African Safari blog

What Is The Best Time To Travel To Africa?

Preparing for a Safari

Africa is essentially a year round destination. This said, there are a number of provisos. Here, we explain these in greater detail.

East Africa

East Africa (Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda) are best avoided during the long rains of April and May. This is not necessarily because of the rain itself, but because the black cotton soil makes the going tough. In fact, it almost guarantees bogged vehicles, even if they are 4WD. 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, which Foxtel and National Geographic have so widely popularised.

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.

South Africa

Botswana

Southern Africa also experiences a summer rainy season (that is, from November to March). This said, at least it doesn’t 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 in Botswana between June and October. Rather, it’s the period regarded as the tourist high season and accommodation rates virtually double.  It’s important to us that our clients have the opportunity to experience the contrasts Botswana can offer without breaking the bank. Therefore, we tend to favour April and May for visits to the Okavango Delta and other amazing Botswana destinations.

Victoria Falls

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 this 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 Zambezi River

The lodges on the banks of the Zambezi, at least those on the floodplain, tend to 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. Thankfully, the rates do not vary as greatly between seasons as in Botswana.

Namibia

Apart from the Etosha and the Caprivi Strip, it’s the heat rather than the rain that dictates the best time to visit Namibia. The coolest months are between May and October. In Etosha and the Caprivi Strip, the usual principles apply. In the wetter months, one can enjoy the greener, lusher vegetation that plentiful water brings.

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, with the vegetation more sparse, the animals are easier to see. They can often be seen gather at diminishing waterholes once or twice a day to refresh themselves.

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

The Lowveld

Finally, the Lowveld in South Africa (the location of the Kruger National Park) has a subtropical climate. It features a wet season similar to that of Botswana (that is, November to March).

Here, one can apply the same principle as for Etosha, with the best animal viewing occurring in winter from May to October. However, the scenery is prettier at the end of the wet season. While temperatures are starting to rise by November, it’s a great time to witness the impala lambs. Indeed, this species of antelope all give birth around this 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 enough, impala can collectively delay the birth of their young if the start of the rainy season is delayed.

The Unpredictability of Mother Nature

But since it is nature we are talking about, there are no guarantees. Take, for instance, the day we arrived in the greater Kruger area. The temperatures were in excess of 40 degrees C. I plunged into the little pool on our deck to try and survive the (expected, at least) November heat. The very next day, however, the temperature plunged to a chilly 19 degrees – boy was I sorry I had forgotten my ski jacket!

Read about 5 great things you can do while on holiday in South Africa or request an itinerary so you can experience the wonders of Africa, your way.

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