When to Visit
“When is the best time of year to travel to Africa?”
This is a question we are often asked and it’s a hard one to answer concisely. When planning a much needed and hugely anticipated holiday to Africa, there are many countries to choose from and factors that need to be taken into account. Here are some pointers.
Remember, Africa is a huge continent, so good planning and taking advice will ensure you make best use of your time and hard earned cash. Often when you want to travel doesn’t exactly suit the seasons of where you wish to visit, so be as open minded as possible and plan well ahead. Travelling in low or shoulder season to avoid crowds and help the budget can be a good option. If you have very set dates, such as a honeymoon or anniversary, take advice as to which African country will work the best for the time of year, as every one has so much to offer. If you have absolute “must do’s” please tell us and we can suggest the best time of year for you to travel to achieve your aims.
We love Africa and are always searching, on your behalf, for those hidden gems that will make your holiday unforgettable.
When would you like to travel?
It’s the rainy season across many of east and southern Africa but don’t let that put you off: travel to Africa in January and you can look forward to dramatic wildlife viewing. The lush green landscape is the stage for the birthing seasons of migrating wildebeest in the southern Serengeti as well as antelope and zebra in Botswana’s Kalahari reserves, all of which leads to exciting predator/prey interaction.
On the other hand, if you want to keep it drier, then Tanzania’s Tarangire National Park and Ngorongoro Crater see a short break from the rains in January and February, and you can take advantage of this time to combine a safari with dry-season gorilla tracking in Uganda and Rwanda. If you want it as dry as a Martini, then head for Cape Town between now and March for the Mother City’s driest and warmest months.
You’ll be in for some rain if you travel to many areas of Africa in February for a safari but it may be a small price to pay: the Serengeti and Kalahari migrations and Calving seasons are in full swing, and national parks and reserves across southern Africa are handsomely clothed in green.
It also means you can pick up some great deals on safaris and accommodation – this is the low season for many wildlife destinations – and you can combine your safari with Cape Town at its hottest and driest, or head for the island of Zanzibar. In February you not only have the Swahili musical festival of Sauti za Busara but also one of the best months for scuba diving. And it’s peak gorilla trekking season in Uganda and Rwanda.
Travel to Africa in March and you still have a drier time for gorilla trekking in Uganda and Rwanda – try the Bwindi Forest in Uganda or Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda – as well as the tail-end of the birthing seasons in the Serengeti and Kalahari.
And if you are planning to trek for gorillas in Rwanda, then March to mid-May has a reputation as the best time to see chimpanzees in Rwanda’s Nyungwe Forest. Figs and other fruits ripen at this time and the chimps are in larger groups, feeding lower down in the trees and remain in the area for longer.
The rains are starting across many of our safari destinations in East Africa: in the Serengeti, the wildebeest are on the move, passing through the Seronera area in long columns attracting the attention of big cats: this is a great time and place to see lions, leopards and cheetahs. Many lodges close but this can make it a perfect time to escape the crowds.
Travel to Africa in April and you will experience the undiluted might of Victoria Falls in full flood and as the temperatures begin to fall and the vegetation thins out, it heralds the start of the walking safari season in the Kruger National Park . It’s getting cooler in Cape Town and in Namibia, if you time it right, join in the the Windhoek Carnival – a celebration of music and dancing.
Don’t forget Ethiopia either. At this time of year the climate is cooler, making this a great time to visit the rock-hewn churches and archaeological sites in the north. Known for its religious festivals, don’t miss the Palm Sunday celebrations in Aksum, or the Easter Celebrations at the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Addis Ababa.
You will get good deals on safaris in May: it’s the shoulder season in southern Africa (between the end of the rainy season and the start of the dry one,) and it’s a great time to go on safari in the Kruger/Sabi Sands, Botswana and Namibia. Up in the Serengeti, the migrating wildebeest are arriving in the Western Corridor and begin crossing the crocodile-infested Grumeti River in May and June – book early for this one!
Travel to Africa in May and you also enjoy the start of the drier months for Mozambique and its wonderful Indian Ocean island archipelagos – Bazaruto and the Quirimbas – making this month a good one for a ‘Bush & Beach’ holiday. And it’s the start of the best time for Lake Malawi too as well as South Africa’s KwaZulu Natal province, all of which means a great range of beach and safari combinations to suit all types of travellers from families with young kids to honeymoon couples.
Travel to Africa in June for the start of the safari season in southern Africa. From now until October it’s the driest, coolest and easiest wildlife viewing of the year. Highlights include wild dog denning in Botswana and Zimbabwe as well as the start of best time for Zambezi River rafting. It’s also the river crossing season in the Serengeti as the migrating wildebeest negotiate the snapping jaws of giant crocodiles on their journey back to the Masai Mara.
Book as early as you can for this event, as well as for well-sited accommodation at the Ngorongoro Crater as this famous destination moves into peak season. June sees the return of the drier months for gorilla trekking in Uganda and Rwanda, and is when new-born gorillas are named in the ‘Kwita Izina’ ceremony in Rwanda’s Virunga Mountains. Moving to the Indian Ocean, a visit to Mozambique between June and November gives you the best chances of seeing humpback whales plus dolphins, present in large numbers between June and August.
Africa in July is renowned for heavyweight game viewing. Not only are the Serengeti/Masai Mara river crossings are at their peak, but it’s also an excellent time for big cats in the central Serengeti, mopping up after the migration has passed through. It’s a great time to track gorillas in Uganda and Rwanda while down in South Africa’s Western Cape, Southern Right whales have started to arrive along the coast from Cape Town and Plettenberg Bay and Great White shark-watching season opens in False Bay.
It’s the cooler and wetter months down in the Cape but there’s still plenty happening, including the 10-day, event-studded Knysna Festival on the Garden Route – combining perfectly with a malaria-free Big-5 safari in the Eastern Cape.
The winter rains in the Cape have triggered masses of flowers, often covering the landscape in sheets of luminous colour. North of Cape Town, the desert-like Namaqualand region has the most extensive displays but you don’t have to travel that far: the West Coast National Park is under a 2-hour drive from Cape Town and at its best in August and September. Gorilla tracking in Uganda and Rwanda is good in August and it combines well with a safari in Kenya: the wildebeest herds have arrived in the Masai Mara and you can expect great sightings of predators in action – big cats, hyenas and perhaps even wild dogs.
It’s mild and dry weather across all of southern Africa (except Cape Town where it is wet) and perfect for safaris in Zambia, South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe. Namibia is a popular destination at this time of year so booking early is a must. It’s also perfect weather on the Mozambique coast and its islands – reassuring news for honeymoon plans!
Travel to Africa in September for a big game safari – it’s getting hotter but most wildlife destinations are excellent right now: huge numbers of elephants are concentrating at Botswana’s Chobe River and Okavango Delta, Zambia’s Lower Zambezi plus South Luangwa – home to the best walking safaris in Africa.
It’s a good month for gorilla tracking in Uganda and Rwanda, and there is lots of drama in Kenya’s Masai Mara where the wildebeest herds are once again under sustained attack from predators. It’s still lovely weather in the Indian Ocean – Mozambique or the KwaZulu Natal coast – and if you are keen to spot whales, then travel to the coastal town of Hermanus near Cape Town for peak whale-watching season but book your accommodation early!
It can be hot and uncomfortable in southern Africa’s safari destinations but in terms of animal numbers and ease of viewing, October is as good as it gets. Places like the Chobe National Park, Moremi Game Reserve, Hwange, Kruger & Sabi Sands and Etosha are at their driest and the animals are at their greatest concentrations around water – easy targets for big cats and wild dogs. It’s warm up in the Masai Mara too but sill dry.
The wildebeest herds have spread out across the reserve though they are beginning to eye up the Serengeti border – the coming rains will soon drive them across it. Scuba divers often like to time their holiday with a particular event: in Mozambique, October is when enormous, majestic whale sharks arrive, passing through the area from now until early next year.
It’s the start of the rains across southern Africa and another shoulder season, making top destinations available at cheaper rates and with a fraction of peak-season visitors. But travel to Africa in November to witness some of the continent’s most extraordinary yet virtually unknown wildlife events. In Zambia’s Kasanka National Park, up to ten million straw-coloured fruit bats descend upon an obscure patch of swampy forest, while the country’s Liuwa Plains sees the arrival of tens of thousands of wildebeest to make the most of fresh grazing.
It may have started raining but Victoria Falls is at its lowest levels now (flood waters only arrive next month); if your bucket-list includes a swim in Devil’s Pool right on the edge of the waterfall, then November is the month to do it. The rains have also started in east Africa. As if pulled by some giant invisible string, the wildebeest herds begin a southerly trek, leaving the Masai Mara and returning to the Serengeti – consider staying at a mobile tented camp that follows the migration and sets up in the best locations.
It’s hot across Africa in December; safari destinations across southern Africa are getting rain but it’s still a good time to see wildlife, especially in Botswana’s Kalahari where zebra and elephant migrations add to the mix of desert wildlife. It’s also the best time to see new-born seal pups on Namibia’s Skeleton Coast as well as the country’s desert destinations in their first flush of summer greenery.
It’s hot and dry in Zanzibar – December is one of the best months to visit the island – while down in Cape Town, peak season is in full swing as the city moves into its sunniest months. We always advise our clients to book accommodation early for a December holiday in Cape Town and can recommend a number of personalised guided day tours in and around the city and the winelands.