The best time to go on safari

Your Guide to Africa

Our Collective

Janine Avery


What to expect on a safari

Wilderness Qorokwe Botswana Activities Game Drive

We’re often asked, “when is the best time to go on safari?” And the truth is, there’s no single answer. The changing seasons lend themselves to different wildlife encounters. Ultimately it comes down to what you want to see and when you are available to travel. 


As a rule of thumb, the drier months in our various private wilderness areas (typically the southern hemisphere winter months) bring about sparser vegetation which makes spotting wildlife easier. Animals and predators also typically gather at waterholes, which makes viewing them from the deck of your camp or at a hide a possibility, while walking safaris are also a great option.

However, the wetter, rainier seasons (usually summer in the southern hemisphere) offer lush landscapes, blooming flowers, warm days, an abundance of baby animals, and typically lower rates, while also being a great time for bird watching, fishing and rewarding boat safaris. 


Read on for an idea of when is the best time to visit each of our regions throughout the year. That said, because at Wilderness we operate our camps largely within private reserves, no matter when you travel, you’re treated to fewer people, more exclusive experiences, and a diverse range of safari activities. Then all that aside, it’s important to remember that nothing in Africa is ever guaranteed. At the end of the day, it’s the unpredictability of the wild that makes a safari interesting. 

January – March: Serengeti calving season

The Great Migration in Tanzania’s Serengeti is constantly moving, and seeing the highest possible concentration of animals means travelling to where the herds are at any given time. This is exactly what our mobile camp, Wilderness Usawa Serengeti, allows you to do. The herds really boom in calving season, when these animals give birth to their young. This is a fantastic time for predator spotting, with cheetah, lion and hyena sightings being particularly good. 




March – June: Victoria Falls at its best

The Victoria Falls flow all year round, but they are at their most spectacular from March to June, following the summer rains in the southern hemisphere. At this time of year, the falling curtain of water is a sight of sheer magnificence and power with its immense cloud spray, although you may need to take to the skies in a helicopter for the best views. While the weather around Victoria Falls is pleasant all year round, with a sub-tropical climate, in summer, when daytime temperatures can reach 35°C (95°F), the spray from the Falls has a welcome, cooling effect.




April – June: Namibia transformed by rains 

In Namibia rainfall is sporadic and unpredictable but when it does arrive, it transforms the desert landscape into lush grassland. At this time animals congregate around the briefly flowing river systems. In the northern regions of Kunene and Wilderness Serra Cafema, this is also the best time for boating trips, to take in the outstanding birdlife. 




April – October: Mana Pools open for safari season

Located in northern Zimbabwe, Mana Pools is one of the remotest safari parks, known for its scenic beauty, exceptional wildlife, huge concentration of elephants, canoeing, walking and boating safaris. During the southern hemisphere summer, our Mana Pools camps remain closed to visitors due to soaring temperatures and heavy rains. These camps, Wilderness Chikwenya, Ruckomechi and Little Ruckomechi, open to visitors to in April, with the Zambezi providing an incredible backdrop to this diverse range of activities. Animals congregate along the river banks or on the floodplains, one of which stretches out gloriously in front of Wilderness Chikwenya. Here, you will also find a magnificent ana tree forest where elephants are known to stand on their hind legs to reach the tasty fruits high in these trees – particularly from September onwards. The chance of snapping one of those great shots of an elephant reaching into a tree in the dappled light of the dusty space beneath the forest canopy while baboons play below, or an eland wanders through, is a major draw for photographers.

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June – September | December – February: Gorilla trekking and walking safaris in Rwanda

Rwanda has a lovely tropical climate and thanks to its high elevation; it experiences lower temperatures than one would expect of an equatorial country, meaning it never really gets unbearably warm. It does, however, typically have two rainy seasons and two dry seasons, one which runs from June to September, and another from December to February. Gorilla trekking may be more comfortable in the dry season months, although it can rain at any time.


During these months, it’s also a good idea to visit Rwanda’s Akagera National Park, where the drier seasons make wildlife viewing easier as the animals tend to congregate around various water sources, making sightings slightly more predictable. This is also a great time for a walking safari, although the rainy season in Akagera is equally beautiful, with migratory birds, boat trips, and game drives through lush vegetation the order of the day.




June – September: Okavango Delta waters rise

To understand the best time to visit the Okavango Delta in Botswana, it’s essential to note that unlike other parts of Africa where the water levels follow the rains, the water levels of the Delta are actually at their highest in the dry season. This is due to the fact that the annual water inflow, or inundation, of the Delta is actually dictated by rainfall higher up in the Angolan Highlands. In short, the Okavango becomes its Delta namesake from June, reaching the highest water levels in July and August, before starting to dry up again in September.


This annual inundation brings life to the Delta particularly in the Wilderness Jao, Mombo and Vumbura concessions, creating scenery so beautiful it’s genuinely hard to beat. This increased waterflow sees more wildlife being driven onto high ground and a higher density of game on the Delta islands, with big cat sightings, particularly at our Wilderness Mombo, Chitabe and Qorokwe camps a highlight. Game viewing, whether by mokoro, boat or game vehicle, is particularly fruitful.




June – October: Zambia’s Kafue National Park comes to life

A wonderfully wild part of Africa, Kafue National Park is dominated by rivers, seasonal floodplains and wildlife-rich wetlands – which, while impassable in the summer months, are a real treasure when opened to visitors in the drier southern hemisphere winter. Here from our camps at Wilderness Shumba and Busanga Bush Camp you can witness lions leap across channels in search of prey, see stately sable and roan antelope, and follow great herds of semi-aquatic lechwe.

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July – September – Activities and wildlife around Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park

Visit the area around Zambia’s Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park and Victoria Falls towards the end of the dry season and you’ll be able to enjoy the thrilling experience of swimming in Devil’s Pool as the water levels are safer. Along with the Devil’s Pool experience, you can book a bungee jump, zip line or helicopter flip at the Falls during your stay at Wilderness Toka Leya. And from the camp’s serene setting, enjoy an unforgettable boating experience on the Zambezi River, where you can sip sundowners in the company of wallowing hippos or playful elephants.




July – October: Big herds in Mababe

These months welcome staggeringly big herds of buffalo and elephant to Botswana’s Mababe wilderness area and Wilderness Mokete. As temperatures warm towards the end of the year, but the promise of summer rainfall remains elusive, animals seek out the precious water of the Mababe Marsh, with predators following in their wake. At the turn of the seasons, large densities of tsessebe, wildebeest and zebra also migrate through the area. 

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July – October: River crossings in the Serengeti

The river crossings in the Serengeti are legendary as crocodiles lie in wait for the herds to brave the water. The best time to see these dramatic events in the Serengeti is between July and October, although this also brings the greatest numbers of visitors to the region. At our mobile camp Wilderness Usawa Serengeti, we do our best to get you as close as we can to the action, while still enjoying a safari experience away from the crowds. Lucky visitors may get to see the mega-herds crossing the Mara River, but watching a splinter herd crossing a narrow channel can be just as, if not more, rewarding. This is also a great time to combine a trip to the Serengeti with a gorilla trekking experience in Rwanda – the ultimate East African safari experience. 




July – October: An abundance of elephants in the Linyanti

If you want to see elephants in huge numbers, then the Linyanti Wildlife Reserve is the place to be, particularly at Wilderness DumaTau and Wilderness King’s Pool towards the end of the dry season. Botswana is home to Africa’s highest concentration of elephants, over 130,000, and the Linyanti is known for hosting the world’s largest mega-herds, traversing ancient corridors through the reserve on their migratory routes, which pass right by our camps. This is Chobe without the crowds, and one of our greatest private reserves in Botswana. You just have to watch the elephants crossing the camp in front of Wilderness DumaTau to understand what we mean. 




July – October: See desert-adapted wildlife in Namibia

With an average of 300 sunny days a year, Namibia can be visited at any time of the year – though the best time for spotting desert-adapted animals is between July and October, when the dry season forces animals to seek out waterholes. In the southern hemisphere spring, which starts in September, fog banks settle softly on the dunes of Sossusvlei at Wilderness Kulala Desert Lodge and Little Kulala, providing the vegetation and smaller critters with life-giving water. During these months, you still enjoy clear skies to take advantage of the fantastic night-time photographic opportunities and milder temperatures. Now is the time to enjoy exploring the dunes by day and a glorious sleep-out at night. 

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November – December: Start of the summer season in Zimbabwe

November ushers in the start of the rainy season in Zimbabwe, and what is now summer in the southern hemisphere. The best place to be at this time of year? No doubt the country’s renowned Hwange National Park. These thunderstorms, as they flash across the area's famed Ngamo Plains, deliver a tantalising sound and light show, and make for spectacular photography.


There is an electricity in the air, and although the rains are not constant, they cool the land and provide magnificent photographic opportunities, before disappearing as quickly as they arrived. At Wilderness Little Makalolo and Linkwasha in Hwange, you can even watch the show unfold from the hide or the pool, as animals, elephants in particular, move between the waterholes in front of the camps. 




November – March: Green season in Botswana and Zimbabwe

Summer in the southern hemisphere is now in full swing. This is a time to leave the cold and wet winter of your home country behind and enjoy the warm days and nights of Africa, perfect for sleeping out under the stars. This time of year, often referred to as the green season, is the best season for birding, as colourful migratory birds flock to the lush landscapes. The trees bud then flower, and newborns emerge across the plains – it is a season of life and abundance.

In Botswana, the water levels of the Okavango Delta recede, leaving exposed floodplains, which often attract plains game such as zebra, wildebeest and antelope species by the hundreds. Predators –  leopard, cheetah and wild dog – follow these herds, looking for inexperienced younger prey, making this is a great time to see hunting action. This is also a fantastic time of year to grab amazing rates at some of our key camps in the Okavango Delta, including Wilderness Chitabe, Mombo and Qorokwe.


And while some might say that the lush vegetation present at this time of year makes the animals harder to spot, in Hwange, the thick woodlands push the animals to use the roads more often, seeking open space where they get a clearer view of any approaching danger. For you this means uninterrupted game viewing.

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When is the best time to travel to Africa

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