Planning your Safari Holiday: A Seasonal Guide

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Planning your Safari Holiday: A Seasonal Guide

As the new year unfolds, it’s the perfect time to set sights on thrilling adventures and start planning ahead for your safari holiday. For safari enthusiasts, understanding the seasonal changes and their impact on wildlife sightings and experiences is key to planning an unforgettable journey. To assist in this planning process, here’s a comprehensive guide highlighting the unique qualities of different seasons for safari holidays.

‘Green Season’ or Low Season

Green season is known by many names: Wet season, Rainy season and low season. The timing varies slightly between East Africa and Southern Africa.

  • East Africa (Kenya and Tanzania) has short rains in November and long rains in April.
  • Southern Africa’s Green Season can last from December to March.

Traditionally seen as the low season for safari travel, it’s not usually favored for game viewing because animals become trickier to spot amidst new leaves and tall grasses. During this time, wildlife disperses from water sources to relish the abundant surface water and lush grazing. It’s generally not seen as a comfortable time for safaris either. The summer heat combines with high humidity from afternoon thundershowers, and insects thrive in these ideal breeding conditions.

BUT it’s not all doom and gloom.

Although these warm, rainy months may seem like an unfavourable time of year to on a safari, it has it’s perks. The heavy rains signal an abundance of food, which means it is the best time for wildlife to have babies, and despite the arrival of new animals, there are fewer travelers over this period, giving travelers a more private and personalised experience. You can also expect to see some predatory action due to calving season.

Pregnant Zebra
Pregnant Zebra ready for Calving Season

Green season has been given it’s name for a reason…it’s GREEN. With the heavy rainfall, comes vibrant and colourful landscapes. The dusty and dry lands are overgrown with lush green grass and flora. And, thanks to the lack of dust in the air, this is an opportune time for photographers to get clear, crisp and vibrant photos.

Advantages:

  • Lots of baby animals around – prime conditions for predator sightings
  • Fantastic time for birdwatching
  • No crowds – national parks are quiet
  • Optimal photography conditions
  • Low accommodation rates

Disadvantages:

  • Hot and occasionally wet weather
  • Some lodges may not be open
  • More insects, including mosquitos – higher risk of malaria
  • Animals are more difficult to spot in Southern Africa due to lush vegetation

‘Shoulder Season’ or Mid season

Mid Season, or better know by the industry term, ‘Shoulder Season’, usually refers to transitional months between winter and summer. This time usually marks the the seasons where it’s not quite low season, but not truly high season. The weather varies widely, it could be sunny one day and raining the next – it’s a more unpredictable time where the seasons, weather and animals’ behavior is changing.

Shoulder seasons typically fall around May and November, and can be a great time to plan your safari holiday. Many other travelers may be waiting for the high season before venturing to Africa, leaving you to explore destinations more exclusively.

  • Botswana, Namibia & Zimbabwe shoulder-season months are April, May and November.
  • Kenya’s shoulder season can last from October to December.
  • Tanzania’s shoulder season falls in the months of April to June and September to October.

High-Season

Although every country is different, Africa’s winter runs from about June to October which, apart from Cape Town, is very dry and there is no rain. The main advantage for traveling at this time is that game is much easier to find. The vegetation thins out because of a lack of rain, and animals tend to stay close to the remaining water sources which makes spotting wildlife easy. You are also likely to see many pregnant female grazers, like zebras, wildebeest and antelope, waiting the summer rains and fresh grazing to arrive to drop their babies.

Some places in the Okavango Delta are unreachable in green season because of high water. They open up when the water goes down in winter, allowing you to explore “untouched” areas. But be aware, sometimes the water gets so low after a long dry winter that water activities aren’t possible. If you’re looking for a unique experience, and you are wanting to do a long walking safari instead, pick winter. It’s cooler and there’s less mud around, making it easier and more comfortable.

Walking Safari
Walking Safaris in North Luangwa

In Tanzania, winter offers the best chance to combine a safari with climbing Mount Kilimanjaro—the cooler weather makes the summit’s shale more stable for climbers. For optimal views of Victoria Falls, plan a visit between June and July during peak season when water levels are high; by October, the Zambian side might disappoint due to lower water levels.

Advantages:

  • Cooler, less humid days and no rain
  • Reach areas that are usually unreachable in rainy season due to high water levels
  • Game is easy to see
  • Best time for walking safaris

Disadvantages:

  • Higher rates due to high demand
  • Lodges are at full capacity, lack of privacy
  • Lack of rain = lots of dust

Did you know? The Migration in East Africa never stops. Because the seasonal rains vary in this area, massive herds or wildebeest and zebra are continuously on the move. No matter what season you travel, whether you decide to visit both the Serengeti and Maasai Mara, you’ll witness the greatest migration on earth. Our 15 day – East Africa Migration Discoverer tour, gives you the opportunity to track the migration year-round. No matter when you plan your visit, you’ll witness a segment of this incredible phenomenon.

Great Migration Serengeti
The Great Migration, Serengeti near the Ngorongoro Conservation area

If you love lush landscapes and fewer crowds, consider traveling during the ‘Green Season.’ It’s a time of vibrant nature and lots of newborn animals. But if you prefer spotting wildlife easily and enjoying drier weather, aim for the ‘High Season’ during Africa’s dry winter. Both seasons offer incredible experiences for anyone’s safari holiday; it just depends on what you’re looking for in your safari adventure. So, pick the season that suits your preferences and get ready for an unforgettable journey into the wild!

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