Best time to go on a family wildlife vacation

African safaris in the summer hols, exploring Costa Rica at Christmas – there is plenty of wildlife for families to see during the school vacations.
Obviously, if your children are school age, the best time to go on a family wildlife vacation is during the school vacations. Fortunately, being tied to the academic calendar won’t put the brakes on seeing the world’s most exciting wildlife. Summer is the best time for an African safari, while seeing tigers in India is best over the Christmas break. Easter brings numerous wildlife options, from orangutans in Borneo to marine iguanas in the Galapagos. Half terms are trickier, as a week isn’t really long enough to reach long haul wildlife destinations (and most are long haul) but you can spot whales in the Azores in May and October.

Christmas vacations

This is a good time to see tigers in India – not too hot, although be prepared for really cold mornings.

Costa Rica is a great Christmas option, as this festive vacation coincides with the country’s driest, sunniest weather.

You can visit Tanzania for wildlife in the Christmas vacations. November and December bring the short rains, but this shouldn’t disrupt travel – although may bring a few more mosquitoes – and will freshen up the landscape. December can also be an excellent time to visit Kenya, with lush green scenery the ideal habitat for migratory birds and lots of cute new born animals.

Christmas is a great time to visit the Galapagos. It’s the warm, wet season here, with seas pleasantly warm and underwater visibility good.

February half term

A tricky vacation for seeing wildlife. Most of the exciting wildlife watching is taking place in long haul destinations and organised tours that fit within a single half term week just don’t run. If you’re prepared to let your kids miss a week of school though, or you have two-week half terms, the world is your oyster now.

Easter vacations

March to May is the rainy season in Tanzania, Kenya and Botswana, so an Easter safari isn’t ideal.

October to April is the wet season in Brazil’s wildlife rich Pantanal, so Easter vacations aren’t the best time to come all this way.

April to May, when vegetation is dry and sparse and wildlife congregates at the few waterholes, is a superb time to see tigers in India. Before you head off with your family, though, do remember that temperatures soar into the 40°Cs now, which can feel unbearably hot, for adults and kids.

April to May is excellent in Namibia, with the landscape refreshed after the rains.

April, May and June are the optimum time to see the blue, humpback and fin whales migrating past the Azores, so if Easter falls during April, this is a great option.

The Galapagos’ warm, wet season runs from December to June, when seas are warm and underwater visibility good, with just the odd sharp shower – a great Easter option.

May half term

You can still see the annual spring migration north of blue, humpback and fin whales in the Azores during May.

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Summer vacations

July and August are the best times to go to Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana, Namibia and South Africa. It’s dry then, with warm days, but expect very chilly nights. In Kenya, you can catch the Great Migration as it crosses the Mara River into the Masai Mara.

In India, most national parks are closed during July, August and September for the monsoon, so tiger safaris are not a summer vacation option.

Costa Rica can be showery in July and August, but sudden downpours don’t stop play and will refresh the landscape. August is the month for baby turtles to hatch, so volunteering with turtles now is ideal.

Wildlife is visible all year round in the Galapagos, and the weather is cool and dry during the northern hemisphere’s summer.

July and August are superb times to see wildlife in Brazil’s Pantanal region, as this is the dry, sunny season, when animals gravitate towards waterholes. Expect cool nights and warm days, with temperatures hitting the high 20°Cs now.

October half term

You can see whales in the Azores now, with weeklong tours fitting neatly into the half term vacation.
Written by Joanna Simmons
Photo credits: [Page banner: Nadezhda1906] [Intro: IIP Photo Archive] [Christmas vacations: Simon Matzinger] [Easter vacations: Bernie Catterall] [Summer vacations: Chen Hu]