Fraud Blocker What is the Best Time to Go on Safari?

What is the Best Time to Go on Safari?

Seasons, Country and Your Preferences Determine Your Best Time to Go On Safari

Are you flexible to go on your safari trip whenever you want?

If you have the flexibility to go on safari any time of year, the primary consideration would be prioritizing the most important factors you want to include in your trip, such as specific wildlife events or species, as well as weather and climate, then pick the best time to be in that location for wildlife viewing. For example, you may determine that you really want to visit the Okavango Delta region of Botswana when it is crowded with elephants.
Your planner would then recommend the peak of the dry season, thus a trip in August or September would be optimal. Or, perhaps you want the best chance to witness the river crossings of the Great Migration in Tanzania. In that case, your planner would recommend the second half of the dry season in northern Serengeti National Park, around late July through September. Flexibility with your travel time, and knowing what specific seasonal or wildlife-driven factors are most important to you, will help us plan the best custom safari tour for you.

Are you tied to a particular vacation time?

If you are planning to travel within a specific month, or even set range of dates, you can work with your planner to determine the best destination that will provide optimal wildlife viewing at that time of year. You may be limited in some specific opportunities, but we can plan a fantastic safari at any time of year in any of the top African safari countries. (Yes, it’s true – there is no “bad” time to visit Africa for a safari! The shoulder and green seasons have amazing benefits of their own.)

Safari Through The Seasons

Green Season

The green season is when rain is more likely and more consistent/frequent. Green seasons vary widely by region. Green season safaris get a bit of a bad rap – but they can represent an amazing opportunity. This is especially true for more budget minded travelers. If you’re motivated by discounts, it is quite possible that the best time to go on safari for you may be during the green season. We often say that green season offers 75-85% of the wildlife viewing of peak season, but sometimes at 50% of the cost!
The Green Season offers spectacular sightings among lush, beautiful scenery at unbeatable value.

Grean Season Pros:

  • Heavily discounted rates and excellent value – stretch your budget for a longer safari!
  • Less crowds
  • Abundant food results in more births
  • Animals are well fed and watered, healthy and active
  • Beautiful green scenery and dramatic clouds make for stunning photography

Green Season Cons:

  • Better Chance of Rain
  • May be more difficult to find wildlife as they may be less concentrated, and the foliage may serve to hide their location
  • Some camps close during certain green season months in areas that experience a great deal of rain
  • Possibly adventurous driving conditions if mud is present, safari vehicles are modified to handle these conditions and guides are generally skilled off road drivers
It is no surprise that a continent as vast as Africa has widely varied weather systems, impacted by natural features such as oceans, deserts, and mountain ranges. Below is a general breakdown of when the green season occurs in each region, and what you can expect.

Southern Africa (Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe & South Africa)


In Southern Africa’s safari regions, the rainy season tends to start in mid to late November and continue until March. This has implications if you’re interested in doing a Botswana safari. African safari prices in Botswana are among the highest in all of Africa – in peak season. In the green season, Botswana is one of the best values in the safari world.
You can find great deals in Chobe National Park, and all of the Okavango Delta during the wetter green season.

South Africa

If you’re interested in a South Africa Safari, know that the Western Cape region has its own weather system patterns. This results in slightly different weather patterns all along the garden route as you travel from Cape Town in the west towards Gqeberha (formerly Port Elizabeth) which is located around 450 miles away on the Eastern Cape.

This dichotomy of weather is actually a boon if you’re looking to skip Cape Town and are focused on a South Africa Safari. You might be able to get a great rate on a safari lodge at Kruger National Park. You’re really in luck if you’re looking for one of the most elusive members of the big five: leopards. Sabi Sands private game reserve is well known as being arguably the best place to spot leopards in South Africa.

The Okavango Delta is truly a year round safari destination in Southern Africa. The Delta is located in the northern part of Botswana. Rains from Angola to the northwest of Botswana make their way down to the Delta. Here, tourists are few and far between and lion, buffalo, leopard and elephant are commonly spotted here.

Namibia’s Etosha National Park is located in the northern part of the country. Namibia is known for its exceedingly arid climate which can lead to extremely hot days and cold. August and September are the ideal safari season for Etosha. While on safari in Etosha you can expect to see a variety of fauna – including elephants, lions and the occasional leopard. Etosha also boasts a healthy population of black rhino!

East Africa (Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda)

In East Africa, there is a chance of rain throughout the year, but the rainiest months generally are April, May, and November. However, rain is not a major problem in most year round destinations, and has been affectionately termed the “Green Season.” Some areas close and become inaccessible, grass grows higher, and trees fill with leaves. This, in turn, provides more cover for the wildlife and thus results in more effort to find them.

Kenya and Tanzania

The greater availability of water allows wildlife to disperse. It also triggers many herbivores like wildebeest to give birth. The Great Migration – a wildebeest migration – occurs in East Africa in and around Serengeti National Park in Tanzania and the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya.

One of the most amazing facets of the Great Migration is the zebra and wildebeest crossing the Mara River while doing their best to elude hungry crocodiles. Witnessing the crossing of the Mara is the highlight of a Kenya safari or a trip to the Serengeti.

The “green season” hardly qualifies as a wet season in East Africa as there is still little rain generally compared to other areas of Africa. Rain typically comes in the form of short afternoon thunderstorms if at all. It isn’t wet enough to put a damper on your trip, but it does offer spectacular sightings among lush, beautiful scenery at unbeatable value.
Tarangire National Park – Consider Tarangire as part of your African Safari. While a bit off the beaten path, this national park in Northern Tanzania is an ideal destination for birding and excellent elephant viewing – with one of the largest elephant populations in Africa. The herds can reach up to 300 strong! While you won’t see the same quantity of fauna as you’d get to witness with the great wildebeest migration in the southern Serengeti, there is still bountiful wildlife.
The swamps and bodies of water give way during the dry season to green plains. The lack of visitors will result in a very intimate and private safari experience.
Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area – Another excellent location to visit any time of year, this conservation area in Tanzania is named after a huge extinct volcanic caldera within the conservancy. Grassland herbivores and the predators that hunt them abound in the crater providing excellent game viewing.

Rwanda and Uganda

Rwanda and Uganda are both known for gorilla trekking and have two distinct wet seasons. While mountain gorillas are located in the rainforest, and it can rain any time, it can be an arduous hike to see them during the wet season due to muddy conditions and long downpours. April and May are generally the wettest time, followed by November and December.

Green Season and Birding

The Green Season is the prime time to visit just about any region for bird life as migratory birds arrive all the way from Eurasia for breeding and abundant food sources. Many bird species can be seen flaunting their mating plumage, and the diversity of species is astounding.

Green Season Discounts

We have our favorite year-round destinations that provide excellent wildlife viewing opportunities, and for the budget-minded, prices at your preferred safari destination can be more than 50% lower than peak season rates. You can sometimes get a massive discount by skipping the best weather and dealing with an increased chance of showers. The green vegetation can be beautiful in pictures, and the lack of dust can be refreshing.
This is a very good time for those with tight budgets to visit the prime destinations. Especially give consideration to the dates that fall very close to the official “in season” travel window, as nature does not follow dates on a calendar, and the first couple weeks of “off season” may have sightings and conditions identical to in-season for a significantly discounted price.

Peak Season

Throughout Southern and Eastern Africa, the peak season months to travel are July through October when the rainfall is least and wildlife behavior is the most predictable. While dry season conditions are similar in both regions, average daily temperatures are not.
In Southern Africa, the winter months of June and July can bring evening lows that creep just above freezing. By contrast, temperatures can soar above 100 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the dry season.
The equatorial grasslands of the Serengeti and Masai Mara do not experience the drastic temperature swings of other destinations, generally maintaining pleasant temperatures year-round.
During Peak Season, you can witness incredible wildlife events such as the river crossings of the Great Migration.

Wildlife Behavior During Peak Season

All wildlife seeks to secure access to reliable food and water, which restricts animals to remain near reliable water sources. The greater concentration of animals around the last remaining water sources encourages species interaction and predators to go after bigger prey as they weaken under the stress of heat and lack of food supply. The dryer flora and over-browsed plant life results in easier viewing of animals.
During Peak Season, you can witness incredible wildlife events such as the river crossings of the Great Migration.
Peak Season conditions can also be based on specific wildlife events. Tanzania, for example, has two peak seasons. The first is between January and February during the Great Migration calving season, and the second lasts from July through October for the Great Migration river crossing season.

Peak Season Crowds

The optimal conditions for weather and wildlife viewing results in the highest accommodation rates of the year with fewer discounts or specials caused by the certainty of demand.

Shoulder Season

Opting to travel on the dates just before or after Peak Season is therefore called “Shoulder Season”, and can often provide greater cost savings over Peak Season dates with fairly similar safari conditions. The value of this travel window generally results in dates being booked out more than a year in advance.

Finding Your Best Time to Go on Safari

Everyone has different requirements when it comes to planning their ideal safari.
You might be surprised but our clients have a wide range of goals for their African Safari. Here are just some of the requests that we receive:
  • Unsurprisingly, many safari goers want to see the big five
  • Some travelers want to combine gorilla trekking or chimpanzee trekking with a trip to the Serengeti
  • Occasionally safari travelers want to go on safari then go on a beach vacation in Mombasa or even scuba diving in Mozambique
  • Night drives are a popular request when predators and prey are at their most active
    Others are seeking a once in a lifetime multi-generational family safari
  • The desire to assist wildlife biologists with research on Cheetah in the Masai Mara
  • More adventurous travelers are interested in walking safaris – where much of your safari is done on foot with an experienced guide
  • Some of our clients are more interested in cultural activities – like visiting a Bushman tribe in Botswana
  • Mokoro (canoe) and riverboat safaris are popular among many of our clients
Let us know your goals and desires and we can put you in the right place at the right time to have the safari experience of a lifetime.

About The Wild Source

We are first and foremost a conservation company. Our founder is a wildlife biologist, and we employ local wildlife biologists as guides in Tanzania and Kenya. Guiding is the most important consideration for a successful safari and is often overlooked by safari planners to the detriment of their clients.

We also are pioneers in disruptive empowerment which provides a path to camp ownership for local partners to be more than just employees. As a result, many of our safari guides are part owners as well and earn significantly more than guides in traditional safari camps.

Learn more about The Wild Source and how we can deliver you the safari of your dreams by watching the video below:
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Next Steps

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