The best time for a safari in Africa

When is the best time to go on a safari in Africa?

If you are a first-time traveler to Africa and you are planning a safari you are probably wondering when is the best time to go on an Africa safari, right? The best places to see wildlife are most of the rugged countries situated below the equator in sunny southern Africa including Tanzania, Kenya, Botswana, Mozambique, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa. We also bring you overland adventures to the vast interior of Namibia and gorilla trekking in Rwanda and Uganda. When to go on safari in Africa is a personal choice depending on time available, your need for rest, the best rates, the least crowded period and the seasons, of course. Most hardened African explorers recommend the dry season from June to September but other months have their own charm.

Guests on a safari game drive going past a herd of elephants in Kenya
A game drive is the highlight of any safari, providing the opportunity to experience Africa’s natural beauty and see wildlife in its natural habitat.

Be aware of changing weather patterns across southern Africa and plan your safari accordingly. Remember that Mozambique experiences cyclones and flooding in their wet season, Namibia is uncomfortably hot in their dry season and Botswana waterways are only open in their wet season. Remember that South Africa is split into two distinct and opposite weather patterns with rain in winter in the Cape but rain in summer in the other provinces. It is best to make a general plan on safari in Africa and be flexible all the way!

Game Viewing in The Dry Season on Safari

Most visitors to Africa like to go game viewing in the dry season on safari and choose iconic wildlife destinations such as the Serengeti National Park, Selous Game Reserve and Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania, the Masai Mara, Tasavo Plains and the Great Rift Valley in Kenya and the famous South Luangwa National Park in Zambia. Southern Africa experiences a common dry season from around May through to October when the rains stay away, the weather is clear and sunny most of the time and the animals are gathering at water sources such as pans, lakes, rivers, floodplains and wetlands. The animals are also easier to see as the trees are sparsely covered and thickets are thinner with less foliage. One of the perks of the dry season is that malaria risks are reduced as mosquitoes breed when the rains come. 

Aerial view of the Sky Bed accommodations with the waterhole in the distance
Located in the Khwai Private Reserve, the five-metre high Skybed platforms overlook a waterhole and boast 360 degree views over a pristine wilderness.

On the other hand, the wet season in Africa, especially Zimbabwe, can be very rewarding – Mana Pools will be lush and full of water, the great rivers will be pumping and the Victoria Falls will be a sight for sore eyes! This is the green season and many calves are dropping, birdlife is exceptional and predators are very active, looking for easy opportunities. 

When is the Best Time for a Safari in East Africa

East Africa is renowned in safari circles for the Annual Great Migration and travelers like to journey between Kenya and Tanzania to witness this awe-inspiring natural spectacle. The best time for a safari in East Africa is in tune with the Great Migration, a cyclical event starting in about December to March or April and then back in June to the middle of November. It moves from the end of the rainy season through the dry season to the beginning of the annual rains again. This means that many avid migration followers come in what is known as ‘shoulder season’ (March to May and October to December) falling between the most popular dry season and the wetter less travelled season. 

Three game vehicles driving through huge herds of wildebeest
Experience the Great Migration, an amazing natural wonder where massive concentrations of wildebeest, zebras, and other annuals migrate to find greener pastures!

If that is simply confusing, let’s keep it simple and say that the best time to visit Tanzania and Kenya is the dry season, from June until October when game viewing is at its richest and the Great Migration has reached the Serengeti. The wildebeest move to the Masai Mara in September until October. The best weather in East Africa is from June until October, so hope this helps!

Zimbabwe and Zambia – Best Time to Travel

There were never any permanent water sources in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe, affecting animal movements and survival – until 60 man-made pans were created across the park in the 1920s.  the best time to travel to Zimbabwe is therefore the dry season but other parks may be better in the wet season. The Hwange pans remain full in the dry months when massive elephant herds gather and sable antelope are also a sight for sore eyes in this glorious ecosystem. When the rains come, the larger, more charismatic animals move into the thick vegetation while the smaller animals come out to feed and drink and visitors can spot tiny steenbok, bat-eared fox, antbear, rodents and reptiles. 

Guests on a canoe safari experience viewing a herd of elephants near them
Canoe safaris explore the Zambezi River, with Zimbabwe and Zambia lining the banks on either side.

Many travelers to Africa like to go in Spring to see the newborn animals but the roads can be muddy or even impassable at this time when it is raining. But it is beautiful with all the new green shoots and new life everywhere! Indeed, seeing Lake Kariba and Mana Pools in the wet months is mind-blowing! So, the best season to visit Zimbabwe and Zambia is then May to October when Victoria Falls is at its most spectacular and water sources attract animals in herds. Many rustic camps close down over the wet season so book that safari for the dry season. 

Walking safaris in the dry months in South Luangwa can be hot but they are safer and animals are easier to view on foot when the foliage is drier and less green. Kafue National Park is a dry season safari destination and the Busanga Plains are in their prime – see the tree-climbing lions and better sightings of cheetahs and wild dogs. Remember to time your safari at the quietest time to avoid crowding in lodges and on game drives! 

Guests on a guided safari walk in Africa with an elephant behind them
Did you know? The South Luangwa in Zambia is considered the birthplace of walking safaris!

The Best Time for a Safari Holiday in South Africa

The best time to go on safari in South Africa depends on what you want to see and experience. The peak season for safari holidays is typically from June to September, the dry season when the sparse vegetation makes it easier to spot wildlife. However, winter can be cold, particularly in the early morning and evening, so be sure to pack warm clothing. If you’re interested in seeing newborn animals, the best time to go on safari is during the wet season, from November to March. This is also a good time to see migratory birds and lush vegetation.

When it comes to choosing a safari in South Africa, there are many options to consider. One of the most popular destinations is Kruger National Park, home to reams of wildlife, including the majestic Big 5. Various types of safaris range from self-drive safaris and guided 4×4 tours, to rustic walking trails in nature and exclusive safari lodge ventures. The Garden Route, the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and North West Province all offer sought-after luxury game lodges and national park destinations for the best safaris in the country.

Group of tourists on a guided safari walk viewing a herd of elephants
One of the best ways to see nature and the wildlife… A guided bush walk through the wilderness is a must.

Remember that the Western Cape has the opposite seasons to the rest of South Africa with its cold wet winters and hot dry summers. This means that a safari to South Africa could overlap the two seasons, starting in a summery Cape Town in peak season, and moving on to Kruger and the other provinces into Autumn. This also brings cooler temperatures for game viewing, which is ideal for a South African safari. 

Best Time to Travel to Mozambique

Mozambique is an all-year-round destination, and many tourists agree that the best time to travel to Mozambique is from May to October when the weather is dry and warm. However, the rainy season is also the least expensive time to travel and rain is often in the form of short-lived tropical downpours usually in the later afternoon and evening. The weather is tropical, with warm temperatures year-round and a rainy season from December to March. 

The best time to visit Mozambique’s islands, the Bazaruto Archipelago, is also when it’s drier, between May and November, and the islands are usually cooler than the mainland at Vilanculos. There is no real ‘best time’ to travel to Mozambique because it boasts a constant balmy tropical climate but an island trip in the dry months is the best time to see Dugongs, Whale sharks, Manta rays and Humpback whales! 

woman diving next to a whaleshark
Dive or snorkel with Whale Sharks and Manta Rays in the warm waters of the Indian Ocean along the Mozambique coastline, marvel at their grace and beauty!

The best diving opportunities in Mozambique happen from April to June, then September to November, when the water is ultra clear and calm and the marine life thriving. This time of year is also ideal for cultural and historical jaunts to Ilha de Mozambique and Maputo as temperatures are bearable and swims in the ocean are a must-do at every stop. Do some whale watching at the same time as Humpback whales migrate past the coast to the south to mate and breed. 

When is the Best Time to Travel to Botswana

Botswana is such a diverse African destination offering the water-filled Okavango Delta, the many mighty rivers including the Chobe, the Linyanti and Savute Channels and Moremi Game Reserve on its many channels and lagoons. The only way to see wildlife in the Okavango Delta is in a traditional canoe called a mokoro or a boat, cruising the many waterways to find animals and birds on a different level altogether. The Delta has to be full of water for boats to access it safely so the wet season is thus better for this. 

group on a canoe safari viewing a elephant on the river bank
The quietness of the mokoro makes it less likely for birds & animals to take fright, creating the opportunity to capture that perfect photo.

The best time to safari in Chobe and Moremi is from May to September during the dry season and winter when wildlife is easier to see in its great numbers and predators are lurking.  From December to April in Botswana, many camps close and it is low season thanks to the rains. Peak season is April and May, in between seasons, dry and comfortable temperatures. It is a good idea, therefore, to plan a Botswana safari to fall in between these seasons so that you can experience the best of the Okavango Delta then see a drier Moremi and Chobe River then maybe also go and view Victoria Falls and Livingstone from there on a combined safari tour to Zimbabwe and Zambia.

Make a plan to go on safari to Africa and do your research on when is the best time to go.  Most seasoned travelers will recommend the dry season from June to September but other months have their own charm. Get all the advice you need from Voyage2Africa. 

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