Victoria Falls – The Smoke that Thunders


Victoria Falls is an incredible waterfall located in southern Africa on the borders of Zambia and Zimbabwe.   David Livingstone gave the falls the name ‘Victoria Falls’ in honor of his Queen, but the indigenous name of ‘Mosi-oa-Tunya’ — meaning the ‘Smoke that Thunders’ for which it is also well known.  With size and water capacity, the Victoria Falls is one of the world’s greatest waterfalls,  a World Heritage Site and one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.  The Falls are claimed to be approximately  1.7 km wide and just over 108m in height.  During the wet season over 500 million litres of water per minute tumbles over the edge into the Zambezi River.  The immense amount of water creates a huge amount of spray and can be seen and heard miles away – hence the name ‘The Smoke that Thunders’.  In the low season the amount of flow drops to an approximate 10 – 20 million litres a minute.

At closer inspection the immense curtain of water is interrupted by gaps, where small islands stand on the lip of the falls.  These almost split the Falls into smaller waterfalls, starting from the western edge are known as the Devil’s Cataract, the Main Falls (830 metres wide) the Horseshoe Cataract, the Rainbow Falls, Armchair Cataract and the Eastern Cataract (101 metres).  The Rainbow Falls are the highest (108 metres) and Devils Cataract the lowest at 63 metres. Two islands, Cataract and Livingstone, are situated between the cataracts.

Around the Falls is rainforest, with many plant species, especially ferns which are rarely found elsewhere in Zimbabwe or Zambia. These are sustained by the clouds of spray, which blanket the immediate vicinity of the Falls. You will also find various monkeys and baboons here, whilst the lush canopy shelters many birds including Livingstone’s lourie.

When to visit:

Victoria falls is accessed through either Livingstone, Zambia or Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. It is recommended that which ever city serves as the entry point that visitors take advantage of the complete natural wonder experience and cross over to border to see what Victoria Falls has to offer from the differing perspective.

It is very difficult to say when the best time is to visit the Falls, as it is all dependent on what travellers are looking for.  If you would like to see the Falls at its most impressive with a tremendous amount of water flowing or when the Falls are at its lowest where you get the opportunity to see the rock and cliff formations of this spectacular site then you must visit at certain months of the year.

Each year the Falls go through the same cycle. From the rainy season starting around November until the last rains in April and the dry season for the rest of the year.  The rains replenish, the river’s annual flood season from February to May with a peak in April.  As the months pass,  the Falls will go through their various states of flow and will decrease gradually until the rains in western Zambia will start to replenish the river again.

From January through March/April is the wet season and the Falls are in their transitional state from low flow to high flow. The weather is hot and very humid and thundershowers are more likely. You should have the opportunity to have good views of the Falls without mist being as much of a problem as during full flood.

The Falls is in its highest flow around May through to June. At this time you could then expect the falls to extend the entire 1.7km width of the Zambezi River as it plunges over its 108m wall. Unfortunately, many of the viewpoints are too wet to photograph successfully and due to the immense amount of water you are unable to see the base of the Falls. Please keep in mind that raincoats are a must and you must be careful not to damage your your photographic equipment by exposing it in the rain.  This is a perfect time to view the Falls from the air and we can arrange your ‘Flight of Angels’ to get a great aerial view of the Falls.

As the annual floods subside during July through to September is also a good time to visit the Falls to get good views and although you don’t have as much of the thunderous water flowing over the edge, you have fewer issues with all the mist!  At this time many of the activities are able to take place due to the lower water levels.

The Falls is in its lowest flow around October through to December.  Lacking the thunderous impact due to the lower water levels, the Falls will break up into many smaller water falls, with much of the rock face and impressive cliffs exposed, offers you quite a contrasting view compared to when incredible amounts of water are flowing over the edge!  In November which is usually the minimum flow, is around a tenth of the April figure.   Again, many of the other activities become possible for example the  ‘Devil’s Pool’ where you can swim almost at the edge of the Falls!

The view of the Falls from Zambia and Zimbabwe:

Although 80% of the Falls can be viewed from the Zimbabwean side and the rest from the Zambian side, the Falls both have impressive views from the Zambian and Zimbabwean side specifically during the wet season when the flow of water is high.

During the lower water levels / dry season especially from October to December, if you are staying on the Zambian side, we can arrange a day visit to see the Falls on the ‘expansive view’ Zimbabwean side as the Zambian side starts to dry up and mostly the rock formations and cliff face can be seen.

So again, it is dependent on what you are looking for.  This can then determine which side of the Falls and at what particular time of year you can expect to see!

There are many fun activities available when visiting either the Zimbabwe or Zambian side of the Falls.  Advance bookings are recommended and can all easily be incorporated into your itinerary.

Leave a Reply

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