Here’s our quick guide to what to expect of Zimbabwe’s weather throughout the year, giving you your best chance of seeing of animals and birds, knowledge of the temperature highs and lows, plus when best to visit the majestic Victoria Falls to witness her full beauty and formidable power.
January – March
· The peak rainy season.
· Most showers occur in the afternoon for about one hour. Mornings tend to have clear blue skies until midday when stunning cloud formations build up to a crescendo of thunder and spectacular lightning displays.
· Vegetation is lush and green, but also at its thickest. Waterholes are full and rivers flowing.
· Game viewing is less productive than in other months.
· The best opportunities to view wildlife at this time of year are at the various safari camps in Matusadona National Park, where large numbers of animals come to feed off the lush green grass on the shores of Lake Kariba.
· This is the best time of year for birdwatching – over 600 migrant and resident species are present.
· Possibly the premier time of year to view Victoria Falls; not too much spray, yet abundant spilling water to cover the mile wide chasm, which is host to the world’s widest curtain of falling water.
April & May
· The “champagne” months!
· The skies are clear and blue, temperature neither too hot nor too cold. Little humidity.
· The bush is beginning to dry out and game viewing is on the increase. Most migrant birds have departed.
· Mana Pools National Park reopens, offering access to Chikwenya and Rukomechi camps. Canoe trips along the game-rich shores of the Zambezi River get into full swing.
· Most camps and hotels offer low season rates at this time of year, making all destinations affordable.
June – August
· The winter months.
· In parks like Hwange, temperatures can drop to -10oC at night, necessitating warm clothing for early morning and evening game drives.
· As it warms up towards midday, so the animals become thirsty and make their way to the waterholes. A good time to be out game viewing!
· Victoria Falls is in peak flow, offering the “high water” run for white water rafters.
· Masses of spray makes photography of the Victoria Falls difficult. Overwhelming water ensures this is an unforgettable sight, especially from the air by helicopter.
· August announces the arrival of spring!
· Zimbabwe’s signature trees, the msasas, are in full flush, showing off their extravagant deep red, orange and maroon leaves. Migrant birds begin to return. Sausage trees drop their large, trumpet-shaped, red flowers from their hanging candelabras and allow the chipalata-like sausages to grow into 5kg of vegetable salami, swinging leisurely from their long stalks in the strong August winds.
· It is very difficult to find space at the camps and lodges from now on!
September & October
· The driest months.
· The bush has thinned out making visibility good. Animal concentrations are high at what available water there is.
· All of Zimbabwe’s “crown jewels” – Hwange, Matusadona, Matobo and Mana Pools national parks-are at their best and offer some of the finest game viewing to be found anywhere in Africa.
· In Hwange it is not uncommon to see over 300 elephant at a waterhole in an afternoon.Up to 10 different species of mammal can be seen at the waterholes at one time.
· Carmine bee-eaters, in colonies of up to 2,000 birds, return to excavate their holes into the banks of the Zambezi.
· Matobo offers sightings of 20 Black and White rhino.
· Matusadona’s shoreline is thick with buffalo, impala, elephant and waterbuck. Lion are seen daily!
November & December
· Months of contrast!
· The build-up to the rains brings the hottest weather.
· Temperatures can exceed 40oC in what shade there is!
· With the onset of the rains comes the arrival of the impala and wildebeest young. This is a fascinating time-within days the parched earth comes alive with a rich green carpet of promising grass. Crinum lilies and Fireball flowers bloom overnight. Frogs and toads sing out their orchestra to all living things who are rejoicing in the life-giving rain. Termite kingdoms send out thousands of kings and queens whose lace-like wings will carry them to pioneer new colonies.
· All the camps in Mana Pools close in December while the rest of Zimbabwe’s camps, lodges and hotels remain busy.