When planning a safari in Africa, timing is everything.
The season you choose to travel can significantly impact your safari experience, from the number of animals you see to the cost of your trip.
In this guide, I’ll explore the best time to book a safari in Africa based on three key factors:
- Game viewing
By the end of this guide, you’ll have all the information you need to make an informed decision and plan the ultimate African safari adventure.
Best time for game viewing
One of the most important factors to consider when planning your African safari is the game viewing experience. After all, spotting incredible wildlife in their natural habitat is often the main reason for embarking on such a journey. Generally, the best time to book a safari for optimal game viewing is during the dry season.
- The dry season usually runs from June to October in most parts of Africa. During this time, the vegetation is less dense, which makes it easier to spot animals. Additionally, the scarcity of water sources means that animals will congregate around the remaining water holes, making it easier to find them. This also increases the chances of witnessing thrilling predator-prey interactions, as carnivores take advantage of the concentration of herbivores around the waterholes.
- However, it’s important to note that the dry season is peak tourist season, meaning there will be more visitors and higher prices. Accommodation and activities may also book up quickly, so it’s essential to plan well in advance. Nevertheless, the benefits of visiting during peak season include the chance to see the famous wildebeest migration in East Africa or to witness baby animals being born in southern Africa.
- Some of the most popular safari destinations for game viewing during the dry season include Kruger National Park in South Africa, the Maasai Mara in Kenya, and the Serengeti in Tanzania. These parks offer incredible wildlife sightings and fantastic lodges, but they can be crowded and expensive during peak season. Alternatively, less-frequented parks like Kafue in Zambia and the southern areas of Tanzania can offer a more intimate and affordable safari experience.
Best time for weather
In addition to game viewing, weather is another important consideration when booking a safari in Africa. The best time to visit for optimal weather varies depending on your destination.
- In southern Africa, the best time to book a safari for pleasant weather is during the dry winter months from May to October. During this time, temperatures are mild, and the vegetation is less dense.
- In East Africa, the best time to visit for good weather is during the dry season from June to September.
However, it’s worth noting that weather patterns can be unpredictable, and it’s not uncommon to experience rain even during the dry season. Additionally, temperatures can vary widely between regions and time of day.
It’s essential to research the weather patterns of your intended destination and pack accordingly. Ask me!
- If you’re planning to visit during the wet season, which typically runs from November to April, be prepared for higher temperatures, more humidity, and increased rainfall. However, visiting during the wet season can also offer a unique and beautiful experience, with lush green vegetation, fewer crowds, and more affordable prices.
- I visited Botswana in February and had spectacular sightings and great weather, which made it a real bargain as prices were half the high season cost…
When it comes to packing, it’s important to bring layers and to dress for warmth in the early mornings and evenings. Additionally, it’s essential to pack appropriate footwear and rain gear, regardless of the season, as conditions can be unpredictable.
By considering the weather patterns of your destination, you can ensure a comfortable and enjoyable safari experience.
Best time for cost
In addition to game viewing and weather, cost is a significant factor to consider when booking a safari. The best time to book a safari for optimal value can vary depending on your intended destination and the specific safari experience you’re looking for.
- In general, the shoulder seasons of April to May and October to November offer the best value for safari bookings. During these times, prices tend to be lower, and there are fewer crowds, making for a more peaceful and intimate experience. While game viewing may not be at its peak during these times, the wildlife is still abundant, and the landscapes are lush and vibrant.
- Low season can be fantastic value but is more unpredictable. Again, ask me for advice!
Another way to save money on a safari is to book well in advance or at the last minute. There may be “early bird” discounts for bookings made several months in advance, while last-minute bookings can sometimes result in lower prices due to cancellations or unsold inventory.
It’s important to keep in mind that while booking during the off-season or at the last minute can offer savings, it may also come with drawbacks such as less desirable weather or limited availability. It’s important to weigh the potential savings against any potential trade-offs and to work with a specialist tour consultant who can help you find the best value for your budget. Hopefully by now you will realise that I tick that box.
In addition to the timing of your booking, there are other ways to save money on a safari, such as choosing budget-friendly accommodations or opting for a group tour. It’s essential to do your research and compare different options to find the best value for your money while still ensuring a safe and enjoyable safari experience.
How to choose the best time for your safari
Choosing the best time for your safari depends on several factors that are specific to your interests and preferences. When planning your safari, it’s important to consider the following factors:
- Wildlife sightings: Different animals are more visible at different times of the year.
- For example, the dry season is a great time to see big cats such as lions and leopards, while the wet season is the best time to see migratory birds and newborn animals.
- Weather: The weather can have a significant impact on your safari experience.
- It’s important to choose a time of year when the weather is comfortable and dry enough to allow for game drives and outdoor activities.
- However, some people may prefer cooler temperatures or unique weather experiences such as the dramatic thunderstorms of the wet season.
- Budget: The cost of a safari can vary depending on the time of year you book.
- High season will be more expensive than low season, so it’s important to consider your budget when choosing the best time for your safari.
- Crowd levels: Most people prefer a more intimate safari experience with fewer crowds.
- I prefer not to send clients to crowded areas and will always suggest alternatives. Choosing the best time for your safari can help you avoid peak tourist season and enjoy a more relaxed experience.
- Special events: Some safari destinations offer unique events such as the Great Migration in Tanzania and Kenya or the calving season in Botswana.
- It’s important to consider these events when choosing the best time for your safari and to plan accordingly – but expect many more people sharing the game viewing unless you stay in a conservancy where numbers are limited – always the best option for the Maasai Mara and Serengeti.
In conclusion, choosing the best time to book a safari requires careful consideration of several factors.
- Wildlife sightings, weather, budget, crowd levels, and special events are all important factors to consider when planning your safari. By taking the time to research and plan your safari with The Grown-up Travel Company, you can ensure that you have an enjoyable and memorable experience in the African wilderness.
I will help you navigate the various options and make informed decisions about your itinerary. I can also help you plan and book activities, accommodation and transportation, and provide valuable advice and support before and during your safari.
No matter when you choose to book your safari, it’s important to remember that the African wilderness is a dynamic and ever-changing environment. Conditions and wildlife sightings can vary from day to day and year to year, so it’s important to approach your safari with an open mind and a sense of adventure.
I hope that this guide has helped you understand the best time to book a safari and how to choose the right time for your interests and preferences. With careful planning and the right resources, you will experience the beauty and wonder of Africa’s wildlife and landscapes in a safe, sustainable, and enjoyable way.
The blog section of this website has a huge number of interesting, inspiring and useful articles and is a good place to start, but feel free to contact me with any questions you may have.