Despite a surprisingly varied climate across its different areas, the best time to visit Chad is the winter dry season between December to February, during which period temperatures remain relatively low and water levels recede. At the time of writing (2021) Journeys by Design can offer trips to capital city N’Djamena, Zakouma National Park and Ennedi Natural and Cultural Reserve.
Landlocked, Chad lies between latitudes 7° and 24°N and 13° and 24°E and is bordered by Libya to the north, Sudan to the east, by Niger, Nigeria, and Cameroon to the west, and by the Central African Republic to the south. Its topography is marked by the Lake Chad basin, which gradually rises eastwards to the Ennedi Range and northwards to the Tibetsi Mountains, its highest point being Emi Koussi at 3,100 metres.
Generally speaking, Chad breaks three distinct geographical and climatic zones, with desert in the north and semi-arid and tropical zones in the centre and south respectively. In turn, these zones break down into six ecoregions: East Sudanian savanna, Sahelian Acacia savanna, Lake Chad flooded savanna, East Saharan montane xeric woodlands, South Saharan steppe and woodlands, and Tibesti-Jebel Uweinat montane xeric woodlands.
Chad’s wet season descends between May and October in the south and June to September in the middle Sahel region. It is brought by the intertropical front weather system that in traversing the country from south to north explains the difference in timing. In the desert north, of course, there is no wet season at all.
Rainfall varies hugely across Chad. In the wet and dry tropical zone, the towns of Moundou and Sarh both see between 800 and 1200mm between May and October. The central semi-arid zone of the Sahel, including capital N’Djamena, receives considerably less at between 300 and 800mm between June and September. The very infrequent rainfall in the north yields typically less than inch annually.
Temperatures, meanwhile, vary widely across seasons and areas. During the dry season between December and February the entire country remains relatively cool, with temperatures in the upper-20s to mid-30s during the day and dropping below zero at night. From March onwards, however, it is very hot until the heavy rains that arrive around July. D’Jamena averages 38C between March and June, and then only drops to the mid-30s – with nighttime highs in the 20s – until November.
As a result of the country’s topography and climate, Chad possesses vegetation zones that correlate to the precipitation patterns in the country’s three regions.
In the wet and dry southern tropical zone are found tall grasses, some deciduous trees of the broad-leaved type and shrubs. In the central Sahel’s semi-arid tropical zone there are usually only thorn bushes as savannah gives way to steppe. In the desert and dunes of the north offer virtually no plant life outside of the palm oases that are scattered south of the Tropic of Cancer. In prehistoric times gigantic at something like 330,000 km2, Lake Chad now covers only about 5% of that area. Nevertheless, it remains the continent’s second largest wetland.