Touted by most as the best time to visit Zimbabwe, a dry season safari is all about prime wildlife viewing under clear skies in the country’s major national parks.
Zimbabwe is a stunning safari destination year-round, with the two distinct seasons each affording travelers a unique experience. Wet season safaris from November to March are best for avid birders keen to witness migratory birds making their way to Southern Africa to breed and nest. On the other hand, a dry season safari from April to October, affords wildlife enthusiasts the chance to easily encounter large herds of game and, in some of the parks, great sightings of the big cats.
As we enter June, which is the start of the very best time in Zimbabwe’s winter to visit on safari, we look at what to expect from a dry season safari in two of the country’s main national parks:
Mana Pools National Park
A World Heritage Site with the mighty Zambezi River coursing through it, Mana Pools National Park is an outstanding destination for a dry season safari, with four of the Big Five (lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo).
Guided walking safari in Mana Pools National Park © Robin Pope Safaris
As smaller waterholes dry up during the winter months, wildlife are forced to concentrate around the permanent water source of the Zambezi. This means almost guaranteed sightings of great herds of elephant and buffalo on the riverbanks along with hippos and crocodiles immersed in the water. Mana Pools is also an important breeding ground for the endangered wild dogs and the Mana Pools packs were recently featured on the BBC Earth Dynasties documentary series.
En-suite tent at John’s Camp, Mana Pools National Park © Robin Pope Safaris
Mana Pools is well-known for having some of the best guides in Southern Africa, if not on the continent, and their expertise of the bush adds lends an incredibly valuable dimension to exploring Mana Pools on foot or by boat. Leopards, lions and hyena are seen occassionally so your guide or ranger will be armed for precautionary safety reasons. The Zambezi River is a world-famous tiger fishing spot so Mana Pools is an ideal safari destination for anglers too.
Matusadona National Park
On the southern shores of Lake Kariba in north-western Zimbabwe is the remote Matusadona National Park, which is a Big Five safari destination and home to the endangered black rhino.
Guided boating safari on Lake Kariba, Matusadona National Park © Musango Safari Camp
Accessibility to Matusadona is restricted to boat or charter plane, making this park an unpopulated destination. As with Mana Pools, a dry season safari in Matusadona offers great wildlife sightings at reliable water hole and Lake Kariba, which remains a permanent water source Zimbabwe’s dry winter months. With less bush and shrubs in which to disappear, special antelope species like sable and roan, are often seen whilst impressive gatherings of buffalo and elephants are found on the shores of Lake Kariba.
En-suite chalet at Musango Safari Camp, Matusadona National Park © Musango Safari Camp
Tracking black rhino on foot is an incredible and rare experience, well-known as a speciality of the guides in Matusadona. On a dry season safari, it might be a little easier to find these magnificent creatures. While boating on Lake Kariba or walking beside its shore, look out for the shy clawless otter which may make an appearance along with pods of hippo.
Where to stay: Musango Safari Camp
For many travellers, Zimbabwe is their African holiday destination of choice. Contact us to plan a dry season safari if your bucketlist includes encountering varied wildlife and gorgeous days under a warm African sun.