When to Travel & Seasons

- Namibia

When to Travel & Seasons

Namibia seasons and weather

The dry season in Namibia is from mid April to late October, with the rains mainly falling from November through to March (January to March being the wettest).

In April/early May, the grasses are still long and foliage quite thick after the rains, making game viewing more challenging. More importantly for regions such as Etosha National Park, water is still available in seasonal waterholes throughout the bush, meaning the animals are still quite spread out.

From May onwards these waterholes dry up and game is forced to start relying on fewer permanent water sources. Game viewing is usually best from June to October, however the landscape can look harsh and very dry at this time, especially in September/ October, because grasses and foliage have withered or being eaten.

Migrant birds tend to start arriving in late September, staying until March/April.

Late October/November can bring the beginning of the rainy season, and whilst game-viewing can still be excellent with great visibility, animals will begin to disperse as soon as enough rain has fallen for them to survive away from permanent water sources.

The most challenging time of year for game-viewing in Namibia is from December to March, unless you are mainly interested in birds, and don’t mind a bit of rain!

In the desert regions where wildlife viewing is secondary to exploring the landscapes, wildlife can be encountered throughout the year. If your priority in Namibia is purely seeing the landscapes, and game-viewing is not important, then you can travel at any time of year, though of course conditions for travel may not be best during the rainy season. February to April tends to present the most challenging self-drive conditions as heavy rains and flooding can damage road surfaces.

Temperature-wise, Namibia does tend to display typical desert conditions of hot days and cool nights. May to September is the winter period, and whilst day time temperatures can still reach above 30c, it cools down significantly at night. Early mornings can be extremely cold, especially on the coast where cold air is blown in from the Atlantic. From October to April conditions are warmer, and day time temperatures can soar to around 40c, with milder evenings. However, even at the hottest time of year, evenings and early mornings can still be chilly. Humidity is rarely a problem, except along the Caprivi Strip during the rains (November to March).

The weather on the coast is always influenced by the cold Atlantic currents and it is very common for the Skeleton Coast, and coastal towns such as Swakopmund, Walvis Bay and Luderitz, to be shrouded in fog in the mornings.

- South Africa

When to Travel & Seasons

South Africa is split into two main climatic zones.

The north of the country, including Johannesburg, the Kruger National Park, Limpopo Province, Kalahari Desert, Durban and northern KwaZulu Natal, is influenced by a sub-tropical climate and receives most rainfall during the warmer summer months from November to March. Temperatures can soar to 40C at this time, especially in the ‘lowveld’ areas of Mpumalanga and KwaZulu/Natal, and it can also be very humid near the coast.

It is usually ‘dry’ from April through to October, and the main winter period runs from May to August. During this time, altitude plays an important factor with temperatures. Along the coast, days are usually warm, but nights can be quite cool. On the ‘highveld’ areas (the Kalahari, areas around Gauteng, and some of the Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces), whilst daytime temperatures can reach the high ‘teens’, night temperatures can drop well below freezing and snow can fall on the mountains. September and October see a rapid increase in temperatures as summer approaches.

The south of the country, including Cape Town, the Cape Winelands, Cederberg Mountains, Hermanus, the Karoo Desert, Garden Route, Port Elizabeth and the Eastern Cape, has a more temperate climate and receives most rainfall during the winter months, from April to October. Weather can be extremely varied during this time, swinging from beautifully crisp sunny days to miserable wet and windy conditions. Temperatures are not usually too cold, but snow does often fall on the mountains and on freezing temperatures are recorded. During the summer months, from November to March, there is little rain and day time temperatures can reach 40C, particularly away from the coast in the Karoo.

The best time to visit Cape Town and the south of the country is therefore November to March, when you can expect warm, dry weather. In the north of the country, it rather depends on your interests and priorities, but the best safari season is technically during the dry season from May to October, when game-viewing conditions are really good. However, the quality of game-viewing in the private reserves of northern South Africa is much less affected by season and weather conditions than in much of the rest of Africa, and therefore it is possible to enjoy a very successful safari all year round.

- Botswana

When to Travel & Seasons

Botswana Seasons And Weather – When To Visit The Okavango

The dry season in Botswana is from April to October, with the rains falling from November through to March.

In general, game-viewing in Botswana is best between May and November. In April/early May, the grasses are still long and game viewing can be more challenging. From late May onwards, conditions the game viewing can be considered as excellent, though it is probably best from August to the end of the dry season in October. The landscape can look harsh and very dry during this time, but game-viewing is easiest because grasses and foliage have withered or being eaten, and animals are reliant on more limited water sources. Migrant birds tend to start arriving in late September.

November usually brings the start of the rainy season, and whilst game-viewing can still be excellent with great visibility, certain animals (particularly elephant and buffalo herds) will start to disperse as soon as enough rain has fallen for them to survive away from the permanent water sources.

The most challenging time of year to visit Botswana is from December to March, unless you are mainly interested in birds and don’t mind a bit of rain!

The exception to this rule is the Kalahari ecosystem, where game-viewing is actually more productive during the rainy season (best from December to March) when game concentrates on the open plains and around pans. During the dry season, and particularly from July to October, the Kalahari is very harsh and game is widely dispersed.

The Okavango Delta floods annually from April (when the waters usually start to arrive) to June, so the best wetland ‘Okavango’ experience is usually had between May and September.

Temperature-wise, Botswana is temperate (not too hot or cold) in April and late August/ September. May through to late August is lovely and fresh, with clear sunny days but very, very cold evenings and early mornings. From late September onwards it can get very hot with day temperatures often exceeding 35°C and humidity increasing until the onset of the rains in November when temperatures drop off a little. December to March can be very hot and at times, humid.

- Zambia

When to Travel & Seasons

Zambia Seasons, Climate And Weather – When To Safari In Zambia

Zambia has very obvious wet and dry seasons which have a huge influence on game-viewing. The dry season is from April to October, with the rains falling from November through to March.

Game-viewing conditions from April to early June can be challenging, with the grasses still long and the trees in leaf (neither of which are ideal for walking). The conditions are better from late June through to October, when grasses and foliage have withered, dropped or been eaten, and animals are reliant on permanent water sources. From August onwards (the height of the dry season) the landscape can look very harsh, but game-viewing is superb. Migrant birds tend to start arriving in August. Late October/November brings the onset of the rainy season, often with heavy storms, and whilst game-viewing can still be good, conditions can deteriorate very quickly.

During the rains (December to March), most safari areas are either closed, or offer significantly reduced game-viewing experiences. However, birding is exceptionally good at this time of year and boating safaris are available once the Luangwa is in full flood. If you travel at this time, you are likely to enjoy a very exclusive safari and some fantastic birding, as well as a bit of rain!

There are various regional considerations to be aware of. In the South Luangwa Valley, game-viewing roads are unlikely to be ‘graded’ until early June, making driving less comfortable and more restricted earlier in the season.

In Kafue National Park, the Busanga Plains (arguably the best area of Kafue to visit) are usually only accessible by vehicle from mid July onwards, when water levels have dropped enough, whilst the Lower Zambezi has a slightly longer season and can comfortably be visited from April though to November (though June to October is still best).

The Bangwuelu Swamps flood after the rains, from March through to June, allowing much better access to view the rare shoebill.
November and December also offer more specialist wildlife viewing opportunities with the fruit bat migration taking place in Kasanka each November and Africa’s second greatest wildebeest migration taking place on the Luiwa Plains through November and December.

Victoria Falls can be seen in full flood during and after the rains, usually from March through to June. Viewing the raging torrent on foot at this time of year can be a rather ‘wet’ affair, and access to Livingstone Island (in the heart of the falls) is not possible. Views from the air are spectacular. From July onwards the water levels drop allowing safe access to Livingstone Island. From September to December, with lower water-levels, the full extent of the 1.7kms wide waterfall is more visible.

Temperature-wise, it is temperate (not too hot or cold) in April, May and late August/ early September. The mid-winter months from June through to late August are lovely and fresh, with clear sunny days but very cold evenings and early mornings. From late September onwards, temperatures rise significantly and it can get extremely hot during the day (up to 40C), remaining warm in the evenings. Following the onset of the rains in November, the summer months are usually slightly cooler (still in the top 30’s) but can be humid, particularly along the rivers.

- Tanzania

When to Travel & Seasons

Tanzania & Zanzibar weather and Serengeti migration seasons

The dry seasons in Tanzania vary according to geographical location. The north of the country, which includes the key regions of Kilimanjaro, Ngorongoro Crater, Serengeti, Lake Manyara and Tarangire, is generally dry from June to October, and from late-December to mid-March, and game-viewing is best at these times. November is when the ‘short rains’ fall, and April/May is traditionally when the main rains fall. However, there is a good chance of experiencing significant rain any time from November through to June. If you are climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, then the drier months from July to September are best.

In the south (Selous and Ruaha) and west (Katavi and Mahale) of the country, there is a more prolonged rainy season which begins in early November and continues through to late May. There will be times when the rains abate, perhaps even for several weeks, but these periods are not predictable or long enough to allow good game-viewing conditions to return. June to October are comfortably the driest months and the best for game-viewing. Chimpanzee tracking (Mahale Mountains and Gombe Stream) is easiest in the second half of the dry season (August onwards) when the chimps are found lower down in the montane forests.

Day time temperatures and humidity are affected by altitude but it is generally warm to hot throughout the year (averaging around 28C but slightly higher from October to March). There are certain places that get extremely hot, with temperatures over 40C. Altitude greatly affects night time temperatures. In the Ngorongoro Highlands and on Mount Kilimanjaro, it is quite likely that temperatures will fall to low single figures, or even below freezing, whereas elsewhere the lower teens are more likely, especially during the winter period from June to August. In the low-lying Selous, temperatures are significantly warmer, and humidity higher, all year round.

On the coast, temperatures are high year round (averaging around 30C). The best sea conditions are found from October/November to March/April when the Kaskazi wind blows gently from the north-east. This is also the most humid time. From April/May to September/October, when the Kuzi ‘monsoon’ wind blows more strongly from the south-east, sea conditions can be choppy. During this time, snorkelling and diving options could be restricted, especially June to August (except on protected Chumbe Island).

The wildebeest and zebra migration moves seasonally around the Serengeti eco-system, according to local weather conditions. Generally, the herds spend December to April in the southern Serengeti, May to mid-July travelling up through the western Serengeti, and then from late-July to early November in the northern Serengeti (and into Kenya’s Masai Mara), before returning south again. Please see our ‘wildlife highlights’ page for more information.

- Kenya

When to Travel & Seasons

Kenya seasons and weather – When to see the migration

The dry seasons in Kenya are generally from mid-June to October, and from late-December to mid-March, and game-viewing is best at these times. Only a limited number of camps and lodges are open in the wettest months of November, April and May. However, rain can be experienced at any time of year, and the seasons on the coast are slightly different.

Day time temperatures and humidity are affected by altitude but it is generally warm to hot throughout the year (averaging around 28C but slightly higher from October to March). Night time temperatures also vary considerably according to altitude, but aside from the Mount Kenya and Aberdare highlands, rarely fall to low single figures (areas such as the Laikipia and Masai Mara might see low double figures at night and during the rains).

On the coast, temperatures are high year round (averaging around 30C). The best conditions are found from October/November to March/April when the Kaskazi wind blows gently from the north-east. This is also the most humid time. From April/May to September/October, when the Kuzi ‘monsoon’ wind blows more strongly from the south-east, sea conditions can be choppy and certain beaches affected by seaweed. During this time, snorkelling and diving options could be restricted.

The wildebeest and zebra migration season in the Masai Mara is from mid-July to late October. Please see wildlife highlights for more information.