Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Spectacular Victoria Falls- One of the Seven Wonders of the World

The spectacular Victoria Falls are located on the Zambesi River, in an area bordering the two Southern African countries of Zimbabwe and Zambia. With a width of 1,708 metres (5,604 ft) and a height of 108 metres (354 ft), this breathtaking falls are the largest in the world. The Victoria falls constitute one of the Seven Wonders of the World; and have been granted world heritage status by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). An estimated 1 million people from all over the world visit the falls each year. The Falls can be visited from either the Zimbabwean or the Zambian side, though historically, more people had tended to visit the falls from the Zimbabwean side.

The falls are formed as the entire width of the river plunges in a single vertical drop into a transverse chasm 1708 metres (5604 ft) wide, carved by its waters along a fracture zone in the basalt plateau. The depth of the chasm, called the First Gorge, varies from 80 metres (260 ft) at its western end to 108 metres (354 ft) in the centre. The only outlet to the First Gorge is a 110 metres (360 ft) wide gap, which is about two-thirds of the way across the width of the falls from the western end, through which the whole volume of the river pours into the Victoria Falls’ gorges.

There are two islands on the crest of the falls, which are sufficiently large to divide the curtain of water even at full flood. These Islands are: Boaruka Island (or Cataract Island) near the western bank, and Livingstone Island near the middle. At less than full flood, additional islets partition the curtain of water into separate parallel streams. The main streams are named, in order from Zimbabwe (west) to Zambia (east): Devil's Cataract (called Leaping Water by some), Main Falls, Rainbow Falls (the highest) and the Eastern Cataract.

The spray from the falls typically rises to a height of over 400 metres (1,300 ft), and sometimes even twice as high, and is visible from up to 48 km (30 mi) away. At full moon, a "moonbow" can be seen in the spray, instead of the usual daylight rainbow. During the flood season, however, it is impossible to see the foot of the falls and most of its face, and the walks along the cliff opposite it are in a constant shower and engulfed by mist. Close to the edge of the cliff, spray shoots upward like inverted rain, especially at Zambia's Knife-Edge Bridge.

A prominent feature at the falls is the naturally formed Devil's Pool, near the edge of the falls on Livingstone Island on the Zambian side. When the river flow is at a certain level, usually between September and December, a rock barrier forms an eddy with minimal current, allowing adventurous swimmers to splash around in relative safety, a few feet from the point where the water cascades over the falls.

The two relatively small national parks at the falls are the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park, which is 66 square kilometres (16,309 acres) big; and Victoria Falls National Park, which is 23 square kilometres (5,683 acres) large. However, next to the latter on the southern bank is the Zambezi National Park, extending 40 kilometres (25 mi) west along the river.

Mopane woodland savannah predominates in the area, with smaller areas of Miombo and Rhodesian Teak woodland and scrubland savannah. Riverine forest with palm trees lines the banks and islands above the falls.

The river is home to 39 species of fish below the falls and 89 species above it. This testifies the effectiveness of the falls in dividing the upper and lower Zambezi.
Activities at the falls include: enjoying the spectacular view of the falls, wildlife viewing, bungee jumping, jet boating, sundowner cruises, Kayaking, canoeing, abseiling, river boarding, swinging through the gorge, etc.

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