When to travel to Africa?
Without a doubt, the first question almost everyone ask us is, when? When is the best time to go?
Africa is a truly vast continent with many different altitudes and seasons. This means that the weather varies enormously.
Seasons are often described as ‘green’, which usually coincides with lush landscapes, thick vegetation, fewer tourists and lower costs; or ‘dry’ which heralds huge numbers of game and sometimes busy national parks. Whichever season you choose to travel, we have destinations that work beautifully throughout the year.
The charts below give a guide to the seasons, average temperatures and our suggestions as to when to travel. Please note that these are a guide only – with weather patterns changing all the time, it is impossible to be precise as to the exact weather conditions you are likely to experience.
In most cases, the best game viewing is during the dry season when the wildlife concentrates around waterholes and rivers, and the vegetation is less dense than in the wet season, making game easier to find.
Generally speaking, wildlife is best seen (game is most concentrated) in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda mid-December to March and June to mid-November, while the best game viewing in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Namibia and South Africa is June to October. Game viewing in Madagascar is best September to December.
Good game viewing in Botswana, top private reserves in South Africa, northern Tanzania and parts of Kenya can be found year-round.
There are, however, parks and reserves that are actually better outside of the dry season.
In Botswana, the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, Makgadikgadi Pans National park and Nxai Pan National Park, as well as several concessions areas in the Okavango Delta are better in the green season, November to April. In the Okavango Delta, water levels water levels have most often receded by November, exposing large floodplains of fresh grass that attracts antelope from the surrounding woodlands that in turn attract lion, leopard and other carnivores into the open. And as the camp rates in the Okavango Delta at this time are significantly lower than during high season, there is an additional attraction for visitors who prefer not to pay high season rates; or those who simply prefer being able to stay longer in the bush.
Many travellers are now, in fact, discovering that traveling during low season actually suits their interests much better than during the infinitely more crowded and more expensive high season. During the low season, the land is often luxuriously green and the air clear. The rainy season for the top wildlife countries usually involves occasional thundershowers followed by clear skies, rather than continuous downpours for days on end. People interested in scenery, or who have dust allergies may want to plan their visits shortly after the rains are predicted to have stopped. Game may be more difficult to find, but there are usually fewer travellers in the parks and reserves, which adds to the overall quality of the safari.
Rainfall is seasonal over most of Africa, even at the equator where there are two dry and two wet seasons each year. The East African highlands (including Nairobi and the Serengeti-Mara) receive the highest rainfall between March and May (6.2 inches/160 mm per month) with another peak in October to November (4.5 inches/115 mm per month). In much of Southern Africa, there is virtually no rain between May and September, with a monthly average of around 3.5 inches/90 mm in the wet summer (November to March); the southwestern Cape experiences a reverse pattern with an average of 3.3 inches/85 mm per month between May and August. Namibia's desert coast receives so little rain in any month it is difficult to measure.
Many camps and lodges offer low-season rates, making travel during those times economically attractive. For most camps and lodges in Kenya and Tanzania the low season falls in April and May (except for Easter), while in Botswana the "Green Season" (offering the lowest rates) is generally November to March (except for the Christmas/New Year's Period), while the low season is April through May or June. South Africa's high season for hotels in Cape Town along with the Garden Route and certain safari camps and loges generally fall between late October and April, most camps and lodges maintain the same year-round rates.
In summary, the best time to go may be a combination of the best time to see wildlife that interests you most (;are mammals vs birds), the relative costs involved (low or high season), an when you can get vacation time.
Our experts are on hand to advise on everything from the likely whereabouts of the wildebeest migration to the time of year you might need to pack an extra fleece.