Revealing Victoria Falls’ Secret – the Lunar Rainbow

Victoria Falls is the only location in Africa and just one of a handful of places on earth where the impressive natural phenomenon of the ‘moonbow’ or lunar rainbow can be witnessed.

©Martin Visser / Tongabezi

Despite this, many people visit “The Smoke That Thunders” or Mosi-oa-Tunya without knowing of this magical sighting that occurs with each full moon. We think it’s time to reveal Victoria Falls’ best-kept secret so that more visitors to Zambia can revel in the wonder of the lunar rainbow.

 

What is a lunar rainbow?

Without delving into the science of it, a moonbow is a series of rainbows visible at night in the spray of Victoria Falls. As the moon’s light refracts or bends in the swirling mist, a rainbow forms over the Falls to the delight of onlookers.

 

When is a lunar rainbow visible?

To the human eye, lunar rainbows are much fainter than their day-time forms because less light is reflected from the moon’s surface as compared to the sun. Only when the moon is full and the skies cloudless will a moonbow be seen; it will always occur in the sky opposite from the moon in relation to the observer.

 

Where can lunar rainbows be seen?

To be seen clearly, the area where the lunar rainbow occurs needs little surrounding light, which is why they are seen in remote places. In the USA, moonbows can be seen in Lower Yosemite Falls, Jerome in Arizona, Cumberland Falls and Waimea Canyon State Park in the Hawaiian Islands. Sk?gafoss in Iceland and Wallaman Falls in Queensland, Australia are also sites of lunar rainbows.

 

When is the best time for lunar rainbow sightings at Vic Falls?

Lunar rainbows occur during the Zambezi River’s high-water season at Victoria Falls. This means that full moons falling within the months of February to August are the best time to glimpse this enchanting sight. The gates to the Victoria Falls National Park are opened from 18:00 to midnight the night preceding the full moon, the night of the full moon and the night after the full moon.

Based on the dates of the full moon, the upcoming days for possible lunar rainbow sightings are 17 June, 16 July and 15 August.

 

How do you photograph a lunar rainbow?

The first rule of thumb when shooting a lunar rainbow is to ditch the flash. For a great shot, the correct shutter speed and ISO will need to be setup – try a shutter speed of 10 seconds and ISO 800. With such a slow shutter speed, a tripod is a necessity to stop unwanted blur caused by unstable hands.

 

What else should be noted?

Be advised that the National Heritage Commission will not open the gates if the weather looks to be cloudy. As you will be visiting the Falls at night, it is important to walk carefully and keep children close at hand as there is little light around. Other than that, sit back and enjoy nature’s show!

Tongabezi Lodge is a luxury stay next to the Zambezi River, just upstream of Victoria Falls, and for the moonbow experience, guests are treated to a packed picnic and trained guide accompanying them throughout the trip. Book with Tongabezi for an unforgettable Victoria Falls holiday!