Typically Zambia can be divided into the following seasons:
So, what are the highlights of travelling during these seasons?
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 – I’m Scottish so anything in double digits is T-shirt weather for me – 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.
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 await 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 round… 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.
It really comes down to your preference and what you are after; pictures of fluffy babies or of a chase! It can also be uncomfortably hot… a rustic bushcamp in the middle of the park, yes – you scream! But, when its 40+ degrees in an eco-camp with no fan you start to question your sanity.
If you would like to know more about what to expect from Zambia at different times of the year, drop us an email; firstname.lastname@example.org we will only be too happy to help.