Experience African wilderness
"If I have ever seen magic, it has been in Africa" - John Hemingway
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WHEN TO GO
The weather is becoming more and more unpredictable and Africa is a complex destination. If you want to inquire about particular dates and best safari to suit you reach out to us and we will look at it closely in order to find the perfect options. However for a broad overview please read below. There is a lot of information online which is most often confusing and incomplete. We hope this helps simplify it a bit.
NOVEMBER to MARCH
This is the summer and definitely the rainy season. Due to rain the vegetation becomes green and lush and so the animals don't congregate as much and are harder to spot. This season is amazing for photography as the sky can turn to dramatic colours and the air is clear of dust in between rainfalls. It's great for birding as everything is flourishing providing lots of berries and insects. The Etosha Pan in Namibia fills with flocks of flamingos at this time of year but the temperatures can get very high and mosquitoes can be troubling. We would not recommend travelling to Africa this time of year with a few exceptions.
The main exception is if you pick one of our recommended luxury lodges overlooking plains or craters such as those in the Serengeti National Park, northern Tanzania. This is a great choice year round. November is where the migrating herds make their way back from Kenya and January and February is the peak calving season bringing in the predators and showing nature at its finest. However it is worth considering that January is particularly hot.
The second exception is the Kalahari Desert in Botswana, which is at its best in December - read more about it in our final section below.
APRIL to OCTOBER:
Generally, this is the best time to visit Africa as the rains decrease in April and May and the bush clears allowing for great sightings. Animals become more and more desperate for water and so they congregate near scarce water sources and migrate to follow seasonal rains and greener pastures. The great migration in April - July from the Northern Serengeti to the Masai Mara is the highlight of the season, in our opinion. The river crossings are the most sought after sightings as the mega herds of wildebeest and zebras cross from northern Tanzania (Serengeti) to Kenya (Masai Mara) passing through two major rivers where crocodiles and hippos await. Witnessing these extreme shows of nature is a life changing moment for anyone, as one truly connects to the natural order.
The Serengeti-Mara ecosystem is home to one of the highest densities of lions in the world. Within this area, the Serengeti boasts the oldest lion research project in Africa - The Serengeti Lion Project, operating for nearly 50 years. Across the border in Kenya the wide open savannah plains of the Masai Mara make for excellent lion viewing of large prides that are accustomed to tourist vehicles.
Despite animals easily crossing the border between the two countries it could be a bit too bumpy and too long of a distance for people to cross by Jeep so flying is recommended if wished for.
If you're thinking of South Africa and the Krueger National Park, the best time to visit is around April and September, the beginning and the end of the region's dry season.
Having said all these, our favourite destination for our first-time-to-Africa clients is Tanzania. Even if the Serengeti is a year round destination, the best time to go is more or less December to February (calving season) and April/May to August (migration). This coincides with the opportunity to take some extra days to climb the Kilimanjaro or to visit Zanzibar for a beach escape. June-August is also an ideal time to combine your safari with an Indian Ocean beach holiday in Mozambique, Mauritius or the Seychelles.
For Kenya, the best time to go is September to October as the Masai Mara plains are filled with massive herds followed closely by their predators. The season is dry and the weather cooler making it ideal for cheetah and lion spotting. However Kenya offers a lot year-round as does South Africa.
After Tanzania, our other favourite destination is Botswana, read below for more information.
LESS MAINSTREAM DESTINATIONS:
Africa, the cradle of humanity, is a world of its own. For clients who want to go off the beaten track or especially for those who won't be in Africa for the first time we recommend:
Botswana - Marketed as the most exclusive destination for African safaris it has received very positive PR in the past five years yet it is complex, with multiple national parks and one needs to be well informed of where to go and when. While July to October will be the perfect time to explore the Okavango Delta - picture yourself on a boat safari with a glass of chilled wine in hand, the Kalahari desert is highly worth witnessing in December when the transformation is spectacular, the earth being covered in lush green grass, and the world's longest migration of zebras takes place. Wildebeest and buffalo give birth and it becomes prime hunting and feeding time for predators - lions, cheetahs, hyenas and leopards. To the north of the country in Chobe National Park our favourite time is May, the beginning of the dry season which drives large herds of animals to the Chobe river, especially elephants and camps aren't too crowded.
Rwanda & Uganda - June to September is optimal for trekking to see mountain gorillas in the foothills of the Virunga Volcanoes. There are fewer than 900 mountain gorillas in existence, and gorilla trekking provides a rare opportunity to observe the everyday interactions of these gentle, mysterious primates.
Namibia - November to December to see flocks of pink flamingos gathering on the saltpans of Ethosha National Park. Not to miss is the surreal Deadvlei, a clay pan scattered with ancient dead trees.
Ethiopia - Unlike any place on earth, Ethiopia is a complex destination with a rich culture, religion and plenty archaeological wonders. Meet the unique tribes of the south and explore the Simien mountains harbouring an array of endemic wildlife including the unique gelada baboons.
FOR MORE, REACH OUT TO INFO@ONEPRIVATETRAVEL.COM