Victoria Falls is absolutely breathtaking at any time of year. We honestly don’t know how anyone could ever tire of gazing at the beauty and feeling the raw power of nature. Mosi-oa-tunya, as the locals in Zambia call it, means “the smoke that thunders”, and this name seems much more poignant than Victoria Falls. Indeed, during peak water flows from December through May, you can hear the roar of the water long before you come to visualize it.
Livingstone, Zambia, is the ideal base for a trip to see Victoria Falls. The town has an international airport with flights arriving from Nairobi, Cape Town, South Africa and domestically from locations throughout Zambia. The city boasts a wide selection of accommodation, from luxurious private getaways to backpacker lodges to self-catering apartments. To get the most of your time in Livingstone, we are here to give you our top tips for visiting Victoria Falls any time of year.
Ask about visas requirements.
We recommend getting in touch with your Livingstone based travel agent or lodge before you set out so that you can ask about up-to-date visa requirements. Since Livingstone is ideally situated within proximity to Zimbabwe and Botswana, you will likely be hopping borders during your stay. The type of visa that is best for your situation will depend on your nationality and intended itinerary. We recommend having US dollars in cash for visa payments upon arrival at the borders.
Consider the time of year.
The water level of the Zambezi River rises and falls fairly consistently from year to year. Your activity preferences will be a determining point for when is the best time of year for a visit.
Late August through December is when the water flow will be at its lowest, which means that the Victoria Falls will be dry in certain places. However, this is when multi-day rafting on the Zambezi is at its best, and you can go swimming beneath the cascades of the Falls. It is also the ideal time for swimming in Devil’s Pool located on Livingstone Island.
From January through June, the water level will be much higher. It becomes near impossible to see the actual Falls at peak flow due to the immense amount of spray. You will genuinely be part of Mosi-oa-tunya when you visit. The mist can rise to 800 metres in the air (2600 feet) and can be seen from up to 50 kilometres away (30 miles).
When the Zambezi River is high, and the moon is full, you may be luckcy and get a clear night sky. During these special times, you may get the chance to see a lunar rainbow, or moonbow, at Victoria Falls. The National Heritage Conservation Commission are custodians of the Victoria Falls National Park in Zambia and typically open for the full moon on the evening before, the evening of and the evening after a full moon during peak water flows.
The different viewpoints of Victoria Falls
We often hear the question, “what side of Victoria Falls is better?” We are here to tell you that there is far more to viewing Victoria Falls than simply choosing between the Zambian and Zimbabwean sides, as ideally, you will see both. However, you also have more vantage points to consider.
The Zambian side of Victoria Falls has numerous trails, and we recommend allocating at least a few hours to see them all. Fitness fanatics particularly like hiking down to the bottom of the Batoka Gorge at the Boiling Pot. This is where the Under the Spray Tour will take you further under the cascades during low water season. The Knife Edge Bridge is only accessible on foot on the Zambian side and will have you drenched in spray during high water.
If you fancy being fully immersed in Victoria Falls, then certainly book a tour to Livingstone Island. This sought-after tour books up in advance, so it is best to secure your place to avoid disappointment. From here, you can swim in either the Devil’s Pool or Angel’s Pool right on the lip of Victoria Falls.
The best vantage points for viewing Victoria Falls has to be from above. A helicopter or microlight flight can be booked to get an eagle-eye view of the zig-zagging gorge structure. Few moments in life are as captivating.
The Victoria Falls Bridge is much more than a border crossing from Zambia to Zimbabwe. This engineering marvel boasts stunning views of Victoria Falls and is the home to Shearwater Bungee, where daredevils can jump, slide or swing off the bridge. The Bridge Café offers burgers, salads and Mosi lager for those that would prefer to just watch the action.
What to pack
Victoria Falls National Park is technically a rainforest due to the amount of spray from the waterfalls. Though there is dense foliage, it is best to remember to wear sunscreen and a wide-brimmed hat. During high water, be prepared to get wet, like standing in the shower wet, so dress modestly but accordingly.
Raincoats and dry bags are available for hire, though our recommendation is to enjoy the experience of immersing yourself in the spray. It is best to keep cameras and other electronics in appropriate drybags or carry a waterproof phone to take snapshots.
Baboons and monkeys can be an issue within the park and at the border post. We don’t recommend bringing any food, even if it is hidden in your backpack. Don’t wrap any valuables in shopping bags either, as baboons know that yellow plastic bags are often filled with delicious goodies.