True Travel Times
Planning a safari to Africa needs careful consideration and research. The continent covers two hemispheres and climates vary from region to region. You also need to work out what you want to see: the big five, Great Migration, gorillas, birdlife?
To help you plan the perfect time to make the most of your safari adventure, our expert, Christabelle, has put together a comprehensive guide to the seasons and the best countries to visit in those periods.
Although the Northern Hemisphere can be divided into four seasons – spring, summer, autumn and winter – Africa sits in the Southern Hemisphere and therefore experiences opposite seasons that can largely be categorised as ‘wet’ or ‘dry’ based on their rainfall.
The most popular time to go on safari anywhere on the continent is during the dry season when it’s easier to see animals as they congregate around depleted water holes. However, wet season also brings a myriad of advantages such as great spectacles of birdlife in Namibia, chimpanzee trekking in Rwanda and Victoria Falls in Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Whether you are travelling as a couple, family or large group of friends, or whether it is your first time or tenth, we have sought out the best destinations, lodges and experiences that will perfectly compliment your safari and our in-house experts have spent decades on the ground to find out what, where, and when will deliver an unforgettable African safari vacation.
Safari in Spring (April – May)
Although the dry season is considered the best time to view animals, don’t disregard the wet season, especially if you’re an avid bird watcher. One of the greatest spectacles you’ll see during this time is flocks of pink flamingos that gather on the saltpans of Etosha National Park. Also look out for parrots, bare-cheeked babblers, swallow-tailed bee-eaters and migrating birds from the northern hemisphere.
Although the Great Migration is over, the Masai Mara still offers excellent wildlife viewing. As it’s technically low season, visitor numbers are fewer, so none of the national parks feel overcrowded, and accommodation in Kenya is easier to find.
Safari in Summer (November – March)
In November, migrating herds begin to make their way back south to the Serengeti Plains. If you’re visiting North Tanzania at this time, you’ll get the chance to see plenty of wildlife. Tanzania is the perfect year-round safari destination and, being on the East Coast of Africa, is easy to combine with a relaxing Christmas beach holiday at Zanzibar.
January on the Serengeti is the first preparation stage for the Great Migration. If December’s rains have been good, it’s time for the wildebeest and zebras to gain their strength and graze on the grasses.
January is also birthing time. During this period, thousands of wildebeest calves are born each day. Witnessing a wildebeest or zebra giving birth must be one of the most precious and unforgettable safari experiences, and it’s certainly possible if you plan your visit in January.
Over on the western side of Africa, Rwanda enjoys a brief dry season in January and February. As well as offering good hiking conditions and a lower risk of malaria, it’s also the perfect time for trekking through the rainforests to see mountain gorillas.
These magnificent animals are among the most endangered in the world, so seeing them in their natural habitat is a once-in-a-lifetime, humbling and emotional experience.
Another East African gem worth visiting at this time is Uganda. Protected mountain gorillas here can be found in two specific areas: the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in the Virunga Mountains, also home to the endangered golden monkey, and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
Gorilla trekking is strenuous though, so ensure you’re fit enough for the adventure!
Africa Safari in the Fall (September – October)
If you want to go on a chimpanzee trekking safari, it’s best to wait until September, when the rainy season begins. Food is more abundant than in the dry season, so chimpanzees are easier to find. The best place for chimpanzee trekking is Nyungwe National Park, which is home to 13 species of primates including beautiful blue monkeys that live in the treetops. The best place to stay is the Nyungwe Forest Lodge where you can see the tremendous views of the forest from your bedroom window.
As wildebeests and zebras finally reach their destination, the Masai Mara plains are filled with massive herds, followed closely by their predators. The season is dry and the weather cooler, making it an ideal time for cheetah and lion spotting.
The dry season also means that water is scarce, so animals will congregate in large numbers around waterholes, rivers and lakes. Vegetation is low at this time of year, so it’s easier to see the animals from a distance.
September and October are two of the best months to enjoy Zambia’s wildlife if you don’t mind daytime temperatures in the 30s. The dry season is coming to a close and large herds of elephants, buffalo, impala and zebra gather around the dried-out waterholes to drink what’s left.
As well as the best time to enjoy wildlife at the Hwange National Game Reserve, September and October are the best months for a white water rafting adventure on the Zambezi River. At this time of year, the water is low and the rapids are fast, making ideal rafting conditions for those seeking an extra thrilling adventure.
Africa safari in Winter (June – August)
Rwanda’s long, dry season lasts from June to September when clear, sunny skies make it an ideal time to see mountain gorillas. The best place for trekking on foot is in the foothills of the Virunga Volcanoes in the Volcanoes National Park, the location for the famous film Gorillas in the Mist.
If you want to witness the Great Migration in June, then the Serengeti of Tanzania is where you need to be. Every year over two million wildebeest and zebra migrate north from the dry plains of the Serengeti to the grasslands of the Masai Mara in Kenya, in search of food and water. It’s during this time that smaller groups congregate to form mass herds. It’s also mating time for wildebeest.
The Great Migration is one of the most spectacular natural events you’ll ever see, and the river crossings are particularly dramatic. The first crossing takes place at the Grumeti River in Tanzania, usually in June. The herds not only face the perilously strong currents, but also the snapping teeth of hungry crocodiles lying in wait.
Those who survive the Grumeti River crossing gradually make their way north to the Masai Mara in Kenya.
However, before they get there, they have to face another perilous river crossing: the Mara River, which runs along the Tanzanian and Kenyan border, and separates the Serengeti from the Masai Mara.
Although crossings happen until October, late July is considered the best time for guaranteed viewing. Literally thousands of wildebeest queue up along the banks of the Mara River before taking a Russian roulette style plunge into the waters where crocodiles lie in wait. It’s a gruesome sight, especially watching vultures feast on leftover carcasses, but it’s still one of nature’s most awe-inspiring events that, once witnessed, is positively life changing.
Contact Us to start planning your perfect African safari vacation.
Why You Should Book A Safari Vacation With True Travel
- Our team of Africa specialists, Felix and Matt, will look after your safari from start to finish using their expert knowledge to give you a holiday to remember.
- Full concierge support from our dedicated trip tailor, Alice, for any request you might have before and during your trip, whenever and wherever you need it.
- With a world of expertise at our fingertips, our team can curate a safari vacation uniquely tailored to your needs and desires.
- Have a positive impact on the people and places you visit, by supporting vital conservation programs and sustainable lodges.
True Travel Top Safari Itinerary Ideas For Africa
These example itineraries are here to get you inspired, but no two True Travel safari experiences are the same. Our Safari experts begin to plan your trip with a blank piece of paper, designing every itinerary 100% personalised to you for a tailor made travel experience.
Subscribe to our newsletter
Start planning your truly bespoke itinerary by contacting one of our destination specialists.
Call +44 (0)203 137 1247