Victoria Falls is located on the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia and is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. David Livingstone, the Scottish missionary and explorer, is believed to have been the first European to view the falls in 1855 and he named them after Queen Victoria, though their indigenous name of Mosi-oa-Tunya (“the smoke that thunders”) is still in use.
While it is neither the highest nor the widest waterfall in the world, it is claimed to be the largest. This claim is based on a width of 1,708 metres (5,600 ft) and height of 108 metres (360 ft), forming the largest sheet of falling water in the world.
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 most notable aspect of the area’s vegetation though is the rainforest nurtured by the spray from the falls, containing plants rare for the area such as pod mahogany, ebony, ivory palm, wild date palm and a number of creepers and lianas.
The surrounding national parks contain abundant wildlife including sizable populations of elephant, buffalo, giraffe, zebra, and a variety of antelope. Lion and leopard are only occasionally seen. Vervet monkeys and baboons are common. The river above the falls contains large populations of hippopotamus and crocodile. Elephants cross the river in the dry season at particular crossing points.
Klipspringers and clawless otters can be glimpsed in the gorges, but they are mainly known for 35 species of raptors. The Taita Falcon, Black Eagle, Peregrine Falcon and Augur Buzzard breed there. Above the falls, herons, Fish Eagles and numerous kinds of waterfowl are common.
The river is home to 39 species of fish below the falls and 89 species above it, mostly black cod and slippery trout. This illustrates the effectiveness of the falls as a dividing barrier between the upper and lower Zambezi.