There is some debate over what makes the world’s largest waterfall, but Victoria Falls on the Zambia/Zimbabwe border can make a fairly good claim to the title, and it is absolutely breathtaking.
What makes it even more special is if you visit the day before, day of, or day after a full moon – which I have happened to do both times I’ve been there, by chance rather than by design, and which is also the case this week. Night visitors are permitted for these three dates each month, and the Falls by night themselves are spectacular. The big attraction, however, is the remarkable phenomenon of the lunar rainbow (more easily viewable here than some other places in the world due to the lack of nearby city lights).
What did I love about Victoria Falls?
Victoria Falls are 1.7km in length, a gaping chasm in the earth, and there is no one place on the ground from where you can stand back and see the whole thing.
But walking along the length gives an impressive view nonetheless.
Visitors to the Falls will get wet! Up close it’s a little like being in a tropical monsoon, except that the rain is coming up rather than down.
Walking between Zambia and Zimbabwe, you have the chance to look back on where you have previously been, and see how small you are in comparison to the thundering falls.
Mostly, I have loved visiting at night, seeing the rainbows from the interplay of the moon and the water.
No photo can quite do it justice, but if you have the chance to visit during the full moon, it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
What did I learn from Victoria Falls?
The name Mosi-Oa-Tunya means the smoke or mist that thunders, and you can see and hear why locals gave the falls this name.
Walking between two countries is always a learning experience, and the Rainbow Bridge border between Zambia and Zimbabwe is no different. I learned much from the people I met on both sides about generosity and hospitality, as well as suffering and living ordinary life in the midst of political turmoil … but those are all topics for other days and other posts.
Victoria Falls themselves remind me of the majesty and beauty of this earth … and how small I am in comparison. Being there made me think of the psalmist’s prayer: “When I consider the work of your hands … what are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for us? (Psalm 8:3-4)
Not only did we happen to be at the Falls during a full moon last year, but it was the “supermoon,” or largest moon of the year, which was apparently 30% brighter than normal. I enjoy learning a little bit about these kinds of astronomical phenomena, but at the end of the day, I also just enjoy being amazed and in awe at the magnificence of the universe without needing to understand it all.
Similarly, the abundance of rainbows at Victoria Falls, both day and night, makes me marvel anew at this beautiful phenomenon. Again I can understand something of the optical and meteorological explanations …
… but I also love the reminder that this is a promise from God. The rainbow is the divine archer’s bow, turned away from the earth; God in effect “laying down his weapons” against us. That the God who holds the entire universe in His hands, in light of which we are like mere dust, has promised us that we have nothing to fear from Him, is a truly remarkable wonder to ponder.
The lunar rainbow at Victoria Falls also reminds me to experience the wonder and beauty of this earth with my own senses and not just through the lens of a camera! The photo below may not look very impressive, but it is a memento of an amazing experience. Standing on a narrow, rickety footbridge, high above the ground, in the middle of the night, with nobody else around, getting soaking wet, with a rainbow forming a full 360 degree ring around us, was a “wow” moment I will not soon forget.