Safari Seasons: When is Right For You?
Nature’s cycles and rhythms can vary dramatically depending on when you travel and nowhere is this more apparent than in Africa. Our Destination Experts, who have lived, worked and travelled extensively around Africa, can advise clients as to which destination is best visited in each month, depending on what they are wanting to see and are looking to get out of the trip.
But before that conversation, it is worth taking a broader look and decide whether to travel in the dry or rainy season. While the former is the favourite for families and traditional safaris with big-game viewing, the drama and lush landscapes of the rainy season should not be dismissed. This is just one consideration, but it is a useful place to start…
WHY THE DRY SEASON?
For clients who want that classic Out of Africa experience, the dry season is the obvious choice. As well as a wider range of tented and mobile camps on offer, the more arid conditions mean that water is scarce and the big game becomes much more concentrated and easier to encounter – as head of our Africa team, Claire, once discovered on a lazy afternoon at her lodge in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe, when a troop of elephants came to enjoy a watering hole, right next to her sun lounger and promptly cooled her off with a few sprays from their trunks.
Another reason to travel in the dry season in East Africa is to see the famous scenes of the Great Migration in Kenya and Tanzania at its peak. Every year, hundreds of thousands of wildebeest, zebra, gazelle and eland trek across the Masai Mara and the Serengeti in search of food and water. They, in turn, are closely followed by the big cats looking for their next meal. Not only must these migrating animals be aware of the cats, but also the many crocodiles that lie in wait when the herds cross the rivers, making this magnificent display of animal behaviour even more visceral. Seeing the migration in these areas means it becomes the busiest period, and camps (especially the more intimate, owner-run ones that we work with) get booked up very quickly. To see this once-in-a-lifetime spectacle, we advise our clients to get in touch with us as far ahead as possible, so we can work our magic and organise the best of the best.
WHY THE RAINY SEASON?
At cazenove+loyd, we like to draw our clients’ attention to experiences that are less obvious, as we believe they can often be even more inspiring. Because our Destination Experts have travelled extensively outside peak season they have had the privilege of seeing most places when there are fewer visitors. Yes, it can mean rain, but they always return with stunning photographs and inspiring tales of dramatic skies and unique experiences. One of them talked animatedly about the "moody clouds rolling in and splicing the bright blue sky" in the Great Rift Valley in Tanzania, and the "sight of a lion shaking the water off his soaking mane".
Although it’s true that some camps close for the so-called green season, the ones that remain open offer favourable rates and are wonderfully quiet, with guides more relaxed after the flurry of the peak season. This time of year also presents a chance to see different scenes, as while the big game may be scarcer, the animals you see will be healthier and will have their young, the birdlife is spectacular, the landscape is lush and areas such as the Serengeti are transformed by a carpet of flowers. Another good option we recommend to clients in the rainy season is the Kruger National Park in South Africa, due to its sturdy roads and all-weather camps, which mean that access and activities in the park are largely unaffected and are as fantastic as ever.
It all comes down to what each client is looking for. If you are a safari first-timer desperate to glimpse ‘the Big Five’, or a family tied to school holidays, then the dry season is the time to go. But, if you are after something more intrepid and even wilder, with favourable rates, then the rainy season throws up some great possibilities.
To hear more advice and unrivalled knowledge on Africa, speak to one of our Destination Experts today.
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