The Smoke that Thunders


My Thanksgiving story of a place faraway – Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

“No one can imagine the beauty of the view from anything witnessed in England. It had never been seen before by European eyes, but scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight.” –David Livingstone


      Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

David Livingstone, a Scottish explorer/missionary, discovered falls on the border of Zimbabwe and Zambia in November 1855. He named the falls in honor of Queen Victoria.

The phrase The Smoke that Thunders is attributed to the spray and mist of Victoria Falls, where the voice of the falls can be heard from a long distance, while the spray and mist from the falling water can also be seen from a distance. The locals call it “Mosi-oa-Tunya” which is the Lozi language’s way of saying “the smoke that thunders.”

Records say that Victoria Falls is the world's largest sheet of falling water. It is not the highest or widest waterfall but is classified as the largest falls based upon its combined width and height. Hence it is considered one of the “Seven Natural Wonders of the World” and is named by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. 

Though typically in November, in 2019, I made my Thanksgiving travel in September. Traveling the Wonders of the World is among my travel goals and seeing Victoria Falls on my 50th birthday was on my bucket list. Yes, I made it here! Standing in front of Victoria Falls, fascinated by the beautiful sight, and captivated by the power of the water, I was blessed and thankful.

Shearwater Explorers Village ­–my home for a couple of nights

I stayed at the Shearwater Explorers Village, an affordable accommodation in the town center and one-hour drive from the airport. They have friendly staff, exceptional food, and they offer scenic and wildlife activities. 

Sunrise at Shearwater Explorers Village

I woke up on my special day with the view of this sunrise and asked myself why the sunrise looks different in Zimbabwe? I hadn’t seen a sunrise like this! Is it because of the geographical location or the weather? Whatever the reason, it is stunning. The beautiful sky, the majestic sound of the chirping birds that awakened me, and the fresh dew of the morning are signs of a new beginning. I was ready to start my day with the tour of Victoria Falls.

The best way to experience the falls is through a guided tour. Shearwater offers this tour for $30 per person. The duration is two to two-and-a-half hours, depending on how long clients want to stay taking photos and sightseeing.  

The tour starts at the gallery then stopping at the viewpoints to see the falls from different perspectives. Some viewpoints are better than others, and some are wetter than others. Therefore, suitable shoes are recommended. Also, there are viewpoints with some barriers along their edges for safety. 

David Livingstone Statue

There are three seasons to consider when visiting Victoria Falls. The high-water season is March to May, just after the rainy season when the falls are at their fullest. The spray from the falls is heavier, so prepare to get wet. The low-water season is between August/September to December when you will only experience a light spray of water. I came in this season, and it was perfect for me. It is said that the medium- to high-water season is January to February, a good balance between the high and low seasons and one of the best times to visit the falls. 

Devil's Pool overlooking Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe side

Are you a thrill seeker and want to experience Africa's ultimate infinity pool? If you are, then Devil's Pool is for you. It is a natural rock pool on the edge of the Zambia side of Victoria Falls, where you can enjoy an exhilarating swim on the edge of the falls. It is one of the most popular activities in Victoria Falls which is open between August and January, depending on the level of Zambezi water. I am a fearless traveler but not much of a thrill seeker, so Devil's Pool was not for me. Besides, swimming is not one of my skills.

Rainbow Falls, Highest Point of the Falls 

Victoria Falls is one of the few places on earth where a moonbow, or lunar rainbow, occurs. When the skies are clear, and the moon is full, there is enough light to create a moonbow. You are lucky if you witness this natural phenomenon during your visit. June to August are the best months to see it. However, human eyes find it difficult to see the moonbow (much like the Aurora Borealis). It would help to bring a camera with long exposure and a tripod to get decent photos. I didn't witness the moonbow nor a rainbow caused by the mist, but I did reach the highest point of the falls, called Rainbow Falls.

Victoria Falls Bridge, linking Zimbabwe and Zambia 

I took a 15-hour direct flight from Atlanta to Johannesburg, South Africa. Unfortunately, there wasn’t another flight to Victoria Falls when I arrived, so I stayed for the night to catch the first flight the following morning. Flying time to Victoria Falls was approximately two hours. 

Victoria Falls is considered one of the adventure capitals of Africa. I recommend doing the sunset cruise and Boma dinner (a traditional buffet dinner consisting of South African barbeque with traditional entertainment). 

Here are a few key things to know when visiting Victoria Falls: The latest travel advisory indicates that a traveler needs a yellow fever vaccination. The U.S. dollar and the South African Rand are the most recognized currencies. Bring sufficient cash for the duration of your trip. American citizens can apply for a Zimbabwe visa ($30 for a single entry) at the port of entry. A passport must be valid for at least six months after entry into Zimbabwe and have at least two blank visa pages.

My “adopted” kids, Shamie, Ashley, Petronella, Olwelthu, Shareen (not pictured), and my friend, Thembie. 

I've traveled to many countries, but Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, has a special place in my heart. After a long day filled with fun and adventures, I gave thanks for this item checked off on my bucket list, a milestone celebrated, a personal challenge achieved, and a mission fulfilled.

Thanksgiving originated as a day of thanksgiving and harvest festival. Americans officially celebrate it every fourth Thursday of November. We look forward to this season and its traditions, including the turkey and parade. Indeed – it is one of my favorite holidays.

For me, Thanksgiving can be any day when you want to celebrate and give thanks for blessings. I wish a happy and safe Thanksgiving for everyone!


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