WHEN do you want to go on Safari
WHEN do you want to go on Safari
As soon as you can commit to dates!
First thing to note: We strongly recommend booking your African Safari at least a year in advance; 18 months is preferable, and we even have clients who book a full two years in advance to secure the camps and dates that they desire. We know that committing this far into the future can be challenging, but it is the only way to avoid disappointment and ensure that you get exactly what you want.
That said, if you want to go sooner, we can check to see about cancelations, they do happen and if you are a bit flexible we can create a wonderful trip in a shorter time frame.
The reason for booking far ahead is this, if you are looking to go to top areas ie. Botswana, Zambia, South Africa: Sabi Sands high profile camps then you must book early during high season.
East Africa is different; the Migration takes place from mid June thru October in the Serengeti and Masai Mara. This is a time that books up very far in advance. However I highly recommend going in the shoulder times around the Migrations, you will still see thousands of Wildebeest and Zebra and not have the over booking problems or the busy-ness of that time frame. My favorite times to go are June & September- October, January thru March, the edges of the busy season!
Here is a sample of the seasons in Southern Africa:
The Green Season For Safari (Mid November Through March)
Southern Africa's safari areas typically experience their first important thunder showers sometime around mid-November. Several antilope species will drop their young at this time, so the bush abounds with baby antelope at this time. The landscape also starts developing a flush of green as grass and leaves emerge.
Rain typically does not affect your safari activity schedule as the vehicles have canvas canopies and guests are provided with waterproof ponchos. But this can effect game-viewing: there can be puddles of water throughout the bush, the wildlife is no longer dependent on the permanent drinking holes so they disperse; with the regrowth of foliage, visibility is more limited than during the stark dry season. The game is still there, one just has to work harder to find it.
The two best big game safari destinations at this time of the year are South Africa and Botswana.
There are many advantages to travel at this time.
*Rates can be 30% lower in some places, especially Botswana as actually less water in the delta but all camps still operating
*staff is more relaxed with less number of guests
*great time for birders and the migratory birds come in for the wet season
* the color is gorgeous in the bush
*easier to get accommodation during this less busy time
The Early Dry Season For Safari (April Through Mid-June)
This is a very pleasant time of year, characterized by lovely warm days, clear blue skies, and cool nights (becoming cold in June). Dry season effects are starting to take hold: grass is dying back and trees are losing their leaves, temporary water sources are starting to dry up. But there is still enough greenery in the bush to enjoy photography with color.
This timeframe is sometimes referred to as 'shoulder season', with demand still fairly high but availability still pretty good, even as close as six months out, except for possibly Botswana. Some lodges in South Africa offer similar discounts for the months of May, June, July, and August.
There is a good chance in this timeframe of coordinating sunny weather in both Cape Town (and other coastal areas) as well as the safari areas. Victoria Falls is at its most spectacular and the Okavango Delta is in full flood.
Even though this is a shoulder season time frame, it is possible to get decent pricing.
The Mid Dry Season For Safari (Late June Through Mid-September)
This is the height of peak season in luxury tented safari destinations. Demand is driven by summer vacations in the northern hemisphere, as well as desirable factors on the ground. The dry season is well underway , with excellent visibility and wildlife concentrating at permanent drinking holes. Large herds of elephants and grazers are starting to gather in certain areas. The weather remains moderate and very pleasant (nights in June and July are cold). During the day warm but not too hot.
Rates are at their highest, and availability most limited, in all luxury tented destinations. A minimum of twelve months lead time for bookings is advised (18 months is best, particularly for groups). Availability on international flights to the region is also at its most limited, making it difficult to use miles. Remember if using miles plan to book 365 days out.
This is the rainy season in Cape Town and it can be cold. Victoria Falls is a little off its highest water, however it is still very beautiful and full. The Okavango Delta is gradually subsiding but there is still plenty of water everywhere.
If you are planning a luxury tented safari, and your goal is to maximize your safari experience, this timeframe should be the most important factor in planning. If you are late in planning, and you are looking for value for money during this timeframe, you might consider a luxury lodge safari in South Africa. Due to a strange oddity of South Africa's seasonal rates structure some (not all) luxury lodges actually offer discounted rates during some of the best game-viewing months (May through August which is considered winter).
The Late Dry Season For Safari (Late September Through Mid-November)
Dry season effects are at their peak, making this probably the best timeframe of the year from a pure game-viewing point of view. Foliage and water are both in very limited supply, resulting in concentrated wildlife and excellent visibility. Large herds of elephants and grazers are in abundance along major rivers (ie. Zambezi and Chobe/Linyanti) and on floodplains (ie. the Okavango Delta, and Busanga Plains in Kafue).
Daytime temperatures are getting hot at this time, with averages across the safari areas in the 90s. This is a dry heat, and temperatures drop into the 60s at night. The bush is also quite stark, with neutral browns and tans dominating the color spectrum.
High season rates still apply (across the region in both luxury tented and luxury lodge destinations), but the pressure on availability eases off just a little. November is considered a 'shoulder season' month in certain luxury tented destinations such as Botswana and Zimbabwe & Zambia, with discounted rates.
This is the best timeframe for combining good weather conditions in Cape Town (and other coastal areas) as well as safari destinations.
If you are not overly sensitive to heat, or do not mind the absence of greens from the landscape, this is the time of the year that you will probably see the greatest diversity and volume of game in southern Africa. The somewhat easier availability at camps is also a positive factor.