When to go on Safari
The Best Times To Go On Safari In Southern And East Africa
There is never a bad time to visit Africa! But it really depends on what you want to see and the areas you want to visit. If you instance your life long dream is to visit Victoria Falls or experience the Great Migration in Kenya or Tanzania, then you are going to want to do some homework.
Beautiful Botswana has so much to offer and every season is slightly different and reveals it’s own wee treasures.
Botswana offers superb game viewing and safari activities throughout the year. The winter months (May to September) are dry, with warm and sunny days but temperatures do drop dramatically at night. The summer months (October to April) are hot and the rain tends to come November-March, this is always a welcome relief for the locals as the humidity drops.
The best time to see Botswana’s prolific bird life is during the wet summer, between November and March, when the Okavango Delta is teeming with migratory birds.
The annual floodwaters meander their way through to reach the panhandle by May completely changing the landscape and providing an amazing water source for the wildlife. While the rest of Botswana lies in the grip of the dusty, dry season during winter, which lasts from June to August, the Okavango in contrast is a mass of lagoons and channels. The floodwaters start to recede in September or October. During the summer months from November to March, the warm days bring afternoon thundershowers, this is also a magical time in the bush that sees all the new baby antelope bouncing around the bush.
Chobe National Park
The winter months along the Chobe river are something everyone should experience. The water sources dry up all around and all the wildlife visit the river, making early morning and afternoon game drives spectacular.
From November to March summer brings the rainy season, during which wildflowers burst into bloom, babies are born and the exquisite carmine bee-eaters start nesting in the islands on the Chobe River.
Savute is a magical area to see elephants and cats. May brings increased sightings of African wild dog as the females begin to den. September to October is the driest season, when flocks of birds congregate around the artificial watering holes. As the rains begin in November, large breeding herds of elephant move into the wide open Savute Marsh. During the summer months of November/December, northern Botswana experiences its own zebra migration, with thousands of zebra travelling through.
Depending on what you want to see and do in Namibia – there is never a bad time, some are just better than others! Many people think of the desert as being hot and dry, which is often the case but not always and due to the vast landscape changes the climatic conditions vary greatly throughout the country.
The rainy season is December, January or February and we would suggest taking a raincoat but it is considered the best time for bird watchers.
Out on the coast, Swakopmund and the Skeleton Coast are less humid than the inland areas.
March begins to see afternoon thunderstorms become less frequent, particularly in northern regions around Etosha, and into April and May you’ll find a much fresher, greener and clearer environment which many find the best time to visit Namibia.
June, July and August are the winter months and therefore the driest and temperatures often drop quite significantly in these cooler months.
The Southern Hemisphere’s winter is peak game viewing time in Namibia and accommodation will start to fill up as early as April, right through to November.
The coast keeps fairly consistently warm temperatures all year round. However, come September the rest of Namibia is heating up with October often proving to be the hottest month.
Traditionally, the dry season, from June to October, was when the camps and lodges were open in Zambia and game viewing plentiful. However more recently as Zambia has gained popularity there isn’t a bad time to visit! Although November through to April is the rainy time and a lot of camps do shut down over that period.
The low season is mid April to the end of May and the bush is green, lush and there is plenty of grazing for the wildlife, the camps are quieter and this is sometimes reflected in the nightly rates. Many safari gurus will tell you that November is the best month to visit Zambia, due to the bat migration in Kasanka and the elephants in the Lower Luangwa.
The best time to visit Zambia if you want to see the Victoria Falls is also not an easy one to answer. The falls are at their fullest in May time when they are vastly impressive from the air. But on the ground visibility is not so good due to the heavy spray. In July/August viewing on the ground is better but this is because there is less volume of water. At the end of the dry season in September or October, when the bush is at its best, the falls can be disappointing. All is not lost, however. You just need to walk over the bridge to the Zimbabwean side for better viewing at this time of year.
Generally, the winter months (May – September) are the drier months and some would say there is better game viewing at this time, it also coincides with low-season rates and special offers at many lodges, so does make it a great time to travel.
Cape Town is better in the summer months (December – March) as it is further south so experiences winter rain. Depending on your plans you may have to choose between game viewing in the north or all that Cape Town and the Garden Route has to offer.
The weather in Kenya can very simply be divided into 2 categories – the rainy season and the dry season;
The Dry Seasons
January through to March, and June through to September, are predominantly the ‘dry seasons’. January and February are also the hottest months of the year.
Most people visit Kenya to go on safari and view the animals, the dry season is a great time to spot game as all the water has dried up in outlying rivers and waterholes, so the game is concentrated around the remaining water sources. With the dry weather you also get all the vegetation dying off, so no thick bush for animals to hide behind, so there is less places for them to hide making game viewing easier.
July onwards marks the start of the Great Migration, so this is an extremely popular time for people to come to Kenya– but with the peak comes higher prices and busier lodges and potentially animal sightings, depending on the lodges you choose to stay at. Mossies also prefer the rainy weather, so this is another reason that the drier months are preferable.
The Rainy Seasons
Every year the local people are crying out for the rains to start and in Kenya this is usually in April, and can last through until the end of May. Whilst the land and the wildlife embrace these rains, it does make logistics more difficult and for this reason many camps actually close as some of the roads become impassable. It is an amazing place to be when the first rains come as you watch the landscape change before your eyes. The bush that you thought was dead turns into lush green vegetation and new life breathes into the area. It does make it more difficult to spot game as they don’t have to come to the waterholes but is still a remarkable time to be in the bush.
The Rainy Season, The Dry Season and the Great Migration
It is said that you can visit Tanzania at any time of the year but there are months that are much busier than others due to the Great Migration.
The country is very close to the equator so this keeps temperatures pretty constant but some months are wetter and more humid than others.
Zanzibar and the coastal regions are particularly appealing during the June to August period when temperatures are a little lower (although average highs are still around 30°C), and there is usually much less rain than at other times of year. January and February are also quite dry, although it can be humid and temperatures average around 33-34°C.
The Rainy Seasons
The main rains fall in Tanzania in April and May, where heavy tropical downpours in the afternoons are common and humidity can be high. To encourage people to visit in these times you can often get a lower rate at the lodges but malaria is also something you need to be more cautious of.
Same as Kenya with the rains come lush vegetation making game a little harder to find.
November is the month of the ‘short’ rains – which are less tropical and heavy – rather, they are short, fresh downpours followed by clear skies and sun.
The Dry Seasons
From June through to the end of October is the long dry and cooler season. The chances of rain is slim and humidity isn’t an issue, making these months a popular time to go. The bush dries out, making it easier to track wildlife and the animals are more dependent on water holes and riverine areas, so you tend to see more plentiful game.
December to March is also the dry season, but the weather again is humid. Christmas is a really popular time for people to visit, so lots of advance planning is needed should you want to visit then.
The Great Migration
The best months to experience the great migration is May to July, when the plains are fertile and full of grazing wildlife, and from November to March when they return to have their babies. July and August are particularly busy in terms of safari visitor numbers, so you do need to take this into consideration with your planning.