A Monthly Guide

A Month by Month Guide to Zimbabwe

Historically regarded as one of Africa’s premier wildlife destinations, Zimbabwe suffered long periods of neglect and international sanctions due to its turbulent political period of the 1990s and 2000s.

Whilst many of its lodges and infrastructure fell into decline, what never changed were the abundance of wildlife and quality of its guides, widely accepted as the best that Africa has to offer. Couple this with some of the continent’s most dramatic and alluring landscapes and you had a phoenix waiting to arise from the plains. A change in perception of the country through the 2010s led to huge amounts of investment into lodges, hotels, airstrips and flight companies, which have helped to reestablish Zimbabwe as one of the heavyweights of the African safari scene.

Whilst it may not command the column inches as its neighbours, it remains an outstanding destination to spend some time and one that is well worth the trip. Much like its neighbour Zambia, it is a seasonal destination, but with careful planning you can enjoy a remarkable safari experience no matter when you choose to travel.


The turn of the year is the peak of Zimbabwe’s summer, with high temperatures and a lot of rain.

In some of the more remote areas, most notably the Mana Pools National Park and Matusadona National Park on the shores of Lake Kariba, lodges are closed owing to issues with access. A tiny number of lodges in Mana Pools are open, so those well versed in summer safaris in Southern Africa can venture here, but it isn’t for the faint of heart.

Further south a number of camps in the Hwange National Park remain open for guests to enjoy their “Emerald” season where the grasses are lush and green and plains game are giving birth to their young. This means very strong predator sightings, attracted by the ready availability of prey, whilst it is also a good time for spotting larger herbivores feeding from the lush grasses. Water levels at Victoria Falls are at their lowest, but unlike on the Zambian side there is some flow over the Zimbabwean side and walking tours are an exhilarating experience. Away from Vic Falls it is an outstanding time of year to be here from a value point of view.

Very much a continuation of January, the weather throughout February is hot and wet, with the bulk of the visitors to Zimbabwe congregating in the more western areas of the Hwange National Park and Victoria Falls.

Whilst it continues to be very much an off season for the former, it is very rewarding, especially for experienced safari hands who want to enjoy a safari without the crowds. These days Vic Falls is busy all year-round, but with improved infrastructure and plenty more hotels, it never feels overly crowded and there is plenty to do here, including some very interesting food and art tours.

For those looking to really get a unique experience the Gonarezhou National Park in the south-east of the country remains open throughout the year and offers up close and personal encounters with predators, megafauna and birdlife amongst some of the most extraordinary landscapes Zimbabwe has to offer.

There is a noticeable easing of the rains as March progresses, although temperatures remain high across the country.

As with February, the focus remains on safaris in Hwange where elephants start to be seen in stronger numbers, and Victoria Falls where the water levels are rapidly approaching their peak and a huge plume of spray rises many hundreds of metres above the gorge. Again, the Gonarezhou National Park boasts great game viewing and seeing the incredible Chilojo Cliffs as the sun sets is a sight to behold.

Those who do venture up to the Mana Pools National Park are thrilled to see some remarkable wildlife sightings, most notably elephant climbing on their hind legs to feed from the groves of trees that lead to the Zambezi River.

There is a noticeable buzz in the air across the country as more and more lodges prepare to open for the forthcoming safari season.

As April rolls around there is a definite feeling of change in the air across Zimbabwe as temperatures, especially night time ones, start to drop and the rains ease off further.

Some of the more luxurious camps in Mana Pools that have been closed over the summer start to open up in April and the game viewing here, especially predator sightings, remains excellent. It is also the time when activities on the Zambezi River, as well as walking safaris, become a viable option as well.

Further to the south-west, the shoreline of Lake Kariba starts to attract more and more wildlife as the rains recede, whilst sundowner boat trips on to the lake remain one of the most compelling parts of any trip to Zimbabwe. Hwange also starts to come into its own as a destination, with lodges in the outer concessions, especially well known for the populations of roan and sable antelope, as well as cheetah, open for the season and offer some truly unique wildlife viewing opportunities.

Both day and night time temperatures start to drop, as does the volume of rainfall, which improves the wildlife viewing experience across the country as animals stay out in the open much longer and the previously abundant sources of surface water start to diminish.

Mana Pools is outstanding in May, with packs of wild dog seen hunting on the floodplains of the river, elephant found feeding in the forest and the oft elusive leopard spotted making their stately way through the park after dark. Likewise, Hwange continues to offer an amazing array of wildlife encounters but without the crowds of peak season, so it is perfect for taking advantage of the lower prices enjoyed at this time of year.

Close by, the Matobos National Park becomes a viable option once more, with the cool and dry conditions that May brings around, ideal for exploring on foot and tracking rhino, as well as going to see the many bushman rock art sites for which the park is renowned. Victoria Falls remains ever popular and although water levels are starting to drop, they remain incredibly impressive with the spray seen from many miles around.

Temperatures continue to drop and rainfall ceases almost completely, heralding the start of the safari season proper across the country.

Guests exploring Mana Pools can enjoy some outstanding walking safaris and trips on the river, whilst game drives continue to offer amazing predator sightings. The shores of Lake Kariba continue to attract all manner of wildlife and the dry days are perfect for heading out with the anti-poaching teams that patrol the park to learn more about their work.

For those looking to enjoy something a little different it is also a great time to take a houseboat trip on the lake – perfect for groups of families and friends.

The game viewing in Hwange is approaching its best with large elephant herds found at the waterholes across the park and rhino sightings in Matobos remain outstanding. Victoria Falls water levels continue to drop, showing visitors on walking tours the sheer scale and majesty of one of the Natural Wonders of the World.

Safari season is now in full swing, with visitor numbers and prices at their highest, whilst temperatures drop to their lowest as we are in the middle of winter and rainfall is almost non-existent. The latter allows visitors to enjoy a huge range of activities across all parks, with it being prime time for walking safaris which allow for some truly amazing wildlife interactions.

Visitors who make the journey down to the Gonarezhou National Park in the south-east of the country are afforded one of the most spectacular safari experiences Africa has to offer, with elephant, lion, cheetah, wild dog and hyena amongst the highlight sightings enjoyed here. Added to this the chance to spend a night or two camping under the stars makes a trip down here a worthy addition to any Zimbabwe itinerary.

Hwange and the Matobos continue to work superbly well as a combination and it is possible to drive between them so it makes for a very cost-effective safari in what is an expensive time of year to be in Africa.

As with July, this is the coolest and driest time of year so is perfect for safaris in all of Zimbabwe’s National Parks.

Visitors looking to enjoy some experiences away from safari can consider heading to the Eastern Highlands, a half-day drive from Harare and a stunning area with walking, hiking, biking, golf, fishing and many more – very different to the rest of the country but a lovely spot to explore.

The dry weather means travelling through the centre of the country is also a lot more feasible, so visits to the ancient ruins at Great Zimbabwe are a great way to spend a day and allow for an insight into the history of this mythical land.

As water levels continue to fall at Victoria Falls there are so many activities to enjoy, with visitors looking for the ultimate thrill – the chance to swim in The Devil’s Pool on the very edge of the precipice – able to cross to the Zambian side to enjoy this activity.

Game viewing at the two principal National Parks – Hwange and Mana Pools – is at its very best, with huge herds of elephant found in both, plenty of predators and ever-alert antelope feeding and drinking from the waterholes.

Lake Kariba is a great spot for a few days of rest and relaxation at this time as well, with warm days best rounded-off with sundowner drinks on the lake shore.

The final month of Zimbabwe’s peak safari season, September remains ever-popular with visitors from around the world and offers incredible game viewing experiences.

From elephant feeding on their hind legs in the Mana Pools National Park to cheetah surveying the plains from atop a termite mound in Hwange, it is a great time for photographers to capture some of Zimbabwe’s most iconic images.

With water levels continuing to drop at Victoria Falls it is a superb time to enjoy the full range of adrenaline activities on offer there, including white water rafting, bungee jumps and gorge swings.

Visitors looking for a more genteel experience of The Falls can opt for a canoe trip down the river followed by the chance to cook your own dinner over an open fire before returning to your lodge – a very different but hugely enjoyable evening beside the Zambezi.

The clear days are perfect for exploring the Matobos and for climbing to the “View of the World” – the burial place of Cecil Rhodes.

Gonarezhou is a wonderful spot to be in September with walking safaris, trips to the Chilojo Cliffs and overnight fly camping still a huge part of the experience here.

As with much of southern Africa, change is in the air come October, with a notable rise in daytime temperatures and rain starting to become more of a feature, especially as the month goes on. The game viewing remains superb, especially predator sightings, although it should be noted that as the rains become more pronounced the larger elephant herds disperse as surface water becomes more abundant.

With water levels really down in the Zambezi River visitors are able to enjoy boat trips over the rapids that are found above The Falls and have sundowner drinks on a sandbar in the middle of the river – a truly wonderful experience.

For many camps this is their last full month of being open before closing for the summer, especially those in the more remote parts of the Hwange and Mana Pools National Parks.

It remains a great time of year to be at Lake Kariba with long sunny days perfect for relaxing on the deck of your lodge and taking in the spectacular views out across the lake.

With many camps starting to wind down their operations there are fewer choices of where to stay, but with prices moving to low season levels, it is a superb value time of year to be on safari.

This is especially true in Hwange which continues to offer superb game viewing, with the chances of seeing cheetah, lion, leopard, wild dog, roan and sable in strong numbers still very high.

The Matobos remains a very viable combination at this time of year and despite the increase in rainfall it is a great place for rhino tracking.

Equally, Victoria Falls is still a thrilling destination to visit at this time of year and is generally at its quietest in November so something worth bearing in mind.

The handful of camps that remain open in Mana Pools are scaling back their activities owing to the rain, but game drives remain central to the experience and still take guests to some thrilling wildlife sightings in both the forested areas and on the floodplains of the mighty Zambezi River.

With summer in full swing Zimbabwe is at its hottest and wettest in December but visitors can still expect to enjoy very good wildlife viewing from the camps that remain open.

Hwange and Matobos are still a viable combination and it is easy to add time at Victoria Falls to the start and end of such a trip. Mana Pools has a tiny handful of camps open and although safaris here can be hard going, the quality of the guides and sheer volume of wildlife in the park means there will always be ample rewards for your hard work. Equally, Gonarezhou has a couple of camps open and visitors will always enjoy trips down here such is the uniqueness of the landscapes.

Naturally, the Christmas and New Year period is a popular time of year to be on safari and at Vic Falls no matter what the weather, so if you are planning on being away in Zimbabwe over this time it is worth getting your bookings in place well in advance, especially with the limited number of camps that are open in mind.

As you can see, Zimbabwe is very much a seasonal safari destination, albeit not quite as limited as neighbouring Zambia in terms of camp closures in the summer season.

Safaris do remain possible throughout the year, although it is worth considering how hot and wet the summer season can be and visits here are not for the faint hearted. Conversely, the dry winter months between June and October offer some of the very best safaris that Africa has to offer, with incredible wildlife viewing to be enjoyed in some of the most remarkable landscapes anywhere on the continent.

Speak to our team of Africa Travel Designers today and they will be able to put together the ultimate Zimbabwe adventure for you.

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