If you’ve decided to plan a safari to Zimbabwe, you’ve already made one of the best decisions you’ll ever make. Now for the second one: which month of the year will you travel in? ‘When is the best time to visit Zimbabwe’ is a question we hear often – and it’s a good one. There is no right or wrong, bad or best time to visit Zimbabwe, but the different seasons bring different weather patterns, wildlife sightings and landscapes that make for chalk and cheese safaris – and Victoria Falls looks quite different too (learn more about it here)! Read on, then, for the best time to visit Zimbabwe…
December to March
We might be starting off with the rainy season but it’s not all doom and gloom and can be really rather lovely. When the rain heavy rains start in December, Zimbabwe is a different world to any other time of year. Parched plains turn into luscious, green blankets, rivers flow in full force, and waterholes pop up everywhere you look. The wildlife is happy and healthy, the migratory birds arrive, and from around January/February to March, the parks are filled with new life as many animals give birth. The emerald-green backdrops and clear, bright air make for the most fabulous photographs, and in fact, we might even say this is the best time to visit Zimbabwe for avid photographers…
Some people will tell you that game viewing isn’t as easy from December to March; we know that this isn’t strictly true. Yes, the animals may not be congregated around the water sources, and you might have to drive a little longer or a little further to see them. But they are there and when you do find them, you won’t be sharing your sightings with hundreds of other tourists… But do take note: some of the smaller, more remote bush camps (especially those in Mana Pools) might not be open – but you will, however, have the pick of those in Hwange and Matusadona.
April and May
Next we move to the ‘shoulder season.’ This time of year brings the best of both worlds; the lush beauty of the wet season is still evident, but it’s stopped raining, and several of the camps reopen ready for the dry season. If you decide to travel now, you’ll have fresh, bright days, excellent wildlife sightings, and you’ll (mostly) have the parks to yourself. This is also a beautiful time of year to visit Matobo – just remember an umbrella for those lingering rains!
And talking of April and May, this is probably one of the best times to visit Victoria Falls, especially if you’re looking for postcard-perfect scenes. The Falls are in full flood, enormous clouds of spray rise up to the sky, and it’s truly fantastic. As the year continues, the Falls become drier and drier (but it’s a great time for photos!), and in November and December, they really are a shadow of their former self. Conversely, August and September are the best time to visit for water sports and the famed adrenaline activities, as the water level is just right. From January to April, the water level begins to rise again during the wet season.
June to November
Traditionally the ‘best time to visit Zimbabwe’ is the dry season months of June to November. Zimbabweans call it winter; those from the Northern Hemisphere might disagree! Temperatures hover around 25 degrees in the middle of the day, with a slight chill on the morning game drives, especially in Hwange and the Eastern Highlands. Temperatures rise up to the mid-30s in October and November and it can get steamy and VERY hot around this time. Generally, however, the days are blue-skied and sunshine-filled, and it’s a very pleasant time of year to visit Zim.
So, that’s the weather sorted, but is June to November the best time to visit Zimbabwe for the wildlife? Traditionally, this is indeed the top season for wildlife viewing. Animals congregate at the diminishing waterholes, making them easy to see, and the large quantities of antelope are a magnet for predators. In Mana Pools, for example, the herbivores assemble on the Zambezi floodplain, followed by prides of hungry cats, and in Hwange, this is the time of year for those iconic elephant sightings.
One final note on the best time to visit Zimbabwe: global warming seems determined to wreak havoc with our weather patterns and climate, and Africa is no exception. The seasons are no longer as clear-cut as they once were, and you may find spots of rain in June, and the sunshine continuing to December. But none of this will spoil your safari, trust us! We wouldn’t send you if it did…