Wednesday
Jun052013

The Best Time to Go On Safari in Africa

So when is the best time to go on safari in Africa? On such an enormous continent, that really depends on where you want to go. If you already have a time in mind, weather can be a great guide to narrowing your options. A month that’s vibrant and dry in one country might be wet and miserable in another. And if you’re not sure when you’ll be on safari, you can use this guide to decide the season that perfectly fits your vision of wild Africa. Here is Epic Road’s handy safari calendar guide!

We've divided the continent up into East Africa and Southern Africa based on common weather patterns.  

African Safari CalendarBest Time to Go on Safari by Epic Road

East Africa: Best time to Go on Safari in Tanzania, Kenya, and Rwanda

In Africa, many safaris follow the path of the Great Migration.  In Tanzania, the Great Migration of ungulates can be seen throughout the year; you just need to know where to look. The migrating herds enter Kenya for a much shorter period, usually from July or August until October – though recent years have seen major arrivals as early as June, and lingerers in the Maasai Mara region until November or even later.  (See our post on the Great Migration calendar.)

In Kenya, the year is divided by two wet seasons—the “long” rains, from April to June, and the “short” rains, spanning a few weeks in November and December. The long rains aren't an ideal time to view game across East Africa, but they are followed by a relatively cool season—and this is the time of the Great Migration. In August, Kenya often experiences a safari crush as herds and their accompanying predators fill the Mara. The short rains are followed by a season of hot, dry weather in from January to March, a perfect time to dive or snorkel on the coast.

In Tanzania, the main rainy season lasts through the spring-- the end of March through May. Afternoon tropical downpours are common, especially on the coast and islands. The dry season, from June to October, is a perfect time to visit. In the winter, most of the ungulates, like the zebras and wildebeest, are calving their young which makes December through the end of February an incredible time to visit as well.

Zanzibar follows a similar pattern to the rest of Tanzania, though it tends to be more humid. The best time to visit is from June to October, when the weather is hot and dry. But December through the end of February can be just as beautiful.

Rwanda, too, is divided by its two rainy seasons—March to May, when rains are heavy and persistant, and October to November. In between are two drier seasons, but because of Rwanda’s pleasant tropical highland climate, rain is always reality in Rwanda.

Southern Africa: Best time to Go on Safari in Botswana, Zambia and Namibia

When it’s spring in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s autumn in the South. Southern Africa from February to April tends to be dry and green, following the rains of summer. So-called rain pans, holding large refuges of drinking water, are a draw for some of the region’s most spectacular wildlife, both large and small. Especially for elephants, the mud-bottomed pans are a special treat, and a great way to watch the animals in a social atmosphere. Namibia and Botwana are particularly lovely in these months.

May brings the floodwater to the Okavango Delta. This is one of the most interesting and exciting times to watch the wildlife. As the tongue of the flood moves through the dry riverbeds, the region explodes in a spectacular show of flora and fauna. The hippo and crocodiles have been waiting for this moment. It’s a time for them to shine.

As the southern Hemisphere tilts away from the sun, temperatures across southern Africa drop. At night, temperatures can be close to freezing, especially in the drier Kalahari. Great flocks of birds have arrived with the floods. The molapos, or seasonal swamps, of the Okavango Delta are filled, attracting enormous herds of zebra, giraffe, buffalo, and impala. In August, the elephants are feeding on the fruit of the palm tree. The congregation of many animals in small, concentrated wet areas can lead to a busy peak season for safaris, but in many ways, this is the Okavango at it's most beautiful. 

In spring, the trees start to flower. The molapos are filled with waterlilies, making for beautiful, verdant vistas.

DecemberJanuary, and February are the hottest months in southern Africa, easily reaching temperatures of forty degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit). In the Okavango Delta, the rains make it an imperfect time to safari, and in Zambia too, this is the “emerald season,” full of flooding rains that force camps to close and make roads impassable. Instead, head to the Kalahari Desert, which is spectacular this time of year. 

Southern Africa: The Cape

The Southern Cape (and Cape Town) has weather patterns unlike anywhere else in southern Africa, which is partially what makes the region so fascinating and unique. From November to March, while it rains in the rest of southern Africa, the Cape is hot, sunny, and dry—perfect vacation weather. Christmas and New Years are beautiful, but can be predictably busy with local and international vacationers.

The winter—from April to August—is cooler, with a bit more rain. June and July are pleasant but changeable, locally known as the “four seasons in one day” time. September marks the beginning of spring—famous in Namaqualand for fields full of blossoming fynbos flowers.

 

Reader Comments (1)

This is the kind of succinct, practical information that every tour operator's website should have but too few do. Well done.

Jul 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterClark Norton

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