The Best Time to Visit Zambia

When is the best time to visit Zambia?

Africa is known all over the world as the best destination to go on Safari. However, when most people think of Africa, they think of the Serengeti in Tanzania or the Mara in Kenya or Kruger in South Africa. However, there is a hidden gem located between those locations. That place is Zambia.

Zambia is a great destination considering its wide variety of wildlife, birds, scenery and vegetation. The weather here is divided into the dry season and the wet season. The dry season runs between May and October. This is usually the peak season for tourism. The wet season runs between November and April. This is known as the green season and is usually the off-peak season for tourism.

However, these seasons should not deter you from visiting Zambia at any time of the year. Below are the top destinations in Zambia, all of which can be visited year round.

Victoria Falls at sunset
Victoria Falls at sunset

Victoria Falls

Victoria Falls is probably the most famous attraction in Zambia. This spectacular site attracts visitors from all over the globe.

The peak season is usually characterized by high temperature meaning that water level is low. This is the best time for white water rafting. Rafting carries extra significance during this time since you get to see the amazing wildlife of Zambia up close while battling the current of Zambezi River. This is also the best time to have a dip in Africa’s most impressive infinity pool, Devil’s pool. Furthermore, since the water is low, you have the opportunity to visit Livingstone Island.

You can also visit Victoria falls during the green season. Around the months of February to April, River Zambezi will have swelled up due to the rains. This is when the falls are at their most spectacular. The falls create water sprays that are simply breathtaking. Be sure to carry your camera during this time since this is a view you will not want to forget.

Elephants, Kafue National Park
Photo Credit: Jeffrey & McKeith. Elephant, Kafue National Park

Kafue National Park

Kafue National Park is a national park in Zambia that shows the regenerative power of nature given the right conditions. In the 0s, rebels had poached most of the wildlife in the park but due to conservation efforts, wildlife numbers have gradually increased.

This national park is generally unknown but it is a true hidden gem. This means that it is not frequented by many tourists. They do not know what they are missing, however. The grass at Kafue National park tends to remain green all through the dry season. This makes it a grazers paradise. You will definitely see herds of buffalo with lions hot on their tails. It promises to be an incredible experience as you take a safari across this great park.

During the green season, vegetation is dense and everything is green. This makes for a spectacular sight especially if you use a hot-air balloon or a helicopter to tour the park. In addition, about 400 species of birds throng the park during this season. There is no better time for bird watching than at this time.

Lilac Breasted Roller, South Luangwa
Lilac-breasted roller, South Luangwa

South Luangwa National Park

South Luangwa has diverse wildlife, birds and vegetation that are present throughout the year. The peak season is during the dry season and it is at this time when wildlife is aplenty. You expect to see wildlife like leopards, lions and elephants. In the evenings you will see spectacular sunsets that you will simply have to capture.

During the green season, the rains begin and South Luangwa turns into a jungle. This is the best time for bird viewing and admiring the vegetation. The big cats live there all year round and this is also a great time to view them.

Migration, Liuwa Plain
Photo Credit: TIme + Tide. Liuwa Plain, Migration

Liuwa Plains

Liuwa Plains is probably the most diverse park in all of Zambia. During the peak season, you will come across great herds of wildebeests. As usual, where there are wildebeests there are lions, hyenas and wild dogs sniffing out an opportunity to have a bite of some fresh wildebeest meat. During this time, you are guaranteed a lot of predator-prey action to keep you entertained.

The birdlife and the vegetation erupt when the rains begin during the green season. The thunderstorms in the skyline create spectacular sights. During this time, you will also get to see wildebeests flood in from neighboring Angola as they follow the rain.

Water Buffalo, Lower Zambezi
Water Buffalo, Lower Zambezi

Lower Zambezi National Park

Lower Zambezi National Park represents nature in its wildest form. It doesn’t have as many animals as the other parks but you are guaranteed some animal sightings. This constant water source that is the Zambezi River ensures that there are animals here all year round. During the peak season, there are herds of water buffalo and elephants that you can get very close to for a personal experience. This is also the best time for fishing since the river waters are calm at this time.

The best thing about this park is that the river water keeps it nourished throughout the year. This ensures that most of the animals stick at around even during this time. All you will have to battle with is a little rain in the afternoons. The landscape also changes during the green season as the rains come down and it makes for some spectacular sights.

Zambia weather & Seasons: when to visit

Typically Zambia can be divided into the following seasons:

  • Wet season December- April
  • Dry Season May-November

So, what are the highlights of travelling during these seasons?

bird in green season

Rainy season in Zambia

December through to March is the typical rainy season, the plains turn into lush grass fields and the foliage blossoms. With beautiful green backdrops and a surplus of food, the animals disperse through the park (making sightings more spread out and more likely to be private) and you guessed it the wildlife has their babies in tow! This is why we like to call it the baby season.

Have you seen a tiny lion cub or a chubby little hippo baby? Adorable. Reason enough to come during this time. But, why else? The rainy [baby] season is made for birders; with migrant birds arriving, mating rituals at the start of the season and breeding plumage on show. It is a buffet of insects and subsequently the best time for birders. If that isn’t enough to convince you it is also a great time for better deals, the parks are quieter, the prices are lower and therefore you may end up with the lodge all to yourself minus the price tag!

Yet, what about the rain? Yes, it can and most likely will but unlike other parts of the world, we don’t have monsoons. We have heavy short showers and some pretty cool thunderstorms. Have you ever been in a cosy lodge, glass of red wine in hand, watching the lightning as it streaks across the sky…? It is really quite romantic! So, we say yes there will be showers but the temperature remains warm. The temperature will hit 20 Celsius+ in the midday heat. For the early morning frostier starts you may want a long pair of trousers and a jumper.

Negatives – a lot of the bushcamps deep within the parks have to shut, the soil makes it impossible to get reliable supplies in and out. Secondly, mosquitos, I cannot deny they thrive around stagnant water (think puddles) so yes there are more but a good repellent does the job and your guide can teach you about the trees that help treat the bites which are fun.

chilo lion

Dry season in Zambia

In May, the rain has faded completely and left behind lush green foliage. The plain starts to dry out making it a great time to visit as low season prices are still in place but there is no chance of a downpour.

June-August is much cooler, so if the idea of the African sun makes your skin turn red even at the thought of it these are good times to travel. It is still warm in the day but we would advise some layers for the late evening/early morning drives. The bush camps are now all open, you can venture deep into the hearts of the parks and get in a good walking safari! However, this is peak season don’t let the name fool you it isn’t peak because this is when most of the animals are around it is peak because of the price!

September-November is when things, literally, heat up. The temperatures soar (if you have delicate pale skin like me you may love the heat but please remember your sunscreen) and the bush dries out. The drama really starts to unfold, as water sources dry out and the rivers get narrower. The plains game are forced to drink in particular areas, hippos fight over the remaining pools, crocs wait eagerly as the animals come to drinks and of course, the predators start to congregate, not only to drink but to hunt the crowds of prey!

Amazing! Sign me up, I hear you say! Slow down just a minute, as temperatures soar conditions become difficult and deadly. Have you seen a kill? It can be quite brutal watching a baby being picked off by lions whilst its mother has to watch or when a buffalo gets stuck in the mud and the hyenas gather around… This can be a hard watch, it isn’t for everyone. The animals start to starve they look skinny and in bad condition and that can make for some cruel images.

Conclusion

From the above, you can see that Zambia is a destination that you can visit all year round. You are guaranteed that any time you visit you will leave with long-lasting memories of this beautiful country.

Ready for your adventure to Zambia? Contact us, today, to book or learn more about this incredible destination.