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High & Low: How Victoria Falls Works

Victoria Falls sits at the centre of many African safaris and expectations of visitors are high. This is, after all, a Natural World Wonder and a UNESCO heritage site; travel to Victoria Falls in full flow and it’s the world’s largest single sheet of falling water, capped by a towering cloud of mist a thousand feet high.

High water level in Victoria Falls

Decision time: safari guide training teaches you how to react in these situations.

But arrive at another time of year and much of Victoria Falls is … dry. No water at all. You can imagine the disappointment of those who were expecting a thundering mile-wide waterfall.

Honeymooners in Victoria Falls low water season

Getting ready to cook supper the old-fashioned way.

So to make the most out of your experience, it really helps to understand how Victoria Falls works. This is a landscape that is deeply influenced by seasonal rainfall, which not only impacts on Victoria Falls itself but also your safari experience in terms of wildlife viewing, the risk of malaria, which activities you can do and so on.

And it all depends on what happens on the edge of Central Africa.

Victoria Falls is a product of the Zambezi River – Africa’s fourth largest. The river originates in Zambia’s north-western highlands, close to the Congo, and picks up water from Angola, Namibia and Botswana as it makes its way to Victoria Falls, essentially an enormous vertical drop in the course of the river, and then to the Indian Ocean via Mozambique.

Boat cruise Ra-ikane on the upper Zambezi River

The easiest way to get around the Okavango Delta is often by mokoro, the local canoe.

The Zambezi is, however, a river with distinct high and low levels of water depending on the time of year. When the Zambezi River is high, Victoria Falls is at its most visually spectacular; when the Zambezi River is low, there’s not much water going over – though a geologist will certainly enjoy the view.

These water levels – high and low – then influence the rest of your safari activities there. High water season is when to splash out on a helicopter flight to really grasp the scale of Victoria Falls in full flood. But it’s during low-water season that you will be able to go white-water rafting, take a tour to on-the-edge Livingstone Island or even take a dip in famous Devil’s Pool.

Livingstone Island and Devil's pool during Victoria Falls low water season

The training is thorough – this is part of the Specialist Birding module.

And then there are the flip sides to the seasons. Peak flow over Victoria Falls is certainly an impressive sight but it’s not the best time of year for wildlife viewing and it also coincides with the greatest risk of malaria.

Bear in mind too that a walking tour of high-water Victoria Falls is like taking a shower fully clothed. It’s a wet one – umbrellas and rain jackets are needed – with poor views; to actually see the waterfall while on foot, these tours are best done as water levels – and the obscuring mist – drop.

Enjoying Victoria Falls view during low water season

Safari guide training is also fun & you’ll make lifelong friends.

And during low-water season, Victoria Falls is a destination that gets very popular – especially with families travelling with children – which means pressure on accommodation availability plus peak season prices.

Let’s break the year down:

Victoria Falls experience  per month

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