Winter on the Zambezi River

As we enter July in Zimbabwe, our winter is firmly upon us. Winter in Zimbabwe means clear sunny days and cooler evenings, with no rain. The bush and the vegetation starts to thin out, which makes it easier to spot wildlife on the banks of the Zambezi River, whilst aboard one of our luxury cruises.

Ra-Ikane Luxury Cruises Zambezi River

The Weather

With warm, sunny days and cool nights, it is often favourable to the more extreme heat of summer. Daytime maximum temperatures range from 25C to 28C, while night-time lows descend as far as 7C. As such, it’s important to pack a diverse array of clothing on your winter trip to Victoria Falls – light and airy clothing, as well as hats and sunglasses for the days, and warmer clothing, including long pants for the evenings.

The Victoria Falls

The water level of the Zambezi River during the winter months is the medium to high water season, so the water is neither very low to very high. During March to April, is the highest water flow at 500 million litres per minute, with the lowest water flow being in December and usually 10 million litres per minute over the falls.

When you visit the Victoria Falls in winter, there is a good volume of water falling down the sheer rock face, and some of the cliff faces are exposed. As you walk along the Falls, the spray varies in strength from little mist to medium raindrops and is not too overwhelming allowing for spectacular views the whole way along.

Victoria Falls In Winter

The River

The Zambezi River water level is not only influenced by local rainfall, but by rainfall further north in Africa. It has a massive catchment area of 1,390,000 sq. kilometres expanding into West Africa, making it larger than the total land area of South Africa. Victoria Falls is roughly halfway from the source to the sea, along the river, which means that the water from these catchment areas take a month or two to physically reach the river.

From May to August the water conditions are great for fly fishing and spinning for tiger fish as the water is very clear, and the volume is slowly starting to drop. However fishing for bream isn’t as good, as the fish hide in the deeper warmer water. As there are no storms during this time of year, the water is often beautifully still with magnificent reflections.

The Birds

The Zambezi River is an exceptional area for birding and has been identified as such by BirdLife International. The river flows through dry veld which provides a diversity of habitats for many different types of bird species. Although the bird life is less active during the cooler months as many migrant birds have left the area, there is an increase in raptor activity. You might be lucky enough to see courtship displays of the large raptors and vultures whilst out on a birding cruise.

Birding, Zambezi River Victoria Falls

The Wildlife

The game starts to concentrate near the river as the waterholes in the bush dry out. The deciduous trees lose their leaves, and the bush starts to take on the autumn and winter hues of orange and brown. Grass cover recedes and the scrub thins out. Sightings of elephant and buffalo are common at this time of year, and even giraffe can be spotted!

Giraffe on the Zambezi River banks