December, January and February – Midsummer in Africa
Summer in Africa can be brutal, with temperatures in some of the arid regions regularly reaching over 40C. This is definitely the time to find a shady spot to escape the mid-day sun, and this is exactly what many of the animals do too...which makes them very difficult to spot in the long, lush grass. Although game viewing is generally a lot more difficult in these hot months (the abundant food and water supplies mean that most of the wildlife will be widely dispersed), there are some compensations. Bird watching is wonderful in almost all the National Parks and there are plenty of baby animals to watch.
In the Serengeti National Park (Tanzania) an incredible phenomenon occurs around Feb/March each year; the heavily pregnant Wildebeest that have completed their southern migration back from the Masai Mara stage a synchronized calving, where all the females give birth within a couple of weeks. Up to 500,000 new Wildebeest greet the world for the first time! A significant number of these vulnerable little animals will be taken by the huge numbers of predators that lie in wait, but there is some safety in numbers, and eventually even the greediest of the predators can no longer eat anymore. Visiting the Serengeti around this time of year may not be for the faint-hearted, but it does give a unique insight into the sometimes harsh reality of life in the wilds.
In Uganda, December to March is the peak season for Gorilla Trekkingin Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, while Chimpanzee Trekking is in full swing at the Queen Elizabeth National park. In February you can volunteer to help with the annual Hippo census in QE National Park – a great opportunity to help make a difference.
In Botswana, the usually arid Nxai Pan National Park is at its’ best after the summer rains, and the plains are full of grazing wildlife, making this a great time to visit, especially if your interest is bird watching.
March, April and May – Autumn
In Kibale National Park (Uganda), this is the time of year when you can take part in the Chimpanzee Habituation Program, where you will be actively involved in getting the Chimps used to humans as they go about their daily lives, a truly fascinating African experience.
More Exciting Getaways in May
May is an exciting month in Southern Africa, as it heralds the start of the very best time of year to go on a Safari! May is the start of the “dry” season in the south, a time when the seasonal water-holes start to dry up, the grass is shorter and the wildlife tend to congregate around permanent water-holes and river beds, making game viewing easier. May also falls between the Easter and July school holidays, meaning that there are fewer people in the National Parks and you will get some great off-season rates on accommodation. Great places to visit in May include any of the National Parks and Game Reserves in South Africa and her neighbours, Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe.
May/June is also when the endangered Sea Turtle hatchlings start to make their journey from egg to ocean, so a visit to Phinda Resource Centre on the North Coast of South Africa is particularly rewarding in late May.
In the central Serengeti,(Tanzania) vast herds of Wildebeest will be starting to congregate, in anticipation of the annual migration to the Masai Mara in Kenya.
Mighty Victoria Falls on the Zimbabwe/Zambia border is usually in full spate in May and that is the best time to see the full 1,7km width and the full force of the falls. However, this is also when the spray is at its worst, which makes for rather wet and misty land-based viewing.
June, July and August – Southern Hemisphere Winter
These three months are arguably the very best time of the year to go on an African Safari. Game-viewing conditions in Southern Africa are at their best, with short grass and large concentrations of game around the rivers and permanent-waterholes. Come and see thousands of Elephant in Chobe and Savuti (Botswana), track the amazing desert-adapted Elephants of the Namib Desert (Namibia) or, for one of the greatest wildlife experiences you will ever have, come to the Masai Mara in Kenya. This is the time to come and witness the Wildebeest Migration, one of the Seven New Wonders of Nature, when millions of Wildebeest, Zebra and Gazelle migrate from the Serengeti in search of grazing and water, closely followed by hundreds of predators.
The equatorial countries are generally also at their best from June to August, as this is one of the drier times of year. In Rwanda and Uganda, Gorilla Trekking is possible all year round, but it is easier to go trekking in dry conditions; June to September and December, January and February are the driest months.
In Zimbabwe, July and August are probably the very best months to visit the Victoria Falls as the spray has reduced but there is still plenty of water. In addition, now is the time to enjoy white-water rafting and also to visit Hwange and the other near-by game reserves.
In Botswana the floods arrive in the amazing Okavango Delta around July to August, which means that “wet safaris” (exploring all the channels and streams of the Delta in a dugout canoe) are at their best. Come and see Lion swim and Elephants wallow in this wet wonderland.
In Namibia these cooler winter months are the perfect time to visit to avoid the summer heat which can be really extreme in the desert regions. This is the time to come and hike the Fish River Canyon or go rock climbing and trekking, both of which are impossible in summer.
September, October and November – African Springtime
In the arid regions of Africa people start to anxiously watch the sky for signs of the first spring rains from September onwards. When the rains finally arrive, the seemingly dead bush bursts into life and the ground is covered in wild flowers, lush green grass, and seasonal water-holes pop up all over.One of the best places to visit during these three months is Etosha (Namibia), where the spring rains literally bring the Park to life and herald the arrival of huge flocks of Flamingo.
In the National Parks in Southern Africa game viewing is generally excellent during September and early October, before the rains arrive. From October to November many of the animals will start calving so this is a wonderful time to visit to see and photograph some of the baby animals. The first rains also herald the arrival of many species of migrant birds, so Springis the start of the best birding season.
At Murchison Falls National Park in Uganda you can go Chimpanzee trekking from October to January, one of the two drier seasons in this equatorial country.