When and where to go on Safari?

 

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JANUARY

January is a month that sees the large majority of safari destinations entering the rainy ‘Green Season’. Animals move with the start of the rains, dispersing over huge areas in search of fresh grazing, knowing that waterholes will be everywhere.

For those whose priority is big game viewing, the classic destinations are Tanzania and Kenya, which are still in their dry seasons and superb at this time of year. If you are hoping to view gorillas in Rwanda, this country will be in its dry season too, as with the rest of East Africa. Many travellers also look to South Africa & Namibia in January, as the Cape and Garden Route are at their best and the safari in Etosha is still extremely good despite the fact that it is the rainy season there.

NAMIBIA

Namibia is a year round self drive destination, so you can certainly travel here in January, knowing it is not a peak time. The weather can be quite humid and there will probably be some rain, perhaps a torrential afternoon downpour, clearing up to give you a lovely sunset. Mornings are often clear, but thunderstorms are common in the afternoons, making for spectacular photos, and quite an exciting experience, especially on a self-drive.

January is the ‘wet’ season, and it can get very hot, and not just for you. The animals will be looking for shade and vegetation to cool off behind, making them a little more difficult to spot. The animals can also disperse due to the amount of surface water, which means they do not need to congregate around water holes for easy viewing. However this is the start of birthing season, which more than makes up for the numbers.

Nowhere should be particularly busy and you can also take advantage of low season rates at lodges and campsites as well as on your vehicle and flights. Not to mention the psychological & health benefits of escaping the northern hemisphere’s winter!

TANZANIA

Tanzania is a great destination in January, the Northern Circuit especially – the Serengeti is excellent throughout January, February and March. The first Great Migration herds have reached the Ndutu plains just south of the Serengeti itself and are starting to get ready for the calving weeks in February. It is at this time of year that the Serengeti becomes arguably the finest place in Africa to view cheetah and the sheer concentrations of predators on the open plains is astonishing.

SOUTH AFRICA

South Africa is beautiful at this time of year. The weather is perfect and driving trips up and down the famous Garden Route are never better. The negative to travelling at this time of year, however, is that combining the fabulous Cape Town and Winelands with high-quality wilderness safari is hard – Botswana is entering its rainy season and the vast majority of Zambia is closed due to rain and floods. Namibia on the other hand would combine well. Nevertheless, South Africa’s own safari, specifically the Kruger and Sabi Sands, is still superb – and this is the area we would combine with Cape Town for a short add-on safari.

KENYA

January is a lovely time to visit Kenya and while we don’t offer self drive here, our sister company Migration Safaris does offer more classical safaris in Kenya where you might be based on 2 to 3 different lodges with transfers included. With clear hot days and little rain, game viewing is at its peak and this is also the start of the calving season.

BOTSWANA

This can be a wet time of year to visit with often torrential downpours in the late afternoons. When there are no clouds, temperatures can peak to as high as 40 degrees celsius however it is much more usual for there to be afternoon cloud cover moderating the temperatures somewhat. The Central Kalahari is a wonderful place to be in the wet season (December to May). Game congregates in the huge grassy valleys there, most famously in Deception Valley when the vegetation is lush during and shortly after the rains.

ZAMBIA

A good time to visit Livingstone and the Victoria Falls, but the rest of the country is pretty wet.

 

FEBRUARY

Another great month to escape the winter in the northern hemisphere. While you may experience a bit of rain, it really won’t be very much when compared with the weather at home.

TANZANIA & KENYA

February is, like January, still ideal for travel to East Africa. The land is green and beautiful, plus 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.

NAMIBIA

Namibia is also really good in February. It is still low season, but temperatures in the day time are comfortable, slightly less chance of rain, game viewing in Etosha will be good. Bear in mind that thunderstorms are often localized and so you may not see any rain. Flights are also generally cheaper from Jan – March.

Rain means greener landscapes which can result in some unique photography of Namibia’s usually arid environment.

Namibia combines really well with South Africa and a drive between the two makes for an epic self drive trip.

SOUTH AFRICA

Still a good time to go! How about starting your self drive in Cape Town and driving up to Namibia or even on to Livingstone? Hottest month of the year in SA.

ZAMBIA

A good time to visit Livingstone and the Victoria Falls, but the rest of the country is pretty wet.

 

MARCH

Travelling between seasons can mean great value.

NAMIBIA

March falls right between the summer and the start of autumn. This is a period known as the ‘shoulder season’ where conditions are reaching near perfect – where you can also get some great rates at expensive lodges. Flights should be reasonable depending on when Easter falls.

March is coming towards the end of the wet season and the heat is slightly reduced compared to February. However, it can still be hot and humid, with chances of localized rain.

March is usually when landscapes are at their greenest, giving you a really unique look at Namibia and its desert landscapes. It is also common to see some new born animals.

BOTSWANA

A great time to visit the Central Kalahari and the Makgadikgadi National Park. Most of the herbivores are in their best condition, having fed well on the lush vegetation. It’s a perfect time to catch huge concentrations of springbok and oryx on the short grass plains of the Central Kalahari’s fossil river valleys.

The days can still vary enormously from one to the next. Even within a day skies can change from sunny to cloudy within minutes and then back again.

ZAMBIA

A good time to visit Livingstone and the Victoria Falls, but the rest of the country is pretty wet.

SOUTH AFRICA

The last hot and relatively dry month in the Cape Town/Garden Route areas.

 

APRIL

We like Namibia and northern Argentina at this time of year. 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 great safaris and birdwatching opportunities.

NAMIBIA

April marks the end of the rainy season and the start of a shoulder season; air is fresh, vegetation lush (as it can be), and the air is largely free from dust. Temperatures are more moderate than earlier in the year, and the average rainfall drops dramatically. As with March, some of the landscape can be green, and this is considered by some to be when Namibia is at its most beautiful. There are green patches in the normally orange and arid desert, and bright flowers can pierce through.

The mix of wildlife, birds and stunning landscapes makes it a great time to travel.

ZAMBIA

April marks the end of the ‘Emerald (a.k.a wet!) Season’ and is an interesting time to visit as lodges offer cheaper rates and are generally less busy. Roads could still be tricky to navigate or at worst impassable and so we would suggest that you either do a Migration trip and not self drive or if wanting to self drive our experts will tailor a lodge to lodge trip, no camping involved, to accessible areas. Vegetation everywhere will be lush.

 

MAY

We like Namibia, Botswana & Zimbabwe at this time of year.

BOTSWANA

The Okavango Delta in Botswana is surely 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. The self drive season through Moremi, Savuti, Linyanti and Chobe can begin in earnest.

NAMIBIA

In May, the summer has ended and the rain is called to a halt – in fact the average rainfall drops to just 6mm in May. Landscapes can still be quite lush and green, and the temperatures are still lovely and warm, with the nights not quite dropping enough to be considered ‘cold’.

Still a shoulder month, May is an ideal time to travel and flights should still be priced fairly attractively when compared to flights in July/August/September. A favourite time of year amongst the Safari Drive experts!

MALAWI

While Malawi can be visited year round, the most pleasant time to visit is possibly between May to October when there are warm to hot days and cooler nights. Winter is also the dry season meaning that rain is unlikely to disrupt any travel plans.

ZAMBIA

The dry season begins when you are unlikely to meet rain and can expect clear blue skies – a good time to be self driving. Lots of big game to be seen at this time of year.

 

JUNE

Let the dry season commence!

June sees Southern Africa heading into its best safari period and South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Namibia enjoy their respective high seasons 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.

NAMIBIA

Winter draws in, yet the weather is still lovely and warm, although the nights are getting colder – it’s definitely time to get the fleece out if you are sitting around the campfire! The wildlife sightings are excellent in Etosha, as well as the other parks. Water holes are now scarcer, and you’ll see wildlife gathering together with the common goal of hydration around them. Vegetation is drying out as well, giving the animals fewer places to seek shade or shelter.

Parks are still relatively quiet at the start of the month, but they do get busier towards the end due to the start of the South African school holidays.

ZAMBIA

The ground starts to dry out after the rains, making June a lovely time to visit. The rivers are still full and the bush is colourful. The camps have opened. June to August are the coolest months (think ‘comfortable’) for travelling.

BOTSWANA

A wonderful time to be exploring the Okavango Delta area.

SOUTH AFRICA

The wettest time to visit. Not ideal.

 

JULY TO SEPTEMBER

High and dry – these months are the best time to be in southern Africa for game viewing.

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. These days it is not uncommon to book a Botswana trip (whether self drive or not, whether camping or staying in lodges) up to a whole year in advance.

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. Also Tarangire is the centre of the region’s elephant migration.

 

  1. Botswana: Northern Chobe, the Savuti Channel and the Okavango Delta are prime then and is arguably the best area for game viewing in Africa. The Okavango is in full flood and the entire Delta looks incredible.

 

  1. Namibia: Namibia is famous for so many things, but if you’re after game viewing in Etosha National Park then these months are the time to go.

 

  1. Zimbabwe: Zimbabwe is full of spectacular national parks. With virtually no rain, clear skies and lots of sunshine this is a very good time of year to visit. The bush is less dense and animals are starting to concentrate around the main water sources making game viewing easier.

 

  1. Zambia: Zambia is home to classic and popular safari animals such as elephant, giraffe, hippo, buffalo, and zebra. Zambia’s parks are now fully open with every camp in its peak season for travel. The bush has thinned out, the grass trodden down. The Lower Zambezi is an exceptional park at this time of year. Temperatures are rising but it stays chilly in the mornings and evenings. The South Luangwa is the best option for game, the Lower Zambezi for river cruises and fishing, and the Kafue for remote wilderness. Victoria Falls is spectacular, without being overly wet. In August the hotter weather and drier bush means walking safaris are excellent across the country. This is the prime time of year to combine game viewing and Victoria Falls. September is a superb time to be on safari. Temperatures in the high 20°Cs make the days pleasant, but the temperatures are definitely on the rise, and the water sources are drying up so animals congregate by the rivers and waterholes. Victoria Falls is not as dramatic as earlier months but is still impressive. Meanwhile, carmine bee-eaters arrive in their thousands to nest in the river banks.

SOUTH AFRICA

August & September – this is a lovely time to visit Namaqualand for the stunning flower show on the west coast. Not quite so nice in the Cape Town/Garden Route area.

 

OCTOBER

October sees the first signs of the end of the famous dry season. The first rains start to hit certain regions later in the month, but you will still enjoy good game viewing in the majority of the countries in which we operate. This rainfall does not usually affect the quality of safari – in some areas, it is simply a refreshing break from the high temperatures that characterise the end of the dry season.

BOTSWANA

If you can handle the heat then Botswana is good at this time of year. The heat drives the game towards the watering holes.

Elephant and buffalo tend to amalgamate into larger more spectacular herds (they splinter again just before the rains). Lion sightings become more frequent as they spend more time near the limited remaining water sources.

NAMIBIA

October is the height of the dry season, and one of the hottest months of the year. This is also one of the best times for game viewing, as water is particularly scarce and wildlife is forced to congregate around the few remaining permanent waterholes. Daytime temperatures can reach 29°C (84°F) and often hotter in the desert.

ZAMBIA

From September to mid-November, Zambia is a great destination. The heat increases through October and game viewing is best done early and late in the day to escape the midday temperatures. Locals call it ‘suicide month’ due to the high temperatures. At the end of the dry season, elephants, herds of buffalo, impala, and zebra can all be found congregating in the Lower Zambezi Valley. The rains usually arrive in the latter half of the month, but as they are not regular they are not too disruptive and the bonus is seeing dramatic skies with storm clouds building. Some camps close but lots stay open and are great value. You may also be able to see lots of young animals being born.

TANZANIA

Temperatures here rise again slightly in October making mornings and nights more comfortable. Tanzania is coming into spring throughout the month making it a lovely time to visit. Although average rainfall has begun to rise in comparison to the earlier months of the dry season, it is still not up to the significant levels of November and December. As long as you take a waterproof coat you should be ok during the few showers that may occur in October.

 

NOVEMBER

November is the start of the summer season and 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. Various baby animals start to appear in November, followed by most of the mammals that calve sometime during the rainy season.

ZAMBIA

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. The rains usually arrive in the latter half of the month, but as they are not regular they are not too desruptive and the bonus is seeing dramatic skies with storm clouds building. Temperatures are high and it can be muggy. Some camps close but lots stay open and are great value. You may also be able to see lots of young animals being born.

BOTSWANA

November can be a great month as often the rains haven’t arrived, leaving amazing game densities in the riverfront areas (yet visitors are thin on the ground and prices are lower). However too many cloudless days can mean really high midday temperatures. November is also a variable month – some days will be hot. Some will be cooler, as gathering clouds shields the country from the sun. Sometimes these bring welcome showers; sometimes they build and build making everything very humid. If it rains then this can firm up the sandy tracks making driving easier.

NAMIBIA

November is quite an unpredictable month. As the end of the dry winter is reached, hot and dry days can prevail. However, rain may make its way in, often in the form of localised (and sometimes rather impressive) thunderstorms. You may even be lucky enough to witness the first rain of the season which is always a special and dramatic event.

For those who fancy some weather variation and don’t mind whether they have clear skies, clouds, thunderstorms, or hot sunny days, then November is for you. As the summer draws in, be aware that November can be very hot, and often with skies that are threatening to rain, it can feel humid and sticky. Flights are usually a good price and accommodation can be a bit cheaper during these months.

MALAWI

Travelling in Malawi’s wet season from November to April means that the rain will transform the parched landscape into a green and verdant land with colourful wild flowers and a wealth of fresh fruit and vegetables.

SOUTH AFRICA

The best time to visit starts this month.

 

DECEMBER

Finally, East Africa once again comes out as one of the best safari destinations. In December, it’s the dry season in Kenya & Tanzania which means excellent game viewing opportunities. The migrating wildebeest will have also made their way to the Serengeti region in Tanzania.

NAMIBIA

December kicks off the summer in Namibia, and temperatures are still on the increase. It can be a great month for seeing wildlife in Etosha National Park, and travelling in the summer rewards with excellent bird watching throughout the parks.

Typically in December, mornings will have clear blue cloudless skies, then as the afternoon draws in so do the clouds. Rain often follows clearing the skies again for the early evening. This means you’ll get some super clear nights, which are great for watching the stars, but other evenings may be cloudy. The dramatic dunes at Sossusvlei are as amazing in December as they are at any other time of the year. There is no drizzle in Namibia. When the rain does come, it is usually localised and heavy, often accompanied by dramatic thunder.

BOTSWANA

A much smaller number of travellers visit during the rains. As a result camps will frequently be quiet for days, which often means that they will give you a much more personal experience. A great time to escape the winter in the northern hemisphere and perhaps enjoy spending Christmas on safari. You will still see wildlife and the weather will still be far better than at home. Hot and wet, rather than cold and wet!

 

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