Best time to visit Zambia

Best time to visit Zambia


TEMPERATURE & RAINFALL

The dry season, from Jun-Nov, is generally considered the best time to visit Zambia. Walking safari bush camps in and around South Luangwa are open for six months per year during this time. Be prepared for high temperatures during Sep-Oct in the Lower Zambezi and the Luangwa Valley, but if you can take the heat you’ll see incredible game as animals vie for limited water sources. The rains come from Dec-Mar, falling most heavily in Jan-Feb. Outside of these months it may still rain, but the risk of a shower is offset by minimal crowds and great bird watching.

WHEN TO VISIT ZAMBIA & WHEN NOT TO


A MONTH BY MONTH GUIDE

January and February are the peak of the rainy season in Zambia, with most camps closed but bargains available at those that remain open. Herbivores are giving birth now and this is a great time for birdwatching, with birds sporting their snazziest breeding plumage and water birds drawn to the pools and lagoons created when the Luangwa River bursts its banks.

March is a good time to see Victoria Falls, as the flow rate increases after the rains. Bird watching remains excellent now, and few people visit, making this a wonderfully quiet time to come.

You will still encounter showers in April, but the weather is beginning to dry up now. The Kuomboka festival often falls in April, too, although its date changes year to year (sometimes it’s in March) and in some years it has been cancelled due to low river levels.

Camps begin to open up again in May, but walking safaris can be tricky as the ground is still muddy and slippery after the rains. Overflowing rivers and streams mean access can be difficult, too. Water is flowing at its greatest volume over Victoria Falls, which can mean the cascadeis actually obscured by the spray it produces. Splash out on a flight over it now – when this full, the falls are best seen from the air.

June is a great time to visit, with the camps all open but still offering good deals, as there aren’t many visitors yet. The ground is drying out, but rivers are still full and the landscape remains green and colourful.

July is the start of the tourist season in Zambia, when visitor numbers really hike up. River cruises on the Lower Zambezi and game watching in South Luangwa are massive draws and the Victoria Falls are slightly less thunderous than in May – still flowing strongly, but without producing quite such crazy quantities of spray. Temperatures are on the rise, reaching 25°C by day in South Luangwa, but at night and in the mornings it can cool to around 10°C.

August is the best time of year to combine Victoria Falls and one of the national parks. Walking safaris are excellent, with the drier bush easier to navigate on foot. The weather is heating up, though, climbing to around 28°C in South Luangwa.

September has max daytime temperatures of about 32°C, but it’s a great time for safaris as water sources begin to dry up, attracting large quantities of animals to remaining waterholes and rivers in search of a drink. This is also when huge flocks of beautiful carmine bee eaters arrive and head for the riverbanks, where they build their nests in a dazzle of colour and sound.

October pushes into the mid 30°Cs, which means game drives and walking safaris are confined to the early morning and evening, to avoid the heat of the day.

November marks the start of the Green Season, with rains arriving in the second half of the month. Often, the rain is not too heavy or regular, falling at night or late afternoon, so it’s still a great time to visit. The landscape blooming into life under dramatic, rolling storm clouds is a highlight, but it can feel humid and reach 34°C. You may see baby animals and there’s the chance to grab a bargain, too, in those camps that remain open. The Victoria Falls are more of a trickle now, though.

By December the rains are in full effect, and the bush is beginning to green-up and become denser. This is a great time to grab a bargain, but only some camps stay open, so there won’t be such a choice of accommodation. The Zambia side of the Victoria Falls dries up.

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN IN ZAMBIA


RESPONSIBLE TRAVEL RECOMMENDS

Dirk Reiche, from our supplier Sunway Safaris, discusses the best time to visit Zambia: “Any period from March to November is a good time to hit Zambia. It’s out of the rainy season and much easier to travel. Most of the parks do close during the rainy season as they become inaccessible. The best time for Victoria Falls is March to July when it’s nice and full.”

FESTIVALS & EVENTS IN ZAMBIA


OUR PICK FROM ZAMBIA’S CULTURAL CALENDAR

DID YOU KNOW ABOUT...?


The Kuomboka
Celebrated by the Lozi people of western Zambia at the end of the rains, the Kuomboka marks the ceremonial journey of the Litunga, the Lozi king, from his summer capital in the flood plains to his winter residence on higher ground. Kuomboka in the Lozi language means ‘to get out of water’! This full-on spectacle involves a huge wooden barge, massive Maoma war drums and around 100 paddlers wearing animal skin headdresses and skirts. Dates aren’t fixed, but Kuomboka usually takes place in late March or early April.
Photo credits: [Temp chart: Surreal Name Given] [The Kuomboka: Samuraijack ]

Written by: Joanna Simmons
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