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The smoke that thunders

The smoke that thunders

The smoke that thunders
Tom Varley

Victoria Falls is protected as a World Heritage Site. Along with its two sentinel national parks, Mosi-oa-TunyaPark on the Zambian side and its smaller twin, the Victoria FallsNational Park on the Zimbabweside, it is listed as a transboundary site.

‘Mosi-oa-tunya’ means ‘the smoke that thunders’ in the local Kololo language. This small but delightfully attractive park stretches upstream from the Falls on the north bank for about 12km, and, at a mere 66km2 in extent, is tiny by African standards. This lack of size, however, means that a circular drive around this park only takes a couple of hours, which is time well spent as you will get to see a wide variety of mammals and birds in a short period.

This includes a realistic opportunity of seeing white rhino – a small number have been introduced and are under constant ranger protection. It is very possible that this will be your only sighting of these endangered animals during your African safari, as poaching has severely diminished their ranges and populations.

Elephants risk being washed over the Falls when they cross the Zambezi from Zimbabwe in the dry season and every few years an unfortunate animal is caught in the powerful current, so an appreciation of the risks they took to reach this park is in order when you come across them. A variety of other game such as giraffe, zebra, sable, eland and many of the smaller antelope can also be sighted from close range as the animals are habituated to vehicles and have no predators to make them skittish. Pods of hippo and basking crocodile liven up journeys near the river.

If you venture onto Livingstone Island – from where David Livingstone first saw the Falls - be careful not to be distracted by the plaque that commemorates the event; it is a long way down should you lose your footing. Eight years ago a statue to honour Livingstone was erected in the park. Don’t mistake it for the more famous one on the Zimbabwe bank.

Read more articles from this issue:
Zambezi Traveller (Issue 13, June 2013)

Read more about the region in our destination guide:

Other articles in this series:
Paradise unveiled
A short history of the Falls
The sacred hills of the Matopos
The smoke that thunders
Valley of abundance
Superlative and unexplored
The great enigmas
Africa’s grand anomaly
The Middle Zambezi
The Zambezi’s final triumph