African Safari blog

What Is The Best Time To Travel To Africa?

Preparing for a Safari

Africa is essentially a year round destination. However there are some provisos

East Africa (Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda) are best avoided during the long rains of April and May, not necessarily because of the rain itself but because the black cotton soil makes the going tough and almost guarantees bogged vehicles even if they are 4×4 WD. The East African short rains, which occur around November, are obviously not as intense or protracted.

Because the rainy season is less popular, accommodation rates are at their lowest during April, May and November. So some more budget conscious travellers choose to stretch their money by travelling then. In addition to the lower rates, travellers will also benefit from lower tourist density, particularly in the small Masai Mara popularised as it is by Foxtel and National Geographic.

Although the animals are really migrating all year around the spectacle known as the wildebeest and zebra migration, from the Serengeti to the Masai Mara and back, occurs during the months of May to October. Rates are at their highest in July through September for obvious reasons.

Southern Africa also experiences a summer rainy season (ie from November to March) but at least does not have the same gluey cotton soil. As well as the chance of rain, it can be hot during the rainy season particularly in Botswana. However, it is not the heat or the rain that we at Destinations Africa seek to avoid Botswana between June and October.

That period is regarded is the tourist high season when accommodation rates virtually double. So to ensure our clients have the opportunity to experience the contrasts Botswana can offer without breaking the bank, we tend to favour April and May for visits to the Okavango Delta and other amazing Botswana destinations.

April and May are also good months to witness Victoria Falls in all its glory. The falls are at their least impressive in November and December. However aspiring white water rafters should note that November is a great time to engage in that particular activity. Rafting operations generally close because of low water in December and January and also when the rapids become too dangerous to negotiate usually in May and June.

The lodges on the banks of the Zambezi, at least those on the floodplain, tend close from November to May as navigation is almost impossible until the floods recede. Away from the Zambezi the Zimbabwe lodges are open year-round and thankfully the rates do not vary as greatly between seasons as in Botswana.

Apart from the Etosha and the Caprivi Strip, it is not so much the rain that dictates the best time to visit Namibia as heat, with the coolest months being between May and October. In Etosha and the Caprivi Strip the usual principles apply, in the wetter months one can enjoy the greener more lush vegetation created by plentiful water. This means that as well as having to peer through denser bush, the animals can afford to be widely dispersed. However, in the drier months the animals are easier to see because they must gather at diminishing waterholes once or twice a day to refresh themselves and the vegetation is more sparse.

South Africa enjoys at least two distinct climates with Cape Town enjoying a Mediterranean climate with its associated warm dry summers. Winters tend to be cool with many wet rainy days but interspersed with some warm sunny days.

Finally the Lowveld in South Africa (the location of the Kruger National Park) has a subtropical climate with a wet season similar to that of Botswana ie November to March. The same principle applies as for Etosha with the best animal viewing occurring in winter from May to October but the scenery prettier at the end of the wet season. While the temperatures are on the rise in November it is a great time to see the impala lambs as that species of antelope all give birth around that time thus ensuring plentiful food for the mothers and babies. Flooding the market with babies ensures the survival of at least some impala lambs. Interestingly impala can collectively delay the birth of their young if the start of the rainy season is delayed.

But since it is nature we are talking about there cannot be any guarantees for example one day we arrived in the greater Kruger area with temperatures in excess of 40 degrees C, plunged into the little pool on our deck to try and survive the (expected) November heat – the next day the temperature had plunged to 19 degrees – boy was I sorry I had forgotten my ski jacket

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