Best time for safari?
We’re often asked ‘what’s the best time for safari?’ Since there’s great weather and wonderful wildlife year round, the answer really depends what it is you want to do. Here’s a rough guide to some of our favourite activities:
Zambian walking safari – June to September. One of the purest ways to experience the African bush is on foot and Zambia, particularly the South Luangwa Valley, is a top choice. The sun won’t be too fierce, there’s no chance of rain, the bush is relatively sparse and the wildlife is settled. Likely sightings include elephant, buffalo, zebra, giraffe, hippo and great bird life. Nights are spent in simple bush camps or on a bedroll under the stars with the cover of just a mosquito net.
Botswana riding safari – Year round. If you’ve got in mind the classic picture of splashing alongside wildlife in the Okavango Delta then June to September – when water levels peak – is the time for you. Faster riding is better as the waters recede, October to May, opening up greater tracts of land to cross. Wildlife viewing is excellent whenever you choose to travel.
Cape Town – November to April. With seasons the opposite to Europe, Cape Town is a great winter sun destination. November might catch the end of the whale watching season before things really hot up between December and March. April is autumn but still sunny and combines well with a southern African safari.
Gorillas in Rwanda and Uganda – January, February and August to October. The equatorial location means little temperature variation but walking through dense rainforest on sometimes steep paths is easiest outside the rainy season. Tracking these magnificent animals in their natural habitat is a rare privilege and even an hour spent with them creates lifelong memories. Uganda offers more combinable safari options within its own borders whereas tracking is considered slightly easier in Rwanda.
Avoiding the crowds – Low season. Often described as ‘the green season’, this usually coincides with lush landscapes, thick vegetation and few tourists. February and March in Kenya are particularly good while Tanzania’s northern Serengeti is nearly deserted in January. You’ll have the wildlife almost to yourself, quiet camps and all for less expense.
Zebra Migration – December to March. The wildebeest migration is the famous one but the longest is that made by zebras travelling across Botswana in search of fresh grazing. Summer visitors to the Makgadikgadi grasslands will find up to 30,000 zebra gathered in the usually dry pans where they calve and feast on the new grass. It is extraordinary viewing and perhaps one of the more engrossing migrations to witness.
Family safaris – School holidays. Space fills quickly at the best camps during the school holidays so early planning is essential. Don’t dismiss safari during half term though. Little time change and direct overnight flights make October and February half terms a good bet in East Africa, while Cape Town, Victoria Falls and Botswana is a super Easter combination.
Wildebeest Migration River Crossings – August and September. Though the migration is a year-round event, these are the peak months for the dramatic river crossings beloved by documentary makers. The Masai Mara will be busy so don’t forget the Tanzanian side of things where there are several great camps either within sight of a crossing point or readily accessible.
Climbing Kilimanjaro – September, October, January and February. You can climb at any time of the year but this is when the days are clear, the temperature is comfortable and there’s less chance of rain. The scenery is at its best too, with lush vegetation on the lower slopes combining dramatically with volcanic crags and glacial valleys of the upper reaches.
Canoe safaris – June to August. Canoeing down the Zambezi River is one of the more adventurous ways to explore this scenic landscape. Honking hippos and huge elephants stud the waters and shoreline while colourful bird life flits overhead. Nights are spent in simple mobile camps like explorers of old. Top and tail with a comfortable safari camp for a truly authentic safari experience.
Honeymoons – anytime. But if you want to add a beach portion to your safari, which many do, bear in mind that your options in May and June will be limited to Mauritius and the Seychelles. Not bad options by any stretch of the imagination but just involving a little further travel from the African mainland than at other times of the year when the Kenyan and Tanzania coast as well as Zanzibar, Madagascar and Mozambique are all wonderful options.
If you’ve got this far and not found an answer to a question you have that we should have included, please ask in the comments section below, or pop us an email. We’ll be sure to reply and may amend the article to include our answer.
We would be delighted to help you plan a holiday, or answer any questions if you’re at an earlier stage. Our team of experts have travelled widely throughout Africa. They can offer expert advice on every type of safari from family and beach holidays to riding and primate safaris. If you would like to talk to someone who has been there and done it, please just send us an email or give us a call.