January: the peak of the wet season; it’s the wettest month of the year.
Zambia weather and climateWe're often asked “When is the best time to go to Zambia?", 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!
However, often a concern about the weather underlies the question of 'the best time to go'.
So below is a broad guide to the climate of Zambia. 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.
The rains in Zambia come mostly in December, January, February and March though the further north you are, the earlier the rains arrive and the later they leave. Eastern areas and higher areas generally receive more rain than western and lowland areas. This is Zambia's 'Emerald Season' – when most camps close and many unsurfaced roads in Zambia become impassable.
By April and May most of the rain has faded away, leaving a landscape that's still green, but starting to dry out. Nighttime temperatures start to drop, especially in higher and more southerly locations.
In June, July and August the nights have become much cooler, but the days are clear and warm. Make sure you bring warm clothes to wrap up if you're out at night, as some nights get very cold! Most of Zambia's small 'walking bushcamps' open at the start of June, when the roads have dried out sufficiently to allow access. This is the start of the 'peak season' for these countries – with often cloudless days and continually increasing game sightings.
Into September and October the temperatures climb: the lower-lying rift valleys – Lower Zambezi, Mana Pools and Luangwa Valley – can get very hot in October. However, you'll see some superb game as the animals concentrate around the limited water sources.
November is variable; it can be hot and dry like October, or it can see the season's first downpours. Often it's a very interesting month as you can see both patterns on successive days.
Weather in other African countriesFor comparison, see similar climate charts and information for our other African destinations:
► Botswana climate – Very similar weather pattern to Zambia, but with a slightly shorter rainy season.
► Congo climate – Completely different weather pattern from Zambia.
► Kenya climate – Slightly different weather pattern from Zambia's, with more than one rainy season.
► Malawi climate – Almost identical weather pattern to Zambia.
► Mozambique climate – Very similar weather pattern to Zambia’s.
► Namibia climate – Much drier than Zambia, but following a similar pattern.
► Rwanda climate – Completely different weather pattern from Zambia.
► Seychelles climate – Completely different weather pattern from Zambia.
► Cape of South Africa climate – Almost completely ‘opposite’ weather pattern to Zambia’s.
► Tanzania climate – Slightly different weather pattern from Zambia.
► Zanzibar climate – Slightly different weather pattern from Zambia.
► Zimbabwe climate – Weather follows a similar pattern to Zambia, but perhaps with a slightly shorter rainy season.