The Best Time To Go On Safari - Elephants Safari Guru Deon De Villiers
The Best Time To Go On Safari - Baby Giraffe Safari Guru Deon De Villiers

The Best Time to Go on Safari

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The Best Time to Go on Safari

So, your holidays are approved, and the airlines have fantastic flight deals up for grabs.  Your bags are practically packed, and Sam, the lipreading goldfish, has already taken up short-term residence at Uncle Larry.  The problem is that you don’t know where to go!! And the proverbial question of, “When is the best time to go on safari?” adds no value to your imminent and stressful situation.  

Yes, we see this all the time, although not quite so dramatic, but many travellers have set dates and seek the best experiences to fit.

So the truth be told, “the best time to go on safari?” is anytime!

While working with an African Travel Specialist ensures you’re headed in the right direction in no time.  But here, we offer a brief guideline of some of Africa’s top safari experiences, each offering a unique experience on its own or in conjunction with other destinations.  Africa is such a large continent, and between the seasons and the regions, including sub-regions like Ngorongoro Crater or the Okavango Delta, there is no simple answer to the “best time to go on safari.”

Often, the drier months offer sparser vegetation, making it easier to spot wildlife, yet this comes at a higher ticket price, especially in the Southern Hemisphere.  Wildlife often gathers at waterholes, providing awesome viewing opportunities for the patient, and this is also when walking safaris are at their best and highly recommended.  On the other hand, the wetter, rainier seasons (typically summer in the southern hemisphere) present abundantly leafy landscapes, blossoming flowers, and warm days.  This is also a good time to travel for baby animal lovers and those seeking cheaper rates.  This season is also ideal for bird watching, fishing, and rewarding boat safaris.

So, let’s take the guesswork out of the best time to go on safari and focus on just a handful of specialty safaris that you can enjoy during your well-deserved break.

Read on for a guide to the best places to visit in some of our preferred safari regions throughout the year.  Regardless of when you choose to travel, I’m sure you will have an opportunity for a great holiday, allowing the team at Safari Guru to find you the best private reserves, ensuring fewer people, more exclusive experiences, and a variety of safari activities.  

Remember, Safari Guru is not a computer booking agency. Our dedicated team develops a personal touch with each traveller, and we are always on hand to help untangle logistics that can sometimes be hard to understand from afar. 

It’s the unpredictability of the wild that makes a safari so rewarding, and if you’re dreaming of Africa, your journey has already begun.

JANUARY – MARCH: THE GREAT MIGRATION CALVING SEASON

The Great Migration in Tanzania’s Serengeti is always on the move, and therefore is always offering the Best Time to Go on Safari. But to witness the largest gatherings of animals, you need to follow the herds’ current location, and that’s where we come in… This is precisely what we do at Safari Guru, and working closely with our trusted partners on the ground in Tanzania enables you to experience the migration firsthand. During the calving season, the herds flourish as they give birth to their offspring. This period is excellent for observing predators, with exceptionally high chances of spotting cheetahs, lions, and hyenas. Read more about the Great Migration and Tanzania safari ideas.

MARCH – JUNE: VICTORIA FALLS AT ITS BEST

Victoria Falls flows continuously throughout the year, but it reaches its peak splendour from March to June after the southern hemisphere’s summer rains. During this period, the cascading water creates a breathtaking and robust display, accompanied by a massive spray of mist, best viewed from the Zimbabwean side. The weather around Victoria Falls is generally pleasant year-round, with a sub-tropical climate. However, in the summer, when daytime temperatures can climb to 35°C (95°F), the mist from the Falls provides a refreshing, cooling effect. A visit to Victoria Falls combines well with any safari itinerary in Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia. You can read more about Victoria Falls, or combine your thoughts with the best time to go on safari in Botswana.

APRIL – JUNE: NAMIBIA TRANSFORMED BY RAINS

In Namibia, rainfall is infrequent and erratic, but when it does occur, it transforms the desert into verdant grasslands. During this period, animals gather around the temporarily flowing river systems. Combine the Skeleton Coast and Kaokoveld, with their dramatic landscapes and captivating desert-adapted wildlife, with the northern areas of Kunene and the first international dark sky reserve in Sossusvlei and Deadvlei of the Namibia Desert. Read more about Namibia.

The Best Time To Go On Safari - Orix Safari Guru Deon De Villiers

APRIL – OCTOBER: MANA POOLS OPEN FOR SAFARI SEASON

Situated in northern Zimbabwe, Mana Pools is one of the most remote safari parks. It is celebrated for its stunning landscapes, remarkable wildlife, high concentrations of elephants, and opportunities for canoeing, walking, and boating safaris. 

During the southern hemisphere’s summer, the Mana Pools camps are closed to visitors due to extreme heat and heavy rains. There are only a handful of camps here, and they reopen for business in April. The Zambezi River provides a breathtaking backdrop for a variety of activities. 

Wildlife gathers along the riverbanks or on the floodplains, which stretch out into this magnificent mass of water. Here, the splendid ana tree forests host elephants that famously stand on their hind legs to reach the delicious fruits high up in the trees, especially from September onwards. Capturing a photograph of an elephant reaching into a tree in the dappled light beneath the forest canopy, with baboons playing below or an eland strolling through, is a major attraction for photographers.

Mana Pools is also an incredible destination to view predators, and it’s not uncommon to tick off a few cat species in a single safari drive. Read more about Mana Pools.

JUNE – SEPTEMBER | DECEMBER – FEBRUARY: GORILLA TREKKING IN RWANDA

Rwanda enjoys a pleasant tropical climate. Its high elevation ensures cooler temperatures than typical for an equatorial region, so it never becomes excessively hot. The country usually experiences two rainy and dry seasons: one from June to September and another from December to February. Gorilla trekking is often more enjoyable during the dry months, though rainfall can occur anytime.

During these dry periods, visiting Rwanda’s Akagera National Park is also a great idea, as wildlife viewing becomes easier with animals gathering around water sources, making sightings more predictable. It’s an excellent time for a walking safari, though the rainy season in Akagera is equally impressive, offering opportunities for birdwatching, boat trips, and game drives through lush vegetation.

Another fantastic add-on in Rwanda is the pristine Nyungwe Forest National Park.  Nyungwe offers a primate extravaganza, with chimp trekking being the highlight. Read more about the top 5 Rwanda highlights.

JUNE – SEPTEMBER: OKAVANGO DELTA WATERS RISE

To determine the best time to visit the Okavango Delta in Botswana, it’s important to understand that, unlike other regions in Africa where water levels correspond to the rainy season, the Delta’s water levels peak during the dry season. This occurs because the annual water influx, or inundation, is influenced by rainfall in the distant Angolan Highlands. 

Essentially, the Okavango transforms into its delta form in June, reaching its highest water levels in July and August before beginning to recede in September.

The Best Time To Go On Safari - Lions Safari Guru Deon De Villiers

This annual flooding revitalises the Delta, especially in the Duba, Mombo, and Vumbura concessions, creating breathtakingly beautiful landscapes. The increased water flow drives wildlife onto higher ground, resulting in a higher concentration of animals on the Delta islands, with notable big cat sightings at Chitabe, Qorokwe and Chief’s Camp. Game viewing, whether by mokoro, boat, or game vehicle, is particularly rewarding during this time.

JUNE – OCTOBER: ZAMBIA’S KAFUE NATIONAL PARK COMES TO LIFE

Kafue National Park, a wonderfully untamed region of Africa, features rivers, seasonal floodplains, and wildlife-rich wetlands. These areas become inaccessible during the summer months but are a true gem when they open to visitors during the drier winter season of the southern hemisphere. From the Wilderness camps of Shumba and Busanga Bush Camp, you can observe lions leaping across channels in pursuit of prey, admire the majestic sable and roan antelope, and follow large herds of semi-aquatic lechwe.

JULY – SEPTEMBER – ACTIVITIES AND WILDLIFE AROUND MOSI-OA-TUNYA NATIONAL PARK

Head to the area around Zambia’s Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park and Victoria Falls towards the end of the dry season for the exhilarating experience of swimming in Devil’s Pool when the water levels are safer. In addition to the Devil’s Pool, you can book a bungee jump, zip line, or helicopter ride at the Falls during your stay at one of the many camps dotted along the Zambezi River. From the camp’s tranquil setting, enjoy an unforgettable boat trip on the Zambezi, where you can sip sundowners while watching hippos wallow and elephants play. Read more about Victoria Falls in Zambia.

JULY – OCTOBER: BIG HERDS IN MABABE

During these months, enormous herds of buffalo and elephant gather in Botswana’s Mababe area, in close proximity to the new Wilderness Mokete Camp. As temperatures rise towards the year’s end and summer rains are still awaited, animals flock to the vital water sources of the Mababe Marsh, trailed by predators. With the change of seasons, significant numbers of tsessebe, wildebeest, and zebra also migrate through the area. Read up about Safari Guru Deon’s recent trip, “Holidaying like a Safari Guru” which included Mokete Camp, amongst another great line up of safari properties.

JULY – OCTOBER: RIVER CROSSINGS IN THE SERENGETI

The river crossings in the Serengeti are renowned for their drama, as crocodiles lurk, waiting for the herds to venture into the water. The prime time to witness these spectacular events is from July to October, which also draws the highest number of visitors to the region. At one of the mobile camps, such as Usawa Serengeti, they strive to bring you as close to the action as possible while still offering a safari experience away from the crowds. Fortunate visitors might witness the massive herds crossing the Mara River, but seeing a smaller herd navigate a narrow channel can be equally, if not more, rewarding. This period is also ideal for combining a Serengeti trip with gorilla trekking in Rwanda, creating the ultimate East African safari experience.

JULY – OCTOBER: AN ABUNDANCE OF ELEPHANTS IN THE LINYANTI

For those seeking abundant elephants, the Linyanti Wildlife Reserve is unparalleled, especially at DumaTau and King’s Pool toward the end of the dry season. Botswana boasts Africa’s largest concentration of elephants, numbering over 130,000, and the Linyanti is renowned for hosting colossal herds that follow ancient paths through the reserve on their migratory journeys, passing right by our camps. This area offers the essence of Chobe without the usual crowds, presenting one of Botswana’s premier private reserves. Witnessing elephants crossing in front of DumaTau encapsulates the extraordinary experience firsthand.

JULY – OCTOBER: SEE DESERT-ADAPTED WILDLIFE IN NAMIBIA

Namibia enjoys an average of 300 sunny days annually, making it a year-round destination, although the prime time for spotting desert-adapted animals is from July to October. During this dry season, animals are compelled to gather around waterholes. In the southern hemisphere spring, beginning in September, fog blankets settle gently on the dunes of Sossusvlei at Kulala Desert Lodge and Little Kulala, providing essential moisture for vegetation and smaller creatures. Throughout these months, clear skies prevail, offering exceptional nighttime photographic opportunities and pleasant temperatures. It’s an ideal period for exploring the dunes by day and indulging in a memorable sleep-out under the stars at night.

NOVEMBER – DECEMBER: START OF THE SUMMER SEASON IN ZIMBABWE

November marks the onset of the rainy season in Zimbabwe, coinciding with summer in the southern hemisphere. The ideal destination during this time, is undoubtedly, Zimbabwe’s renowned Hwange National Park. Thunderstorms sweep across the famous Ngamo Plains, creating a mesmerising display of sound and light that is perfect for stunning photography.

The Best Time To Go On Safari - Hwange Elephants Safari Guru Deon De Villiers

There’s an undeniable energy in the air, and although the rain is sporadic, it refreshes the landscape and offers magnificent opportunities for photography before vanishing as swiftly as it appears. At Somalisa, Little Makalolo and Linkwasha in Hwange, you can witness this spectacle unfold from hides or the pool, while elephants and other animals traverse between waterholes in front of the camps.

NOVEMBER – MARCH: GREEN SEASON IN BOTSWANA AND ZIMBABWE

Summer in the southern hemisphere is now in full swing, offering warm days and nights perfect for stargazing away from the cold winter of the north. Known as the green season, this time of year is ideal for birdwatching as colourful migratory birds flock to lush landscapes. Trees burst into bud and bloom, while newborns appear across the plains, marking a season of abundance and vitality.

In Botswana, the receding water levels of the Okavango Delta expose floodplains that attract hundreds of plains game, such as zebra, wildebeest, and various antelope species. Predators like leopards, cheetahs, and wild dogs pursue these herds, targeting inexperienced younger prey, making it a prime time for witnessing hunting activities. This period also offers excellent rates at key camps in the Okavango Delta, including Chitabe Lediba Camp, Splash, and Okavango Explorers.

Some may argue that dense vegetation makes animals harder to spot, yet, in Hwange, thick woodlands prompt animals to use roads more frequently, seeking open spaces for fresh grazing and predators in tow.

FEELING INSPIRED? Ask our passionate experts for advice and guidance to start planning your African safari. We’ll remove the complication of the best time to go on safari, but rather focus on the right safari for your travel window.  CONTACT SAFARI GURU

The Best Time To Go On Safari - Wild Dog Safari Guru Deon De Villiers
I recently experienced a safari that went above and beyond my expectations, thanks to the exceptional planning by Suse, Deon and the Safari Guru team. Every detail was tailored perfectly to our interests and preferences, making the trip truly unforgettable. From breathtaking wildlife sightings to luxurious accommodations, everything was flawless. Suse was incredibly attentive, knowledgeable, and a joy to work with. I wholeheartedly recommend Safari Guru for anyone looking to plan a personalized and extraordinary safari adventure. Five stars!
~ Dan Krug & Friends, Pennsylvania, USA

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