And for good reason; it has an inimitable landscape, wildlife, beaches, deserts, savanna, marine life, rain forests, you name it.
Safaris top the list of ideal tourism activities and with good reason. For most, this is the chance of a lifetime to literally go off the beaten path.
If you find filmed wildlife captivating, try driving through a park a few meters from a lion, or spotting the ever-elusive leopard sprawled on a branch. It’s indescribable.
This is what you get by picking the best time for African Safari.
What’s the Best Time to Visit Africa?
Nonetheless, where to go is just as important as when to go. By thinking through different dynamics, you can time your visit to when there is the most potential to see large numbers of different animals easily.
Here are a few choice picks of places you should consider for a visit and the best time for an African safari.
Tanzania: May to October
The rain-dependent migration from Tanzania to Kenya is dramatic.
Depending on when you go, you get to see the mass birthing of calves between January and March in the Southern Serengeti. You might just spot a zebra or a wildebeest giving birth to a calf.
Aside from spotting animals with their young, the Southern area of the Serengeti as awash with predators as well.
Between July and August, you get to see the river crossings. The time between July and November is the dry season, forcing animals to congregate at water points.
However, since it closely follows the wet month of May, the weather still allows for game drives out in the wild.
December to March gets way too hot for you to comfortably spend time in the bush.
While the wildebeests tend to take center stage, cat lovers are in for a treat as you can spot lions.
Wildebeests provide a fertile hunting ground. This attracts lions, hyenas, wild dogs, cheetahs. These will try and catch themselves with a meal from the vulnerable members of the herd.
If you really want a safari straight out of the movies, you can add a hot air balloon safari to your itinerary. Wildlife from a tour van is spectacular, wildlife from the sky is magical.
Ethiopia: June to September
Essentially, any time is the best time to visit Africa.
Ethiopia for one is nice and sunny almost year round, so any month is a great month to visit.
June to September are the rainy-and slightly cooler- months in Ethiopia.
One of the top places to go on safari is Simien Mountains, which happens to be a UNESCO world heritage site.
Here, you can spot leopards, hyenas, caracals, jackals, and bushbucks. Bird lovers will also have a field day with hundreds of species to watch.
South Africa: June to September
March and April are wet months in South Africa. And it’s the silver lining as well; there are smaller crowds, and the rains allow for some interesting activities.
The popular Kruger National Park has the big five and is close to Johannesburg. You get an authentic safari, while still in close proximity to ‘civilization’. The idea of having ‘the best of both worlds’ never rang truer.
Kenya: July to October
Although Kenya is beautiful year-round, the safari world gets extra special in September and October.
This is when you can witness one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Between July and October, 2 million wildebeests travel from the neighboring Serengeti to the Masai Mara.
This is the largest animal movement across the world.
The animals try to cross the Mara River for pasture. While the grass is indeed greener on the other side, some will be snapped up by crocodile’s as they attempt to cross.
This crossing also makes the Mara River a fertile ground for hunting wildebeests and thus attracts lions, cheetahs and hyenas.
The Mara is the wild at its best.
Animals in the desert? Yes! Namibia offers a different, elusive kind of safari.
Despite being 92% arid, semi-arid or hyper-arid, Namibia has a healthy mix of wildlife. Herds of elephants, zebras, and antelopes travel through the desert. It’s also not uncommon to see an odd pride of lions as well.
May to October is the dry season, which makes it easier to view wildlife.
October to April on the hand is the wet season. Namibia is greener, the rates are lower, it’s less crowded, and you get to see lots of newborn animals and migratory birds.
When it does rain, it does so in short storms that pass pretty quickly.
In essence, it’s the time when Namibia gets a new lease on life.
Madagascar: May to June
Despite May and June being official Madagascar wetter winter months, the temperatures are perfect for safari.
Because the island sits close to the equator, Madagascar enjoys temperate weather even in its winter months.
The rain around this time also feeds lush green landscapes. Since it’s the low season, you enjoy more space and lower rates as well.
Madagascar has a rich mix of wildlife; reptiles, amphibians, birds and mammals and rare flora and fauna.
Do you find lemurs absolutely adorable? Madagascar should be your next vacation destination.
Ghana: September to October
Ghana experiences some light rain in the months of September and October. Despite this, the two months are classified as the dry seasons. The rain is minimal and unlikely to interfere with your travel itinerary.
Kokum forest provides a picturesque home for pangolins, monkeys, elephants, civets, and leopards not to mentions parrots and fowls.
In May, Zimbabwe experiences transition weather. The rains are just drying up so it’s green, lush and the sun is not as hot.
However, this changes, and it gets drier. In June, days are sunny and nights get a bit chilly. This is the ideal time to take a safari.
The hot, dry days drive wildlife to water holes and rivers. Here, you can spot lions, rhinos, zebras, elephants, and the ever-elusive leopard.
For birders, the rainy months of November to April are the best for bird watching.
Rwanda: July to August
June to September is Rwanda’s dry period. This is just the time for a safari to the Volcanoes National Park.
The park, nestled in a rain forest, has chimpanzees, colobus monkeys, and gorillas. The skies are perfect for this.
However, the habitat is typically wet. So expect some rain. However, it should not be heavy enough or last long enough to interfere with your gorilla sighting.
Botswana: May to September
The plum safari months in Botswana are from May to September which is the dry season.
Popular parks to watch wildlife in their habitat are Okavango Delta, Chobe, and Moremi.
These months are ideal for a safari because they are hot and dry. The heat forces animals to converge around rivers and watering holes. This concentration makes it easier for people to spot them.
This notwithstanding, the rainy season in Botswana does not come empty-handed.
Botswana has the longest migration on record, with thousands of Burchell’s zebras covering over 500km in a straight line across Namibia and Botswana, Picture that!
Hot vs Cooler Months: Which Is the Best Time for African Safari?
On the surface, the dry season is the best time to take your long awaited African safari. Let’s recapture why:
- The weather is nice and sunny which allows you to enjoy a day out in the wild.
- Dry season forces animals to converge at the few viable common rivers and waterholes. Once it rains, animals disperse because water is readily available everywhere.
- Trees are bare and vegetation is sparse, providing the perfect open ground to spot animals easily.
However, cooler months have their benefits as well. These include the following:
- You skip the crowds and get to enjoy less congestion everywhere throughout your safari
- You enjoy lowered low season rates
- You avoid the harsh African sun and get a more enjoyable experience
Cooler months are preferable for a more intimate experience with nature and authentic interactions with the environment.
Quick Tips for a Safari
Despite Africa’s beauty, your safety and comfort is key to your overall experience. Here are a few quick tips:
- Do not feed the animals
- Do not attempt to leave the car without clearance from your tour guide
- Carry loose light clothes for the daytime, but have some heavy clothing items for cold nights
- Always carry a bottle of water with you
And last but not least, carry a camera, be respectful of the animals and have a great time.
Are You Looking for Adventure?
Did you know that Tanzania has 17 game reserves? These are 17 different ecosystems you could explore. In fact, some parks are known to have several ecosystems.
At Africa Nature Photography, our job is to make sure you enjoy the sights, sounds, and the cultures that Tanzania has to offer. Contact us today and we will advise you on the best time for an African safari. If you allow us, we will go a step further and turn your dream safari into reality.