Seasonal Planning for Victoria Falls Travel
The best time to visit Victoria Falls or "Mosi-oa-Tunya" (The Smoke That Thunders) depends on how you would like to experience the falls and the surrounding area. It is a year-round destination, but every season brings something distinct to appreciate. Even when the water levels of the falls are low, you will have amazing panoramic views and the opportunity to spot numerous rainbows above and in the middle of the falls, as well as great conditions for activities such as whitewater rafting.
In our estimation, the best time to witness the pure immensity of Victoria Falls is right after the rainy season. In April and May, the falls are at their peak. Try to imagine 1,320,860 gallons (5 million liters) of water per minute and a spray of water that extends 22-37 miles (35-60 km) from the falls themselves — that is how powerful the falls are during this time.
On the other hand, if you visit as the falls begin to dry up, between July and December, you will get to see the geological rock formations in more detail. During these months, as the area drying up, it is also the perfect time to witness wildlife, including lions. Alternatively, if you are looking for activities such as river rafting, September to November would be the best time for that. The famous Devil's Pool is open during these months.
The hottest months are September to November, with temperatures around 90-100°F. Between December and April, the weather is hot and humid with temperatures around 85 °F, and in the remaining months (May to August), you can expect approximately 75 °F. Overall, the peak season with the most visitors ranges from May to September.
Consider this 5-day itinerary when planning your trip to Victoria Falls.
Early Dry Season / Peak Water Season (April-August)
From April to August, the Victoria Falls area receives very little rain, and the climate is mild. Temperatures are around 77-86°F (25-30°C) during the day. However, when it comes to the falls, "dry season" is an oxymoron particularly in April and May, when the water levels are at their highest. Although the falls are extremely beautiful and at their most powerful during this time, visibility also becomes limited due to the spray and mist, and trails can be slippery and wet. Make sure you have proper rain gear if you visit during this period.
Later in this season (June-August), the lower water levels and less spray give you excellent visibility of the falls. Both the Zambian and Zimbabwean sides are perfect for tours and exploring the waterfalls. You might still witness the famous rainbows as well, and game viewing in nearby national parks is at its best during this period.
Although June-August is wintertime, the weather is still mostly sunny, and the daily temperatures are pleasant. It rarely is below 73°F (23°C) during the daytime. However, bring warmer clothing with you for the mornings and evenings as it tends to get pretty chilly when the sun is absent, with even colder nights. A scarf and/or a beanie is never wrong to pack for this season.
Various water sports are great later in the season along the Zambezi River. The Devil's Pool is open as well, and white water rafting is highly popular. Don't miss going on a helicopter tour above the falls as well to get some of the most spectacular views. Canoeing along the river, riverboarding, and zip-lining are also great options in the area.
This is the best time to visit some of the spectacular safari destinations nearby such as Chobe National Park in Botswana and Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe. You will spot herds of animals gathering around increasingly limited water sources during this period, including along the Zambezi River upstream from Victoria Falls.
Hwange National Park is the largest in Zimbabwe, located about 1.5 hours from Victoria Falls. The wildlife here is impressive, with around 100 mammal species and over 400 bird species. Close encounters with cheetahs, leopards, and lions are possible. The park has a very large population of elephants, as well as the chance to spot endangered African wild dogs.
Chobe National Park is approximately a two-hour drive away and is worth exploring if you have the time, as it is one of the top safari destinations in Southern Africa. The Chobe River attracts a lot of animals as the park's primary water source, and the park is home to an abundance of predators and other species.
If you are planning a more extended trip and want to combine Victoria Falls with game viewing, consider this 13-Day itinerary.
Late Dry Season / Low Water Season (September-November)
Between September and April, you can expect hot weather around Victoria Falls. The low water season between September and November is the ideal time to visit if you want to experience the falls on the Zimbabwe side and have visibility of the geological formations. This is only possible during and immediately after the tail end of the dry season since the falls have such low water levels during this period. It is also a great season for you if you want to go white water rafting, or on safari in nearby areas such as the Chobe River.
There are amazing game viewing opportunities in the region as animals gather around dwindling water supplies, but the heat can be intense (temperatures often climb into the nineties Fahrenheit/thirties Celcius during the day). You can visit Chobe National Park in Botswana, Zambezi National Park just upstream from the falls, or Hwange National Park.
In November, the annual rains begin and the landscape begins to transform into a lush green oasis. However, the volume of the falls will not recover until the rainy season progresses further.
This is also a great season to enjoy other exciting activities in the area of the falls. The famous Livingstone Island is open during this period, and you can experience the Devil's Pool, right on the edge of the falls. These are on the Zambian side, so make sure to have your visa for Zambia if you are looking to cross over from Zimbabwe.
This 6-day itinerary is perfect for the season and includes tours around the Victoria Falls and exciting safaris.
Rainy Season / Rising Water Season (December-March)
Rains start to return in November, and December-March is the peak of the rainy season in Victoria Falls. This is the best time to witness those amazing colorful rainbows you see in photographs. Rains typically come in the form of dramatic afternoon thunderstorms.
The further the rainy season progresses, the more majestic the falls become, and the more the Zambezi River swells. This is not the best time to visit for game viewing, and the white-water rafting season closes around February. The Devil's Pool and Livingstone Island are also both closed once the waters of the Zambezi begin to rise.
However, this is the season that has earned the name "Emerald Season," or "Green Season." You will see the savanna flourish with lush green grass, blooming flowers, butterflies, and bird courtship rituals. It is the best time of the year to take stunning pictures of the falls combined with dramatic skies.
To get the best photos, explore the area in the late afternoon, right after the thunderstorms have passed and just before and during sunset. Later in this season, you will experience what "Mosi-oa-Tunya" — The Smoke That Thunders — truly means.