Luangwa Valley Zambia

Climate

Although Zambia is in the tropics, much of the country lies on a large plateau, the height of which ensures that the climate, on the whole, is hardly ever unpleasantly hot. The exceptions to this rule are the River Valleys, including the Zambezi and Luangwa Valleys, where temperatures can rise dramatically towards the end of the dry season.

norman carr safaris climate norman carr safaris climate in zambia

Zambia has three seasons namely:

  • A cool, dry winter period between May and August. Water levels in rivers and water courses tend to drop during this period and the game viewing gets progressively better as animals concentrate around permanent water.
  • A hot and dry period from August to mid-November. October and the early part of November prior to the onset of rains are quite hot in both the Luangwa and Zambezi Valleys with temperatures regularly sitting in the mid-40's. Game tends to concentrate and if you can handle the warmer temperatures, then this is an exceptional time for game viewing.
  • A warm wet season from mid-November through to the end of April. The beginning of the rains makes the remote areas difficult to explore and many seasonal camps are closed. A limited number of "green season" safaris are available and we run our very popular Rivers & Rainbows safaris from mid January through until the beginning of April.

January - March (the Green Season)

Max temp 31°c min temp 20°c, Av rainfall 200mm per month

Kapani Chinzombo will be open throughout, Kakuli opens for Rivers & Rainbows safaris in the middle of January until the beginning of April.

These are usually the wettest months of the year but it is important to know that gameviewing activities, although they may be interrupted or delayed, are very rarely cancelled. Storms can be very dramatic with huge, impressive cloud formations but clear skies in between. The air tends to be very clear in these months and the bush at its most lush and verdant, photographic opportunities are excellent.

The Luangwa River itself becomes a central feature; usually running close to the top of its banks it can rise or fall by up to a metre in just a few hours. Kakuli is the only remote bush camp in the region which is open at this time of year and boating safaris from this camp offer guests a very special treat.

With the rain comes a time of plenty in the bush. Many of the herbivores are tending young and there are noticeably more young elephant in the breeding herds. Migrant birds have swelled the resident populations and many of them are in full breeding plumage and song.

Watch how the Kapani Lagoon changes across the seasons

zambia climate for safaris

April & May

Max temp 32°c, min temp 19°c, Average rainfall 100 mm in April 0mm in May

Kapani Chinzombo is open throughout, Kakuli closes in early April when the river becomes too low to guarantee easy access but then opens again along with Mchenja, Nsolo and Luwi towards the middle to end of May.

Rain in April is usually restricted to a few isolated showers.

The roads start to dry out extending our access through the Park. Sandbanks start to emerge from the river attracting wading birds and the lagoons which are still full become gathering points for the animals.

Temperatures start to fall in May with the onset of the Southern Hemisphere winter.

norman carr safaris climate in april

June & July

Max temp 30°c min temp 10°c, Average rainfall 0mm

All of our camps are now open and the walking season starts in earnest at the beginning of June. We can no longer boat on the river but all roads in the Park are open. As some of the lagoons start to dry out large feeding parties of storks and fish eating birds congregate offering a dramatic addition to the wildlife viewing which is starting to pick up pace. Crowned cranes also come together in large colonies displaying noisily to each other.

These early months are traditionally good for wild dog sightings and Luwi/Nsolo in particular have proved very good camps from which to view these exciting creatures. Early mornings and night drives are chilly; the camp fire is used not only for its aesthetic value but also for its heat. A fleece is an excellent addition to your packing in these months.

norman carr safaris climate in june

August & September

Max temp 35°c min temp 14°c, Rainfall 0mm

Traditionally the most popular months for safaris in the Luangwa, temperatures start to warm up through August leaving the chilly mornings and evenings behind. The climate is very pleasant - not too cool and not too warm. These are very interesting months in the bush, many of the trees and bushes are in flower and the grass has been grazed or trampled out of sight. Bush fires are common and the smoke and dust hang in the air providing some spectacular sunsets.

Elephants find the habitual river crossings that much easier and seeing a herd gathering in the early evening and crossing the Luangwa with the sun setting behind is a truly "Luangwa sight". Carmine bee-eaters start to gather and nest in the river's banks which are now high and dry.

norman carr safaris climate in september

October

Max temp 44°c min temp 22°c, Av rainfall 0mm

The last month of the "dry season" and hence the last month that we operate our walking safaris from bush camp to bush camp. Temperatures continue to rise but with the days lengthening we are able to get up nice and early and try to avoid being out in the mid-day heat. Game viewing is excellent with all the animals becoming increasingly dependent upon remaining water sources.

The river is low and many of the lagoons have dried up. Hippos start to fight for the rights to occupy the few pools of water deep enough to submerge under and the buffalo group together in herds of over a thousand. The first warthog babies emerge from their burrows and the bare Mopane trees come out in fresh green leaf heralding the onset of the rains to come. The first rain storm often provides relief at some stage in October but predicting that is never easy.

norman carr safaris climate in october

November & December

Max temp 38°c min temp 22°c, Av rainfall 100 - 150 mm

The bush camps all close in the first week of November leaving Kapani Chinzombo as our operational camp. The first heavy rain showers mean that the remote bush tracks become impassable.

These are the first months of proper rain and the feeling that the bush is coming alive around you is really exciting. The baby impala all drop within two weeks of each other, usually at the start of November and various other species experience a birthing peak at this time of impending plenty.

The ground is covered with a stunning carpet of verdant green.

The dust is driven out of the air leaving crystal clear skies and some of the cloud formations during the early green months are breathtaking. Game viewing is rarely affected by the weather, storms are very localized and usually brief, and this is a wonderful time to be in the bush.

norman carr safaris climate in december