As a general rule, Africa is warm and sunny throughout most of the year but certain countries and even regions within a country experience a variety of climates. The key thing to remember if you’re planning a safari is the difference between the dry and wet seasons.
The seasons are more complex in East Africa and deciding when to go depends on what safari experience you have planned. Most safari destinations in Kenya are at their best between January and the end of March when the climate is mild and dry and game viewing is at its peak. However, for the Masai Mara migration you’ll need to go between mid-August and late October when the herds have returned.
General game viewing in Tanzania is at its peak during the June to October dry season but the best time to go to Tanzania for the Serengeti wildebeest migration is between November and August. It’s a huge park so make sure you’re in the right place at the right time to catch all the action.
Gorilla trekking in Uganda and Rwanda is a year-round activity but if you’re hiking the rainforests, you’ll certainly appreciate the drier and cooler months of January and February and again from June to September.
The Wildebeest Migration in East Africa, also known as “The Great Migration”, takes place between Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park and Kenya’s Masai Mara and is one of the greatest wildlife spectacles on the planet.
Thousands of wildebeest and zebra’s migrate between the Serengeti and the Masai Mara, constantly driven by their search for fresh grazing. The massive herds are closely followed by predators (lion, hyena and cheetah), making the most of every opportunity to catch their next meal.
The precise timing of the annual wildebeest migration depends on the rains. It is a very unpredictable and spontaneous natural event, with calving season taking place in the Serengeti between January and mid-March. The wildebeest migration starts to head towards the Western Serengeti in May or June. The best time to see the migration is generally between June and August when the wildebeest congregate and prepare to cross the famous Grumeti River.
If you are in the Masai Mara you can expect the wildebeest to make their arrival as early as July, but they generally arrive between August & September and remain in the Masai Mara between October & November. Between the end of November and January the wildebeest gradually begin their migration from the Masai Mara back towards the Serengeti.
The winter dry season in Southern Africa is between May and October and this is when game viewing is at its best, especially in the hotter, drier months at the end of the season. Thirsty animals congregate at waterholes, trees are often bare and vegetation is sparse – all of which makes it much easier to see wildlife. It’s often cold at night during mid-winter but daytime temperatures are mild and the risk of malaria is at its lowest.
The summer wet season is between December and March, a hot and sometimes humid period with short but intense bursts of rain. The Southern African landscape is beautifully green at this time of year, the bird watching is exceptional, and many animals give birth, offering a special game viewing experience, not least when marauding predators move in for an easy kill.
In North Africa, rain isn’t the main issue – it’s temperature. The best time to travel is the cooler period from October to March.
North Africa generally has mild winters (December – February), perfect for visiting tombs and monuments in hot deserts or taking a camel safari in the Sahara. In Morocco the skies can get a little dull and rainy during the winter, it’s too cold to enjoy the beaches.
The summer months in North Africa (June – September) are blazing hot. Head to the beaches or mountains if you plan to visit during this time, or make sure your hotel has a pool to cool off in the heat of the day. Summers are usually bone dry.