Southern Africa is a very diverse destination, and part of the travel planning is WHEN to go. When is the best time to travel?
In most parts of Southern Africa, the raining season is
generally in the summer months, from November through to March, and even
into early May.
The exception is the Western Cape area, including Cape Town and Cape Garden Route: This region has a Mediterranean climate, and mostly get rain in the winter, but as cold weather fronts move in from Antarctica, even in high summer there might be days of rainy weather. This part of the world deserves its name as the "Cape of Storms".
The peak safari time is in the dry winter months. The vegetation is not as thick and drinking water for animals is at its minimum.
This is when the game concentrates around the water sources, although the summer months can also be good for wildlife viewing, and this differs from region to region.
Although these are general guidelines regarding seasonal weather patterns, please be advised that the weather can vary dramatically throughout your trip. In the past few years, the climate changes has become more un-predictable.
Keep in mind, that people travel all year round to most safari destinations.
Each season having its own advantages, so if you have set holiday dates for
your travel, chances are you will be able to have a great trip no matter
where you are going.
It is important to understand the seasonal trends and how they will affect your trip; but remember that weather is variable, and so it is quite possible to go for days without rain during the peak of the rainy season, or have thundershowers in the middle of the dry winter season!
The best game-viewing period in Africa is during the dry winter-season. Permanent water holes attract animals and the vegetation becomes thinned out, with bushes and trees do not have so many leaves to obstruct the view.
This optimum safari season usually includes winter (May - August) and the
hot spring months of September and October. The climate is comfortable in
the dry winter months of May, June, July and August. Daytime temperatures
are mild and the nights get a little cool.
Given that it hardly ever rains in winter, the animals must come to the waterholes to drink in the mornings and afternoons and can easily be observed from a vehicle or hide. So as a rule, game viewing is best at the end of the dry season when temperatures are high. Unless game are on the move, as you'll find with migrations in the north-eastern Botswana, western Zambia and Kalahari.
During the period of November to April of each year, Southern Africa experiences a transformation; the first rains bring on the antelope lambing season, flora comes into flower and the bird life is prolific throughout this period.
The summer and spring season delivers exciting new sights and experiences, and this is a good time for lodge safaris. Tented camping trips could be a muddy wet affair.
The grass and vegetation could be thick in some wildlife areas after the rains; therefore game viewing at these times can be difficult. In some areas the wildlife will disperse during the rains due to the ample water supply in the bush, as they are not dependent on going to the water holes.
SOME-THING TO REMEMBER: There are no bad months, just different experiences. Southern Africa is so diverse that there is always something to see and do. Certainly, climate should not be seen as the sole deciding factor in making the choice of when to travel.