I've just returned from a two week long safari through the Southern regions of Tanzania as we explored the Ruaha National Park and Selous Game Reserve (now Nyerere National Park). This safari was scheduled at this time of the year specifically to make the most of the green season and provide a sharp contrast to the dry season safari experience that so many guests are familiar with.
East Africa has received a lot of rain recently and believe me - it was VERY green. The short rains typically begin in December and run through until the end of January into a drier February before the long rains of March and April force camps in this region to close. This season is very different with rains starting to fall in early October already. Not only were the rains early but they have been way above average as well!
So, when I share this experience, I think its safe to say that this is about as tough (spectacularly beautiful in my opinion) as it gets. In this post I'm going to address some of the most frequently shared concerns from when I posed the question around Green Season safaris on my Instagram feed.
"There is too much Rain"
It's pretty obvious that the green in the term Green Season is as a result of rainfall. Whilst rain can certainly put a dampener on your safari experience it may not be as bad as you think. It is not uncommon to have crisp clear skies in the morning which develop into sudden and often violent afternoon thundershower lasting for as little as 20 minutes and sometimes persisting for over an hour.
Entire days with persistent cloud cover and constant rain are the exception and, from a Tanzanian perspective, are typically reserved for the long rains in March and April when most of the camps in the southern part of the country close.
Did we get wet during our safari? Sure, we had some rain. On one occasion whilst opting to spend the entire day seated with a pride of lions we dropped the side awnings of the vehicle and positioned the vehicle in a way which gave us the most shelter but also the best possible view of the lions. To be honest, we hardly got wet during the 20 minute deluge. What we did get was the following images:
On a separate occasion in the Selous we waited out a similar downpour whilst photographing a spotted Hyeana who I can assure you got a whole lot more wet than we did!
"The Grass is too long"
This is another concern which is shared by many a safari goer and for good reason.
During the dry season the trees loose their leaves, the grasses have been grazed and start to lignify without the life-giving rain that supports their rapid growth during the green season. Visibility is much better during the dry season and, add to this the fact that wildlife tends to concentrate around what little water is available and you'd be forgiven for thinking that there is no other time to travel.
Here's a classic example of just how different an area can look between seasons.
For me, the dry season presents challenges in the form of very hard edges and high contrasts. Lots of hard lines and edges which, even if thrown out of focus and kept in the background of an image can be distracting. Think of bare branches, dry and lignified grass stalks that sit right across the face of your subject.
The green season on the other hand provides much more uniform, interesting and cleaner foregrounds and backgrounds. The dense vegetation - grass or otherwise, can be used to ones advantage in the form of natural framing. Average images are immediately transformed into something special during the green season.
The point I'm trying to make is that it may well be more difficult to see and find animals during the green season and you may not see the same sort of concentrations, I find the photographic opportunities during these periods to be far more interesting.
"You'll get stuck in the mud forever!"
Okay, so on this one I have to admit. You will get stuck. But not forever!
We got stuck on several occasions and, as you may know, there are degrees of being stuck. Most of the time we were able to get ourselves un-stuck thanks to a bit of teamwork but, we also managed to do a "proper-job" of getting stuck once or twice. Lets just say that theres not much a second vehicle or a tractor cant fix.
Honestly, we didn't miss out on any sightings and I do believe that getting stuck adds to the sense of adventure.
After all, its not really a green season safari if you don't get stuck!
I can recall one out of 10 nights on safari where we felt a bit agitated by the bugs flying around the dinner table. A quick adjustment to the lighting and adding some soft candles to the table not only addressed the insect situation but added a lovely, romantic mood to our dinner.
Most cams will have mosquito nets fitted to the bed and will spray the room with insect repellant when performing the turn-down service in the evenings.
I found this comment to be quite interesting. Typically the green season tends to be a far more affordable time to travel. Lower occupancies in camps will often result in complimentary upgrades, long stay specials (eg stay 5 pay 4) and even fewer guests on a vehicle. Whilst safari at any time of the year is not necessarily a cheap exercise, you can really get great value for money when traveling during the green season.
My Personal Tips for Green Season Travel
The green season can be a fantastic change to the usual dry-season experience that so many people are used to - regardless of whether you are a photographer or not. Here are some personal tips to help make the most of your green season safari:
- Be prepared to get wet. A good rain-coat and protective covers for your camera gear will make you a lot more comfortable should you get caught in the rain.
- Get to know the area and choose your travel dates carefully. Always try and visit as early in the green season as possible before the grasses get too long.
- Stop to appreciate the smaller things in nature. Chances are you wont be rushing from one big cat sighting to the next so take the time to appreciate the jewels of the green season. Things like dung beetles, wild flowers, butterflies, frogs and new born calves.
- Embrace the spirit of adventure. Someone once said ""The only difference between a disaster and an adventure is your attitude." Embrace every minute of your safari and just try and be present!
If you have any questions about travelling during the green season please do leave a comment on this post or get in touch by email, I'll be only to happy to assist wherever possible!