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Best Time To Visit Zambia

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Month by month guide of when to go

Zambia’s weather has two distinct seasons, a hot and rainy summer, usually starting in mid-November and lasting until the end of March. From April through to September is remains dry and much cooler, before temperatures start to rise in October and there is a chance of rain, especially in the afternoons and early evenings.

When to visit very much depends on what you are looking to do as the best time varies for safari, birding and visiting Victoria Falls.

Below is a short summary of the best times to visit or scroll to the bottom for a full month by month guide.

Safari

Safaris in Zambia are generally seasonal, with most lodges opening between April and May as the temperatures cool and rainfall drops, remaining open through the dry winter months until the middle of November when the rains arrive and they close for the summer.

The dry period between April to September is especially good for safaris, and if you can brave the heat of October, you will be rewarded with fantastic game viewing as animals cluster around limited water sources and the short grasses make them easy to spot.

Best for safari: June to September - brilliant game viewing, dry and cooler.

Best for birders: November to May (green season)

Bat Migration: November

Peak season: July and August

Where you can go and what you can do in Zambia is very much dictated by the rains, as some parks and lodges are rendered completely inaccessible in rainy weather (mid-Nov - March).

Certain parks, namely the North Luangwa and Luambe National Parks don’t even open during the rainy season owing to the challenges of access and getting around once you are there, and the style of accommodation in Zambia, with many camps being rustic “bushcamps” or tented camps makes operating during the rainy season more challenging.

That said, a number of lodges in parks such as the South Luangwa, Lower Zambezi and Kafue remain open throughout the year, taking advantage of their locations next to the Luangwa, Zambezi and Kafue rivers to offer both access to the lodges via water taxi and game viewing options by boat, as well as fishing. Visiting during this time will ensure you avoid the crowds, offers brilliant value with fantastic birding and walking opportunities.

Visitors with specific interests in birding will delight in being able to visit the more northerly Kasanka National Park and Bangwelu Wetlands throughout the year.

Low season: November to April (many camps close during this time).

Victoria Falls

Victoria Falls is accessible throughout the year with the weather following a similar pattern to the rest of the country, but with water levels varying greatly from month to month. Broadly speaking water levels start to rise in December, peaking in March or April when the plume of spray from The Falls can be seen from miles away as you fly in. From May the water levels drop rapidly until there is no water at all flowing over the Zambian side come September or October. Local rains arrive in the latter part of October and continue into November which does start to fill the river

Peak water level: March or April (depending on the rains) - this is when they are at their most impressive!

Best for activities: July and August - lower water levels mean you can do white water rafting and swim in Devil's Pool. This is the peak time to visit the falls.

Best avoided: October - November - the water levels can dry up completely on the Zambia side at this time of year.

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Luangwa Bush Camping Elephant River Crossing

January

The peak of Zambia’s summer rainy season, January is often ignored as a time to go on safari in Zambia, but those who do venture here, especially to the South Luangwa National Park are rewarded with some spectacular experiences. The handful of camps that open at this time focus on river journeys, with guests able to explore the swollen Luangwa River in flat-bottomed boats with their guides. Huge herds of buffalo roam the floodplains, hippo frolic in the shallows and crocodile laze high on the banks of this immense river. It is an incredible time of year for birding and the lush green bush is a spectacular backdrop for photographs. The Victoria Falls are starting to fill up thanks to localised rains as well as those thousands of miles upstream.

Image: Elephants crossing Luangwa River

Luangwa River Camp Water Taxi

Feburary

The rains are starting to subside across the country, but access means most camps remain closed, although the camps easily accessed by river in the South Luangwa National Park offer amazing game viewing and breathtaking landscapes to enjoy. It is also a great month for fishing, on a catch and release basis, in the Lower Zambezi National Park, so keen anglers will want to consider an extended stay in this beautiful part of the country. More adventurous travellers can cast their eyes west to the mighty Kafue National Park which offers excellent game viewing in the region around the Kafue River. Water levels at Victoria Falls are starting to rise towards their peak.

Image: Luangwa River Water Taxi

Victoria  Falls

March

March sees water levels at Victoria Falls reach their zenith, with 500 million litres of water crashing over the precipice every minute, making it a truly incredible spectacle to witness. Of course, there is plenty more to enjoy in the area, including canoeing, fishing trips, sundowner boat cruises, helicopter and microlight flights as well as game drives in the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park. Water levels on the floodplains of the South Luangwa and Lower Zambezi National Parks are starting to drop with the activity of opening camps for the new season starting in earnest. Out in the west of the country, it is a great time for canoe safaris in the Liuwa Plain National Park as the water levels continue to drop.

Image: Victoria Falls

King Lewanika Lozi Tribe

April

As the weather starts to cool across Zambia, safari conditions improve with more and more camps opening their doors for the season, notably in the South Luangwa and Lower Zambezi National Parks. Visitors to Liuwa Plain may have the chance to witness the fabled Kuomboka Ceremony as the local Lozi people move their king from his summer to winter home in a series of elegant boats. Victoria Falls continues to run at its peak, with the plume of spray that is thrown up seen from miles around and remains an especially dramatic sight to witness from above. Keen birders can also take advantage of the subsiding water levels by getting off the beaten track in the Kasanka National Park and Bangwelu Wetlands.

Image: King Lewanika from the Lozi Tribe

The Mighty Zambezi River

May

The start of May really sees Zambia’s safari season kick into gear as the majority of the camps in the Lower Zambezi start to welcome doors and all but the most remote camps in South Luangwa do the same. Likewise, the more eastern camps in Kafue open with access to superb game viewing around the Kafue River and the cooling temperatures mean it is a great time to visit Liuwa Plains. There is a noticeable drop off in the water levels at Victoria Falls, but it is still a superb time to visit either before or after a safari, with the cooler temperatures making it ideal for longer days out on the river, including fishing and canoeing trips.

Image: The mighty Zambezi river

Lion In The South Luangwa

June

Days start to become noticeably cooler and rainfall drops to zero which means it is a superb time of year to be on safari, even before peak season kicks in next month. Predator sightings become more common as the cooling temperatures in the South Luangwa mean they spend more time out in the open whilst the dropping levels of the Luangwa River mean pods of hippos in the pools become much larger. Visitors to the Kafue National Park will delight in the fact that the more northerly Busanga Plains have now drained of summer rainfall sufficiently to allow camps operating in this wildlife wonderful to open up to gusts bringing in a whole new range of experiences.

Image: Lion in South Luangwa

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July

This is when the safari season really kicks in as the temperatures drop to their winter lows and rainfall remains non-existent, meaning all animals stay out in the open much longer and the lack of water means wildlife congregates around the river areas. This is the last month until October when the Liuwa Plain National Park remains open as the wildlife moves further north away from the camp. Kafue remains a superb spot for wildlife viewing and the camps can still offer boat safaris on the Kafue River. The North Luangwa National Park becomes a viable option in July, so great for those really looking to escape the crowds.

Image: Leopard relaxing in the trees

Devils Pool

August

Water levels at Victoria Falls really drop, meaning Livingstone, that delightful picnic spot on the edge of The Falls, and the Devil’s Pool are fully open offering an increased range of unique experiences that visitors to the area enjoy. The game viewing remains outstanding in the South Luangwa, with the dry underfoot conditions making it perfect for walks from the more remote bush camps in the north and east of the park. It is also a superb time to head up to the North Luangwa, especially for visiting the rhino sanctuary found there. The Lower Zambezi is a delight at this time of year with a huge range of activities on offer for visitors to enjoy.

Image: Relaxing at Devil's Pool

Luangwa Bush Camping Walking Safari

September

Visitors to the Kafue National Park can enjoy hot air balloon flights from selected camps in the Busanga Plains region in September – a truly unique experience and one certainly not to be missed in the area. The Victoria Falls remain almost dry – certainly not a reason to avoid visiting in September, but one to bear in mind as it does change the activities on offer. It remains a great time to be in the more traditional areas of the Lower Zambezi and South Luangwa, with the sleepout safaris offered from a number of South Luangwa camps especially popular on these cool, dry nights.

Image: Luangwa Bush Camping Walking Safari

Zma16  South  Luangwa Lion

October

A definite change of seasons is in the area as October arrives, with days and nights becoming noticeably warmer and the threat of heavy rain hanging in the air some days. Despite the sometimes oppressive heat, especially in the Zambezi Valley, it is regarded by guides as the very best time for game viewing, especially for predators who revel in the easy hunting conditions. The more remote bush camps in the core parks, as well as those in remote areas such as North Luangwa and Kafue are starting to wind down their operations with a viewing to closing for the summer. Water levels remain low at Victoria Falls so a huge range of activities are still on offer.

Image: Lion in Luangwa

Wild Western Zambia Hero

November

Summer, with its associated hot days and heavy rainfall, is very much upon Zambia come November, with many camps closing by the middle of the month, although more accessible camps in South Luangwa, Lower Zambezi and Kafue usually remain open until the middle of the month and beyond. Ardent safari-goers can still enjoy Zambia as the Liuwa Plain National Park becomes a viable option once again as the summer rains attract huge herds of wildebeest down on to the plains. Victoria Falls remains an excellent destination, with water levels just starting to creep up but a full range of activities remains on offer. Visitors to the Kasanka National Park will also be able to witness up to 10 million straw-coloured fruit bats who migrate to the park each year.

Image: Wildebeest in Liuwa Plain National Park

Victoria Falls Helicopter Flights

December

As summer reaches its peak the options for safaris in Zambia do become somewhat limited, but it remains as popular a time as ever to visit the iconic Victoria Falls. The South Luangwa has a number of camps, mainly those close to the river or in better-draining areas that stay open and guests keen on fishing can spend time in the Lower Zambezi National Park. Eastern Kafue remains a possibility for those who don’t mind the heat and visitors to Liuwa Plain can enjoy the excellent predator sightings that stem from the herds of wildebeest giving birth to their young. Of course, Christmas is celebrated with a great deal of enthusiasm in those camps that remain open.

Image: Helicopter over Victoria Falls

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