The question ‘when is the best time to go on safari’ is a simple one. Yet there is no simple answer. That is because things in Africa have changed over the years, making it possible, and often desirable, to visit prime wildlife areas outside the traditional safari season. The answer is therefore, that the best time to go on safari depends on your priorities and interests and where you would like to go.
Of course there was a time when there were distinct safari seasons across Africa. Temporary mobile camps accommodating just six to eight guests were trucked in and out of remote wildlife areas and, for reasons of accessibility, these were only operational during the dry season.
Over the years, however, demand has grown. In response, airstrips have been improved for year round accessibility, mobile camps have become permanent and luxury lodges, which are built to last, have also appeared. This has extended the season for visitors and opened up wildlife areas during the low or ‘green’ season.
Those wondering when is the best time to go on safari, should consider what it is they really want to do and see. Some activities are limited by specific seasons and nature, for instance:
- Walking safaris in Southern Africa are best during the dry season from June to November when the grasses are low for greater visibility and safety;
- Boating safaris in the Okavango Delta only start in June when the water levels are rising in the Delta and have a short season until October;
- Gorilla trekking is easiest done in April/May/June when the gorillas tend to be feeding on the young bamboo shoots at the base of the mountain range and treks can be shorter at this time of year;
- Wildebeest can be seen in large numbers when they are more stationary than migratory – from December to March on the short grass plains of the southern Serengeti or from July to October across the border in the Masai Mara. But there are equally wonderful chances of viewing when the migration is on the move – an excellent mobile tented camp shadows the migration across the Serengeti giving you every opportunity of witnessing the spectacle, and without the crowds of the peak season months.
To make an informed decision, you need to speak to a safari specialist who can advise on matching your preferences and interests with the best time of year to travel. An agent with many years’ experience, who knows the countries and wildlife areas, including the nuances of each wildlife area throughout the year, can reliably inform you what you can expect and help you to make an informed recommendation on when is the best time to go on safari.