If you’re looking for the adventure of a lifetime, Africa should be at the top of your list…
Home to exciting wildlife and with some of the most beautiful, spectacular scenery in the world, there’s plenty to see and do in the unique and varied countries that span across this continent.
It should come as no surprise then, that when it comes to planning a safari holiday, there’s not a one-size-fits-all option. Safaris can vary widely from one country to the next and even differ from region to region.
Of course, your experience can also differ drastically, depending on the time of year that you go. The key to having an amazing safari that’s everything you’d hoped it would be is careful planning and ensuring that you’ve booked a trip in the right month and location.
When planning your safari, you’ll undoubtedly want to map out your journey around the best wildlife spotting opportunities. Fortunately, it’s possible to do this, no matter what time of year you’re hoping to travel.
The great thing about Africa is that it’s so big and varied, that you’ll be able to find an opportunity for an amazing safari, no matter what time of year you go.
If you’re hoping to plan your safari out around your schedule, or curious about what areas are best visited at different times of the year, here’s a guide that will help you to plan your journey.
January is a great time to safari to classic East Africa safari destinations like Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. Since the weather is usually dry, it’ll be easier to spot animals since they’ll be congregating around the water sources.
This is also a great time of year to see migrating wildebeest in Tanzania’s northern parks.
Take a look at the video below, to see what a safari holiday in Tanzania could involve…
February is, like January, still ideal for travel to East Africa. The land is green and beautiful, and it’s calving season for the wildebeest, where the Serengeti welcomes a few thousand wildebeest calves every day. This, of course, means there will be plenty of predators on the prowl as well and perfect opportunities for big cat spotting.
Check out the video below from National Geographic of photographer Vincent J. Musi’s fantastic images of big cats. I also wrote some Tips for Taking Photos on a Safari Holiday, a few weeks ago.
March falls right between the summer and the start of autumn. This is a period known as the ‘shoulder season’ where conditions are reaching perfect – where you can also get some great rates at expensive lodges. Last week we dedicated a whole article to Luxury Safari Accommodation, so if you want to travel in March, we’ve got some ideas of where you can stay.
Also, there won’t be too many crowds. March is also an excellent time to visit Kruger National Park in South Africa and The Damaraland in Namibia. The temperatures will be just about perfect at this time of year.
The Kruger is one of the best-maintained parks in Africa and has the highest variety of wildlife on the continent, including the much sought after ‘Big Five’, which I looked at in my post on How to Spot the Best African Wildlife.
In April the summer season in Africa is winding down and the autumn season is picking up. Southern destinations like the Kruger, Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe are ideal destinations for scenic safaris and birdwatching opportunities, although big game is more difficult to find.
The Okavango Delta in Botswana is one of the most beautiful places on earth and is home to over 122 species of animals and over 440 species of birds.
Situated in the Kalahari Basin of northern Bostswana, this basin floods annually just as Botswana’s rainy season ends in April and May. The water revitalises the land, and brings this diverse ecosystem back to life, making an ideal location to see some of Africa’s most amazing wildlife, as Richard and Geri Davies experienced on their own self drive safari.
June sees Southern Africa heading into its best safari period and South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Namibia enjoy their high season this time of year. June is also a good time to visit the grasslands of the Serengeti. It’s the start of the great wildebeest migration and ideal for lion spotting.
You can read about Brian Jackman’s fascinating account for the Telegraph of his experiences of wildebeest migration in the Serengeti.
July to September is the high season, so be sure to book early since these months fill up far in advance. Regardless of where you choose to go, the months July to September have something for everyone.
Here’s a list of 5 destinations to visit and why:
1. Tanzania: These are the months to see the famous wildebeest river crossings in the northern Serengeti in Tanzania.
2. Botswana: Northern Chobe, the Savuti Channel and the Okavango Delta are prime then and is arguably the best area for gameviewing in Africa.
5. Zambia: Zambia is home to classic and popular safari animals such as elephant, giraffe, hippo, buffalo, and zebra.
The Masai Mara Reserve in Kenya is one of the most popular wildlife park reserves. In this reserve, you can expect to see the migration of the wildebeest and zebra throughout October. The Chobe National Park in Botswana is also a good place to visit, and you’ll have a good chance of seeing zebra, buffalo, wildebeest, and more.
November is the start of the summer season, which makes it an ideal time to plan a beach vacation or safari along the coast. Most of the animals are on the move in the month of November, caught between the end of the dry season and the peak of the wet season, this is considered low season which means you will have fewer crowds.
From September to mid-November, Zambia is a great destination. At the end of the dry season, elephants, herds of buffalo, impala, and zebra can all be found congregating in the Lower Zambezi Valley, as documented by National Geographic photographer Frans Lanting in the video below.
Finally, East Africa once again comes out as one of the best safari destinations. In December, it’s the dry season in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda which means excellent game viewing opportunities. The migrating wildebeest will have also made their way to the Serengeti region in Tanzania, as I looked at in my post about Wildebeest Migration.
While this is just a sample of what you can do each month on an African safari, the fact is that your options extend beyond these stops. No matter what you’re hoping to do, or which animals you have on your must-see list, there’s something for everyone on an African safari.
The secret is to plan your trip around your preferences, while keeping the seasonal changes in mind. This will help you to create a safari of your dreams, one that you’ll be able to look back on for years to come.
If you’d like to do some more research on your own first, then get yourself a free copy of the African Safari Field Guide next. It’s a 37-page guide on the subject written by our expert team here at Safari Drive HQ, and includes on all sorts of safari advice like how to camping safely, cross rivers, and spot wildlife.