Undoubtedly the most common question we are asked when consulting on travel to Africa is "What is the best time of the year to visit Africa?". Almost 100% of the time the answer to this question would be in the African winter months of June-September, however it really depends in what context we are answering this question. If we were purely answering the question from a wildlife viewing perspective while on safari then this would be true. Typically these are the dryer months so vegetation is not as dense and you can see further into the bush. Water sources are more scare as the seasonal ponds, puddles and water holes dry up and wildlife is forced to congregate at the few permanent sources of water in the region like lakes, dams and rivers.
We would like to offer reasons why we suggest traveling in a season earlier in the year that we refer to as the "Green Season".
Some destinations charge seasonal rates for lodging. "Green Season" rates are substantially lower than high season rates and can account for overall significantly lower cost to visit some incredible destinations. This time period also often has special packages on offer and these depend on what camps or lodges ou will be visiting. It is not uncommon to see deals that include a free night when booking 3 night s at a a particular property. Single supplement charges are also often waived during these times.
As these months are not necessarily the months advertised to the masses as "the best" months you will see a lot less people and vehicles in the safari regions of both Southern & East Africa. High season months attract large amounts of visitors and this can often cause one of the only negatives you will experience in Africa. If you want to avoid seeing a lot of people then put up with some afternoon showers, sometimes muddy conditions, a little more heat and more insects around and travel in the "Green Season".
In regular rainfall seasons (no drought), the " Green Season" sees the onset of the first rains which stimulates the growth of new grass. Many of the antelope species and other grazers would have timed their gestation periods to synchronize the birth of their young. This creates magical scenes and also creates many feeding opportunities for predators.
African summers attract an amazing array of migratory birdlife. These along with the permanent residents of the area creates some of the best birding experiences anywhere on the planet. The rains, warmth and insects create feeding frenzies for birdlife.
Longer Days and Warmer Mornings
This applies more specifically to Southern Africa (not completely relative in East Africa due to the proximity to the equator). Summer months provide more daylight hours which allows more time to view wildlife in the early mornings without having to struggle through "bitterly cold" morning game drives. Whilst you still want to be up early and get out on your drives before it gets too hot, these mornings are warmer and the morning light begins earlier, often allowing more time on your morning drive.
Less Dust and Lush Vegetation
Through the dry seeason as riverbeds, waterholes and roads are extremely dry the slightest breeze and especially other vehicles often cause a dusty haze in the air. Winteer fires can also often add to this haze by adding smoke. "Green Season" creates the absolute best of Africa's already dramatic and spectacular landscapes. Green grass, full flourishing trees and blooms. Brighter sunrises and if possible, even more spectacular sunsets.
Green Season in Southern Africa
(South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Zambia, Namibia and Mozambique)
Green Season in Eastern Africa
(Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda)
April-May (Long Rains)
November (Short Rains)