When is the Best Time to Visit Zimbabwe?
The best time to visit Zimbabwe is the dry season between July and October. The low rainfall at this time of year means vegetation is sparse and wildlife congregates at the limited water sources. These conditions are perfect for incredible safaris and wildlife viewing across Mana Pools, Hwange and Malilangwe.
The best time to visit Zimbabwe to experience the Victoria Falls in all their glory is between April and June. The summer rains swell the Zambezi River, causing dramatic volumes of water to cascade over the Falls. However, it’s possible to enjoy many activities such as helicopter rides, guided walks and sunset cruises all through the year.
Zimbabwe Weather Guide
In terms of safari, Zimbabwe is generally split into the dry and rainy season. However, with Victoria Falls and the shoulder seasons to consider too – there’s plenty of highlights, many affected by the climate, to experience throughout the year.
January is part of the rainy season where temperatures are warm and the country is green and lush. There’s not that many visitors so January can be a good month to head out on safari away from crowds, so long as you’re prepared for some wet conditions.
February is another wet month in Zimbabwe and like the other rainy months, it can feel hot in the midday heat. The rainy season months all tend to see heavy rainfall in the afternoons and the rest of the day is clear and sunny.
The rains are starting to dry up a little in March, although this is still considered a rainy season month. The rains have swelled the Zambezi River and Victoria Falls are ramping up to become spectacular as the water levels rise.
April usually marks the end of the rainy season. The temperatures are still warm and the land is green and lush. This is a wonderful time to visit Victoria Falls as the waterfalls are at their most spectacular after the summer rains. Crashing waters cause mist and spray meaning you have the best chances of seeing rainbows at this time of year.
May is one of the best months to witness Victoria Falls and combine this with good safari conditions too. Mana Pools will close for the rainy season to protect the land and so now, with this massive park open to explore it’s a great time to visit before the crowds arrive.
By June the winter is underway and nightimes and early mornings will feel chilly. The weather is now dry and the man-made watering holes in Hwange start pumping water to make sure the massive elephant herds have enough to drink. June is still just outside the peak busy season so it’s a great time to visit to go on safari.
Another wonderful month for safari in Zimbabwe. Dry conditions are great for Rhino tracking on foot in Matobo Hills and massive herds of elephants can be found at the limited water-sources in Hwange National Park.
Yet more great wildlife viewing conditions with hot daytime temperatures and cool nights. August is one of the peak months though so it's best to opt for camps in private reserves and concessions if you want to avoid the crowds. This is a great month to go white water rafting on the Zambezi as the water levels are low, exposing the rocks and rapids.
Very similar to August in terms of conditions although the temperatures are still climbing. September is also slightly less popular in terms of visitors so the national parks can feel quieter. September does mark an important event for Hwange National Park; the annual game count. The Hwange rangers spend time at the waterholes and count the number of animals passing through the park.
In terms of game viewing, October is a great month. It’s extremely dry now so expect massive concentrations of wildlife at the limited water sources. However, October is also one of the hottest months with temperatures sometimes climbing into the 40°Cs. Safari activities are now very much limited to the early mornings and evenings as it's simply too hot to move around in the midday heat and the wildlife hides in any shade it can find.
The rainy season should typically start in November coming as a tremendously welcome relief for wildlife and the parched land. However, November can be hard to predict. Sometimes the rains arrive late, if this happens November can be unbearably hot and dry. If the rain arrives in earnest, this can be a very wet month. November marks the start of the bird watching season, with hundreds of different resident and migratory bird species to spot.
December falls into the rainy season which means it's great for birdwatching and although safari is possible, wildlife can be tricky to spot and some tracks will become waterlogged, making it difficult to move around.
Month-by-month climate guide for Zimbabwe
So, where should you go in Zimbabwe, and when? There are many safari adventures to be had and there’s also the epic Victoria Falls, fed by the Zambezi river, for a range of exciting activities. Quite often, when hoping to experience the natural world, seasonality is something to bear in mind when choosing the best time to visit.
To help you decide we’ve outlined a month by month climate guide, focused on the best regions each month and what you can do there.
Zimbabwe from November to February
November to February will see plenty of rainfall. Occasionally the rains arrive late and the start of November can be very hot and dry, giving way to huge downpours later in the month.
These months are great for birdwatching and safaris away from the crowds. It’s worth noting though that safaris can be tough at this time; wildlife can be tricky to spot and some tracks will become waterlogged, making it difficult to move around. Temperatures stay around the mid to late 20°C’s (68°F), feeling warm.
Zimbabwe in March
The conditions are starting to dry up in March. The rains have swelled the Zambezi River and Victoria Falls is ramping up to become spectacular as the water levels rise. Expect plenty of sunshine and temperatures around 25°C.
Zimbabwe in April and May
May is one of the best months to combine Victoria Falls at their most dramatic, and experience good safari conditions too. Typically the rain starts to cease in May, although some showers are still possible, and temperatures are not too hot at 23°C (73°F).
Zimbabwe in June
By June, winter is underway and nightimes and early mornings will feel very chilly. The weather is now dry and the man-made watering holes in Hwange National Park must now be pumped full of water to make sure the massive elephant herds have enough to drink. June is still just outside the peak busy season so it’s a great time to visit to go on safari.
Zimbabwe in July
July is a wonderful month for safari in Zimbabwe. Dry conditions are great for safari activities. July is truly a winter month with temperatures at around 21°C (70°F). Early morning game drives will feel very chilly and you should pack warm layers if you’re travelling in these winter months.
Zimbabwe in August
Yet more great wildlife viewing conditions with hot, clear, sunny days and cool nights. It’s one of the peak seasons though so it’s best to opt for camps in private reserves and concessions, away from the crowds in the national parks.
Zimbabwe in September
Very similar to August in terms of conditions although the temperatures are still climbing. September is also slightly less popular in terms of visitors so things start to feel quieter in the national parks.
Zimbabwe in October
In terms of game viewing, October is a great month. It’s extremely dry now so expect massive concentrations of wildlife at the limited water sources. However, October is also one of the hottest months with temperatures climbing into the 40°Cs.
What is the hottest season in Zimbabwe?
The hottest season in Zimbabwe runs from September to December. October is typically the hottest month in Zimbabwe with temperatures sometimes climbing into the 40°Cs (104°F). In September and October, before the rains arrive, wildlife viewing can be excellent around the limited water sources in the national parks and reserves.
Safari activities at this time are limited to the early mornings and evenings, when temperatures are cooler. In these very hot months t’s simply too uncomfortable to move around in the midday heat and the wildlife hides in any shade it can find.
When is the rainy season in Zimbabwe?
November to March is the rainy season in Zimbabwe. This period is also summer in Zimbabwe so expect warm temperatures staying around the mid to high 20°C’s (68°F). The rains tend to fall in the afternoon, sometimes with intense thunderstorms and the rest of the day can still see plenty of sunshine.
The rainy season brings lush green vegetation to the landscapes which means it can be harder to spot game such as lions, wild dogs, buffaloes and elephants. Safari jeeps can struggle on the waterlogged ground and some national parks will close to protect the land for the wet season. Less people travel at this time of year so exclusive safaris away from the crowds are possible and it’s also a great season for bird watching.
Where to Stay in Zimbabwe
Matetsi Victoria FallsSet within the pristine Matetsi Private Game Reserve along an exclusive 15km (9 mile) stretch of the Zambezi River a little upstream from Mosi-oa-Tunya, Matetsi Victoria Falls perfectly combines fine safari with easy access to the thrills and adventure of Victoria Falls. Making this property extra special is its commitment to having a positive impact on the wildlife and environment. Water is served in reusable glass bottles, and Matetsi has greatly contributed to the fight against poaching by installing clear-road networks. The lodge comprises of two intimate camps of just nine suites each, including two family suites. All the suites are modern yet of the vernacular, with clean lines softened by local craft pieces and repurposed materials. En-suite bathrooms boast indoor and outdoor showers as well as a deep bath which looks out over the Zambezi. A private veranda offers a refreshing plunge pool and a peaceful sitting area that overlooks the river. At the heart of each camp is a communal area with a variety of dining spaces, an interactive kitchen, convivial bar area and an al fresco area that encircles a blazing fire bowl, all with unifying theme of a wood and copper, the ‘red gold’ of the country’s historical mining industry. There’s also a large central pool, massage sala, fitness centre and wine cellar. For the utmost privacy, Matetsi River House is an exclusive use villa with four bedrooms, its own kitchen, dining areas, pool and a complement of staff, including a dedicated guide, private vehicle, chef and butler, ensuring a tailor-made safari unlike any other. The 50,000ha (124,000 acre) private reserve is home to large herds of elephant and buffalo as well as an assortment of plains game and predators including kudu, sable and roan antelope, hippo, lion, leopard, African wild dog, spotted hyena, and 366 bird species. Explore the concession on expertly guided game drives, horseback safaris and bush walks, or head out onto the water on canoeing excursions, fishing trips and sunset river cruises. You can also discover Victoria Falls and the famous adventure activities that surround it such as white water rafting, bungee jumping, scenic flights and zip lining.
Wilderness Linkwasha CampWilderness Linkwasha Camp lies in the south-eastern corner of the legendary Hwange National Park, on a private concession close to the famed Ngamo Plains, offering excellent year-round game viewing that peaks during the summer months. Though Hwange is Zimbabwe’s most popular national park, Linkwasha’s private concessions means that guests will never see another game vehicle except those from the camp. A completely new camp, built from the ground up on the footprint of the old Linkwasha, the fresh, open and airy design is complemented by an eclectic mix of contemporary interiors with the original spirit and essence of safari. Eight en-suite luxury tents and one family tent overlook the waterhole, with the communal areas, including a pool area and a winter lounge complete with library, enjoying the same view. If you want to get even closer to nature, spend a night on Wilderness Linkwasha’s Star Bed, located on a raised platform a short drive from the main camp with nothing but a mosquito net between you and the wild. Overlooking Scott’s Pan, a favourite drinking spot for game, you can be assured of incredible sightings and a guide will be set up a short distance away should you need any assistance during the night. Wildlife frequently encountered in this area includes lion, large herds of elephant, buffalo, leopard, spotted hyena, giraffe, sable, blue wildebeest, impala, waterbuck and reedbuck. In summer, wildebeest, zebra and eland are found in abundance on the open plains, while in winter elephant congregate in enormous numbers around the waterholes. Typically for Zimbabwe, birdlife in the area is prolific with over 400 species recorded. Aside from day and evening game drives, the bush can be explored on foot and respectful visits to a local village can also be organised.
Wilderness ChikwenyaLocated in an exclusive, private wilderness area on Mana Pools’ eastern boundary, surrounded by wildlife-rich woodlands, floodplains, pans, islands and rivers, sits Wilderness Chikwenya. A tented camp, sustainably constructed that delivers a high level of luxury and comfort through its stunning design, facilities and incredible attention to detail. Chandeliers are created with cotton and wood or strung with stones, large four-poster beds are swathed in white fabric (also acting as mosquito protection) and old-style lanterns light up the alfresco dining areas come evening. The seven-tented suites (including two family units) are surrounded by a dense forest of albida and Natal mahogany trees, which provide shade in the heat of the day. The tents stand on low decks with wooden walkways that link them to the raised main area. The lounge, dining and bar areas boast beautiful views and with comfortable furniture including large sofas, as well as dining chairs and tables, these areas are perfect for relaxation. A refreshing swimming pool, deck and fireplace complete the camp’s list of luxurious spaces guests can enjoy. The camp includes daily wildlife viewing activities including game drives, nature walks, seasonal boating, canoeing and river cruises. Huge amounts of elephants are known to roam close to camp along with high concentrations of buffalos, while predators such as lions, wild dogs, leopard, and cheetah are often sighted. Greater kudu, Burchell’s zebra, impala, warthog, and common waterbuck can be seen on the surrounding plains and the grunting of hippo can be heard all day.
Best Things to Do in Zimbabwe by Season
Go on walking safaris
The best time to visit Zimbabwe to go on walking safaris is between July and August. These are the driest months so there is very little vegetation, making it perfect for tracking animals on foot through Hwange and Mana Pools National Parks.
Being able to see the game clearly, over long distances, means the expert guides are able to plot the best walking routes. This results in some potentially close encounters with large game such as elephants during this time of year.
Combine Victoria Falls and a safari
The best time to visit Zimbabwe to combine Victoria Falls and a safari is May and June. During these months the Falls are spectacular due to the increased water levels on the Zambezi river and conditions on safari are dry and clear.
The falls themselves are at their most spectacular from April, however for the perfect safari combination it’s best to wait until May for the best chance of good conditions in the national parks and reserves. June it’s perfect for excellent wildlife viewing; dry land, high densities of wildlife at watering holes and clear, sunny days.
Go white water rafting
The best time to visit Zimbabwe for white water rafting is August until December. The water levels are at their lowest at this time so rocks and rapids become exposed, making for some seriously exciting rafting. The months of August to October also coincide with some great safari conditions too.
Be sure to stay at Matetsi for a luxurious place to unwind after your excitement on the river. Enjoy a serene hideaway on the riverbank where secluded lodges with private plunge pools are the perfect place to relax.
Go on rhino tracking adventures
The best time to visit Zimbabwe for Rhino tracking in Matobo Hills is July, when the vegetation is sparse and rangers spot rhinos easily, taking you close to the mighty creatures. when conditions are very dry. Arguably Zimbabwe’s most historically interesting park, it lends itself to walking safaris due to its lack of lions or elephants.
The best time to visit Zimbabwe for birdwatching is from October to March. There’s over 650 different resident and migratory bird species to spot from the majestic goliath herons to the tiny, colourful Shelley's sunbird. This is also the rainy season so it's a great time to travel to skip the crowds.
Some of the key places to go bird watching are Hwange National Park in the south where the conditions are often the driest, even in the wet season. Around Victoria Falls National Park there are small but intense areas of rainforest which are a haven for birdlife.
See elephant herds in Hwange National Park
The best time to visit Zimbabwe to see huge elephant herds in Hwange National Park is in October. The park is home to over 20,000 elephants, Africa’s largest population, with huge numbers congregating at the very limited watercourses in the driest month of October.
It’s not just elephants here; large prides of lions and buffalo are common here and even the allusive leopards make a regular appearance in Hwange. Mana Pools National Game Park can also yield excellent elephant sightings in October. Along with large herds of elephants you can expect to see hippos, Nile crocodiles and predators such as lions, leopards, cheetahs and spotted hyenas.
What is the best time to visit Botswana and Zimbabwe?
The best time to visit Botswana and Zimbabwe for an ultimate safari experience is between May to September. The dry winter season provides optimum wildlife viewing conditions across the Okavango Delta, Linyanti, Mana Pools and Hwange. Victoria Falls are particularly impressive in May and June and combine wonderfully with a safari adventure.