When is safari season? In Zimbabwe, it’s longer than you might think, and each season has its advantages. Nestled in the heart of Southern Africa, Zimbabwe is a conservation travel gem teeming with diverse wildlife and breathtaking landscapes. From the shores of the Zambezi River and its majestic Victoria Falls, to the world’s largest manmade lake, Lake Kariba, and the vast plains of Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe offers unique wildlife experiences in every season throughout the year.

The array of wildlife across the country is staggering: Zimbabwe is home to 350 species of mammals, more than 650 birds, and over 100 fish species. The country supports the world’s second-largest population of elephants, topped only by neighboring Botswana. It’s the species with the largest number of animals in Zimbabwe, and most of the country’s elephants are in and around Hwange National Park.

safari truck elephant herd zimbabwe

© Court Whelan

Visitors hoping to spot the Big Five (elephant, lion, leopard, buffalo, rhinoceros) may be in luck across Zimbabwe, and may also encounter zebras, giraffes, cheetahs, hyenas and a variety of antelope. Bird watchers in Zimbabwe will be delighted by the over 650 bird species recorded.

Zimbabwe is home to a rich variety of flora and fauna, including nearly 6,400 native or naturalized plant species, of which over 230 plant species are endemic or near-endemic.

So when should you visit?  Zimbabwe is a year-round conservation travel and African safari destination. Nat Hab offers trips that visit Zimbabwe from March to December.

Zimbabwe’s Dry and Rainy Seasons

The Zimbabwe Meteorological Services Department divides the year into four seasons: the hot, rainy season generally lasts from late October or early November to March with a brief dry period at the end of December and beginning of January. It is followed by a post-rainy season from March to May. Winter is the dry season, from May to November, which includes both a cool season from May to September and a hot season from September to November.

Each season has its own unique appeal. Here’s what to expect on a Zimbabwe safari:

November through March in Zimbabwe

During the wet season from November through March, rains usually fall in the afternoon. The temperatures are between 64°F in the morning and 90°F in the afternoon. Parks in the central highveld plateau will be colder; parks at lower altitude will be considerably warmer.

Monsoon winds coming off the Indian Ocean bring high-intensity rains to the country, particularly in the exposed eastern region.

herd of elephants crossing river in zimbabwe rainy monsoon season

In Hwange National Park, the plant life will be greener as the season progresses, and there’s a good chance you’ll see newborns finding their feet in the wild. The green season is also the best time for birdwatching, as migratory birds flock in massive numbers to the park.

Further north, Matusadona National Park, bordered by the Sanyati and Ume rivers, features 540 square miles of untouched terrain home to elephant, Cape buffalo, impala, waterbuck and side-striped jackal. Two prides of lions inhabit the park; they are adept hunters, even killing crocodiles on occasion.

Frequent sightings of Egyptian goose, marabou stork, saddle-billed stork, Goliath heron, African skimmer and the coveted African fish eagle. Some of the park’s wildlife may be descendants of the more than 6,000 animals rescued during Operation Noah following the completion of Lake Kariba’s dam in 1959. As the water level rose, animals struggled to survive on ground that was gradually becoming submerged. The ranger team moved large mammals, big cats, and impala herds to safety into Matusadona, transporting many on wooden rafts.

During the rainy season in both Matusadona National Park and Hwange National Park, you may encounter a variety of newborn and young animals. Migratory birds have arrived, so birding is at its best. Some roads become difficult to navigate and rivers may flood. It can be hot and humid.

Wildlife may be hidden in thick vegetation, but many species of antelope will be giving birth and migrating birds will be returning from the Northern Hemisphere, flocking in massive numbers to the parks. In fact, if you are an avid birder, the wet season from November up to April may be the best time to visit Zimbabwe. That’s when the country is home to over 650 bird species, including migratory and near-endemic ones.

sunset over Lake Kariba with a silhouette of a Grey Heron and Egyptian Geese in flight. Matusadona NationalPark, Zimbabwe

A gray heron and Egyptian geese in flight, Lake Kariba, Matusadona National Park, Zimbabwe

You can expect to see a variety of birds in different habitats, such as the rare Greater painted-snipe in the wetlands, the colorful Southern carmine bee-eater in the woodlands, the elegant African skimmer on the rivers, the striking Livingstone’s turaco in the forests, the noisy Black coucal in the grasslands, the fiery Orange-breasted waxbill in the thickets, the cryptic Striped flufftail in the marshes, the rock-dwelling Boulder chat in the mountains and the regal Secretarybird on the plains.

At the height of the rainy season, Victoria Falls is building to peak flow, with massive volumes of water cascading into the gorge. The surrounding jungle is lush, green, and dotted with spectacular bursts of color as the rainforest flowers bloom. Nat Hab’s new green season itinerary, Botswana: Kalahari, the Delta & Beyond, explores Victoria Falls on a guided walking tour from December through April.

While some roads may become inaccessible due to the rains, this season offers its own unique experiences. Summer is a quieter time for safaris in Zimbabwe, offering a more peaceful experience for those who prefer to avoid crowds. If rain, humidity, and mud do not deter you, from November through March can be an uncrowded time to see Zimbabwe.

March to May in Zimbabwe

The post-rainy season from March to May is a transitional period in Zimbabwe. This is the end of summer. Vegetation is lush and animals move about more. Temperatures are relatively cool, typically around 50°F in the morning and 82°F in the afternoon. The nighttime temperatures start to drop. By May, the rain is almost gone.

victoria falls zimbabwe

April and May mark the end of the summer rainy season, and see Victoria Falls, already the largest sheet of falling water on Earth, in full flood, offering a dramatic spectacle. The Zambezi River, which feeds the falls, becomes a hub of activity with various water sports such as white-water rafting and riverboarding.


In addition, March to May is a good time to visit Matobo National Park, known for its population of white and black rhinoceroses. The park’s unique landscape of granite kopjes and wooded valleys also makes it a hiker’s paradise.

May to September in Zimbabwe

This time of year, a safari in Zimbabwe is dry and cool, making it an ideal time for wildlife viewing. Animals congregate around water sources, making them easier to spot. National parks like Mana Pools become hotspots for wildlife activity. Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Mana Pools is known for its large populations of elephants, buffaloes, and aquatic wildlife.

Grey heron (ardea cinerca) fishing from the back of a hippopotamus in a lake with back lit in Mana Pools National Park in Zimbabwe

Grey heron fishing from the back of a hippopotamus in Mana Pools

Winter also marks the hunting season for predators like lions and cheetahs, providing thrilling sightings for wildlife enthusiasts.

From around May to July, it’s dry, calm, and slightly cooler. Tiger fishing is good throughout the year on Lake Kariba, but these months offer a more comfortable climate for those who prefer milder temperatures.

During the dry season, there is virtually no rainfall and low humidity. Wildlife will concentrate around waterholes and rivers when other water sources dry up. Morning game drives in open vehicles may be cold. The average morning temperature is 43°F. Afternoons will be more pleasant with temperatures around 77°F. Parks at lower altitudes will be warmer.

At Victoria Falls, the Zambezi River continues a strong, steady flow despite the advent of the dry season. In July and August, the absence of rain makes the Mopane leaves take on their distinct winter hue of burnt orange.

In Matusadona National Park, animals are easier to observe as the dry season goes on, because the bush thins out and wildlife gathers around Lake Kariba. It’s usually dry and sunny and there are fewer mosquitoes. Cooler weather can last until October and can be quite dusty.

lions drinking from water hole zimbabwe

© Lets Kamogelo

September to November in Zimbabwe

In September, the annual game count in Hwange National Park takes place. This is an excellent time to visit Hwange, Zimbabwe’s largest natural reserve. In September and October, large herds of elephants gather, offering an unforgettable sight for wildlife enthusiasts on an African safari.

It’s not just elephants, either. From lions and giraffes to the endangered African wild dog, the diversity of wildlife in Zimbabwe is truly astounding.

African wild dogs painted dogs napping in the shade zimbabwe

African wild dogs (painted dogs) © Court Whelan

As the dry season continues, the rock face at Victoria Falls gradually emerges and the water trickles to a gentle ebb on the Eastern Cataract on the Zambian side.

This is the best time for wildlife viewing on Lake Kariba. As the land dries up, animals flock to the lake to drink and graze along its banks. The visibility is excellent as the bush is dry. Temperatures are often over 100°F.

September to November in Zimbabwe is an ideal time for those looking for more active pursuits and exceptional wildlife viewing at water sources, but it’s also peak travel times and the hottest temperatures. Accommodation may be busier and these months are particularly hot in northern areas such as Mana Pools. October and November are on average the warmest months of the year in Zimbabwe, with variations related to altitude.

Aerial view of the Zimbabwean Dream Lake Kariba

Aerial view of Nat Hab’s Zimbabwean Dream, Lake Kariba © Court Whelan

One opportunity for visiting Lake Kariba and avoiding crowds is aboard the exclusive riverboat Zimbabwean Dream. This deluxe three-deck vessel, ideal for cruising the vast expanse of Lake Kariba, is a floating safari base during Nat Hab’s Southern Africa Odyssey, an 11-day journey across Zimbabwe and into Botswana and Namibia.

A Safari for Every Season

Each season in Zimbabwe brings something distinct to appreciate on safari. Even when water levels are low at Victoria Falls or it’s not peak season at Hwange National Park, you will have amazing panoramic views and great conditions for activities such as whitewater rafting or game viewing.

Zimbabwe offers diverse and rich wildlife experiences throughout the year. Its commitment to conservation is evident in its well-managed national parks and conservation efforts. So, no matter when you choose to visit, Zimbabwe promises a memorable conservation travel experience.

safari truck drives by a lion mom and cub

© Court Whelan