The Victoria Falls Rainforest
The Victoria Falls Rainforest is the dense area of vegetation and woodland around the lip of the Zimbabwe side of the falls that is nourished by the constant spray from the waterfall. The Rainforest can be explored from within Victoria Falls Park, where guests can also find the Livingstone Statue and different viewpoints. The pathways snake though thick vegetation and towering trees with liana vines hanging from the canopy. This is the magnificent Victoria Falls Rainforest.
The Rainforest in the Shadow of the Smoke That Thunders
As the waters of the Zambezi River tumble 100m into the gorge below the Falls, the spray that is produced and buffeted upwards can be seen from up to 30km away. As the spray rises on upward thermals, the water droplets condense and fall over the localised area surrounding the gorge. Under its shadow, the constant ‘rain’ supports a dense area of vegetation throughout the dry season as the surrounding bushveld dries up and thins out between July and October.
The Diverse Flora and Fauna of the Vic Falls Rainforest
Although the rainforest supports a variety of flora, insects, birds and small animals – in ecological terms it is not a proper rainforest. The Forest depends on the spray from a waterfall for its continuation. Rather, the Vic Falls Rainforest can be described as an extension of the rich river bank or a riverine fringe.
Along the pathways of the Rainforest can be found some 70 shrub species and 170 floral species. Highlights include Waterboom trees, Wild Date Palms, African Ebony trees, Flame Lilies (Gloriosa superba), the national flower of Zimbabwe and Forest-Dwelling Orchids (Calanthe sylvatica) which can be seen in December.
The Victoria Falls Park, where part of the Rainforest is situated, was first fenced in the 1950s to protect visitors from roaming elephants. Today it is void of elephants, but the lush vegetation still attracts many smaller species. On your stroll you should see chacma baboons and vervet monkeys (please do note feed them) as well as warthog and resident bushbuck. The birdlife in the Rainforest is plentiful and you should look out for hornbills, Schalow’s Turaco, sunbirds, fire finches, blue waxbills and more.
Top Tips When Visiting the Rainforest
If you plan on visiting the Victoria Falls Park, be prepared to get wet and depending on the time of year – soaked. Make sure to pack a waterproof bag for your phones and cameras and even consider wearing a bathing suit underneath your clothes. It’s also a good idea to avoid wearing white as it tends to become see-through. Remember the Rainforest is a fragile eco-system, so please avoid walking off the pathways and trampling vegetation.
Other interesting facts about the Vic Falls Rainforest:
- David Livingstone planted a number of fruit and coffee trees near the forest thinking they would flourish under the spray of the Falls.
- Hippo and elephant ate or trampled most of them.
- The artist, Thomas Baines once almost got trampled in the forest by a herd of buffalo. He had to shoot his way out.
- The German explorer, Edward Mohr is thought to be the first to have used the word ‘rainforest’ to describe the area.
- The ‘Maid of the Mist’ grown in many gardens today came from the Gladiolus bulbs collected from the Falls in the early 1900s.
Painting by Thomas Baines