A Seasonal Guide to Victoria Falls
A thundering curtain of water that plunges 107 metres to the gorge below, Victoria Falls is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most impressive and humbling natural attractions in Africa. While the falls flow year-round, the seasonal weather changes in the surrounding catchment area means that Victoria Falls undergoes dramatic changes throughout the year. To help you decide when you might most like to visit – or if you just want to know what to expect – we’ve put together a month-by-month guide to visiting this remarkable natural wonder.
By January the height of the rainy season is approaching, and Victoria Falls is gradually building to peak flow, with massive volumes of water cascading into the gorge. If visiting at this time of year, prepare to get wet! The surrounding jungle is lush, green and dotted with spectacular bursts of colour as rainforest flowers bloom.
‘The Smoke that Thunders’ reaches amazing heights during February, and the mist from the falls mingles with the clouds that hover above the rainforest. Almost every section of the rainforest is caught in a constant shower of vapour that swells up from the bottom of the gorge.
The dramatic rainy season starts to peter-out, but the river levels remain high and continuously pump water huge amounts of water over the falls and into the Zambezi Gorge.
It is officially the end of the rainy season, but catchment areas upstream in the Zambezi continue to nourish Victoria Falls. This is the month when the waterfall reaches its highest flow with an average of 500 million litres of water crashing over every minute. The highest flow ever recorded was 700 million litres in 1958.
Autumn has arrived, casting golden hues onto the trees. While the leaves slowly fall, the Zambezi continues a strong and steady flow despite the advent of the dry season.
As autumn gives way to a crisp winter, and temperatures may hover in the teens or creep into the low 20s. June is the month when water levels begin to noticeably drop. The decrease in water exposes the grass cover along the riverbanks creating great game viewing opportunities.
In the absence of rain, the Mopane leaves take on their distinct winter hue of burnt orange. Such is the flow of the Zambezi and its tributaries that the waterfall still boasts an impressive flow of water. Due to the diminished water sources in the bush, game viewing is excellent as wildlife begins to congregate along the riverbanks. The bush may be dry but Victoria Falls still creates rain on these cloudless days.
Nights remain chilly, but the days are beginning to warm. Gradually, the rock face emerges as the water trickles to a gentle ebb on the Eastern Cataract on the Zambian side of the waterfall. However, the main section of the falls maintains an impressive curtain of falling water. As the mist dies down, photo opportunities within the rainforest are exceptional. As the seasons shift, more elephants migrate to the river islands, which are their feeding ground in the drier months.
The temperatures start to climb – maybe just nudging into the low 30s as the days get hotter. White water rafting is excellent this time of year due to the low water levels, so you can escape the heat and spend the day racing through the gorge on a white-water adventure.
October is the hottest month of the year with high temperatures approaching the mid-30s as we build up to the rainy season. Occasionally, the sky cracks open with a torrential African thunderstorm bringing some relief to the landscape in a short, dramatic burst. The Eastern Cataract is usually dry this time of year, but the view of the Victoria Falls from the Zimbabwean side is as beautiful as ever.
By November water levels are their lowest of the year, and while the thunderous roar of the waterfall has been slightly tamed, the falls are still a sight to behold.
The rainy season is approaching, and storm clouds loom ominously over Victoria Falls. The cloud cover brings some respite from the hot and humid days, and the river begins to rise rapidly with rains from catchment areas. By now the Eastern Cataract has once again disappeared behind a curtain of water and there is a sense of anticipation and excitement as the promise of rainfall rumbles overhead.
Where to stay to experience Victoria Falls:
Want to experience the magic of Victoria Falls yourself. Then spend some time at one of Adventure World Travel’s highlighted ‘Extraordinary Stays’, the beautiful and intimate Old Drift lodge situated on the banks of the Zambezi River only 7km from the Falls.