit the park either on a boat on the Zambezi or by light aircraft flying from either Livingstone or Lusaka.
Most large mammals in the national park congregate on the floodplain, including buffalo, numerous elephants, lions, leopards and many antelope, crocodiles and hippopotamuses. There are also a large number of species of birds, but no black rhinoceroses remained around the time the national park was declared, in 1983.