When To Go On Safari

 
 

As you’d expect over such a huge landmass, the climate in Africa changes considerably from East to West, North to South. The best time to see wildlife tends to be between from May to October, during the dry season, when there is little rain so the bush is sparse and provides little camouflage for animals who are forced out into the open to visit dwindling waterholes.

 

When to visit Botswana on safari

January to February in Botswana

This is the “Green Season” when the rains fall throughout Botswana, hopefully! Recently the rains have been temperamental but the bush should be dense and animals are probably hidden and skittish as they protect their young – not the best time for game-viewing. However there is fresh grazing in the Kalahari and Makgadikgadi which attracts herds of animals, and prices are lower so it’s a good value time to visit Botswana.

March to April in Botswana

The nights are cool and the rains fall. In the north, the Okavango may start to flood, depending on when the rains started in Angola and how plentiful they were.

April is traditionally the unpredictable ‘Shoulder’ season as the rainy season turns to the dry season.

May to June in Botswana

This is a wonderful time in Botswana as the days are usually warm and sunny and the nights pleasantly cool. In the Delta, the floods have arrived from Angola, turning the sand of the Kalahari into a sparkling floodplain. In the Makgadikgadi, the pan turns very dry and wildlife disperses on a mission to find water.

July to August in Botswana

This is the high season in Botswana when you can find the more expensive safari experiences. This is the dry season when the days are clear and sunny, but conversely it’s when the Delta is at its wettest, with abundant game.

September to October in Botswana

This is a great time to visit Botswana as the water starts to dwindle and huge herds of elephants can be found in the north. This is the time of change for the Makgadikgadi as it turns from to wet, and the humidity rises.

November to December in Botswana

November usually heralds the beginning of the green season when the rains arrive and young are born. Shoulder seasons are unpredictable and that’s why we love them – and you’ll find all the locals and staff at the lodges are excited by the change in seasons too which makes for a lively atmosphere.

December can be a great time to visit Botswana for the birding and elephants in the north, and the wildlife in the Makgadikgadi, for those who aren’t looking for a Mara-type of experience with a checklist of animals they want to see before dinner.

When to visit Kenya on safari

January to February in Kenya

The beginning of the year is hot and dry in Kenya, conditions which suit game-viewing perfectly.

March to April in Kenya

March sees the beginning of the long rains which last until around late May. This isn’t traditionally the best time to go on safari as it’s hard to spot wildlife and the rains don’t make for a pleasant game-viewing experience – not to mention the obstacles this presents for local travel, and the associated bugs at lower altitudes.

The caveat to this is that the rains do not tend to last all day so you are likely to have lovely clear skies, and much fewer tourists – and this green season is considerably less expensive.

May to June in Kenya

The rains start to ease in May, and June is sunny and mild, with verdant and clear scenery.

July to August in Kenya

June to October is a great time to visit Kenya for wildlife viewing, now that the rains have stopped and the days are clear.

September to October in Kenya

September is arguably the best time for wildlife viewing in Kenya, when animals are out looking for water and are easy to spot due to sparse vegetation.

October brings some relief for the wildlife as the short rains usually commence around then. September – October is also the time to see the Great Migration in the Mara, before it heads south again towards the short grass plains of the Serengeti.

November to December in Kenya

Although November is rainy, December usually provides lovely clear and bright weather for all the newborn animals, and just in time for Christmas, making it one of the best places in Africa to choose for a Christmas safari.

When to visit Malawi on safari

January to February in Malawi

This is the rainy season in earnest, and a great time for birdwatching and orchid-hunting on the Nyika Plateau.

The lake can be a backdrop for dramatic electric storms in the afternoons. We’d say it’s not the best time to visit, as bugs are out when it rains, it’s humid, and getting around can be tricky.

March to April in Malawi

The rains ease off and the temperature begins to cool, but we’re not quite in the dry season yet.

May to June in Malawi

A fab time to visit – perfect beach weather on the shores of Lake Malawi with sunny clear days and cool evenings.

June can be quite windy which is great for wind-based watersports. Wildlife viewing is good as the dry season kicks off.

July to August in Malawi

July is a cool month, and somewhat chilly at altitude in the evenings.

Wildlife viewing is good as we’re now in the middle of the dry season.

September to October in Malawi

Great time for snorkelling and diving as the water is calm and clear, and the temperature is warm.

November to December in Malawi

November is the hottest month and some may find it unpleasant, depending on altitude. November is traditionally the short rains, with December – March the long rains.

When to visit Namibia on safari

January to February in Namibia

This is the humid rainy season where you may see thunderstorms in the afternoons.

This is the time to see newborns, although getting up close is tricky with skittish, protective mothers.

March to April in Namibia

Much of Namibia is transformed into a green and flowering land for a short time.

The temperatures are starting to become less intense and the rains are becoming still more sporadic. The air is clear and dust-free.

May to June in Namibia

The temperature is lovely at this time of year, and the scenery as lush as it gets for a semi-arid country.

Game viewing is improving as it dries out. Tourists are few and far between and there are some great deals at this time of year.

July to August in Namibia

It is dry and hot in the day times, and dry and cold in the evenings.

Scenery is arrestingly barren and wildlife viewing is good around Etosha.

September to October in Namibia

Temperatures increase, and so does the dust.

This can be irritating when you’re driving but can make for lovely atmospheric photos.

November to December in Namibia

November is a shoulder month so is unpredictable: it can be relentlessly hot and sticky, or the heavens may open bringing relief and impressive thunderstorms.

December is the rainy season and the beginning of birthing season.

When to visit Rwanda on safari

January to February in Rwanda

January is right in the middle of the short dry season, lasting into February, and is a fab time to see the gorillas.

You may see light rainfall, particularly in the afternoon, but it shouldn’t be as rainy as the rest of the year.

March to April in Rwanda

March sees the opening of the skies for the long rains, lasting throughout April to May.

This isn’t the best time to see the gorillas if you mind mud underfoot, but many consider it a good time to see chimps and gorillas as they don’t always venture so deep into the forest looking for food.

May to June in Rwanda

The rains start to ease somewhat and the flora is in full bloom.

Chimps and gorillas are often found on the lower slopes and closer to the edge of the forest. June is the start of the long dry season and a great time to get to Rwanda.

July to August in Rwanda

This is peak season and is classified as the dry season, although rain can fall at any time throughout Rwanda.

September to October in Rwanda

September is a great time to head to Rwanda, as it is to visit pretty much everywhere in safari Africa. The rains are starting to pick up but not aggressively so, and the ground is relatively firm underfoot.

The European and American schools have finished their holidays so things are quieter everywhere: perfect.

November to December in Rwanda

November is the short rains, continuing from October. It’s not too firm underfoot and the animals may hide away when the rain falls, but the flora is blooming beautiful.

December is peak season because it’s the dry season and it’s Christmas and it’s a great time to be in Rwanda!

When to visit South Africa on safari

January to February in South Africa

It’s pretty hot right now, and peak season for most of South Africa so be prepared for a few crowds. The Western Cape enjoys its dry summer at this time, whereas most of the rest of South Africa is experiencing its humid rainy season.

Thus it’s not the best time to spot game in the Kruger, but it’s a great time to visit the Winelands, the Garden Route, or enjoy a city break in Cape Town.

March to April in South Africa

The days start to cool and brighten and the rains receding.

Shoulder seasons are tricky to predict but certainly it shouldn’t be as hot as previous months.

May to June in South Africa

A great time to be in South Africa.

It’s the beginning of the dry season and so wildlife is somewhat easier to spot; the Southern Right whales are arriving for their summer holidays and it’s beautiful autumn time in the Western Cape.

July to August in South Africa

Summer holidays for the Europeans and Americans and a great time to head to South Africa. Game viewing is excellent as the dry season drags on, and the cool clear days make for comfortable game viewing and bush activities.

Cape Town can be a little wet and windy at this time as it follows a mediterranean summer/winter pattern.

September to October in South Africa

Excellent game viewing as the dry season continues but the crowds disperse as the schools in Europe and America return.

Cape Town/the Winelands are over the worst of their winter, and the Southern Right whales are nursing their young before their journey back to the Antarctic in November.

November to December in South Africa

Christmas is the rainy season in many parts of Sub-Saharan Africa, but it can be a great time to opt for a safari-city combination in South Africa where some of the country’s climate follows the summer-winter cycle as Europe does rather than the rainy-dry cycle.

When to visit Tanzania on safari

January to February in Tanzania

This is the rainy season in Tanzania, but the ITCZ may linger only a short while on its way southwards, so you may find that January and February is reasonably dry, particularly in the northern parks.

It’s a great time to see the Migration in the short planes of the Serengeti as the wildebeest calve.

March to April in Tanzania

The rainy season kicks off in earnest and prices drop, and some camps close their doors for a month or two.

It’s not a great time to go game viewing in most parks, and indeed wildlife heads north out of the southern parks.

May to June in Tanzania

The dry season begins in May and brings with it clear days and cool evenings.

The flora is in bloom and the landscape beautiful. It’s not as easy as later on in the dry season so spot wildlife, but certainly easier than earlier in the year.

July to August in Tanzania

This is peak season, coinciding with European and American school holidays: excellent game-viewing as the dry season sucks the moisture from the land and the wildlife is forced to the few waterholes.

The Migration is crossing the Grumeti around this time on its journey northward.

September to October in Tanzania

The crowds disperse as the schools go back in Europe and America, but this is still high season and game viewing is excellent at the end of the dry season.

This is a great time to see the chimps in the Mahale Mountains with the least amount of walking, although it does start to get quite hot around this time.

November to December in Tanzania

This is the start of the short rainy season in Tanzania and the wildlife starts to move out of the southern parks.

It can be humid and therefore uncomfortable, but the sun will still shine most mornings, and these rains are usually short-lived. The sun will usually shine again by mid December, meaning that Christmas is a great time to head on safari to Tanzania.

When to visit Uganda on safari

January to February in Uganda

This is a fabulous time to go and see the gorillas and chimps because it is dry underfoot and usually not too hot at altitude, despite it being the hot dry season at this time.

A good time to visit Queen Elizabeth National Park to find the tree-climbing lions.

March to April in Uganda

In contrast to Jan & Feb, this is not a great time to visit Uganda as the heavens open for the long rains. It doesn’t mean you have to stay away – and particularly in the forest it tends to rain all year at least a bit – but there are better months!

Having said that, the gorillas tend to come down to the lower slopes during the rains and so you don’t have to trek to far to see them

May to June in Uganda

The long rains begin to recede and many young are born into the verdant scenery which can be an incredibly rewarding time to go wildlife-viewing.

However gorillas give birth at any time of year – just like humans.

July to August in Uganda

One of the best times to visit Uganda is in the long dry season, from June to August.

It does mean you may have to walk a little further to find the primates because they don’t need to come down to the lower slopes for food or warmth, but it is an easier hike when the land is dry underfoot.

September to October in Uganda

September is usually reasonably dry but October is changeable as it heads for the short rains of November.

It’s less busy than the European summer months of July – August but still dry so it’s really the best time to be anywhere in safari Africa.

November to December in Uganda

Gorilla permits are often discounted in November which can make a considerable difference when permits are otherwise in the high hundreds of dollars.

December is a popular month as it is often reasonably dry as the Intertropical Convergence Zone heads south and takes the heavy clouds with it.

When to visit Zambia on safari

January to February in Zambia

Zambia is very much changed season by season when it comes to going on safari, because many lodges and camps shut down for the long rains from December to the end of March.

Victoria Falls in Jan/Feb can be a lovely addition to a hot summer safari in South Africa.

March to April in Zambia

Livingstone lodges around the Zambezi and Victoria Falls are open all year and rates are favourable in the rainy season, although much of the rest of Zambia is shut until 1st April.

It is a shame because the sun shines most days, but the roads are often impassable in the wildlife areas.

May to June in Zambia

The land dries and the wildlife start looking for the more well-known waterholes and become easier to spot.

The sun shines day in and day out and the Falls are exhilaratingly full and flowing strong.

July to August in Zambia

A busy time of year in most of safari Africa, but it never gets really busy in the wonderfully untouched Zambia.

The sun shines on and all areas become accessible.

September to October in Zambia

Now is the time to go white water rafting on the Zambezi at Livingstone as the water levels are low.

It’s a great time to head to the remote wildlife areas of Kafue and North Luangwa for a walking safari, as although it’s getting quite hot, the land is dry and the wildlife easy to spot.

November to December in Zambia

Although changeable, this is the time of year when the rains arrive.

Livingstone is always open for business and remains a lovely place to visit in any season, but the rest of the country becomes harder to reach and many remote camps and lodges shut down at the end of November.

When to visit Zimbabwe on safari

January to February in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe broadly follows the weather patterns of Zambia, with a long rainy season which starts in November and finishes in April.

In January the best place to be is around Victoria Falls as much of the country becomes difficult to reach during the rains.

March to April in Zimbabwe

The beginning of April heralds the start of the dry season at long last, and although it’s not the best time to spot wildlife, it is a rewarding time to visit Zimbabwe as rates are low, tourists are scarce and the country is in bloom.

May to June in Zimbabwe

The land dries and the wildlife start looking for the more well-known waterholes and become easier to spot.

The sun shines day in and day out and the Falls are exhilaratingly full and flowing strong.

July to August in Zimbabwe

A busy time of year in most of safari Africa, but it never gets really busy in the wonderfully untouched Zimbabwe.

The sun shines on and all areas become accessible.

September to October in Zimbabwe

Now is the time to go white water rafting on the Zambezi at Victoria Falls as the water levels are low. It’s starting to get quite hot; the land is dry and the wildlife easy to spot as it gathers around waterholes.

November to December in Zimbabwe

Although changeable, this is the time of year when the rains arrive. Victoria Falls is always open for business and remains a lovely place to visit in any season, but the rest of the country becomes harder to reach and less rewarding to visit.