When is the best time of year to visit Africa? … This is a good and important question to ask when planning an African safari.
When you travel will affect your budget as well as the seasons (weather) and game viewing opportunities.
Check your timing before you spend money on flights, game drives, and lodging. Taking an African safari at the best time of year enhances your experience. And, more importantly, it informs you of what to expect. Get expert advice on when to go where in Africa or when to visit the destinations you want to visit.
Most believe the best time to go on an African safari is during the dry season, which runs from June to October. With hometoafrica.com at this time of year, animals are easier to spot as they congregate at water sources.
So, is there a ‘best time,’ or can an African safari be enjoyable (even fantastic) at any time of year? For me, the answer is a resounding YES!
Going on an Africa safari can be an incredible experience any time of year!
Except for a few migratory species, the animals are present almost constantly. It only gets easier or harder to spot them as the seasons change. And, of course, the weather changes.
These are significant factors to consider. So, before deciding which month to go on safari in Africa, do some research. It will give you an idea of the season and what to expect in terms of weather.
Your expectations will greatly influence how much you enjoy your travels. In other words, managing your expectations is critical. When you know what to expect and go prepared, you have a much better chance of having an unforgettable African safari. However, the weather remains unpredictable. And because the animals are wild, they are unpredictable. As a result, being adaptable is just as important as having realistic expectations. An adventurous spirit combined with an open mind is a winning combination for a rewarding safari in Africa.
African Safari Seasons
When considering African safari destinations, there are three main seasons to consider. There are three seasons: dry, rainy (also known as wet or green), and shoulder. The shoulder, also known as the mid-season, is the period between the dry and wet seasons. It also occurs in the spring or autumn.
If you plan to travel across Africa, you will encounter various seasons. Long overland tours, for example, will take you through various seasons. And on safaris to locations throughout East and Southern Africa. The weather can vary greatly from country to country, and even within countries and regions.
Let’s look at the benefits and drawbacks of each season to help you decide which is best for you. Remember to do a quick Google search for the seasons in that area when researching a safari destination.
The Dry Safari Season
The dry season is usually in the winter. Because Africa is so vast, the timing of the dry season varies from region to region.
Pros of Dry Season Safaris in Africa
- The dry season in Africa is an excellent time to go on safari. This is because wildlife is more visible in general. For starters, the vegetation is sparse, making the animals more visible. Second, because water is scarce, animals tend to congregate around available water sources. It’s very rewarding to sit at a waterhole and watch animals come and go. Particularly during the dry season.
- The dry season is in the winter in almost all African safari destinations. At least the African version of winter. Winter means pleasant, mild temperatures with warm, sunny days and cool nights. In some areas, expect nighttime temperatures to fall below zero degrees Celsius in the middle of winter. Cape Town, South Africa, is one of the few exceptions where the winter season is not dry. We have a Mediterranean climate in Cape Town and the Western Cape province, with wet winters.
- Because of the colder winter temperatures, there are fewer insects. Most importantly, there will be fewer mosquitos. Although mosquitoes still exist in cooler weather, there are far fewer of them. As a result, the risk of contracting malaria is lower during the dry winter months. Of course, this is only a benefit in malaria-prone areas. Many African safari destinations, including Cape Town, are malaria-free all year.
These are the three primary reasons why the dry season is widely regarded as the best time of year for African safaris.
Cons of Dry Season Safaris in Africa
- Popular safari destinations are extremely busy during the dry season. As a result, the most well-known national parks and reserves in Southern and East Africa can become quite crowded. This is due, in part, to the fact that the dry season coincides with long school holidays in most countries. As a result, July and August are popular months for family safaris. The safari hubs are usually packed, and the safari camps and lodges are all booked. Furthermore, more vehicles are out on game drives every day. It is not uncommon to have to wait in line for a lion sighting while on a game drive.
You can stay in private game reserves and concession areas to avoid crowds. These have smaller camps and lodges that only allow a limited number of safari vehicles out at once.
- Many areas are dusty during the dry season. As a result, if you drive on gravel roads in open-sided safari vehicles, you’ll be covered in dust from head to toe.
- Many African safari destinations are busiest during the dry season. This means that airfares and safari prices will rise.
The Rainy Season on African Safaris
Thundershowers are common in many parts of Africa when it rains. Quick downpours are common in the morning and/or afternoon. And the rest of the day will be cloudy with some sun peeking through. Some parts of Africa receive very little rain. There is rarely, if ever, a rainy season in these parts.
Pros of Rainy Season Safaris
- After a long dry spell, the rains bring new life. The vegetation is dense and lush. And it’s calving season right now. When there are plenty of new green shoots to feed on and strengthen the calves for the upcoming difficult months. With all of the vulnerable newborns around, predators have an easy meal, so there is a lot of activity in the bush. Seeing wildlife killed from a human perspective can be quite gruesome. This is something to consider if you are taking small children on an African safari this time of year.
- The rainy season in Africa is ideal for safari photography. There will be many moody skies, rich colors, and dramatic landscapes.
- Bird-watching is also fantastic during the rainy season. The flowers are in bloom, attracting birds and insects for food. Moreover, many migratory birds return during this time. If you enjoy bird watching, the rainy season is the best time to visit Africa.
- During the rainy season, safari destinations are less crowded. There are far fewer visitors because this is often regarded as the least desirable time to go on safari in Africa. As a result, there will be fewer safari vehicles.
- Because it is the off-season, safari camps and lodges have lower prices. Furthermore, airlines provide good deals on international flights. Safaris in the off-season can save you a lot of money while still providing excellent value. This is one of the main reasons why many people think the low season is the best time to go on an African safari.
Cons of Rainy Season Safaris
- During the rainy season, logistics can be difficult. This is more of an issue in remote areas with heavy rainfall. For example, logistics will be more difficult in the Okavango Delta than in Kruger. Poor road conditions, flash floods, waterlogged camps, and bridges washing away are among the challenges. If these things occur, your safari vehicles may become stuck in the mud. You may also need to take a detour to get to your next destination. A day on safari during the rainy season can be an exciting adventure.
- During the rainy season, the vegetation is dense and the grasses are tall, making it difficult to spot animals. And the animals dispersed over a larger area. Because there is more water in the bush, there is no need to congregate at the waterhole for a drink.
- It gets extremely hot and humid during the summer.
- Insects abound in hot and humid conditions. Mosquitoes, in particular, pose a higher malaria risk in malaria-endemic areas.
- During the rainy season, many safari camps and lodges in remote areas close.
Shoulder Seasons for African Safaris
The transitional or shoulder seasons, as one might expect, can provide a little bit of everything. Safari seasons are a mixed bag. You could have sunny skies with unexpected rains. Dense bush areas, as well as dry areas where animals can be seen.
The transition from the rainy to the dry season is a time of exceptional beauty. The vegetation is still green, and the weather is pleasant. It is often a very pleasant time of year to go on safari in Africa, with temperatures that are neither too hot nor too cold. Ideal for exploring the bush in search of wildlife.
It is worth noting that the end of the dry season can be a challenging time in the African bush. The combination of extreme heat and dry and dusty conditions can be difficult. Before the first rains, this is the season of transition into the warmer summer months. However, this is one of the best times to go on safari in Africa to see a wide variety of wildlife. Because animals congregate around permanent waterholes and vegetation is still sparse.
Shoulder season safaris are a good compromise for avoiding high-season crowds. Especially in the most well-known and popular national parks and game reserves.