Different seasons on Safari

Different safari seasons can give you totally different experiences, many of which a lot of people are not aware of.

In short, there is no bad time to be on safari, but certain areas tend to peak at different times of the year.

Here is a breakdown on which places might be best to visit during different times of the year.

Simply click on the months below that you would like to travel to see where the best safari destinations are during that time of the year to be taken to the most relevant section of this page. Not sure where to begin and when to travel? Keep scrolling and perhaps something will catch your eye.

Safari Seasons

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When do you want to travel?

January - March

April - June

July - September

October - December

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January - March

South Africa

January is considered to be the rainy season in South Africa, but this should definitely not stop you from going on safari.  Generally the days are quite hot, ranging between 28-35 degrees Celsius / 82-95 degrees Fahrenheit, with thunderstorms building up late in the afternoons.

During this time of the year, the majority of the antelope such as impala will start lambing, which means there is usually lots of baby antelope around - which in turn means that the opportunistic predators are not too far behind either.  The vegetation is also lush and green, which means there is beautiful contrast from a photographic point of view.

This time is considered to be the "Green Season" so one could often get preferential rates during this time of the year.  It is usually not a busy time so one could often travel to many incredible reserves and lodges without seeing a lot of people.

Tanzania 

Tanzanian Parks, especially the Southern regions of the Serengeti really are in a league of their own during the months of February and March. During this time of the year, the Great Migration moves to the plains of Ndutu for the annual calving season. Plains filled with hundreds of thousands of Wildebeest make for a mind blowing spectacle and is without a doubt a bucket list destination.

With the presence of the migratory herds, predators in this area become very active and it is without a doubt one of the best places on the planet to see cheetahs in the wild.  These rare predators use the vast open plains to reach their unimaginable speeds, usually targeting smaller antelope species such as Gazelle's and young Wildebeest.

Days are comfortable from a temperature point of view, with the average daily temperatures ranging between 26-30 degrees Celsius / 80-85 degrees Fahrenheit and dropping down to around 14-16 degrees Celsius / 55-60 degrees Fahrenheit in the evenings.

If predators are what you love, this is without a doubt the destination for you!

April - June

South Africa

As autumn sets in, trees start losing their leaves and the seasonal waterholes start drying out, forcing wildlife to drink at the more permanent water sources. Game viewing becomes a bit easier during this period, however, depending on the rainfall during the summer months the bush might start losing some of its greenery.

Towards May and June, sightings of nocturnal species become more common during the day, with reserves such as Tswalu being an absolute must visit over this time if you would like to encounter some of these rare and nocturnal species.

The mornings and evenings start getting cooler with temperatures ranging between 12 and 15 degrees Celsius and warming up to a very comfortable 25-28 degrees Celsius / 80-84 degrees Fahrenheit.

The Southern region in South Africa where Cape Town is situated starts its rainy season in June, with days often cold and rainy.  It is however the start of the Cape Whale migration which is a good enough reason to add the Cape to your safari itinerary.

Botswana

The month of April is a fantastic time to visit Botswana as the annual floods start reaching the Okavango Delta.  This is still considered to be Botswana's low season which means that you can get an incredible experience at a reduced rate and also without having too many tourists around.

Depending on the rainfall, the vegetation might still be quite thick, but game viewing in most regions is still very good.

The arrival of the floods mean that a variety of activities become available such as boat trips through the narrow channels, as well as the popular Mokoro (dug out canoe) trips which is a fantastic way to experience the waterways of the Okavango Delta.

During May the Okavango should be in full flood which is a sight that everyone has to see at some stage. The vegetation starts opening up and seasonal waterholes start drying out, making game viewing a bit easier.

The temperatures during the winter months also become very pleasant, warming up nicely after cold mornings and evenings.  This gives you the opportunity to do full days out in the field, maximising your game viewing time.

Uganda

The months of May and June are fantastic times to go gorilla trekking as Uganda's dry season approaches.

Not only does Uganda's Bwindi Forest offer a life changing experience seeing gorillas in the wild, but there are also a variety of other National Parks that can be explored in this beautiful country such as Queen Elizabeth National Park, Murchison Falls and Kibale.

Zimbabwe

Most of the camps in Mana Pools start opening up again after the rain season and the winter months from May to August is a fantastic time to do longer walking safaris in Mana Pools.

It is also a great time of the year to combine a Zimbabwe safari with Victoria Falls, which is full of water during this season.

Zambia

Like Zimbabwe, many camps in South Luangwa and the Lower Zambezi National Park start opening in April/May after the rainy season.

This is a fantastic time of the year to visit both these parks, as the temperatures are comfortable, game viewing is good and there are not too many visitors to these parks yet.

Namibia

Namibia is also a fabulous destination in May, as the country is still lush, rain is very rare, and the temperature is pretty much perfect because winter has not yet set in. As with Botswana, the country is in its low season, making for great value.

July - September

South Africa

July to September is the peak safari time in South Africa. This is considered the dry season, with little to no rain expected across most of the country (with the exception of Cape Town).

The vegetation is dry this time of the year and animals tend to concentrate around waterholes.

The cooler days allow you to do full day game drives, maximizing your time out in the field and with wildlife. Animals also tend to be active throughout the day as the temperatures never get too hot.

Nocturnal species such as bat eared foxes, pangolin and aardvark are also seen more frequently during the winter months.

The southern part of South Africa where Cape Town is situated, still experiences their rainy season during July and August with daily temperatures usually being low.  The Cape Whale Migration is still in full swing and is a fantastic spectacle to witness and most certainly worth dealing with the indifferent weather patterns. In September the rains in the Cape start easing up a bit, with more clear days, making it a great time of the year to visit the beautiful winelands as well as experiencing the Whale Migration along the garden route.

Kenya

July to September are arguably some of the best months to visit Kenya's Masai Mara as the migratory herds start moving in from the Serengeti.

Massive herds of wildebeest and zebras crossing the famous Mara River attracts a variety of predators from crocodiles lurking in the river, to lions, cheetahs and leopards hanging around the thickets waiting for any young or injured wildebeest.  Safaris around the Masai Mara are action packed during these months and is an absolute must see.

With the migratory herds moving into the Masai Mara, it is also a fantastic time of the year to witness the Mara and the herds from the air, and a hot air balloon safari is most certainly recommended.

The Masai Mara can also be combined with other fantastic parks in Kenya such as the famous Amboseli National Park which boast some of the best elephant viewing in Africa, as well as Samburu National Park and Lake Nakuru.

Uganda

These months are fantastic times to go gorilla trekking as Uganda's dry season approaches.

Not only does Uganda's Bwindi Forest offer a life changing experience seeing gorillas in the wild, but there are also a variety of other national parks that can be explored in this beautiful country such as Queen Elizabeth National Park, Murchison Falls and Kibale.

One can easily add Kenya's Masai Mara to your itinerary as the Great Migration is in full swing, giving you a true bucket list safari experience.

Botswana

Considered the peak game viewing times during this time of the year, Botswana is a fantastic destination to explore during the dry months. The Okavango Delta is still in full flood, whilst the vegetation is dry and open. Seasonal waterholes have dried up during this time, forcing general game towards the permanent water sources, which in turn attracts the predators.

Morning and evening safaris can be cold, so it is highly recommended to take warm jackets with you, even though blankets and hot water bottles are provided to get through those cold game drives.

The down side is that because these are peak months, rates are higher than during the green season, and availability also becomes harder. Bookings for this time of the year need to be made at least a year in advance.

Zambia

Camps in Zambia are fully open during this time of the year and is also considered to be the peak time on safari.  Temperatures are cold during the morning and evenings, but the days are very comfortable.

This is the perfect time of the year to do walking safaris with the mild midday temperatures, and is also a great opportunity to do full day Safaris, maximizing your time in the field.

South Luangwa remains one of the best parks in Zambia to travel during this time of the year, with the Luangwa River attracting a wide variety of general game. It is also considered as one of the best locations to view and photograph African wild dogs and leopard.

Zimbabwe

Mana Pools is a great destination during this time of the year and is perfectly suited to do longer walking safaris with the cooler days.

July and August are also considered to be one of the best months to view African Wild Dogs in Mana Pools, with the puppies usually roaming free and away from the den sites

The month of August brings the seasonal pods on the Albida trees which provides great nutritional value to a lot of the animals, especially the Elephants.  Certain individuals are seen standing on their hind legs to reach these pods, whilst others would push their trunks against the tree, shaking it vigorously to drop these sought after pods.

Seasonal waterholes are dry during this time of the year, forcing animals to move to the permanent water sources such as the Zambezi River, or some of the well known pools in the area.

Mana Pools is a great destination and can easily be combined with South Luangwa, South Africa and even Kenya.

October - December

South Africa

Considered to be the dry season across South Africa, October is probably one of the best months to visit.

There is great game viewing at all the parks and it is also a great time of the year to combine your safari experience with some of the winelands in Cape Town.

The daily temperatures across the country are pleasant with little to no rain expected across the country.

As November and December start approaching rains start returning towards the Northern part of the country, which can mean some rain on Safari. Summer is in full swing with the days being hot, with spectacular thunderstorms building up late in the afternoons.

Towards December the bush starts getting its green vibrant colors back as a result of the rains, and seasonal waterholes start filling up once again.

Christmas and New Years are incredible times of the year to spend in the bush as a family and is certainly worth combining with South Africa's beautiful coastline.

Botswana

If you can handle the heat, Botswana is great at this time of year. The heat drives the game towards the watering holes, swelling herds and making life easier for the predators as they hang out around the lakes and rivers. Chobe and the Linyanti see vast herds of elephant, while the Okavango Delta offers the herds a permanent source of water. Chitabe Reserve in the southern Delta and the herds in the Linyanti are awesome sights, while the Boteti River area south of Maun sees large build-ups of game on its banks.

The rains usually start arriving in November and December, bringing a great deal of relief to the wildlife with seasonal waterholes filling up again.

This is a great destination to combine with South Africa during this time of the year.

Zambia

October to December is arguably one of the best times to visit Zambia's South Luangwa National Park. As with Botswana, the daily temperatures are very high during this time of the year, but if you don't mind the heat, you will be rewarded with some fantastic game viewing.

Water is extremely scarce during this season, with the Luangwa usually being the only water source which attracts incredible numbers. Lions tend to take down larger prey species, many of which have lost condition due to the lack of food and water. It's a truly wild destination during October!

As the rains start arriving in November, many of the camps will start closing towards the second week, only opening again once the rains are done in April/May.

Kenya

The Masai Mara is still a great destination to visit during October and November, with many of the Migratory herds still grazing around the plains.

The grass tends to be very short during this time of the year as the herds continue to move through, making it a bit easier to find many of the predators that are residents in the Masai Mara. Although it is not considered peak season in the Mara, game viewing is still incredibly good, with less vehicles present than during the peak times.

The Masai Mara tends to get their short rains in November and December, and although this is still a great time of the year to view predators in the Mara, many of the migratory herds would have started to leave the Masai Mara towards the end of November, beginning December.

Zimbabwe

As with Zambia, Zimbabwe is a fantastic destination during October if you can handle the heat.

Mana Pools and Hwange National Park are great destinations during this time of the year, with incredible wildlife viewing.

Mana Pools in particular is very dusty during this time of the year, which keeps the golden glow in the Albida forest for a bit longer.  It is spectacular to witness!

Lions around Hwange National Park are also known to take down large prey during the dry months, often targeting young elephants and buffalo who have lost condition because of a lack of food and water.

Somalisa Camp, in particular, is a great camp to stay at during the dry months. A very popular waterhole in front of camp attracts hundreds of Elephants every day, giving you the luxury of sitting at camp watching the herds pass by throughout the day.

As the rains arrive during November/December, many of the camps in Mana Pools will also start closing until the rains have passed in March/April.

So as you can see, there really is no bad time to go on safari. All you have to decided is what time of the year works best for you and what it is you would most like to see and experience.

Until next time.

Michael

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This goes for photographers as well. We often base our decision on where we are going to travel depending on what it is we want to photograph.

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