January: gets drier as the month progresses, it’s the start of the ‘short dry season’.
Weather and climateWe're often asked “When is the best time to go to Zanzibar?", and the answer is often complex. It will depend on many things including your interests, exactly where you want to visit and why you're travelling. One person's best time can be another's worst! For a beach holiday, the weather and climate is generally the most important factor:
The best time to visit ZanzibarHere is a broad guide to the climate of Zanzibar. Please remember that this comes from records and our experience, not from a crystal ball. Weather patterns across Africa are becoming increasingly unpredictable, probably due to global warming; we're seeing downpours in the middle of deserts and damaging droughts when rains should be falling.
Just south of the equator, Zanzibar's weather pattern follows that of Tanzania very closely – although always tends to be a little more humid – and occasional rain in the dry season is less uncommon than in the heart of the mainland Tanzania.
Generally the main rainy season, or the 'long rains', last during March, April and May. Afternoon tropical downpours are the norm – which can be heavy on any of the islands. The humidity is high and daily temperatures reach the low-mid 30°s.
The long dry season, when rainfall is fairly unusual, lasts throughout June, July, August, September and October. Temperatures vary hugely with altitude and location, but it's usually a fine, clear sky and sunny weather – it's a great time to visit Zanzibar. During November and December there's another rainy season: the 'short rains'. These are much lighter than the main rains and less reliable.
If it has rained during the short rains, then it normally dries up for a few months, January and February, which is Tanzania's 'short dry season', before starting to rain again in earnest in March.
Combining the wildebeest migration with a trip to ZanzibarMany travellers will combine time on Zanzibar's beaches with a visit to northern Tanzania, for the Serengeti wildebeest migration. This breathtaking spectacle can be seen at any time of year – provided you know where to look! Between one and two million wildebeest, escorted by zebra and gazelle, criss-cross the Serengeti in search of fresh grasslands and water. Where the animals migrate is predictable to some extent, depending on the rainfall. Ask us for details about the migration, and about when and where to go to get best out of your trip, or click on the following link:
► Moving month-by-month map of the Serengeti's wildebeest migration
It's very east to combine these two highlights of Tanzania; flight to Zanzibar leave airstrips in the Serengeti every day (usually before noon) – and arrive in Zanzibar well before dusk.
Weather in other African countriesFor comparison, see similar climate charts and information for our other African destinations:
► Botswana climate – Slightly different weather pattern from Zanzibar, with shorter rains.
► Malawi climate – Slightly different weather pattern from Zanzibar with a shorter rainy season.
► Mozambique climate – Slightly different weather pattern from Zanzibar’s.
► Namibia climate – Much less rain than Zanzibar, with a slightly similar pattern.
► Rwanda climate – Slightly different weather pattern from Zanzibar.
► Seychelles climate – Different weather pattern from Zanzibar’s weather.
► Cape of South Africa climate – Completely different weather pattern from Zanzibar’s.
► Tanzania climate – Mainland Tanzania has similar weather patterns to that experienced by Zanzibar.
► Zambia climate –Different weather pattern from Zanzibar.
► Zimbabwe climate – Weather follows a different pattern to Zanzibar, with a shorter rainy season.