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The Zanzibar Archipelago is home to the beautiful islands of Zanzibar, Mafia and Pemba, which make for a superb tropical getaway all year round.
Temperatures always hover around 30°c, and from June to September, blue skies and gorgeous days of sunshine are almost guaranteed across the archipelago.
The islands experience two rainy seasons, with the long rains arriving from March to May, and a shorter rainy season occurring from November to December.
The long rainy season is not the best time to travel to Zanzibar as daily heavy rainfall can restrict activities and travel, but as the rain deters some visitors, you might have the beautiful beaches all to yourself.
The shorter rainy season brings showers that typically last a few hours and can be quite refreshing after the day's heat.
The sunny period of June to September coincides with the Great Migration across Tanzania and Kenya, making Zanzibar the perfect addition to an East African safari or gorilla trekking in Rwanda.
The Zanzibar archipelago is at its best in January, with long sunny days and sea breezes to keep the humidity down. Temperatures on Zanzibar, Pemba and Mafia Island all hover around 30°c this month, with midday highs reaching up to 32°c. The islands have flourished during the previous months of rain, and an abundance of lush greenery cloaks the country, particularly on Pemba Island. ‘Pemba’ translates to 'green', and Zanzibar's little sister really lives up to the name in January, with forested hills and stunning green valleys.
Zanzibar shares the same weather as the northeast area of Tanzania, enjoying a brief respite from the rain in January. This is a great month to combine the Zanzibar islands with a Serengeti safari to see the wildebeest calving period.
February is another warm, dry month in Zanzibar, with plenty of sunshine and temperatures around 30°c. Cool sea breezes lower the humidity felt over much of East Africa during this period. February has one of the lowest levels of rainfall across the year making it a great time to visit. While the weather is excellent on Zanzibar, Pemba and Mafia Island, this isn’t a busy season and it's easy to find a pristine beach free of other tourists. If you are looking for a livelier atmosphere, Stone Town’s intricate maze-like bazaars are bustling with a mixture of Arab, Persian, European and Swahili treasures. Stone Town also hosts the fantastic Swahili music festival, Sauti ze Busara, which takes place every February.
March is a transitional month and Zanzibar experiences sunny days combined with long showers. The weather is unpredictable, but you can typically expect sunnier weather at the beginning of March and rainy days toward the end of the month. The temperature will hover around 30°c throughout the month, although humidity will increase with the rains. At the end of March some hotels and lodges will start to close, particularly on Pemba and Mafia Islands.
April marks the beginning of the wet season in Zanzibar. The islands see frequent long rains, high humidity and increased wind speeds. Temperatures still sit at around 30°c but the humidity will make it feel much hotter. In general, this isn’t the best time to travel, as many resorts have closed for the rainy season and the prolonged rains make most activities difficult or inaccessible. Those visiting in April will be rewarded with discounted prices in hotels, sparse crowds, and a few hours of sunshine at best.
Another rainy month in Zanzibar, May is similar to the weather in April – hot, wet and humid. Temperatures drop slightly to around 26-28°c as the sky is mostly overcast, but the higher levels of humidity will make the air feel hot and muggy. There are downpours most days, usually lasting 4-6 hours a time, although the sun will still make the occasional appearance. May is not the best month to see the stunning beauty of Zanzibar and the archipelago but if you do decide to go, try to visit towards the end of May when the rains begin to ease.
June is a good month to visit the Zanzibar archipelago, as the previous months of rain have illuminated the islands in a blanket of lush greenery. With the long rains mostly over, the islands are once again sunny and inviting. The climate will be slightly cooler in June with an average temperature of 25°c and average highs of 28°c. Early June will still see a few light rains, but these are generally short, refreshing showers and won’t spoil island explorations. Resorts and lodges begin to open again and Pemba Island looks incredible in a rich shade of green. June is also a quieter month for tourists, before the crowds arrive over the July and August school holidays.
July is a great time to visit Zanzibar. The island plant life is still flourishing after the long rains, and the days are filled with blue skies and sunshine. Temperatures are cooler with an average of 25-28°c and a very low chance of rain. July is the perfect month for lounging on the beach, swimming and snorkelling, or exploring the inner areas of the islands. Visit the UNESCO heritage site of Stone Town and wander through the maze of alleys to see the elaborate and ornate doors decorated by famous merchants. Go shopping in the multicultural bazaars and taste some of Zanzibar’s diverse cuisine offerings. July is also a great month to go snorkelling around the colourful coral reefs of Mafia Island, or take a boat to see the humpback whales arriving in the nearby waters.
With endless days of sunshine, fantastic underwater visibility for snorkelling and diving and cooler than average temperatures, August is a great month to visit the Zanzibar Archipelago. Expect daily highs of 28°c and cloudless days for perfect days at the beach. Snorkelling is excellent in August, with the warmer waters bringing a variety of marine life to the reefs around Mafia Island. There are chances to spot and swim with dolphins and humpback whales. Pemba Island is less busy than the main Zanzibar Island in August, so it’s worth spending a few days exploring this nature packed island. With the Great Migration happening in the Serengeti, this is a good month to combine a safari in Tanzania with a beach holiday to Zanzibar.
September is another great month to visit the Zanzibar archipelago. Blue skies and pleasant temperatures ranging between 24-28°c, combined with great snorkelling and diving conditions, make September the perfect time for a Zanzibar beach holiday. This is also a good month to combine Zanzibar with a Tanzanian safari, as the animals of east Africa are easy to spot in these dry months. September sees fewer tourists and more deserted islands, particularly on Pemba and Mafia Island, and you'll avoid the school holiday crowds of July and August.
The majority of October sees blue skies and sunny days, but there will be light showers towards the end of the month. The temperature is starting to rise as Zanzibar enters the short rainy season in November and December, however daytime temperatures are still pleasant, reaching highs of 28-30°c. The shorter rains alleviate the heat and do not affect underwater visibility - snorkelling and diving conditions are still excellent in October. There is also the chance to swim with dolphins and see humpback whales in Mafia Island's Chloe Bay.
November is characterised by short rains throughout the month and otherwise great weather. The daily downpours tend to last an hour or two and are quite refreshing, bringing the 30-32°c temperatures down a little. Humidity is highest just before the rain, but the coastal winds bring a cool relief to the islands. Pemba and Mafia Island are beautiful in November, as the rains cause the island's flora to erupt in brilliant shades of green. Despite the rain, there are also still good snorkelling conditions.
December is a popular month in Zanzibar, as many travellers brave the rains for a safari and beach holiday over the Christmas and New Year period. Most days in December will see short showers, and the daily downpours bring a pleasant relief from the hot temperatures averaging 30-32°c. Despite the rain, December sees a lot of sunshine, and it's still a good time for a beach holiday on any of the islands in the archipelago. Book accommodation well in advance, particularly on Mafia and Pemba Islands, as resorts fill up quickly during this busy season.
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