The Victoria Falls or Victoria Falls (the group of falls is called Mosi-o-Tunya in Tonga, which in Portuguese means the smoke that thunders) are one of the most spectacular waterfalls in the world. They are located on the Zambezi River on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe, and are about 1.5 km wide and have a maximum height of 128 m. As it jumps, the Zambezi plunges into the Kariba Gorge and crosses several basaltic waterfalls.
Both Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park and Victoria Falls National Park in Zimbabwe have been inscribed since 1989 on the World Heritage List maintained by Unesco. This one is also conserved by being within the Cubango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area.
A map dated around 1750, drawn by Jacques-Nicolas Bellin for the abbot Antoine François Prévost, marks the falls as “cataractes” and marks a settlement north of the Zambezi as being at the time “MORTAL” to the Portuguese. Even earlier, a map of southern Africa made by Nicolas de Fer in 1715 has the falls clearly marked in the correct position. It also features dotted lines denoting trade routes that Scottish explorer David Livingstone would follow 140 years later.
A 1956 book, There’s a Secret Hid Away, corroborates such a thesis:
“The earliest explorers who would possibly have discovered the falls are the Portuguese. Some of their maps, made between 1600 and 1700 and kept in the Vatican bookshop, show a large waterfall on a river that must be the Zambezi, then known to them as the Cuama. (…) there is some evidence in favor of Father Silveira, a Portuguese missionary who is said to have visited the falls as early as the beginning of the 17th century.”
Officially, however, Livingstone was the first Westerner to sight them on November 17, 1855, naming them in honor of Queen Victoria-the local name is Mosi-oa-tunya, meaning “smoke that thunders,” in reference to the steam rising from the gorge of the falls.
In the 2009 book Seven Natural Wonders of Africa, there is the following narrative about the explorer:
“Livingstone gave the falls a new name, ‘Victoria,’ in honor of Queen Victoria, who at the time ruled the United Kingdom. Livingstone would later say that the falls were the most impressive thing he came to see during his thirty years of exploring Africa.”
In 1860, Livingstone returned to the area of the falls and made a detailed study. A formidable explorer, in addition to Victoria Falls, he crossed the Kalahari Desert twice, sailed the Zambezi River from Angola to Mozambique, searched for the sources of the Nile River, and was the first European to cross Lake Tanganyika.
Portuguese explorer Serpa Pinto also visited them, but until that area became more accessible, which occurred around 1905 with the construction of a railway line, few Westerners ventured there. Today the number of annual visitors exceeds 300,000.
In 1905 the Victoria Falls railway bridge was opened, which passes near the falls and connects Zambia and Zimbabwe.