When planning your dream African safari adventure there are two major considerations: Where, and, less intuitively, when. Sure, when picking a time of year to go on a vacation, school holidays, work schedules, and family appointments are all important concerns, but you must also contemplate what you hope to accomplish on your grand Safari. Do you want to see the “Big 5” game animals? Or are you an avid bird-watcher? Are you sensitive to extreme temperature swings? Do you detest excessive rain fall? These are all things that should be considered when planning your trip to Africa.
Creating the Perfect Experience for You
For most explorers on Safari, the wildlife is the main draw. For best animal viewing, you’ll want to go in the dry season. Lack of grasses and foliage mean that the animals migrate to known watering holes. This increases your guide’s chances of finding animals for you to view. While wildlife can be hard to spot in the tall grasses of the wet season, if birding is your goal, the wet season can provide better opportunity, as migrant birds are in the region. This is due to the nesting and/or breeding patterns of the birds.
Africa is largely equatorial; of the 54 countries in Africa, the equator passes through twelve of them, and it does so almost in the smack middle of the continent. That means depending on where you are choosing to journey, chances are you will be going south of the equator. And in the southern hemisphere, the seasons are opposite from the United States.
Temperature fluctuations do occur, and depending on region and elevation can be rather extreme. The daily temperature ranges in the eastern part of Africa typically are more affected by altitude changes. Southern Africa, including the subtropical region, is more affected by winter and summer (and, again, seasons are opposite of what you would expect in the northern hemisphere.)
The Dry Season
The common dry season in the eastern part of Africa on, and south of, the equator (think Kenya, Rwanda, and parts of Tanzania) is Winter, and because this region is in the southern hemisphere, winter means from June to October. A second, smaller “dry-season” also occurs typically during December to the middle of March.
Southern and Western Tanzania elevations border the sub-tropic region, and have a blend of both equatorial east Africa, and Subtropical Africa climatic temperaments. The subtropical region (Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Botswana and parts of South Africa) has its dry season from April to October.
The Wet Season
Mother Nature rarely adheres to a schedule, so yes, it can rain at any time. But rainfall is most typical during the rainy months. Rain is crucial for the wildlife, as it allows for the grasses and other flora in the region to flourish, and these plants are necessary for the survival of the animals in the region. This is especially important for the equatorial eastern portion of the continent, which, in addition to the countries listed above, encompasses most of the Serengeti. The Serengeti is one of the seven natural wonders of Africa and this rainfall is life-giving for the many animals that migrate and live there. In this region rainfall should be expected in April and May, with a potential for a rainy November.
The subtropical region of Africa has a much more predictable (if one can call weather predictable) rainy season than the eastern portion of the continent. November to March is considered the rainy season, although when the precise start of the season, and how much rain will come does vary from year to year.
Planning Your African Safari
No matter the time of year you choose to go, you are sure to be awed an amazed and the landscape and animals around you. A little planning and forethought are all you need to frame your expectations and have the experience of a lifetime. Contact us at Roho Ya Chui today to learn more about planning the perfect African safari.
Jill Liphart for Roho Ya Chui, Travel Africa