Victoria Falls, known by the locals as Mosi-oa-tunya or ‘the smoke that thunders', is one of Zambia's most important tourist attractions. At 66km², Mosi-oa-tunya National Park is one of the smallest parks in the country, protecting the riverine area above the Falls, as well as the warthog and common duiker.
The Falls section of the national park includes the rainforest opposite the Eastern Cataract, which is kept going by the waterfall's spray. It contains rare plants like pod mahogany, ebony and ivory palm as well as creepers and lianas. The sanctuary of the Mosi-oa-tunya National Park is where you will find the last remaining white rhino of Zambia. You will also find other animal species like zebra and giraffe, as well as some elephant. On a game drive along the Zambezi, you will see plenty of hippo wallowing in the shallows and crocodiles basking on the edge of the river.
Tall riverine forest grows alongside the river in Mosi-oa-tunya and this is where bushbuck and vervet monkey and bird species such as the coppery sunbird and the rare Taita falcon are occasionally seen. The highlight in the park is the fabulous rhino walk. Each day, two groups made up of eight people are allowed to track rhino by foot.
The park is quite small, which means that the roads can get quite congested during game drives. If you’d like to have a more exclusive experience, you can hop on a canoe that meanders languidly through the park. It is also a great way to experience the lush rainforest vegetation that flourishes in the waterfall's spray.
The Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park is home to both an Elephant Encounter and Lion Project. Both are conservation projects aimed at creating a holistic experience that both conserves the animals and teaches visitors about them and what it takes to protect them. Here you can ride an elephant and walk with lions.
The Victoria Falls, and the lushness that it instills in the surroundings, make for some of the best nature and wildlife photography. Photographers can expect a myriad photographic opportunities, ranging from close encounters with animals such as hippos, lions and leopards, and various scenic spots that offer different angles of the Falls and the river.
Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park is situated on the banks of the upper Zambezi River in Zambia. Guests will be welcomed at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg and assisted in transferring to a cross-border flight to Livingstone in Zambia. The airport is located conveniently close to the park - approximately 10km - but the drive can take up to half an hour.
Guests will be transported from Livingstone Airport in a private air-conditioned vehicle by an experienced guide. The drive to the various lodges in the area is a great way for visitors to familiarize themselves with the environment and also acts as an opportunity to spot some wild animals before even arriving at your accommodation.
When you plan to visit the Mosi-Oa-Tunya National Park depends on what it is that you would like to see. If you are primarily visiting the Victoria Falls sections of the park, it is best to visit during March and April when it is in full flow. If you are planning to walk along the Falls to one of the various attractions such as the Boiling Pot or the Devil’s Pool, it is likely to be inaccessible during full flow.
The wildlife section of the park, like many other parks around Southern Africa, is best to visit in the dry months when the animals converge around water sources which offers guest the best opportunity to see them. Winter evenings can get cold, especially due to the presence of the waters. Summers are hot and sometimes humid with storms occurring from time to time.
Mosi-Oa-Tunya is another World Heritage Site-recognized name for the Victoria Falls. Mosi-Oa-Tunya in the local Kololo or Lozi language means ‘the smoke that thunders’. The name 'Victoria Falls' was given to the massive waterfall by Dr David Livingstone, the great explorer, scientific investigator and anti-slavery crusader. Livingstone set eyes on the waterfall on 16 November 1855 and decided that the waterfall was so magnificent, it should be honored with the name of his Queen Victoria. Livingstone was so taken with the beauty of the waterfall he later wrote: “No one can imagine the beauty of the view from anything witnessed in England. Scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight.”
There are a lot of archaeological sites close the Victoria Falls. The oldest even predates Homo sapiens, containing stone artifacts used by Homo habilis some 3 million years ago. Middle and Late Stone Age weapons, jewelery and digging tools from between 50 000 and 2 000 years ago are also present. Te Stone Age artifacts are followed by the Iron Age pottery, stone artifacts and iron artifacts. The first bridge over the Falls was completed in 1905, allowing railway, road and travel on foot. The bridge is constructed of steel and is 198 meter long. It is the only rail link between Zambia and Zimbabwe and one of only three road links between the countries.
There has been a lot of trouble with the park's rhinos, as they are intensively hunted for their horns by poachers. After two southern white rhinos were reintroduced into Mosi-Oa-Tunya National Park, both of them were shot by rhino poachers during the night of 6 June 2007. One died and the poachers got away with the horn, but the other one miraculously survived. Four more white rhinos were reintroduced in 2009 and are now receiving protection around the clock. There is also an opportunity to walk with lions and ride elephants that have been habituated to human presence. Leopards are present, but mostly only their track and droppings are found.
Other species include Angolan giraffe, Grant's zebra, warthog, buffalo, impala and many more. African elephants can be found crossing the river and dangerous species such as hippopotamus and Nile crocodile line the river banks. Chacma baboons and vervet monkeys are common and entertain with all their antics. Lesser known species like klipspringer and clawless otters are also present. An astounding 450 species of birds, including 35 species of raptors, can be found in the park. Plenty of avid bird watchers come here especially for rare species like the African finfoot.
The Mosi-Oa-Tunya National Park is famous mainly for two reasons: it is the only park in Zambia where white rhinoceros can still be found, and its terrain. The park may be small, but it encompasses the Victoria Falls and almost 12km of the Zambezi River. The park is also conveniently located at the narrowest section of the river, which means that animals such as the African elephant cross the river here often. It is also here, at the Old Drift, that the settlers lived in the eighteenth and early nineteenth century. One of the most prominent features of the terrain is the ‘smoke that thunders’, which can be seen from all over the park.
The waterfall creates a rainforest that is the perfect environment for rare species such as the ivory palm. In drought, the vegetation suffers as it depends on the constant spray from the waterfall. The surrounding areas are primarily mopane woodland, miombo woodland, Rhodesian teak woodland and scrubland savanna. The river pours through various gorges of which the first is the one the river falls into at Victoria Falls. There are five others, named simply second, third, fourth, fifth and lastly the Songwe Gorge. Each gorge represents a site where the falls previously fell down as they do now at the first gorge (Victoria Falls site).
At Mosi-Oa-Tunya National Park, visitors will come to understand why “The Smoke that Thunders”, the Victoria Falls, are so attractive. The Falls themselves are one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the Modern World, and they are truly spectacular to behold. The earth reverberates with the sheer power with which they cascades through the passageways down the cliffs, and a light mist fills the air all around you. Sometimes, when the light is just right, you can see a circular rainbow form amidst these swirling veils. It is quite plainly impossible to articulate, but you can be assured that visiting the Falls will be a magnetizing experience, and you will be enticed to visit over and over again.
The spray of the Victoria Falls can be seen from up to 60 km away. The abundance of water gives life to such a diverse range of animals that the wildlife corridor of the park will keep you enthralled as soon as you lift your eyes from the Falls. Open vehicle game drives with experienced rangers are usually conducted in the mornings and late afternoons. Walking safaris are also offered and are accompanied by armed rangers for your safety. Birders will be especially impressed with the magnitude of species that can be spotted.
In addition to the awe-inspiring Victoria Falls themselves, the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park actually has quite a bit to offer. A particularly special element is presence of endangered white rhinos within the tiny park itself.
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