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The Best Time to Visit Victoria Falls

The BestTime to Visit Victoria Falls.

When it comes to travel, there is no one size fits all way to explore the world. Some people disappear into mountain ranges with just a backpack and book for company, while others choose to lose themselves in bustling towns filled with foreign languages and unfamiliar faces. Some will chase sunsets on tropical beaches while others retreat to snow-capped cabins with crackling fireplaces. We are often asked when the best time to visit Victoria Falls is, and the answer varies for every unique traveller. Each month offers something different, and every season unravels new panels of colour, the presence of different forms of life and a different, yet ever enthralling, rainforest experience. This means that you’ll have to visit us more than once, and preferably at different times of the year, to truly get a sense of your favourite season in Victoria Falls.

We love that every month of the year transforms the beautiful town and landscapes, revealing a new set of adventures for the different types of travellers. In burnt orange or glossy green, Victoria Falls wears each season exquisitely and we have compiled a calendar to tell you the best of each month.

View of Victoria Falls throughout the year.

January

Weather:

It’s the height of summer during January and it’s at this time that you can expect hot days, often resulting in spectacular thunderstorms. The smell of rain on dry earth signals the beginning of the summer months.

In the rainforest:

Victoria Falls becomes more intense with increased river flow. Visitors are awestruck by the Smoke That Thunders and plumes of mist swell above the rainforest.

Wilderness and wildlife:

The land comes alive in variegated greens from the lush grasses to leafy treetops that provide a delicious feast for tall browsers such as elephants and giraffes. There is a lot of birding activity in January as many nestlings are raised, but the wildlife is dispersed as there are many water sources throughout the bush from the rainfall, so it is not the best time for game viewing.

Activities:

The white water rafting generally changes to the high water run in January. Find out more about the difference between high and low water rafting here.

February

February is the month of love and with stunning, secluded luxury lodges, spectacular sunsets and the intrinsic feeling of connectedness that comes from time spent in nature, Victoria Falls is the ideal place to spend this romantic month. Old Drift Lodge and The Elephant Camp are stunning lodges in the heart of the wilderness with tranquil spas, outdoor fireplaces, and beautiful views. Romantic highlights at Old Drift Lodge include a private dinner on the jetty and a sunset beach picnic on the banks of the Zambezi. At The Elephant Camp, cocktails and Canapes on the edge of the Batoka Gorge bring drama and excitement to the evening, followed by a private dinner on the suspended deck.

Weather:

The rainy season is characterised by hot and humid weather with dramatic bursts of thunderstorms.

In the rainforest:

The waterfall is a thunderous roar with the Smoke that Thunders rising higher in the sky. Many rainforest flowers start to bloom and the grass is at its most luscious and nutritious.

Wilderness and wildlife:

There is thick vegetation growth in the National Parks and animals such as zebra look exquisite against the vivid green backdrop. African ebony trees come into fruit and the waterbuck breeding season begins. The National Park is dotted with many nursing herds.

Activities:

The high water rafting run continues. This is a great time for the Flight of Angels as the wilderness is a beautiful mosaic in every shade of green and the waterfall flows so furiously.

March

Weather:

The days are sunny and the nights are warm as the rainy season comes to an end.

In the rainforest:

Although the rainy season comes to an end the Victoria Falls is reaching peak flow as the river levels are so high. The mist can be very dense in the rainforest.

Wilderness and wildlife:

The summer rains mostly fall between November to February each year, however, the bush remains alive with flowering plants as the progression towards Autumn begins. It is not uncommon to see many beautiful blooms attracting antelopes that take advantage of the plentiful food sources. Kudu and buffalo breeding peaks and the migrant birds begin to depart. The grasslands are in seed and Baobab trees hang heavily under the weight of their Cream of Tartar pods.

Activities:

The rafting season usually closes in March due to the high volume of water rushing through the gorge.

April

Weather:

April is a wonderful time with warm, sunny days and crisp evenings. The beginning of Autumn’s chill starts to creep in so evenings spent around the campfire are magical.

In the rainforest:

The water from our catchment area in Zambia arrives and the Victoria Falls reaches its highest flow with an average of 500 million litres of water flowing over the edge every minute! The highest ever recorded was 700 million litres in 1958, but this year we expect to come close! On the 23rd of April, the Zambezi River flow was 4,086m3/s at the Big Tree River station. To put that into context, last year on the same date the flow was 1,034m3/s. The Victoria Falls will undoubtedly be incredibly breathtaking, and it is incredibly unfortunate that so few people will see it due to the travel restrictions. However, we will be posting regular video clips and photographs onto our Facebook and Instagram pages so you can appreciate the majesty of Victoria Falls from wherever you may be.

Wilderness and wildlife:

During this time, the landscape is still wonderfully lush owing to summer rains. April is also the month of the impala rut and many interesting sightings of these animals interacting, fighting and mating with each other are possible.

Activities:

The rafting is closed but this is a fantastic time for a meal at the Lookout Café, where the mist from the Falls can be seen curling through the black basalt gorge. You can still chase that adrenaline rush on the gorge swing, zip line and flying fox which are located next to the Café.

May

Weather:

May marks the advent of autumn with warm days and a slight chill creeping into the evening air.

In the rainforest:

The Zambezi continues to flow strongly despite the start of the dry season, creating incredible experiences within the rainforest.

Wilderness and wildlife:

Deciduous trees begin to lose their leaves leave a crunchy golden carpet on the rugged terrain within the National Park. This is the white-backed vulture and wild dog breeding season.

Activities:

This is a fantastic time to visit Victoria Falls as the mist is not so dense that it obscures photographic opportunities.

June

Weather:

Autumn gives way to winter and we experience warm days and chilly nights. Winter skies are clearest during May, June and July so this is a wonderful time for stargazing.

In the rainforest:

The water levels begin to drop slightly but the flow over the Victoria Falls is still very impressive.

Wilderness and wildlife:

Raptor courtship displays become more evident and the game starts to become concentrated near the river and watering holes and the grass cover recedes.

Activities:

Consider staying at Imbabala Safari Lodge as game driving and fishing is great during May. The rafting season begins in May/June with the low water run.

July/August

Weather:

The height of the dry season coincides with mid-Winter and the days are hot but you will need to bring something warm for the evenings.

In the rainforest:

The Eastern cataract in Zambia often becomes exposed due to low water levels of the Zambezi so to get the full impact of the Victoria Falls it is better to view the waterfall from the Zimbabwean side.

Wilderness and wildlife:

Mopane leaves begin to take on their distinctive winter hue of burnt orange and there is an increase in the elephant population on the Zambian side of the river which is the winter feeding ground for elephant from northern Zimbabwe and Botswana.

Activities:

This is a wonderful time for sunset cruises as the clear evening skies create beautiful stains of colour. There is also a chance that you will see elephant swimming from Zimbabwe to Zambian banks.

September

Weather:

As the season shifts into Spring the days become hotter and the nights warmer.

In the rainforest:

The Victoria Falls is best viewed from the Zimbabwean side. Right at the end of the rainforest is a rocky outcrop where you can sit and admire the geological details of the Gorge.

Wilderness and wildlife:

The bush remains golden brown, with dusty sunsets owing to the long winter. The spring rain has not yet arrived, however, the first glimpses of green shoots and leaves start to appear. Migrant birds start to arrive from Europe and elsewhere in Africa while the weavers begin breeding. The knob thorn acacia trees begin flowering in with the change of the season.

October, November and December

Weather:

October is the hottest month of the year with occasional bursts of storms that break up the heat. It is important to have lots of sunscreen and to bring a water bottle with you to fill up and stay hydrated during the day. The rains sometimes arrive in November but they could come later. It gets more humid towards December as the rainy season build up after the hot spell.

In the rainforest:

The Eastern cataract is largely exposed but this is just 400 meters of the 1,7 km waterfall and the other viewing points such as Main Falls and Devils Cataract continues to flow beautifully. The Eastern Cataract is slightly higher than the other sections which is why this short strip reveals the rockface behind the curtain of water.

Wilderness and wildlife:

This is an excellent time for game viewing as the wildlife congregates around the river and water sources. The Marulas flower and long-tail cassias display beautiful yellow flowers. Nature’s choir arrives in full force. Frogs of all sorts ring out beautiful melodies that harmonise with the sounds of crickets chirping. Along with frogs, summertime brings great tortoise and butterfly sightings. It’s also at this time that you can experience long fiery sunsets and windless evenings.

Activities:

October, November and December are excellent months for white water rafting and a swim in the famous Devil’s Pool above the waterfall.

What is your favourite season in Victoria Falls? We would love to hear your thoughts and personal preferences!

The Victoria Falls
Negative Ions Inspire Positive Vibes | Victoria Falls

Negative Ions Inspire Positive Vibes | Victoria Falls

When you step into a raw, natural space, something shifts – emotionally, physically and mentally. Your skin tingles as it absorbs sun rays, your mind clears as crisp fresh air blows over you, and your thoughts dissolve to create room for immersive mindfulness. Some places inspire this reaction to a higher degree than others. Places that evoke a sense of empowerment as well as tranquillity, igniting an electrifying paradox of sensations. Anyone who has done a tour of the Victoria Falls rainforest will understand the intoxicating feeling, but not everyone understands what causes this euphoric state. Beyond the joy that comes from being away from stress and in a beautiful place like the Victoria Falls, there is something else at work here – negative ions.

Victoria Falls Has Never Dried Up

The Internet Age has come with an overload of information that can lead to confusion and misrepresentation.

We are here to dispel that by making things measurable. Not only has the Victoria Falls never dried up but last year it was the highest it has been since 2010. Every year we chart the water levels in a graph using data provided by the Zambezi River Authority, who assess water levels through a hydrometric network comprising of thirteen stations.

As you can see, seasonally there are drop offs in the dry season and rises in the wet season, this is nothing new or concerning, it is a natural fluctuation. More so, apart from this year, the river level has been above the normal average for the past five years. Please be mindful of exaggerated stories and footage that has been censored and sensationalised. We are here on the ground and we are available to answer any questions or concerns.

We have wet seasons and we have dry seasons, but the Victoria Falls is magnificent in all her forms.
The river is currently on the rise and alarmist reporting only distorts a very normal phenomenon.
Victoria Falls
Negative Ions Inspire Positive Vibes | Victoria Falls

Negative Ions Inspire Positive Vibes | Victoria Falls

When you step into a raw, natural space, something shifts – emotionally, physically and mentally. Your skin tingles as it absorbs sun rays, your mind clears as crisp fresh air blows over you, and your thoughts dissolve to create room for immersive mindfulness. Some places inspire this reaction to a higher degree than others. Places that evoke a sense of empowerment as well as tranquillity, igniting an electrifying paradox of sensations. Anyone who has done a tour of the Victoria Falls rainforest will understand the intoxicating feeling, but not everyone understands what causes this euphoric state. Beyond the joy that comes from being away from stress and in a beautiful place like the Victoria Falls, there is something else at work here – negative ions.

For Fun, Just Add Water

For Fun, Just Add Water (Low water vs High water rafting)

Richard Bangs once wrote that wild rivers are the earth’s renegades, defying gravity and dancing to their own tunes. Your first glimpse at the raging rapids that roll and churn down the Zambezi awaken the adventurer inside you, taunting you and seducing you. They beckon with their tremulous arms, teasing with their spurts of white water and daring you with their coiling waves.

The Zambezi is a moving, breathing part of the earth. It is the vein through which life flows and thrusts. Every stroke of your paddle takes you further than a vehicle on the road ever could. They say the first river you raft runs through the rest of your life. It bubbles up in you, the memories swirling like eddies in the pit of your stomach each time you remember it. The Zambezi morphs in shape and stature when the water levels drop or rise, yet each experience is exhilarating in its own way because life is simple- For fun, just add water.

When water levels drop, thrill levels soar. Between August and December, the river seems to be racing itself, plunging furiously between the lips of the gorge, cascading dramatically around very boulder and corner. It toys with the rafts with such precision, that every flip seems pre-meditated. During this time, expeditions begin at rapid number 1, the “Boiling Pot”. You take off from the white water rafting factory- the base of the Victoria Falls. The roar of the river diving down 100 meters of black basalt rock creates an ambience of adventure, purring at your inner adrenaline junkie. If you are after a heart racing, eye widening, and mind blowing rafting trip, then low water is what you need, and you have between August and December to get it.

During the high water seasons (January, February, March, May, June, July), gallons of water crash down the Victoria Falls, streaming into the thirsty gorge, and flooding the rocks and outcrops that form the rapids. When you dip your fingertips in to rippling water, you touch the last of what has gone before, and the first of what is still to come. At these times of the year, the river is more subdued, relaxing after a thunderous low water race. However, the sheer volume of water makes the first ten rapids unrunnable, and thus rafters will only tackle rapid 11 (The Over lander Eater) through to number 23 (The Morning Shave). As the water levels continue to creep higher and higher around March, rafters respectfully leave the Zambezi to her own devices, until they drop again around June.

Taking a tumble down the Zambezi

The Zambezi was designed by the dare devil in Mother Nature, and there is no theme park in the world that could ever compete. Contrary to popular belief, the river is not one long, frothing rapid. The “Devils Toilet Bowl”, “The Stairway to Heaven” and “Mothers Revenge” (just to name a few) spring before you in short, dramatic bursts.

The stretch of water between them is gentle and smooth- the calm before the storm. They are just long enough to allow you to drink in the incredible scenery and let the sun soak up the water on your skin. The soft slosh of water against the rafts is accompanied by exhilarated shouts and laughs that bounce off the walls of the gorge, as euphoric rafters share their stories and psych up for the next roller coaster. Cruising down this channel of water feels like cruising through a postcard. The most experienced photo editor in the world couldn’t enhance the beauty of the looming gorge stretching to meet the brilliant blue sky. Paddling through an exquisite crevice in the earth, flanked by indigenous flora and passing by inquisitive fauna, is humbling and breath taking in the same moment.
The Zambezi Low Water Rafting Season is finally here! LOW WATER rafting commenced 3 August 2017. Take on the Zambezi with Wild Horizons and the finest crew on the river – Africa’s Greatest Adventures!

Zambezi River Water Levels November 2016

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So once again the brutal heat of November is upon us! As happens every year; we gasp in shock as the heat presses relentlessly down on us day after day from a painfully blue, cloudless sky. To those of us sweltering here, in Victoria Falls, it will probably not come as any surprise to hear that the Zambezi River water levels are at their lowest levels in 7 years. The river was last recorded at this level at this time of the year in 1997 and in 2000. As we gaze fruitlessly into the cloudless sky, it gives us time to ponder how this actually affects us here on the ground in Victoria Falls.

Sticking with tradition let’s start with the bad news first… it means the middle of the day is probably not a good time to be out and about sightseeing, or doing anything particularly strenuous. It means blowing a fair amount of one’s budget on sunscreen, a very large hat and as many bottles of the coldest water that you can buy. It also means a longer walk out of the gorge at the end of your raft trip!

However, let’s look at the good news that comes with these lower than usual water levels. With the river being 5 centimetres lower than the average over the past 7 years on the same day, it means that the rapids on the white water rafting trip are slightly bigger and the adrenaline rush just that much more intense! It also means that the sandbanks on the edge of the Zambezi are more prominent and therefore more likely to be host to crocodiles basking (or is that baking) in the sunshine. Over the past week, the river has been dropping an average of ½ a centimeter a day which is also an indicator that there is less surface water lying around in the bush adjacent to the river. This forces wildlife, often in large herds, to come down to the river to drink therefore affording guests on cruise boats and on game drives excellent game viewing opportunities. Large herds of animals moving through the dry bush on their way to the river and ‘dust devils’ stirred up by the hot wind cause an extra layer of dust in the atmosphere, thereby creating the most spectacular sunsets! Once the intense heat of the day has abated it is a perfect opportunity to slake your thirst with an ice cold drink and watch the African bush settle down for the night.

So while we wait in eager anticipation for the annual rains to reach us and change these almost unprecedented low water levels, let’s make the most of the opportunities afforded to us now and get out there while it lasts! Written by Libby White

6 Reasons to go on a multi-day rafting trip on the Mighty Zambezi

Victoria Falls: The natural variation of a natural wonder

Recently there has been strong concern over the apparent ‘drying up’ of the Victoria Falls- fuelled by sharing of the story on social media. An image taken in Zambia of the apparently dry Victoria Falls was widely circulated and purported to show the Falls as a whole.

However, the large fluctuation of the Zambezi River’s water levels are part of a normal annual occurrence. The huge variation at Victoria Falls is far more than in most of the world’s major waterfalls. The minimum flow, which occurs in November, is on average a mere tenth of the maximum April figure. Source- Wikipedia

Zambezi Water Levels

Rough Guide to annual water levels showing the general trend of water levels in a typical year. (image courtesy Zambezi Helicopter Company).

This phenomenon means that viewing the waterfall at different times of the year produces vastly different experiences- and it’s definitely worth seeing both. In high flow the entire length of the Falls is a thundering wall of falling water whereas in low water the underlying structure can be seen and visibility is far better. Compare the images below of the Falls in October above and in May below.

The Victoria Falls in low flow

The Victoria Falls in low flow

 The Victoria Falls in high flow

The Victoria Falls in high flow

The Zambezi river, upstream from the falls, experiences a rainy season from late November to early April, and a dry season the rest of the year. The river’s annual flood season is February to May with a peak in April.

The Zambezi River is at its lowest in approximately November or early December in most years. At times of low water the water of the Falls is concentrated mainly towards the Zimbabwean side as that side of the Falls is deeper. As the dry season takes effect up to half of the rocky face of the falls may become dry and the bottom of the First Gorge can be seen along most of its length.

Victoria Falls Water Levels

The difference in flow at peak levels varies far more than the flow at low levels.

Currently in January 2016 we are about 15cm below the average water level of the Zambezi river at Victoria Falls at this time of the year. The river started rising on the 13/11/15 which is normal. Since Christmas the river has been rising 1/2cm a day.

In high flow the entire length of the Falls is a thundering wall of falling water. Compare the images below of the Falls in October above and in May below.

Below are some more images of the Falls in past years showing the vast difference in water levels that occur each year.