Best time to visit Africa

Best time to visit Africa


temperature & rainfall

Click a location: South Africa | Kenya | Morocco
The best time to visit Africa shifts from south to east to north, depending on rainfall and wildlife. You can find somewhere for a beach vacation year-round, but most people go for the exceptional wildlife. In Kruger National Park, the winter dry season falls between May and October when game viewing is at its best, but to catch East Africa’s Great Migration, you’ll need to travel between June and early September. Gorilla trekking in Uganda and Rwanda is year-round, but Jan-Feb and June-Sept are much cooler months.

When to visit Africa and when not to


A MONTH BY MONTH GUIDE

Southern Africa


Botswana, Namibia and South Africa: For game viewing, travel in the cool but dry months of July to October – or early November in Namibia - when wildlife clusters around the remaining waterholes. It can get busy, especially in hotspots such as Kruger – so book well ahead and expect higher prices. Animals disperse in the green season, from November to March, making it much harder to see – although there are more young animals present at this time.
If you’re heading to Cape Town, the rain pattern is reversed – with the scorching months of November to March being the driest.
Zambia and Malawi are best visited from late May to November – particularly towards the end of this period, as waterholes virtually dry up and the warmer spring temperatures are creeping up. This is also the best time for a walking safari in Zambia. Some accommodation in remoter areas may close in soggy March – May.

Ethiopia


The best time to go to Ethiopia is in the dry months of September to April – and particularly in September to October, when the land is still fresher and greener. Timkat, the biggest Christian celebration here, takes place in January. Mountain regions should be avoided in the long wet season. Cool and damp year round, the long rains from June and July up to October (with rain starting as soon as March in the Bale Mountains) create poor conditions for trekking, and clouds and fog obscure the glorious views. August is the coolest and wettest month – but bring very warm layers whenever you travel. Bale in particular can drop below freezing at night.

East Africa


In Kenya and Tanzania, the highlight is the Great Migration, best from July to October when the Mara River crossing takes place. Game is present all year, however, but the long rainy season in March to May (with the heaviest rains from April to May) is not the best time to visit as wildlife disperses and is hidden by vegetation, and rain can make roads impassable. However, there are some great deals available during this period, so it's worth considering if you're on a really tight budget. Be aware that Kilimanjaro climbs are risky in the wet season, and that afternoon downpours are heavier along the coast and islands. Some lodges in remoter southern Tanzania will close during this period.
For gorilla trekking in Uganda or Rwanda, be prepared if you are going during the rainy seasons of November, and from March to May – especially in Uganda, where treks usually take longer. It doesn’t rain all day every day, but comes in big bursts, and gorilla tracking permits may be heavily discounted – but if you aren’t a fan of rain, think about booking outside the rainy season.

Madagascar


Cyclones hit Madagascar in February, but changing weather patterns mean the cyclones are increasingly less predictable – so avoid January and even March to be on the safe side. October to December is baby lemur season.

North Africa


Spring and autumn offer the best weather for walking and cycling vacations in Morocco – though expect dust storms in the desert from February to April. Avoid the Sahara in midsummer; temperatures will be much more pleasant on the coast.

Responsible Travel recommends


WHAT HAPPENS WHEN IN AFRICA

Simon Mills, from our supplier Native Escapes, shares his advice on the best time to go to Africa: “For such a large continent, there are a number of different weather patterns and differences across Africa. The main rule of thumb is that across Southern Africa (except the Cape region), the rains start towards the end of November and continue until March. The rest of the year is generally dry. In Cape Town and surrounds, June-September tends to be the wettest months. The rainy, or ‘green season’, is not a bad time of year to go on safari though. Granted, it will be warm and the bush will be greener, so the animals will be harder to spot, but that is where you guide/tracker earns their crust.”
Tom Harari, from our supplier Exodus, shares his advice on the best time to go to Africa: “East Africa has two dry and two wet seasons. The big rains are around March/April whilst the small rains are in December. Southern Africa’s climate is more seasonal with spring, summer, autumn and winter. These are southern hemisphere seasons, however. Winter in South Africa during July/August can be cold and wet, and you may even see some snow in the Drakensberg Mountains. The most important wildlife event to be considered is the Great Migration in East Africa. Doing a loop around the Serengeti and Masai Mara, giant herds of wildebeest can be seen. The best time to see them in the Serengeti is the start of the year, whilst the best time to see them crossing the river into the Masai Mara is August to October, though it can vary from year to year.

Africa festivals & events


Our cultural pick from the AFRICAN cultural calendar

Lake of Stars
Festival, Malawi


An international extravaganza of singing, dancing and a fair bit of ice-cold beer drinking too, the Lake of Stars is a three-night music festival that takes over the usually sleepy shores of Lake Malawi and injects them with an enormous dose of fun. You’ll see acts from all over the globe performing; you’ll learn to dance like you’ve never danced before; and you’ll come away with loads of new friends too.
Photo credits: [Southern Africa - single: ] [Ethiopia - single: ] [East Africa - double: ] [North Africa - single: ] [Tom Harari quote: Thomson Safaris Tanzania Safaris and Kili Treks] [Lake of stars festival: Mike]

Written by: Polly Humphris
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