What's In A Name | Ilala Lodge | Victoria Falls History & Imagery
Make a Reservation

What’s In A Name

By Martin Vaughan on February 12, 2019

If you are researching visiting the magnificent Victoria Falls – and we do hope you are – you may come across many names that you may be unfamiliar with. Read on to discover the rich history and imagery behind them here:


Victoria Falls

The Victoria Falls waterfall was discovered by Dr .David Livingstone in November 1855, and as he was British, he named it after his Queen, Victoria.

David Livingstone Victoria Falls David Livingstone


This is the local name for the Victoria Falls in the Tonga language – it is translated as “the smoke that thunders”.

Victoria Falls The Smoke That ThundersVictoria Falls, one of the seven wonders of the world


This name has been cited in historical records as also used for the Victoria Falls and means “The Place of the Rainbow”.

Rainbow on Victoria FallsRainbow over the Victoria Falls

Devil’s Cataract

The Devil’s cataract is the first and lowest of the five Falls. It is named after the island next to it, which is called Cataract Island or Baoruka Island. Baoruka is the Tonga word for “divider of waters”. There is also speculation that the when the falls were originally discovered, the missionaries saw the local tribes performing rituals on the island and called them “devilish”.

The Devil’s Cataract, located on the westerly section of Victoria Falls

Ra-Ikane River Cruises

Fashioned after David Livingstone’s exploration boat, the Ma-Robert, the Ra-Ikane boats are named after the instrumental guide, Lazarus Ra-Ikane, who accompanied and assisted Livingstone in his monumental discovery of the natural wonder, Victoria Falls.

Ra-Ikane RIver Boat HistoryA historical boat from David Livingstone’s time

Ilala Lodge Hotel

‘Ilala’ is also the Ndebele word for ‘lie down’. Read more about the history of Ilala Lodge Hotel here.

Twin room at Ilala Lodge Hotel

Zambezi River

The Zambezi (meaning “Great River” in the language of the Tonga people).  In 1498 Vasco da Gama became the first European to see the Zambezi River. He called the Zambezi the “River of Good Omens” (Rio dos Bons Sinais).

Zambezi River Victoria FallsZambezi River view from Ilala Lodge Hotel


The name “Zimbabwe”, broken down to Dzimba dzamabwe in Shona (one of the two major languages in the country), means “houses of stone”.

Great Zimbabwe / Dzimba DzemabweThe Great Zimbabwe Ruins

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *