For each of the destinations we offer we have included a “When to Go” section which aims to address the specific weather patterns of the individual country. For our Safari Calendar we take a more generalized approach to consider the best time to go on safari.
The dry season in Southern Africa runs from May through to end of October.
This is generally viewed as the best time to go on safari, a situation reflected in peak season prices and high demand. As the dry season progresses, seasonal water supplies dry up and animals begin to congregate around remaining water sources such as rivers, permanent water holes and lakes. This makes them easier to find, and in greater numbers as they aren’t spread over such a wide area. Another advantage is the improvement in visibility as long grasses die back and leaves fall from trees and shrubs.
By September and October most trees are flowering and getting new foliage. This is a colourful season and great time to watch life come out of the previously ghostly looking trees.
In the dry season it is normally necessary to book a long time ahead. Most safari camps and lodges only accommodate a few guests and at peak times may be booked a year in advance.
In non-private reserves the dry season will be the busiest time of year, particularly in areas accessible to self-drives and day trips where safari etiquette may be lacking. Where possible we strongly recommend a focus on private concessions at this time, where guest numbers are strictly controlled and the wilderness experience remains exclusive.
The wet season in Southern Africa runs from November through to end of April.
Once the rains start the grasses grow steadily long and the vegetation becomes thick and lush. The plentiful supply of water allows many animals to disperse to new feeding grounds. For those that remain, they are not so easy to spot and game drives require a little extra effort and patience on behalf of the guide and perhaps also the guests.
The upside during this period is that the light is clear and wonderful for photography, unlike later in the dry season when the air is dusty and the sun harsh. Colours are green and lush, the animals healthy and enjoying this time of plenty.
Another huge positive is that prices can be much lower during the wet season, often with special deals available. So if time isn’t an issue, the same budget will allow you to stay much longer. In otherwise busy destinations, where guest numbers aren’t restricted, the wet season may also be an opportunity to get away from the crowds.
The wet summer months are when the migratory species breed, providing an added attraction for those who are interested – particularly somewhere like the Okavango Delta which is a birders paradise at this time. For those interested in the creepy crawlies this is the best season as all creatures great and small will be showcasing their survival skills and breeding future generations, including our favourite – the humble dung beetle. This is also the best season to see lilies and many other wet season flowering plants.
There are other wonderful experiences in the wet season – many animals drop their young as soon as the first rains arrive to give them the best chance of survival. Many of the young are taken by predators taking advantage of easy pickings, so this offers the best time to see predator–prey interaction. A mini-migration of zebra and antelope occurs in the Central Kalahari / Makgadikgadi Game Reserve in Botswana, making this the best time to visit these areas, and up to 10 million “straw-coloured fruit bats” migrate to the Kasanka National Park in Zambia.
The main thing to remember is that safaris are pretty much a year-round option. Although there will be trade-offs in the wet season, you just need to work out whether these are acceptable to you.
For more detailed information on when to go to each of the countries we cover, please click on the following links: