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27 Aug 2014 | By Sun International

The Moonbow – the Best-kept Secret of Victoria Falls

A lunar rainbow, also known as a moonbow, is an almost mystical sight to behold. Lunar rainbows occur every full moon but are not always easily viewed, depending on the time of year.

Much like a rainbow is often created after a daytime rainstorm, a lunar rainbow is created when moonlight, rather than sunlight, is refracted by water particles in the air. Moonbows are usually only created during a full moon and when the skies are clear, as this is when the moon's light is at its brightest.

During a full moon, just after twilight settles upon the area around Victoria Falls in Zambia, the park is opened for special Lunar Rainbow tours, where visitors can catch sight of this natural wonder. Normally, the park around Victoria Falls is closed in the evenings, as many large animals wander the forest and it can be unsafe to walk around the area without guidance. The Lunar Rainbow tours are accurately scheduled, in accordance with the moon phases.

Why do lunar rainbows appear at Victoria Falls?

As one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World, Victoria Falls creates the world's largest curtain of falling water. This gigantic waterfall produces an almost constant spray or mist of water as water tumbles over the edge. Victoria Falls is also known as Mosi-oa-Tunya – the smoke that thunders. It's that "smoke" or spray that refracts the light of the moon, creating the unforgettable sight of a lunar rainbow.

When can you see the Victoria Falls moonbow?

Just as there is a "high" season in nature, where certain natural events, flora or fauna are most easily spied, the lunar rainbow at Victoria Falls also has a "high" season. The very best time to catch sigh of this astonishing sight is between the months of April and July. During the first quarter of the year, the skies are more likely to be clouded over, and the moon's light would not shine brightly or consistently enough to create a lunar rainbow. After July, the cool dry season begins in Zambia, when little or no rainfall slows down the rapids of Victoria Falls, which means the fine spray of water required to create the moonbow may not be present.

It's important to note another significant difference between your more conventional rainbow and a lunar rainbow. Even if you do take the tour to the see the Victoria Falls' moonbow, you may not see it in all its resplendence.

The human eye cannot easily discern the different coloured bands of the lunar rainbow, which means you will most likely see a white band, rather than the colourful bands you'd be expecting. This is because moonlight is not as bright as sunlight. But snap as many pictures as you can, because the coloured bands of the lunar rainbow are visible in long exposure photographs.

Where should you go to get the best view of the Victoria Falls moonbow?

The Lunar Rainbow at Victoria Falls is best viewed from the Zambian side of the falls but the moonbow can also be viewed from the bridge. That's why the Zambezi Sun is the perfect destination for Lunar Rainbow spotters. Guests of the Zambezi Sun are immediately granted free and unlimited access to Victoria Falls, throughout their stay.

Add a Victoria Falls Lunar Rainbow Spotting trip to your bucket list – it's a must-see at the Victoria Falls!