Between the borders of Zambia and Zimbabwe lies a giant gash in the Earth’s surface that sends water plummeting and mist high into the air. The locals call it Mosi-oa-Tunya, “the smoke that thunders.” In English, it’s known as Victoria Falls. The local name seems more fitting as the falls drain 800,000 gallons of water every second from the mighty Zambezi River. The falling water lands with such force from the 360-foot fall it splashes into a mist that can been seen like smoke from a fire, miles away. To truly see the scale of Victoria Falls, you need to see it from above; so we took a Victoria Falls helicopter tour.
By the time we arrived to the helipad, the pilot had readied our vessel. We got strapped in and were ready for take-off. Victoria Falls is wrapped in a protected national park, which we flew over on our way. We smoothly ascended high above the lush green treetops of the forests. Just past the trees we caught our first glance of “the smoke that thunders” — the Zambezi is a wide trail of water that comes to a crashing head of white mist at the falls.
As we circled closer to the massive curtain of water, our pilot first took us over the gorges where the water would have flowed thousands of years ago; now they sit empty. Water has been falling here for millions of years, well before the time of Dr. Livingstone or Queen Victoria. However, the falls haven’t always been in the same place. Over time the water has carved out gorges into the landscape, moving the wall of water slowly upriver.
Finally, our pilot turns the small helicopter toward the main event of the flight, the breathtaking Victoria Falls, a straight edge over 5,600 feet long pouring water into the split earth. The highlight for me was the brief moment when we rounded the falls at just the right angle to catch a rainbow leaping out of its spray. This was why I had come to Victoria Falls. Seeing it from above was an amazing experience, and the best thing we did in Zambia.
— Contributed by Hannah Lukaszewicz