Best Time to Visit Victoria Falls
From romantic luxury to adrenalin sports, the Victoria Falls has something to entice and delight everyone. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is on the Zambezi River, which forms the boundary between Zimbabwe and Zambia. The Main Falls are the highest, widest sheet of continually falling water in the world – twice as high as Niagara Falls and about 500 metres wider.
If you ask a safari expert about the best time to visit Victoria Falls, you probably won’t get a straight answer. Why? Because although it is a great year-round destination, the ‘best’ time depends on what’s most important to you.
January to April/May
If you want to see the Falls at their thundering best, the time to visit is the height of the summer rainy season. March to April is when you’ll see the greatest volume of water flowing over the falls and hear the roar from miles away. The info boards at the Zimbabwean entrance note that the entire annual consumption of New York City goes over the Falls in just three-and-a-half days during peak flood season. The force of the water as it plummets into the gorge blankets everything in mist and drives a thick column of spray into the air. This is why it is also known as Mosi-oa-Tunya, which means ‘the smoke that thunders’.
The wet months of March to May are a good time to see the ghostly lunar rainbow at Victoria Falls, when there’s enough spray to create the ‘moonbow’ effect. This is one of only a few places in the world where this happens regularly – an experience not to be missed if your visit coincides with the full moon. Like a normal rainbow, a moonbow happens when water particles (spray) in the air refract light. The Falls open for three nights during full moon, including the day before and the day after. Your best chance of seeing a moonbow is in the first hour or two after the moon rises.
There are a few drawbacks during these months. For instance, it is hard to appreciate the Falls from up close because of the spray, although a helicopter flight that sweeps over them will give you a bird’s eye view. You will get drenched and start squishing in your shoes even if you wear a raincoat and carry an umbrella. Worse, your camera will get wet and it is hard to get good photos anyway because the spray obscures everything. Note that the wet season isn’t the best time for seeing wildlife in southern Africa. Finally, if you’re looking for adrenalin activities like white-water rafting and river-boarding, this is not the time to visit; they don’t operate when water levels are high because the currents are too dangerous.
If you are planning your trip then take a look at our luxury Victoria Falls accommodation. Our friendly safari experts can find you the perfect property at the best rates.
June to August
This is peak season at Victoria Falls, a time when water levels start to drop at the beginning of the dry season. Although there’s still plenty of water, less spray means you can get good photos of both the Falls and the rainbows created by the mist. Livingstone Island and the rafting season reopen as soon as the water drops to a safe level.
Once water levels drop it is easier to appreciate that Victoria Falls consists of five separate waterfalls, including Rainbow Falls which is the highest. It is worth seeing the Falls from both the Zimbabwean and Zambian sides. You can do this by crossing the old iron bridge from one side to the other. Although this is wintertime in southern Africa, the days are warm and sunny with temperatures of 20-30 degrees Celsius.
June and July are also a good time to see the lunar rainbow or ‘moonbow’ during full moon (see the section above).
If you want to take a day trip to the Chobe National Park in Botswana to see elephants, hippo and maybe even lion, plan your visit for these months. In the dry season animals need to come to the Chobe River to drink, increasing your chances of spotting them.
One drawback of this peak season is how busy the Falls become. If you hate crowds you might prefer to visit in May or, if you want to go rafting, September.
If you need advice on planning your safari contact a friendly expert today.
September to November/December
The Falls are at their lowest at the end of the dry season, particularly November and early December. This gives you a chance to see the rock gorge as well as separate ribbons of water. If you’re keen on geology and the formation of the Falls, this is your best time. There’s always some water on the Zimbabwean side, although not the full curtain you could see earlier in the year, but the Zambian side may dry up completely.
This is high season for white-water rafting adventures. It is also an opportunity to visit Livingstone Island in the middle of the Zambezi River and to swim in Devil’s Pool on the Zambian side. If you’re brave and have a head for heights, this natural rock pool allows you to get right to the edge of the Falls – something that is only safe during these months of low water levels.
The dry season is an excellent time to include a day trip to see wildlife at Chobe National Park, about 90 kilometres away in neighbouring Botswana.
The biggest drawback is the hot summer temperature, around 35-40 degrees Celsius during the day. The rainy season officially starts in November but rain often doesn’t fall until December/January.
Year-round things to do at Victoria Falls
Although white-water rafting is a big draw for adrenalin junkies who visit in the dry season, there are plenty activities you can enjoy all year round. For the brave, these include a gorge swing, slide, and 111-metre bungee jump from the iron bridge over the river. You can also go hiking, cycling or horseback riding.
Don’t miss a sunset cruise on the Zambezi to see hippo, crocs and birds. Walk along the old iron bridge or take a helicopter ride above the Falls for a chance to get wonderful aerial views and photographs.
If you need help planning your African safari adventure, contact a friendly safari expert today.0