Zambia has a bewildering variety of attractions. Sometimes it can be hard to decide exactly where and when to go, especially as every season offers something different. Some are well known, others more offbeat.
January – April
· The rainy season: hot and wet. Rivers swell, lagoons fill and plains flood. Vegetation runs riot, making animals elusive , but many have their young at this time.
· Birding probably at its best, with many summer migrants around – including iridescent Carmine bee-eaters. March-April is the best time to see the Shoebill in the Bangweulu Swamps, though it can be difficult to get there.
· Kafue, Lower Zambezi and most other national parks are impassable by road.
· South Luangwa’s Kapani and Mfuwe lodges open to use Luangwa’s limited network of all-weather roads. Most others are closed. Boats are the only reliable way to get around. Tafika, in South Luangwa, runs ‘river safaris’ using canoes and inflatables to explore the Luangwa’s backwaters.
· The spectacular Ku-omboka ceremony usually takes place in western Zambia, as the Lozi chief moves with his household to higher ground.
April – June
· The rains fizzle out during April, but waterlogged areas only gradually become accessible. Road access and game viewing can be limited. Canoeing trips are a good way to see the Lower Zambezi national park.
· Most lodges open now, often promoting low season rates.
· The Victoria Falls reaches its peak flow – spectacular but drenching.
· April is great for wild flowers and by May the impala rutting season sees rams bellow and fight for dominance of the herds.
· The wildlife is widely distributed and in top condition, forcing prides of lion to split up and spread out. The vegetation is still high, so serious walking safaris are seldom attempted.
July & August
· Game sightings increase as the vegetation begins to thin and the animals drink at waterholes more.
· The coolest months, and the safari season shifts into full swing as the winterthorn trees flower.
· Leopard sightings are more frequent during this time, since the cats are more active by day – often hunting in the twilight hours of dawn and dusk. Later in the year, when the days are much hotter, they tend only to be up and about after dark. Leopards are widespread across Zambia, with both Kafue and South Luangwa National Parks offering among the best and most reliable sightings anywhere in Africa.
September & October
· Hazy skies usher in the height of the dry season. This is the best time to see game in quantity. Also best for tiger-fishing on the Zambezi.
· Much game stays close to water and some animals lose condition – predators have easier pickings. Lion often come together into large prides.
· Storks and fish eagles gather around the drying ponds to prey on stranded catfish.
November & December
· It’s hot and humid as the summer migrant birds arrive with the first rains. For a few days a million-strong colony of giant fruit-bats forms a spectacle above the skies of Kasanka National Park.
· Most of the main lodges close, though game-viewing in November can remain good. With the sprouting vegetation come the first flowers, like spider-lilies. Temperatures can reach 40°C in the Luangwa or Lower Zambezi Valleys.
· Many young animals are born and huge bullfrogs emerge to feed on the bewildering buzz of insects.
· A great wildebeest migration reaches the Liuwa Plains, in western Zambia.
· Fishing in Lake Tanganyika is at its best from November to March, with record-breaking Goliath tigerfish and Nile perch being caught.