Is Victoria Falls really drying up? Having just been at beautiful Vic Falls in December, we were appalled as our news feeds – like yours no doubt – began to flood with alarming ‘reports’ and photographic ‘evidence’ that this spectacular World Heritage Site is ‘drying up because of climate change.’

The good news? It’s just fake news. But it has already caused considerable damage to the area’s tourism industry. We hope that by reporting the actual facts around the Zambezi River and Victoria Falls, we can help restore the reality of how this apparent ‘dryness’ is simply part of a very normal, yearly cycle.

Our December 2019 trip photos

Faking Facing Facts:

  • The Zambezi’s water levels drop and rise significantly throughout the year – and every year.
  • The lowest water-level is in October, November and early December.
  • It is natural and normal that certain sections of Vic Falls ‘dry up’, with less of its famous ‘smoke’ (spray). Water levels are generally lower on the Zambian side.
  • Whilst the region did suffer from a severe drought last year, the Zambezi’s flow remained consistently above the river’s flow in 1995/1996.
  • The lowest recorded water-flows recorded were during the 1995/1996 season which clocked an annual mean flow of 390 cubic meters per second (the water still flowed over the falls during this time). Compare that to the 4,700 cubic meters per second currently flowing at Victoria Falls.
  • In a press release, the African Travel & Tourism Association (Atta) confirmed they had ‘discussions with various members to clarify these reports and has confirmed with the Zambezi River Authority that current records show that the water levels are, once again, consistently rising.

The consequences for conservation and community

Whilst climate change is real, so are the changes Victoria Falls seasonally experiences, year in and year out. It is vital that, when fighting climate change, we are moved to action by facts and not fuelling the flames of fake news. In an effort to counter the damage already experienced by tour operators in Zimbabwe, operators have united against the media to replace their fictions with facts, under the #VictoriaFallsIsNotDry hashtag. We’re using it too!

“Whilst we are cognisant that climate change is a growing concern on a global level, and that it is potentially having an impact on countries throughout the world, what has been lacking in the media reports is an insight into the historic seasonal patterns and the resultant changes in water flow that are vital pieces of information to ensure a clear perspective is maintained,” Atta stated.

ACT said, “It has been irresponsible of the international media, in their efforts to create awareness around climate change issues, to have created such a negative impact on a vital sector in the region that supports thousands of livelihoods.”

Echoing ACT’s statement, Wilma Griffith from Wild Horizons said, “It is crucial to consider the livelihoods on the ground who are impacted by these reports. The tourism industry does not only support the revenue of countless people but it also plays an active role in the community and conservation of the area.”

What can we all do?

  • Stand with Zimbabwe’s tourism industry by using their #VictoriaFallsIsNotDry hashtag on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook
  • Combat the fake news by actively sharing this story by email, messaging and on social media. (Here’s the short link: add link)
  • Start planning your Vic Falls trip!

Here are some of our favorite reasons why Vic Falls is perfect at any time of the year:

Temperate climate: Whilst daydreams about an African safari are typically drenched in hot sunshine, the winter months at Vic Falls are marvelously mild and perfect for active adventures like hiking down the steep Gorge to see Vic Falls from a completely different viewpoint.
Dramatic, dynamic location: Straddling the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia, Vic Falls offers a beautiful place to pause between destinations or wind down after a thrilling safari adventure!
Landscape photographer’s dream: Many have left Vic Falls after visiting in peak season with photographs that captured nothing but the powerful spray which, though awe-inspiring, obscures the megalithic, majestic rock formations of the Falls themselves. Just look at that rock-face! (Credit: ‘Victoria Falls in the Dry Season in 2009’ by Daniel Cejudo as featured in Smithsonian Magazine.)
Adrenalized adventure: When the water levels are lower in the dry season, it becomes safe enough to swim right on the precipice of Victoria Falls! This dive into Devil’s Pool is perfect for daredevils! (Credit: Huff Post Life)
Folklore and legends: The Tonga people believe that Nyami-Nyami, a ferocious fish-faced serpent god, 3 meters wide and who knows how long, staining the river red as he swims past, brings water for their crops and fish to eat. Legend says Nyami-Nyami arrived serendipitously during the dry season, allowing meat to be cut from his body when there were less fish – and hence, his name meaning ‘Meat-Meat’. Pictured on the right, is the ‘Nalikwanda’, a strong wooden canoe with the Lozi’s insignia, an elephant, perched proudly on top, is central to the ‘Kuomboka’ ceremony which happens at the of the wet season as the flood plain rises and their need to move their settlement to dryer ground, hence ‘Kuomboka’ meaning ‘to get out of the water onto dry ground.’ Paddled by 100 paddlers or more wearing scarlet berets adorned with a hair from lion’s mane and wearing skirts of animal hide, the 6-hour long journey is steeped in the pounding of royal drums and ululating. (Kuomboka ceremony photo credit: Deanna Dent.)
Whether the ‘smoke’ is at its most dramatic or subdued during the dry season, a helicopter flight through the skies around this Seventh Wonder of the World is unmissable!
Lunar rainbows: The best (and only) time to see these magical lunar rainbows is between February and August when the water levels are at their highest. They appear at night when the moonlight refracts in the spray! (Credit: Tom Varley)
Full circle rainbow captured by a drone in Victoria Falls
Rainbows are actually full circles, but only rarely ever seen like this from a plane. This incredible rainbow was captured by cleverly attaching a camera to a drone. (Credit: Metro.co.uk)
Whitewater rafting down the wild Zambezi is usually from July to December - and for daredevils only!
Whitewater rafting down the wild Zambezi is usually from July to December – and for daredevils only!
Canopy tour: Explore the riverine forest from an exciting variety of different vantage points – from above, below and within the canopy itself. Discover the abundant forest birdlife, which can include the Knysna and Purple crested Turaco (Lourie) and Peregrine Falcons. This thrilling network of slides, trails and rope bridge walkways within the canopy of the hardwood forest of the Zambezi gorges is open all year round.

21 JANUARY 2020 UPDATE: The Victoria Falls water levels of the Zambezi River are rising steadily and the following seasonal product changes should be noted:

  • High Water Rafting Season started on 10 January 2020
  • Livingstone Island – Devil’s Pool will be closing shortly due to the rising water levels above the Victoria Falls
  • Livingstone Island tours will remain open until the end of April/May when the Angel’s Pool will close at a similar time to the Island

Email us about visiting Victoria Falls here.