Recent photographs taken in November 2015 show that the most impressive waterfall in the world, the mighty Victoria Falls, appears to be drying up! It is known locally as ‘the smoke that thunders’ because of the huge spray caused by the force of so much falling water. But it hardly lives up to its name right now, what with no smoke! Although these images look scarily surreal, there is a logical explanation and visitors need not be discouraged – this is still a good time of the year to view this incredible natural phenomenon.
The harsh reality is that the water levels at Victoria Falls are reportedly at an all-time low and the lowest they’ve been in over 30 years. There are many contributing factors leading to the Victoria Falls being so dry. Firstly, this is naturally the ‘low water’ season (between August and January) with the Falls at their lowest between November and early December until the summer rains up north early in the new year replenish water levels to its former glory.
The ‘high water’ season, on the other hand, takes place between February and July, reaching peak water levels in March and April. During this time of the year, water levels in the Zambezi River rise more than a metre which in turn produces a 5-metre increase in the water levels being forced through the gorge.
Secondly, poor rainfall and drought across the region are also to blame for the unusually low Victoria Falls water levels this year. Water levels of the Zambezi are sustained by rainfall that has fallen six months before it reaches the falls. The low rainfall season in 2014/ 2015 has certainly contributed to the current low water levels.
This however does not mean that the river is close to drying up. The Zambezi River forms part of a very large river system, and Vic Falls is located about 1350km downstream from the river’s source and around 400km downstream from the impressive Barotse floodplains that act as a sponge and can hold water, slowly releasing it downstream into the river.
Visitors are still encouraged to travel to Victoria Falls in the ‘low water’ season as there are lots of unexpected advantages to visiting this incredible landmark at this time of year. Without the presence of the big spray and fine mist generated by the falls, one can see the details of the geological formation of the rock face. It is like peering right into the skeleton of the Falls. And in so doing you gain a new perspective of this natural wonder and an appreciation for the incredible expanse of the length and breadth of the Falls, something that is not as apparent when the Falls are at their fullest.
Also, you can literally walk across from the Zambezi Sun Hotel from the Zambian side across the edge to Devil’s Pool. This incredible pool is situated right on the lip of the Falls and offers visitors astounding views over the Falls. In the high water season, it’s not possible to swim in this pool and all you will see from under the cover of your cozy poncho is the dense spray of the Falls as you get up close to the edge.
While sightseers to this world-famous landmark may be somewhat disappointed at the curtain of water being diminished, adventure seekers will be doubly excited as the low water levels on the Zambezi mean that the Zambezi River white water rafting is at its most awesome and twice as thrilling.
If you are planning to visit Victoria Falls during the hot, dry season (October to December), we recommend you visit the Zimbabwean side of the Falls which has the best views of the actual Falls, but expect water levels to continue to fall until mid January, depending on the expected rains further upstream.
If you are going to be staying on the Zambian side, it is easy to either drive or walk across the world famous Victoria Fall Bridge into Zimbabwe. To save time and money, we recommend getting the new KAZA visa which is valid for Zambia and Zimbabwe.