In December last year (when the videos in this blog were taken) Victoria Falls was at some of its lowest ever recorded levels as a result of more than a year of drought. There was great concern in Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia as the life-giving rains in the Angolan highlands never arrived and all the subsequent areas that water filters down to remained bone dry. The water levels at Victoria Falls was so low that I was able to walk on the face of the falls, the Zambian side, where huge volumes of water normally thunder over and by leaping from rock to rock my feet didn’t even get wet.

Victoria Falls dry season
Standing on the Zambian side on the eastern cataract we were able to access a part of the falls normally hidden below thousands of cubic meters of water flowing over it every second. It was both amazing and sad to access a part of the falls that would typically sweep one so easily over the face of the powerful and enormous world wonder. Times like these are always made more bearable by remembering nature’s cycles and that drought never last forever.

In October the Falls was just a few cm from its lowest level recorded in 1995. But the floodwaters have arrived and from 349m3/s in Jan 2020 the water has risen to 3,890m3/s by March 31! It’s currently now the biggest flood since records started in the 60’s and there’s another wave of water heading for the falls now spurring predictions that Lake Kariba will fill.

A view of the Falls from the Zambian side. Currently one would be drenched by the spray standing here but due to the Covid- 19 travel bans there will only be a small group of locals bearing witness to the spectacle.
Taking from the Zambian side of the Falls that would never be accessible during the high water level season.
A view of the Falls from the Zambian side looking westwards towards the biggest spray.
A view of the Falls from the Zambian side looking westwards towards the biggest spray.

The Barotse (Zambezi) Floodplain is currently full so that new wave of floodwaters heading from Chavumna on the Angola/Zambia border, will all be channelled towards Victoria Falls and Lake Kariba below it. The most recent updates from 8 April saw the Zambezi River at 6,45m (this time last year it was 2, 15m) and will continue to rise in the coming days as more water flows into the upper Zambezi catchment area. Take a look at the aerial footage of the Borotse Floodplain below. This is considered one of Zambia’s most important wetlands and it is unusual to see it so full of water. It is this overflow that is being forced downstream towards the Falls and Lake Kariba.

Aerial footage taken above the Bartose Floodplain.

It’s not only this area that has been brought back to that life. The ripple effect caused a surge of water flowing into the Okavango Delta too. Follow this link if you want to learn more of how the seasonal water fluctuations work in the Delta. On March 10 alone, 623 000 litres flowed into the Delta, every second! And this was just the first wave! This time it will only be the animals there to witness the spectacle of the 2020 floods arriving.

Aerial view of Okavango Delta's permanent floodplains, Botswana
Aerial view of Okavango Delta’s permanent floodplains, Botswana

In some ways I find it unfortunate that due to the Covid-19 travel bans only a small group of locals will be there to witness the drastic transformations these areas are going through. Yet at the same time it feels just right that nature continues its seasons of recession and flux regardless of who is there to watch. The question is, with so many negative stories being told by the media at this time where will we choose to place our attention? And what stories will we choose to share?

For me the arrival of these floodwaters shows just how quickly and drastically everything can change. Something to remember now with the global Covid – 19 situation – big change is possible fast. How will we use this time of introspection to learn about ourselves and the world around us so that when we emerge again we can shift our priorities, our systems and our ways of being to those more in line with our precious planet.

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