June 23rd, 2020

A Guide To Africa's Seasons

Written by:

Toby Pheasant

Category:

The Insider

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Every season across ‘safari Africa’ plays host to a range of exceptional and unique events.

Whether it's the arrival of the flood waters into the Okavango Delta, the eruption of flowers along South Africa’s west coast, or the birthing season of thousands upon thousands of wildebeest across East Africa’s plains, the changing seasons will play a huge role in choosing where to travel, and when.

This short guide will introduce you to the various seasons throughout areas we travel to. 

We generally split countries into two groups of seasonality (East Africa and Southern Africa). Within these groups the countries broadly follow similar weather patterns. It's not an exact science and there are, of course, many anomalies!

Elephants in the Lower Zambezi, Zambia - Toby Pheasant


East Africa

(Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda)

With two wet seasons and two dry seasons, the East Africa region can be broadly split into four periods:


December to March 

Long, warm and dry days - these are some of our favourite months to travel to East Africa.

The bush is full of life with the birth of many impala, wildebeest, warthogs etc. With the increase in young comes a heightened level of predator action as lions, leopards, cheetah etc take advantage of this abundance to feed their own young. 

One of the huge benefits to this time of year are the lower densities of people visiting.  

As you get deeper into February and March the storm clouds will begin to brew as the rains arrive.

Our Highlights

  • Calving Season in the Great Migration (Tanzania)
  • Driest months for Gorilla Trekking (Uganda)
  • Peak whale shark viewing season near Mafia Island (Tanzania)

Gorilla Trekking from Papaya Lake Lodge, Uganda


April to June 

As the storm clouds of late March finally break, the ‘long rains’ arrive. 

April and May are particularly wet months in most of East Africa, and many camps are closed. Many camps do remain open however, and the game viewing can often be exceptional (if you don’t mind getting stuck every now and again). For photographers this is a great time to travel. 

One benefit of travelling during these months are the lower rates that are often available. 

As always, there is an exception to the rule! In one area of Tanzania’s Ruaha, April and May are, in fact, some of the best months of the year.  

Our Highlights

  • Walking safari from Kichaka Ruaha (Tanzania)
  • Fantastic rates across the Mara (Kenya)
  • June: The start of dry season for Gorilla Trekking (RwandaUganda)

Walking safari from Ikuka Safari Camp, Ruaha


July to October

These months herald the original 'safari season’. The glorious weather warm and long, dry-days turn East Africa into a paradise!

For those seeking high adrenaline on their safari, this is the time to visit the Northern Serengeti and Masai Mara as the migration of wildebeest and zebra cross over the Mara River trying to avoid the powerful jaws of the lurking crocodiles. 

A drawback to travelling during these months, particularly in the Serengeti and Masai Mara, can be the high volumes of visitors and the very high rates.  

Our Highlights

  • Mara River crossings of the Great Migration (Kenya)
  • Perfect beach weather in Zanzibar (Tanzania)
  • Chimpanzee trekking in Mahale Mountains (Tanzania)

Mara Under Canvas, Northern Serengeti


November to December

November hosts the season's ‘short rains’ as the plains and rivers receive a top up of much-needed water after the hot summer months. 

If you travel during this time you should expect a few odd downpours, however the majority of your journey will be glorious. 

There is a palpable sense of calm during these months. A bonus of travelling in November are the reduced rates.

Our Highlights

  • Beating the pre-Christmas rush in the Maasai Mara (Kenya)
  • Beaches in Diani (Kenya)
  • Birding in the Serengeti's 'Green Season' (Tanzania)

Beach at Kinondo Kwetu, Kenya - Kinondo Kwetu


Southern Africa

(Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, Madagascar, Mozambique)

Being further from the Equator, Southern Africa region has much more distinct 'wet' and 'dry' seasons. The periods can be split into two periods:


May to October

The ‘dry season': Southern Africa's winter months host the driest period, and what are typically considered the most popular times to travel. 

As the bush dries and thins out and water sources dry up, it can become easier to view wildlife. Oddly, its during this 'dry season' that Botswana's Okavango Delta floods - something that you can understand by reading our Delta article below. 

The only downsides to travelling during these months are the higher rates on safari as well as the slightly shorter days.

Our Highlights

  • Mokoro trips through the Okavango Delta (Botswana)
  • Walking safaris in the South Luangwa (Zambia)
  • Finding leopards in the Sabi Sands (South Africa)

Game drive from Mapula Lodge, Botswana


November to April

The ‘wet season': There are typically a number of big thunderstorms interspersed with many glorious long and hot summer days dotted across these months. This period effectively known as 'Green Season' - you can read about the benefits of travelling during this time here: 

For birders and photographers these are by far the best months to travel. The temperatures do begin to rise significantly in certain areas, so if you aren’t a fan of extreme heat it is worth letting us know so we can advise the right place for you. 

A huge draw to this time of year can be the lower numbers of visitors and incredibly reduced rates in countries like Botswana.  

Our Highlights

Fish River Lodge, Namibia


So, there you have it, a brief introduction into the seasons around ‘safari Africa’. This is, of course, just a summary and a huge amount more can be elaborated on. 

There are also several countries which we haven’t touched upon above which have seasons that don't fit into the two broad groups (Chad, Congo, CAR, Ethiopia and Angola). These far less-visited countries are typically visited by experienced safari goers looking for something in particular - the best season to travel can often vary. 

To find out the best time to visit Africa's wonderful beaches, head on over to this guide

If you'd like to chat through any of the seasons in more detail, don't hesitate to get in touch! We'd love to chat.


Thanks for reading,

The Bonamy Travel Team

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