Africa Safari Seasons
We take a look at Africa through the year; the best countries to visit, our favourite lodges, and the unforgettable wildlife encounters you will have
Cheetah, Ruaha National Park, Tanzania
Spring safari inspiration
Spring and summer are a popular time for weddings in the UK and we have endless ideas to create your perfect honeymoon in Africa. Take a hot air balloon flight over the vast Serengeti savannah at sunrise, watching the wildlife below; explore Kenya’s Laikipia Plateau by day, searching for elephant, rhino and wild dog and sleep out under the stars at the Loisaba Starbeds; wander the beautiful and unspoilt Lower Zambezi from the lovely Sausage Tree Camp, enjoying the luxurious surroundings when you’re not out on a game-drive, walk or boat safari; or, if relaxation is more what you’re after, spend a day enjoying a secluded sandbank picnic for two in Mozambique.
Kalahari, BotswanaThe Botswanan Kalahari is such a unique environment, and spring is the ideal time to explore. Seasonal rains bring numerous migratory bird species, as well as beautiful desert flowers. If you time your visit just right, you may catch the zebra migration where 25,000 zebra move through the Makgadikgadi salt pans on their way to the lush grasses of the Boteti River, with predators following not far behind. Other activities include visits to the meerkats, which often make themselves at home sitting on a visitor’s head or shoulders to enjoy a higher vantage point! This area also offers some superb visits to the bushmen (left), learning about their immense knowledge of flora and fauna as well as their skills in hunting and gathering.
Gorilla tracking, Rwanda and Uganda
Nothing can prepare you for the thrill of an exhilarating trek through the rainforest and finding a group of mountain gorillas. On my recent trip to Uganda, even though the trek was fairly long and arduous at times, seeing the gorillas face to face was absolutely incredible. The look on our faces when we first came across them was a sight to see – sheer delight mixed with a small dose of fear as we knew we were in their territory. We spent a precious hour watching as the gorillas foraged for food, youngsters climbed trees and groomed each other. If you asked me if the trek is worth it, I’d say yes, a hundred times over.
Summer safari inspiration
On the eastern side of Madagascar lies the tiny island of Ile St Marie. During the summer months, visitors to this idyllic part of the island can enjoy watching humpback whales off the shore. The whales come here to breed and calve, and can be seen from the beach or by boat. Combined with the other incredible wildlife of Madagascar (the lemurs are a highlight for many), this is the icing on the cake of a trip. One of our favourite lodges in this area, Princesse Bora Lodge (below) offers an ideal base for enjoying the whales, palm-fringed beaches and endemic wildlife of the area.
The Great Migration
Thousands of thundering hooves passing through the Masai Mara marks the annual migration of wildebeest, zebra and gazelle. August and September are the peak times to encounter this wildlife phenomenon in Kenya and it’s well worth booking ahead to get a camp in the best location. The predatory lion, leopard and cheetah are out in full force at this time of year, with a veritable buffet of potential meals in their sights. If you’ve seen the documentaries and have always wanted to witness a dramatic river crossing, this is also the time to see it, with the Mara and Talek rivers crisscrossing the Masai Mara. It can take the wildebeest days on end to decide to take the plunge, so a good dose of patience, some luck and an excellent safari guide are required!
Selous Game Reserve, Tanzania
If you asked anyone in our Tanzania team where they’d choose to go on their own safari, nine times out of ten they would say “The Selous”. While less well known than the Serengeti and Ngorongoro, the Selous holds a magic of its own. This enormous game reserve boasts some of the largest elephant populations in Africa (below), as well as wild dog, lion, leopard and more. Your safari takes the form of game drives, guided walking safaris, and boat safaris on which you can get surprisingly close to hippos. With only a handful of small camps here, the experience is authentic and far removed from the crowds of minibuses that most safari-goers hope to avoid.
Autumn safari inspiration
Etosha Pan, Namibia
As the dry season comes to a close in September and October, game viewing is at its peak in Namibia. In the barren landscape of Damaraland, desert-adapted elephants roam for many miles in search of water, revisiting their favourite spots from years before. The Etosha Pan is dry in these months, meaning wildlife concentrates around the many waterholes (below). You can visit with a knowledgeable guide from your lodge or – for the ultimate independence – self-drive around the park, choosing which waterhole to visit and how long to spend. Wildlife here is varied, from the feisty black rhinos to the iconic oryx.
Unusual visitors in Zambia
October is a particularly special month in the South Luangwa. Carmine bee-eaters return to the riverbanks to nest at this time, filling the skies with clouds of iridescent reds and blues. The dry grass means that the wildlife is easier to spot than earlier in the dry season. And if you’re staying at Mfuwe Lodge, you may enjoy an unusual visitor. Each year, a herd of elephants, led by the matriarch ‘Wonky Tusk’ traipse through the reception of this luxurious lodge (below). Their goal? To reach the large wild mango tree that bears fruit at this time of year, situated within the lodge grounds.
Likoma Island, Malawi
A firm Audley client favourite on Lake Malawi is Kaya Mawa, a small boutique lodge situated on Likoma Island. The island itself is stunning, with lush rolling hills, walking trails and baobab trees, as well the enormous St Peter’s Cathedral dating back to the 19th century when an Anglican mission was founded here. Kaya Mawa sits on a rocky outcrop overlooking an idyllic beach and each of the 11 rooms has been individually designed. Visitors are charmed by the wonderfully welcoming staff, superb food, and activities such as snorkelling in the crystal clear waters of the lake and kayaking along the shoreline. If you wish, start your trip with a safari, there is a new direct flight linking Likoma Island to South Luangwa in Zambia, making this a really great combination.
Winter safari inspiration
Escape the winter in South Africa
The British winter is the peak time to visit South Africa, with temperatures ranging from 23-32C and superb wildlife viewing. In November, head to Hermanus for arguably the best land-based whale watching in the world, watching the southern right whales close to shore (below). You can enjoy the Cape Town sunshine and visit the colourful Kirstenbosch Gardens or take a side-trip to Franschhoek in the Cape Winelands for December’s champagne festival. We recommend spending a few days exploring the Garden Route by hire car, stopping off in seaside towns and enjoying great seafood. Safari lovers will enjoy a safari at the Amakhala
Botswana green season
As travellers become more savvy, many appreciate the benefits of visiting a country outside of the busy season. Botswana is a superb example of a destination where you can enjoy a fantastic safari in the green season. From November to March, the rains arrive and the Okavango Delta is transformed into a luscious land. Temperatures are pleasant and rain storms are dramatic and short lived. For ornithologists it is a dream time to visit. The water brings a proliferation of insect life and fish are abundant, which draws in the colourful summer migrants. The bush is invigorated by the rains, flowers bloom and the wildlife start dropping their young. With all the youngsters running around this is also a great time for the predators as they have a ready supply of food. On top of all of these benefits, the prices at this time of the year are usually heavily discounted too.
Christmas on safari
There is nothing like spending Christmas on safari. The camps and lodges go all out with celebrating, you may find your guide wearing a Santa hat on a game drive, crackers to pull at dinner, and many do their best to cook a roast turkey, or similar. But that’s where the similarities end. For families wanting something truly unique, why not hire out a private house in the heart of Zambia’s South Luangwa? Luangwa Safari House occupies a prime location, where up to eight people can enjoy a totally private safari experience, with your own guide and plenty of living areas for your festive celebrations. If you want to avoid malarial areas but still have a great safari, the Shamwari Reserve in South Africa’s Eastern Cape is a firm favourite with our clients, with plentiful wildlife, superb guiding and some beautiful lodges (such as the Bayethe, pictured above) and camps.