A visit to the mighty Victoria Falls is high on many a bucket list, and for very good reason. The falls without doubt put on one of nature’s most spectacular displays. While they might not be the tallest falls, or even the widest, on earth, they are considered the largest falls in the world. Stretching an incredible 1.7km (more than a mile) in length and plunging over 100m (350 feet), making them one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. When the falls are full, more than 500,000,000 litres of water flow over the edge every minute! As this huge volume of water cascades into the gorge below the updraft sends a plume of mist soaring into the sky, reaching up to 1km high. The roar of the water is deafening and combined with the billowing mist gives rise the local name for the falls, Mosi-oa-Tunya, “The Smoke That Thunders”.
In nature there is a season for everything, and so it is too with the Victoria Falls. Whether you want to experience them in all their roaring watery wonder or in their gentler low-water tumble, make sure you choose your dates wisely. To help you with this we have created a handy month-by-month guide to when is the best time to visit the falls based on various factors:
- Best time to see the falls in their full watery glory
- Best time to enjoy safari in the surrounding reserves
- Best time for birders to tick off their list
- Best time for adrenalin junkies to take on the famous white water rapids
- Best time for those seeking the ultimate thrill of swimming on the edge in the Devil’s Pool
At this point we need to hold our hands up and admit that none of what we are going to say below is ever 100% certain. We are dealing with nature here and there are many variables. The Victoria Falls are created by the waters of the Zambezi River flowing over the edge of a great chasm, the water levels of the Zambezi River in turn depend on when and how much rain falls in Western Zambia and Angola. The water falling there feeds into the river upstream and creates the rises and falls in river levels. There is usually a 1 – 2 month gap between the rains falling in the catchment area and the water flowing over the falls. The amount of water that falls each year can have a significant impact on what you see flowing over the falls – especially in the period July – December. There were very low rains in 2019 and by August the falls were very low, now in 2020 there have been excellent rains and we expect there will still be great volumes of water in August. Our guide is based on the patterns of rise and fall over decades and give as close as possible an accurate indication as to what you can expect.
So, without further ado here is our guide, and don’t forget to check out the gallery at the bottom!
The Zambezi River forms the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe, and you can view the falls from both sides, but many people ask us which side is better for viewing? Our answer is that it depends on when you go. When the water levels are high, viewing from the Zambian side is excellent, and some prefer it as there is less spray. We would recommend viewing from the Zambian side generally from late January through until June. However, in our opinion, Zimbabwe definitely offers the better viewing experience pretty much all year and especially from June – January. In the very high water flow months the view from the Zimbabwean side can at times be shrouded in great clouds of spray mist blocking the view. However, there are gaps when the mist clears, and you get to witness the sheer awesomeness of the falls. Be warned though, when the water is high, no matter which side you are on, you will get wet, and at full flow you will get wet like you have just spent 20 minutes in a shower wet! The good news is that you will soon dry off in the glorious African sun. But make sure you have something waterproof for your valuables and if you can something to cover your camera/phone when taking photos…..after all, most of us don’t take our camera into the shower!
That said, to visit the Devil’s Pool you need to go from the Zambian side, and some of our favourite lodges are nestled in the banks of the Zambezi River on the Zambian side. Have a look at Royal Chundu for example or check out the absolutely awesome Sindabezi Island, part of our “unmissable rustic camps“. The good news for travellers is that when you arrive in either Zimbabwe or Zambia you can get a KAZA visa (currently US$50.00) which allows you to travel freely between Zimbabwe and Zambia for 30 days, and allows you to head to Botswana for day trips without needing to pay for a re-entry visa (hopefully be the end of 2020, Botswana and maybe Namibia will be fully included in the KAZA visa)
To give you a taste of the difference between high water and low water have a look at these 2 images:
Victoria Falls High Water
This picture is of the area that on the right side of the next picture where it is completely dry. At this time of the year you can view the falls from either the Zimbabwean or Zambian side – we recommend trying both!
Victoria Falls Low Water
This picture shows just how much the falls can dry up in low water, with only a few channels remaining for the water to flow – only really visible from the Zimbabwean side.
White Knuckle White Waters
The Victoria Falls area offers some of the most challenging white water rafting in the world, and when the water gets lower the ride gets wilder! Available from both the Zimbabwean and Zambian sides.
Take a dip in the Devil’s Pool
When the water levels are low enough a sheltered rock pool emerges next to Livingstone Island, allowing the brave to take the plunge into the “Devil’s Pool”, an unforgettable experience – from the Zambian side.