Best Time to Go on an African Safari | 5 Pro Tips for Planning Your Holiday

February 3, 2022

From the brave meerkats to the mighty lions, Africa is home to thousands of exotic animals. However, those animals are spread out over 30 million square kilometers so they can be pretty tricky to find.

So, what is the best time for an African safari? Well, there are quite a number of factors to consider before making that decision. To make things simpler for you, this post contains all the information you need for planning the best African safari.

The Best Time to Go on Safari in Africa – Things to Consider

Kilimanjaro in the distance

To plan a safari in Africa takes some research. First, it is recommended to think about what kind of experience you want. One can experience practically any kind of holiday in Africa – from tropical jungles to beaches or deserts. If a safari is the main focus of the trip, then think of these 5 tips:

1. Weather in Africa

Although most safari vehicles have roofs, it is best not to get caught in a thunderstorm. Good weather is important for a great safari experience.

What is the weather like in Africa? Well it can differ from country to country.

Africa is bisected by the equator, so while Capetonians are experiencing hot summer days, Moroccans close to the Atlas mountains are experiencing a very cold winter. You can split the weather into three regions:

  • Central and Western Africa
  • Eastern Africa
  • Southern Africa.

Giraffe in the Savanna

Central and Western Africa

This region of Africa is hot pretty much all year around. The temperature doesn’t fluctuate much during the year but there are two distinct seasons: wet and dry.

The first wet season in Central and Western Africa is from March – May. This is when most of the rain happens. The second wet season is from October – December, which sees less rain than the first. (These are also referred to as the ‘long rains’ and the ‘short rains’)

East Africa

This area is also hot all year around with almost no changes in temperatures throughout the year. The major difference is in the timing of the wet seasons. The long rains are from April – June and the short rains are from October – December.

Southern Africa

This part of Africa is generally hot all year around too (classic Africa weather) but the further south you go, the more temperate the climate becomes. There is a difference between the summer and winter months – it becomes a lot cooler in winter.

The wet season is from November – March (January and February is when the rainy season is at its peak). There is a chance of some rain from May – July, however, this makes up for less than 10% of the annual rainfall.

2. Best Time of Year for an African Safari

Lion and cub cuddling

As a general rule, the best time of year to go on safari is spring – which arrives from late June to October. Springtime in Africa is dry but still cool. Visibility is at its best during the dry season, so make sure to pack in those fancy binoculars.

Another great time for a safari is January-March. This is when the weather in most African countries is mild and dry. If you want to go on a cheaper and quieter safari, then the short rainy season is well worth considering (October-December).

3. Time of Day

Coffees and game drives almost go hand-in-hand. Early mornings are perfect for viewing animals – especially predators that are returning from a night of hunting. Most animals are active early in the mornings so you are bound to see the largest variety at this time.

Late afternoon is a good substitute time for a game drive, especially if you’re not a morning person. Replace the coffees with some sunset G&T’s and a picnic basket and enjoy spotting the last few animals before they disappear into the night.

An alternative would be to have an early dinner and head out after the sunset. Nighttime is perfect for spotting nocturnal animals.

Sunrise in the Kruger National Park

4. Which African Country are You Visiting?

There are 48 countries in mainland Africa and each country has its own nuances. The most popular safari destinations in Africa are:

  • Kenya – This is where the image of the ‘classic’ safari comes from. Kenya possesses wildlife in abundance and you can view the great migration from here.
  • Tanzania – This country is unique for having jungle safaris. This is one of the only countries where you will be able to spot gorillas on safari.
  • Botswana – People are normally surprised to hear this one. Botswana has a very progressive approach to conservation. Their parks are very open and animals can travel freely between parks which make it perfect for any safari fans.
  • South Africa – This is one of the few countries in Africa where you can go on safari pretty much any time of the year. However, the best time for safari in South Africa is in the winter months (May-August).

5. Animal Abundance

The first thing that people want to find when they land in Africa is the wildlife. Herd animals in Africa tend to migrate annually. This means that you may not see the same animals in the same place just a month apart.

In Kenya, animal numbers are at their peak during July and August. The migration into Kenya starts in July and ends in November. In Tanzania, the most animals can be seen between December and March before they begin to migrate to Kenya.

South Africa is rich in animal and bird diversity. In addition, it boasts picturesque landscapes and backdrops that make for beautiful safari pictures.

A group of Zebras

Choose the Best Time for An African Safari and Enjoy!

There are many factors that contribute to a great safari experience. The best time for safari in Africa is most definitely July-October. This is when animals are abundant and the weather is dry and cool. You can also try your luck in January-March when the weather is similar.

For a budget safari, and for those people who like to avoid the crowds, the best time to go is during the short rains (October-December). South Africa is perfect for safari all year round and is also a budget-friendly destination – but don’t be fooled if you think you can avoid the crowds here!

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