The Zambezi

Middle Zambezi River, Africa

Every river on this planet has a personality. Come along on a short journey as I share the beauties of the Zambezi in East Africa with you.


It’s a bold river that starts in Zambia and winds through six countries before emptying into the Indian Ocean on the east coast.



Map of Zambezi. Courtesy Wikipedia.


The fourth longest river in Africa, the Zambezi is 1,600 miles (2,574 km) long.


More info:  Zambezi River Wikipedia.


Due to its proximity to the Rift Valley, the geological formation of centuries of uplifts and fault movements have carved the Zambezi through hundreds of miles of mountains and gorges.

Victoria Falls, Africa

Divided into three sections, the Upper, Middle and Lower Zambezi provide much-needed water to this sun-parched inland landscape and its human and wildlife residents.


The Middle Zambezi includes Victoria Falls, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


Victoria Falls, Africa. Photo by Athena Alexander.


Also known as “The Smoke that Thunders,” for the constant spray and roar that the falls produce, Victoria Falls is the world’s largest waterfall. It has a width of 5,604 feet (1,708 m).


Where these African women and girls stand in the above photo, it is so loud that they don’t even bother trying to talk. Fresh river droplets are dancing in the air all around them.


Upstream from Victoria Falls, the Zambezi flows over a flat plateau of basalt extending hundreds of kilometers in all directions. (See aerial photo at end.)


Then, at the falls, the water suddenly plummets 260 feet (80 m) into a deep chasm.

Victoria Falls, Africa

The water volume in Victoria Falls varies depending on the season.  We were there in July, but I’ve been told the waters rage much more in the rainy season, February-May.


The Zambezi’s volume also varies by season, with regular flooding and ebbing, other waterfalls, and two hydroelectric dams. It also has many sizeable tributaries.


Some sections are pounding with water, attracting white-water rafting enthusiasts for the high volume of water and steep gradients.


Other sections of the river are calmer.


These next three photos are from a Zambezi tributary, the Luangwa River. Elephants and hippos, wading birds and many other animals gather at the water.


African elephant, Luangwa Valley, Zambia. Tributary of the Zambezi.

Hippos at Luangwa River, Zambia, Africa.


Locals are often seen on the water in dug-out canoes. Those humps in the water are not rocks…they’re hippos.


Hippos and Fishermen, Luangwa River, Zambia. Photo by Athena Alexander.


At the border of Botswana and Zambia, the Zambezi is 1,300 feet (400 m) wide and the current is strong. Relations between the two countries have been strained for years, locked in dispute over the construction of a bridge.


So instead of a bridge, a pontoon ferry system transports locals, tourists, trucks, and cars across the river. Two boats operate, like this one below, all day long.


Kazungula Ferry Boat, Africa

Even though it only takes about 15 or 20 minutes to get across, we spent several hours waiting in the line. Semi-truck drivers wait in line for days, sometimes weeks.


I read that recent bridge construction has finally begun.


Kazungula Ferry crossing at the Zambezi River, Africa. Ferry boat is left center.

Locals waiting to cross the Zambezi at Kazungula Crossing, Africa


Raging in rapids in some places, and too shallow to navigate in others, the Zambezi is a dynamic river. I’m glad you could join me for a short tour.


Written by Jet Eliot.

Photos by Athena Alexander.

Zambezi sunset at Livingstone, Africa

The Zambezi and its river basin. Map by Eric Gaba. Courtesy Wikipedia.

Basalt plateau, Victoria Falls, V. F. Bridge. Courtesy Wikipedia


77 thoughts on “The Zambezi

  1. What a grand adventure!! Visiting Victoria Falls has long been on my wish list, but your description of the river makes me want to cast my net further. The reminder of the roar of the waterfall is a good one. A photo just can’t capture that element of a visit. I particularly liked the aerial views – ones I don’t often get to see.

    • Oh yes, there are many spots along the Zambezi that are breath-taking, and of course Victoria Falls is at the top of the list. It is a tourist destination, though, so I like, as you say, casting that net out to other places, too. Glad you liked the aerial views. I found that one of the VF interesting. Thanks, Joanne, for your visit today. Hope your weekend is pleasant.

  2. Of all the wonderful photo journals you have presented here, this is one of my favourites. I love rivers…and you have convinced me that the Zambezi is one I would love to visit. Thank you Jet..and hope that you have a lovely weekend and that your creative juices are flowing :)x

    • I, too, really love rivers, Janet. During this lockdown my mind has drifted to rivers many times, and I have found just thinking about them and the way they continually move to be comforting. Our trip to Zambia was a private safari with just another couple, and a group safari, so I had three weeks in this area and many chances to see several different African rivers. Thank you for your lovely compliment and visit today, my friend. Always a joy to “see” you.

  3. Grateful we do not have a grand basalt plateau under formation in this age (all our problems solved). This presentation make be want to experience it… the very least drive the 3.5 hours to Niagara Falls.

    • Enjoyed your geological comment about the basalt plateaus, Michael Stephen. And how fortunate that Niagara Falls is so close to your home. Another spectacular waterfall. Thank you for your visit today.

    • I am glad you enjoyed learning about and seeing the Zambezi today, John. I enjoyed putting together the highlights of this magnificent river. My warmest thanks….

  4. fantastic read, Jet! thank you for sharing your incredible journey to this most beautiful waterfalls i hope to visit someday. wishing you a lovely weekend 🙂

    • It’s a great treat to share the Zambezi and Victoria Falls with you, Wilma. Thanks so much for your visit and happy wishes. My best wishes to you for a delightful weekend, too.

    • Glad I could share a trip down the Zambezi with you, Jill. The mountainsides and cliffs are so tall they look like aerial photos, but they’re just Athena standing on the edge of the cliff. Lovely to have you stop by, thank you.

  5. A thrill from beginning to end, one that only a trip down the Zambezi
    could satisfy and story told by you with incredible photos by Athena could tell!
    Thank you for sharing your exciting journey Jet!
    Take care dear friends

    • Dear Eddie, always a joy to hear from you, thank you. We had many opportunities to see the Zambesi from all angles, so what a pleasure it is to share them here with you. Sending big smiles your way, my friend.

  6. That’s one big, exciting river, full of variety and drama! I hope they get that bridge built. It reminds me of my (first) honeymoon in Sierra Leone. The Chinese had funded and built the main, central part of a bridge over a river, on the understanding that the Sierra Leone government would pay for finishing the two ends up to and down from it. But they never got built. An enterprising local charged a small sum to use his ladders to get across.

    • Yes, sometimes we take our bridges for granted…until we don’t find one at a river crossing. Crossing rivers is memorable in many parts of Africa and sometimes harrowing. I enjoyed your Sierra Leone river crossing story a lot, Mike. Thanks so much for your visit. I so enjoyed your breath-taking hike in the Alps today.

  7. Thanks for sharing this beautiful river, Jet, I was born in Marromeu (Mozambique), on the banks of the Zambezi River, I even bathed in the river when I was a kid and my father fished in the river.

    • I am thrilled to hear of your loving experiences on the Zambezi, Paulo, and happy my post invited you in. What a very special where you were brought into this world. Thanks so much.

    • That’s an interesting question, Eliza. Standing next to the falls was exhilarating. Hot dusty day, then we get to the falls and they’re spraying out water in every direction (had to don my raincoat)–so refreshing. It was so loud that you couldn’t talk, so most of just marveled at it. Athena and I decided to walk to the end of the walkway, so mesmerized were we, and as it turned out it was surprisingly long. When we got to the end we realized our bus was going to leave soon, so we had to run all the way back to the parking lot. On the way, we heard gunshots in the parking lot. When we got to the bus, a woman behind us was very sick, we had interaction with her, gave her some of our pills to try to help, and both Athena and I ended up getting a really ferocious flu bug that wiped us both out for days. In summary, the energy around V. Falls was a swirl, just like the water: big and great but also alarming and intimidating. Always enjoy your visits and thoughts, my friend.

  8. Wonderful photos, Jet. I’ll never forget seeing Victoria Falls, especially when i flew over in a helicopter. It was an awesome sight. I’ve never crossed the Zambezi but it looks like quite an African adventure.

    • Oh boy, that would be tempting. I loved it in the LV, less tourists. One night a baby elephant and mother came to our bungalow and snacked on the tree right outside our door. Beautiful place. I am very happy to know you have had the pleasure of the LV, Cathy. Thanks so much for your contribution today.

    • Glad you enjoyed the V. Falls and Zambezi sunset, Janet. We were on a sunset birding boat and watched the sun slowly sink. Glad you enjoyed this maskless visit. Thanks for your visit, Janet.

    • Fortunately there was handrails all along the chasm, and I was hanging on tight, believe me. One of my favorite things about V. Falls is hearing that thunder from miles away. You can see the “smoke,” ie. spray, from far too. I like the name, too. Thanks so much, Jan…always fun to receive your visit and words.

    • I’m glad I could bring the V. Falls to you, Jo. We were able to visit it twice, at the beginning and end of our trip. Both experiences were quite different, but equally as adventure-filled. I am really glad to “see” you today, Jo, thanks for your visit.

  9. Thank you for another beautiful tour. You’ve been very lucky to see all these places and it’s lovely the way you share and educate. The Zambezi was a treat to see.

  10. Your words, and Athena’s photographs, capture so many moods here. What a mighty river, and what adventures you enjoyed along it. A captivating post – thanks, Jet! That sunset shot…

    • I like your comment, PC, because there really are a lot of moods, to use your word, on the Zambezi. I’m glad I conveyed it successfully. I’m delighted you enjoyed the journey with us, my friend. Hoping your weeks of adventures are shaping up nicely. Many thanks, as always. And Happy Canada Day on Wed.

    • I so enjoy rivers and as you say, the heartbeats, of these rivers. Glad I could share the Zambezi with you, and equally as glad you could share your beautiful St. Marys river with me. Thank you, Bill, always a pleasure.

  11. The Zambezi is a lot more active than Rudyard Kipling’s description of the Limpopo River, as the “great grey-green, greasy Limpopo River, all set about with fever-trees,” where the “Bi-Coloured Python Rock-Snake” dwells in the Just So Stories.
    Thanks for taking me there.

    • It was a great treat to read the quotes you provided about the Limpopo River from Rudyard Kipling, Sherry. Your comment inspired me to consult Wiki on the Limpopo, thanks. Both rivers drain into the Indian Ocean, and the Zambezi is larger, though the Limpopo is pretty long too at just over a thousand miles. I saw a photo on Wiki of Kipling’s “great grey-green…fever-trees” quote painted on a sign on a viewing deck of the Limpopo. Thanks for your contribution today, much enjoyed and appreciated, Sherry.

    • We were lucky enough to have many weeks in the area, so we went to V. Falls twice and walked all around it, and enjoyed much of the Zambezi too. I’m happy I could share it with you, Lloyd. That bridge has been in the works for many years, but I do think it might be further along, which I am sure many people are happy about. Always enjoys your visits, my friend, thank you.

  12. I didn’t need many words to look at this post. I couldn’t stop saying, “Wow!” (I find that happens a lot when I look at your posts). The Zambezi has it all – waterfalls, twists and turns, canyons, flat areas, deep sections, shallow ones. Simply amazing! Thanks for sharing the info and photos with us. What a lesson. Imagine having to wait for hours to get across a piece of water.

    • With your many experiences in boating and navigating water, you can imagine what the Zambezi is like, Anneli. I’m glad I could take you down these waters with us, and I enjoyed reading your comment and thoughts on it. And yes, bridges are not to be taken for granted. Many thanks, my friend.

  13. That first sentence would make a great opening line for a novel. I like the slice of life that comes along with this post. My old desert sinuses would love standing beside that waterfall for an hour.

    • Always good to hear from you, Craig, and I appreciate your writer’s perspective. That first sentence came to me in the final paragraph as I was wrapping up. In the revision I thought, that’s a good line, should be at the front. Appreciate your professional astuteness. Warm thanks.

  14. This was fascinating, Jet. I love rivers and their various personalities. I’ve also learned a lot from living on a hillside above our creek… which can also turn into a raging, flooding river during our wetter winter months. You have been so very lucky, or just plain smart to have done all this exotic (at least to me) traveling. I bet you have many warm and precious memories to relive. And sharing it on the blogs makes it extra special. Again… thanks to both you and Athena.

    • Waterways are indeed fascinating, I agree, Gunta. It’s an honor to share the Zambezi with you. Your residences in OR, where water falls frequently from the skies, and my residence in CA where it only falls in winter, have prepared us both for the beauty and power that comes with rainfall and how it flows across the earth. I know you have lived in lots of places, as I have, and moving around, as you say, does give an appreciation for the diversity of this planet and its ways. My thanks for your warm visit and comment.

  15. Most impressive! Thanks for including the maps and aerial photograph, too – they add a lot to your post. I found a YouTube clip of the sight and sound of Victoria Falls. Magnificent!! Someone tried to narrate it, but you couldn’t hear a word! ha

    • I enjoyed your comment so much, Nan. Had to chuckle that the YouTube clip maker tried to do a narration standing beside Victoria Falls, and the pounding waters were too loud for this. It’s that way there. It’s so loud and forceful, and all the time raining and misting, an absolutely powerful place in the world. I’m glad I could bring the Zambezi and V. Falls to you. Thanks so much, always.

  16. Wonderful river and the hippos are so lovely!
    I’ve heard about Victoria Falls a lot in my life. Are they named after Queen Victoria?
    Anyway, falls are a wonderful happening. I live an hour away from Niagara Falls. They are stunning. I saw them frozen in winter once. It was spectacular. The froth was frozen…. seemingly in mid air.
    Brandywine Falls in B.C. are not so spectacular, but they and the setting is the prettiest.
    Lovely post, Jet! You not only took me for a trip on the Zambezi, but on a trip of falls in my memory!

    • I enjoyed your comment, Resa, and love that the Zambezi brought up other waterfalls into your thoughts. Niagara Falls are very exciting, too, and I can imagine how surreal and beautiful they must be frozen. Yes, the Victoria Falls are named after Queen Victoria. The local Bantu tribes named it in their language which translates to: “The Smoke that Thunders.” Wonderful to hear from you, thanks so much, Resa.

  17. That is a grand adventure. The Victoria Fall, Wow!! Thank you so much, Jet for taking us there. I can’t imagine being there… The sunset scene is stunning!

    • I’m glad you had fun on this Zambezi adventure, Amy. We were enjoying a peaceful birdwatching cruise on the Zambezi when Athena captured the setting sun. Many thanks for your visit, and happy wishes to you.

  18. I never thought of a river having a personality, much less each river having its own personality. But the way you write about the Zambezi, I believe it now! Thanks for the amazing tour.

    • I’m happy to hear the personalities of rivers have come to your thought process, Pam. It’s a phenomenon I have seen all over the world, and now you can test it out too. Always a joy to have you stop by…thank you.

  19. I very much enjoyed taking your short tour, Jet! The photos and info were amazing, Victoria Falls is breathtaking, in person its gotta me mind-blowing! Further down the river where there’s just a ferry for crossing, I was a bit taken back reading of the long waits, even up to a week for trucks with goods. Oh my, how very awful. I’m glad to hear the two countries have finally been able to come together to build a bridge for the people.

    • Thanks for your lovely comment, Donna. Yes, it is striking how important a bridge can be, and what the locals go through just to cross the river. Africa is a world of its own, and there are so many curious aspects. they don’t have the infrastructure we do in our country. I’m happy I could share the beautiful Zambezi and V. Falls with you, thanks for taking an interest, Donna.

  20. Jet your post brings back such happy and exhilarating memories. We visited Victoria Falls in April, when indeed the falls were raging. One of the adventures we did was sitting in Angel’s Pool, just above Victoria Falls. Of all the things we have done, this time even I thought we were mad as cut snakes. It made ziplining over the Zambezi seem reasonable which was stomach dropping itself. However it was the quiet times gazing at the wonder of the falls that was best of all. Thank you for taking us back to the Zambezi. We are grateful for the reminder of our African trip.

    • I’m glad you had a chance to visit this post, Sue, and re-capture your Zambezi adventure. I thought of you and Dave SO much when I was writing it, remembering your post and the descriptions of how you conquered Angel’s Pool, and the video. I remember before you went and while you were there, too, enjoying your trip vicariously as you bravely adventured all over Africa. It’s a gift that we can share our adventures with each other, especially during this lockdown time. Thanks so much, dear Sue.

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