13 ACTIVITIES AT VICTORIA FALLS
There’s a wide range of exciting experiences & adventure activities to enjoy at Victoria Falls. Here are 13 of the best.
Zimbabwe’s climate differs depending on the region. It is hard to pinpoint a ‘best time’ to visit this diverse country. Across the board, there are two distinct seasons in Zimbabwe: the wet summer and the dry winter. The most popular time to visit is in the dry season from April to September. With fresh mornings and a slight evening chill, the dry season also sees a thinning of flora which makes the wildlife viewing excellent. April and May are special times to go on safari as just after the yearly downpour, the wilderness is left verdant. In southerly and higher locations, the night-time temperatures start to drop, and the vegetation begins to dry. This pivotal point between the wet and the dry seasons is a fantastic time for wildlife excursions and trekking as the animals are joined by a lush emerald setting.
At the other end of the season, from September to October temperatures begin to rise. The further north you are, the earlier the precipitation arrives and the later it leaves. Lower-lying rift valleys such as Mana Pools can get very hot in October and weather begins to get unpredictable. The wet season takes place from November through to March. Despite being harder to spot animals, with the rain comes an excellent opportunity for bird watchers as thousands of migratory birds appear in the trees. Zimbabwe’s higher eastern areas usually receive more rainfall than the lower western ones, however the climate here is more temperate. From November to March temperatures can soar up to 40˚C during the day, and barely drop past 20˚C in the evenings, but in the dry season, temperatures drop to near freezing overnight with July and August as the coldest months.
Characterised by heavy rainfall and humidity, January is one of the wettest months in Zimbabwe. Large thunderstorms roll over the landscape daily. Due to the ongoing downpour the Zambezi riverplains further east swell and flood the surrounding areas, restricting travel. National Parks such as Mana Pools and Matusadona, and camps on Lake Kariba are subsequently closed at this time of year. The remaining safari destinations are damp and crawling, and views of wildlife can be obscured by the density of the vegetation. It is a time where patience is needed to catch glimpses of animals, but it can be highly rewarding. It is in January that new-born wildebeest and zebras can be spotted, and it is a great month for birdwatching as migratory birds are in abundance all over the country.
The Victoria Falls are dramatic and fast flowing and inundated with misty spray – viewing can be difficult. With the river at its low level beneath, white water rafting is in full swing and a ride on the rapids can be exhilarating.
With rainy days and thunderstorms common in the afternoon, the temperature is hot and humid - reaching 30˚C during the day and failing to fall below 16˚C in the night. Nevertheless, the waterlogged season is colourful and impressive.
February is another rainy month in Zimbabwe, with daily downpours and impressive thunderstorms making their way across the country. Daytime temperatures are around 25°C, although humidity increases just before the storms and the air feels electric. At night time, the temperature drops to around 15°C so it’s wise to pack a jumper and long trousers. While March is often said to be the best month for visiting Victoria Falls, February is also a good month because there is lots of water in the waterfall, which causes the famous water spray that looks like smoke.
Many lodges around Mana Pools and Hwange National Parks are still closed until March as visitor numbers are low. As there aren’t many tourists in February, visitors will be rewarded with quiet safaris through the lush vegetation, with chances to see baby wildlife. February is the best month for bird spotting, with the ability to see at least 20-30 different species a day.
March sees the end of the rainy season, although there is still a fair amount of lighter rainfall across the month, and the occasional storm. The north and the higher eastern areas of Zimbabwe receive more rainfall than the lower western plains. Temperatures remain between 16-25°C with more sunny and dry days towards the end of the month. Some lodges around Mana Pools and Hwange remain closed in March as visitor numbers are still low. Game spotting is more difficult as the animals aren’t congregating around watering holes, but they are also more interesting, as you hunt through the overgrown vegetation for the chance to spot an elephant family.
March is a great month for bird watchers as the last of the migratory species are in flight, and in terms of wildlife, most mammals have young in tow. March is a great month to visit Victoria Falls, as the waterfall is in full flow and the surroundings are a deep shade of green. From the water level, you can see the gorges and complex geology of the area and most of the month the famous rainbows can be seen in the spray.
April is a good month to experience Zimbabwe without the crowds. April isn’t classified as high season yet, but it's a great month to go, since the temperatures will be pleasant, and there will be hardly any rain. Daytime temperatures will be around 23-25°C with around seven hours of sunshine a day. On the higher plateaus, the night time temperatures can feel quite cold. Zimbabwe’s national parks look beautiful thanks to the rainy season, and the roads will be dry and mostly empty of other vehicles.
All the lodges that closed for the rainy season will have reopened in preparation for the start of the dry season, but both accommodation and the parks will be emptier in April than later in the year. Victoria Falls may feel crowded compared to the rest of Zimbabwe, and it will have its famous cloud of spray, but this blocks the more impressive view of the falls.
May is a good month for visiting Zimbabwe. Temperatures average around a pleasant 24°C in the daytime, and it’s rare to experience rainfall in May. Most parks won’t be crowded yet, as peak season crowds start arriving in June, but animals will be easier to spot as they will start to use the watering holes to quench their thirst. The vegetation will be thicker in May than the rest of the year, but this makes for nice walking safaris through Mana Pools and animals will still have their young with them.
May is the best month to experience Victoria Falls in its full glory, with the Zambezi river full and the waterfall creating large clouds of spray. However, the spray blocks the view of Victoria Falls itself, which is best seen in September. May is also a good month to visit the UNESCO recognised ruins of Great Zimbabwe, as there will be fewer tourists.
June is a good time to visit Zimbabwe, as it is a dry month with cooler temperatures and blue skies. Since the rainy season is truly over, the land is starting to dry out. Most animals will start to congregate at watering holes in Hwange National Park, making it very easy for wildlife spotting. June is also a good month for photographers, as the last of the vegetation offers a good background for wildlife pictures and there will be fewer tourists to get in the way of the perfect shot.
While daytime temperatures will be a warm 23-35°C, at night time the ‘winter’ weather kicks in, with temperatures dropping into single digits and occasionally down to 0°C at higher altitudes. Morning drives can still feel chilly, so pack a few warmer layers. June is a great month for visiting Victoria Falls, as the water levels will be lower so the spray doesn’t obscure the great views of the mighty waterfall.
July is a great month to visit Zimbabwe. With clear blue skies, warm daytime temperatures and lots of chances to see Africa's Big Five, July is peak season in Zimbabwe. Most of Zimbabwe’s animals start to congregate around watering holes in Hwange National Park, and the oxbow lakes in Mana Pools National Park are teeming with a range of birds and wildlife. July is one of the best months for walking safaris through Mana Pools since the temperatures are pleasant and most of the vegetation has dried out, offering even better wildlife views. This is also a good month for canoe safaris.
While the daytime temperatures average around 25-26°C in the daytime, the evenings and early mornings can drop to as low as 5°C, so pack some warmer layers. July is also a good time to visit Victoria Falls; it will be busy but since there is less water, the spray doesn’t obscure the water cascading over the edge.
August is high season in Zimbabwe, thanks to good weather and the school holidays. Expect clear blue skies and daytime temperatures of around 30°C. Although the lodges might be full, Zimbabwe never feels busy with tourists, even in peak season. Since August is classified as dry season, most animals will congregate around the few year-round watering holes, making wildlife spotting easy. In Mana Pools National Park, elephants, hippos and Nile crocodiles can be found lounging around the oxbow lakes, although leopards and cheetahs tend to stay in more obscured wooded areas.
Temperatures vary throughout the day, with highs of 30°C and lows of around 10°C at night, with evenings and early mornings feeling chilly. August is a good month for visiting Victoria Falls, as the views all the way to the bottom will be excellent. Whitewater rafting along the Zambezi river is also possible from August, as the water levels are lower.
September is an excellent month to visit Zimbabwe. There are fewer tourists compared to July and August, and since the land is quite dry, game viewing in September is excellent. Hwange National Park is a must visit this month as elephant herds flock to the reserve in search of water and space for their large families. If you want to avoid other tourists head to Gonarezhou National Park, Zimbabwe's second largest park, bringing countless animal species to a few remaining areas of water in the park.
Temperatures are rising steadily, with highs of up to 33°C in the afternoon, so in September plan for morning and evening excursions, with afternoons retreating in a luxurious lodge. Mana Pools Park can be very hot as it's at a lower altitude, so walking safaris are limited. Victoria Falls has less water this month but still looks impressive in September.
October can get very hot on the lower plains, with temperatures soaring up to 38°C in the heat of the day and night times still feeling hot. Clear blue skies leave the land dry and dusty, although the Msara trees bloom a vibrant red and the Jacaranda trees starting to shed their purple flowers across the ground. October is probably the best month for game viewing, as all of Zimbabwe’s animals crowd around the few remaining watering holes, meaning you can see hippos and elephants, leopards and zebras drinking side by side.
Visiting Victoria Falls in October is not the best month as there will be less water in the Zambezi river, so less water toppling over the top of the waterfall. However, this is a great month to visit the Devil’s Pool over the border in Zambia, where lower levels allow you to walk right to the edge of the falls. October is a good month for those who want to experience white water rafting on the Zambezi river, with water levels perfect for water adventures.
The weather in November is mostly unpredictable, with high temperatures and the constant threat of rain, leaving a feeling of electricity in the air. Rains in November won’t be heavy, so they won’t affect safari outings, but they will bring the temperatures down from a high 35°C down to cooler 25°C. Depending on the amount of rain, walking safaris might no longer be possible at the end of the month, although it’s a good time for white water rafting on the Zambezi river.
November is classed as low season due to the unpredictable weather, but it's a great time for wildlife sightings, as all of Zimbabwe’s animals gather around the remaining watering holes. Within a week of the first rains, the vegetation starts to regrow, and after a few weeks of rain, the landscape is a lush green again.
December sees the start of the rainy season in Zimbabwe. Impressive daily thunderstorms start to hit in the early afternoons and the landscape changes to a vibrant green oasis. The rains arrive in the north of the country before the southern areas and the rain tends to be heavier in the higher eastern areas. Towards the end of December wildlife sightings start to become more difficult as animals no longer stick close to watering holes. However, if you are patient you may be rewarded with the first sightings of newly born animals.
Temperatures in December hover around 25°C but can still reach up to 30°C on the hottest, humid days. If rainfall has been particularly heavy, some of the national park trails become muddy and impassable, which can cause delays and difficulties finding animals. This is not the best month to visit Victoria Falls as the lower water levels won’t showcase the waterfalls full glory, but it will still be busy as December holidays still bring crowds.