Mosi-oa-Tunya / Victoria Falls
These are among the most spectacular waterfalls in the world. The Zambezi River, which is more than 2 km wide at this point, plunges noisily down a series of basalt gorges and raises an iridescent mist that can be seen more than 20 km away.
Outstanding Universal Value
The Mosi-oa-Tunya/Victoria Falls is the world’s greatest sheet of falling water and significant worldwide for its exceptional geological and geomorphological features and active land formation processes with outstanding beauty attributed to the falls i.e. the spray, mist and rainbows. This transboundary property extends over 6860 ha and comprises 3779 ha of the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park (Zambia), 2340 ha of Victoria Falls National Park (Zimbabwe), 741 ha of the riverine strip of Zambezi National Park (Zimbabwe). A riverine strip of the Zambezi National Park extending 9 km west along the right bank of the Zambezi and islands in the river are all within the Park as far as Palm and Kandahar Islands, with the Victoria Falls being one of the major attractions. The waterfall stands at an altitude of about 915 m above mean sea level (a.m.s.l.) and spans to about 1708 m wide with an average depth of 100 m and the deepest point being 108 m. Sprays from this giant waterfall can be seen from a distance of 30 km from the Lusaka road, Zambia and 50 km from Bulawayo road, Zimbabwe. Basalts have been cut by a river system producing a series of eightspectacular gorges that serve as breeding sites for four species of endangered birds. The basalts of the Victoria Falls World Heritage property are layered unlike those of the Giants Causeway World Heritage site which are vertical and columnar.
Criterion (vii): The Mosi-oa-Tunya/Victoria Falls is the largest curtain of falling water in the world; it is 1.708 m wide and with up to 500 million litres per minute descending at 61 m (Devil’s Cataract), 83 m (Main Falls), 99 m (Rainbow Falls), 98 m (Eastern Cataract). Eight spectacular gorges of igneous origin (i.e. comprising basalts) and several islands in the core zone serve as breeding sites for four endangered and migratory bird species, such as the Taita Falcon and Black Eagle. The riverine 'rainforest' within the waterfall splash zone is a fragile ecosystem of discontinuous forest on sandy alluvium, dependent upon maintenance of abundant water and high humidity resulting from the spray plume of about 500 m (at maximum height) that can be seen from a distance of 50 km and 30 km from Bulawayo and Lusaka roads respectively. A direct frontage viewing of the falls is possible from both Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Criterion (viii): The Mosi-oa-Tunya/Victoria Falls and associated eight steep sided gorges have been formed through the changing waterfall positions over a geological time scale. The gorges are an outstanding example of river capture and the erosive forces of the water still continue to sculpture the hard basalts. These gorges take a zigzag course of a distance of about 150 km along the Zambezi River below the falls. Seven previous waterfalls occupied the seven gorges below the present falls, and the Devil's Cataract in Zimbabwe is the starting point for cutting back to a new waterfall. In addition, an aerial view of the falls shows possible future waterfall positions. Upstream are a spectacular series of riverine islands formed during the ongoing geological and geomorphological processes. The property is characterized by banded basalt of ancient lava flow, Kalahari sandstones and chalcedony out of which stone artefacts of Homo habilis dating three million years, stone tools of the middle Stone Age and weapons, adornments and digging tools of the late Stone Age that indicate occupation by hunter-gatherers.
The transboundary property extends over 6,860 ha, which is considered relatively intact and adequately sized to maintain the diverse natural processes, functions and interactions including the waterfall, gorges, riverine ecosystem, breeding ground, habitat or landing base for migratory endangered bird species making it an Important Bird Area (IBA), lava flows, ancient stone artefacts and tools for hunter-gatherers. It comprises 3779 ha of the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park (Zambia), 2340 ha of the Victoria Falls National Park (Zimbabwe), and 741 ha of the riverine strip of Zambezi National Park (Zimbabwe). The boundary includes areas of the Zambezi River upstream of the waterfall both in Zimbabwe and in Zambia. The remaining area of these protected areas is considered as the buffer zone on either side of the ZambeziRiver in Southern Zambia and north‐western Zimbabwe. The Mosi‐oa‐Tunya National Park boundaryfollows the left bank between the Sinde River and the Songwe Gorge, bounded in the North byDambwa Forest Reserve and the Maramba Township. On the right bank,the Victoria Falls National Park is bounded by the river from 6 km above to 12 km below the falls and by the town of Victoria Falls on the West. Sprays from this giant waterfall can be seen from a distance of 30 km from the Lusaka road, Zambia and 50 km from Bulawayo road, Zimbabwe. The system is directly bordered by three protected areas which serve as buffering system.
Protection and management requirements
The property is protected under the National Heritage Conservation Act (1998) and the Zambia Wildlife Act on the Zambia part and the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Act Cap. 20. 14 of 2008 (revised) on the Zimbabwean side. This principal legislation provides for legal protection of the resources within the property. The property has a well defined and buffered boundary which requires clean demarcation. It has a Joint Integrated Management Plan (JIMP) prepared in a participatory manner, approved by the State Parties in November 2007 and being implemented in a participatory manner.
The Plan addresses specifically questions of transboundary coordination, management of urban and tourism facilities and funding schemes. It is divided into three administrative zones (High, Medium and Low Ecologically Sensitive Zones), each with specific prescriptions that best protect the specific resources and values found in each zone. These are surrounded by a buffer zone, and there is a challenge to ensure support for conservation within settlements in this area that pre-date the inscription of the property on the World Heritage List.
The agreed institutional framework for the management of the property is at three levels: Joint Ministerial, Joint Technical and Joint Site Management Committees.
The property requires continued maintenance and updating of its management plan, supported by adequate staffing and provision of financial resources.
The falls being a major attraction, urban infrastructure developments, tourism facilities and services may impact the property’s integrity and therefore need to be carefully managed not to compromise the exceptional beauty and Outstanding Universal Value of the property.
Effective and continued action is also required to tackle the current and potential impacts of alien species on the property.
The Mosi-oa-Tunya / Victoria Falls National Park contains one of the world's most spectacular waterfalls. The falls and associated gorges are an outstanding example of river capture and the erosive forces of the water still continues to sculpture the hard basalts. The complex of conservation areas in Zimbabwe covers over 1,846,700 ha excluding forest reserves. The park abuts Dambwa Forest Reserve in Zambia. The falls are the most significant feature of the park, and when the Zambezi is in full flood (usually February or March) they form the largest curtain of falling water in the world. During these months, over 500 million litres of water per minute go over the falls, which are 1,708 m wide, and drop 99 m at Rainbow Falls in Zambia. At low water in November flow can be reduced to around 10 million litres per minute, and the river is divided into a series of braided channels that descend in many separate falls.
Below the falls the river enters a narrow series of gorges which represent locations successively occupied by the falls earlier in their history. Since the uplifting of the Makgadikgadi Pan area some 2 million years ago, the Zambezi River has been cutting through the basalt, exploiting weak fissures and forming a series of retreating gorges. Seven previous waterfalls occupied the seven gorges below the present falls, and Devil's Cataract in Zimbabwe is the starting point for cutting back to a new waterfall that will eventually leave the present lip high above the river in the gorge below.
The predominant vegetation is mopane forest, with small areas of teak and miombo woodland and a narrow band of riverine forest along the Zambezi. The riverine 'rainforest' within the waterfall splash zone is of particular interest, a fragile ecosystem of discontinuous forest on sandy alluvium, dependent upon maintenance of abundant water and high humidity resulting from the spray plume. There are a lot of tree species within this forest and also some herbaceous species.
Concerning the fauna, several herds of elephant occur in Zambezi National Park, occasionally crossing to the islands and Zambian mainland during the dry season when water levels are low. There are small herds of buffalo and wildebeest, as well as zebra, warthog, giraffe, bushpig and hippopotamus are frequent above the falls. Vervet monkey and chacma baboon are common. Lion and leopard are occasionally seen. Taita falcon breeds in the gorges, as do black stork, black eagle, peregrine falcon and augur buzzard.
Victoria Falls forms a geographical barrier between the distinct fish faunas of the upper and middle Zambezi River. 39 species of fish have been recorded from the waters below the falls.
Ethnic composition of the people living in the falls area outside the parks is a mixture of recent immigrants and long-term occupants, witnessed by stone artefacts of Homo habilis from 3 million years ago which have been found near the falls, indicating prolonged occupation of the area in the middle Stone Age. Weapons, adornments and digging tools indicate the presence of hunter-gathering communities in the late Stone Age, displaced about 2,000 years ago by farmers using iron tools, which kept livestock and lived in villages.
These are among the most spectacular waterfalls in the world. The Zambezi river, which is more than 2 km wide at this point, plunges noisily down a series of basalt gorges and raises an iridescent mist that can be seen more than 20 km away.Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC
The Victoria Falls Reserve Preservation Ordinance of 1934 established the Victoria Falls Executive Committee to be responsible for the preservation of the falls area. In 1948 the National Monuments Commission established a Victoria Falls Conservancy Committee, and extended the protected area downstream to Songwe Gorge (confirmed in legislation in 1949). In 1953 the colonial Governor formed the Victoria Falls Trust, which had responsibility for the area until the national park was declared on 25 February 1972 by Statutory Instrument No. 44 (when the area came under the jurisdiction of the National Parks and Wildlife Service). There are six national monuments within the park, including the falls. Designated as a World Heritage site in 1989.Source: Advisory Body Evaluation
- Property inscribed for both geological and ecological values under natural criterion N (ii) before 1994. Criterion N (i) [Operational Guidelines 2002] was added. For more details see Decision 30.COM 8D.1.