Best Time to Visit AfricaBy Sandra King; Updated June 08, 2017
Setting your agenda to explore scenic Africa
Any time is really the “best time” to visit Africa. It just depends on which adventures are in the old bucket list. June to November offers amazing views of whales on a migratory mission off the southwestern coast. If African daydreams include viewing the wonder of Victoria Falls, plan a trip between March and May. And gorilla observation involves a bit less sweat from June through September. The African experience is rich enough to justify several return trips to squeeze it all in.
Seasons and weather
Its location in the Southern Hemisphere means Africa experiences spring from September through November, summer December through March, fall April through May and winter June through August. Many travelers are more concerned, however, with whether those seasons are wet or dry. Each region of this vast continent experiences rainfall at different times and in varying amounts throughout the year. Check weather patterns carefully before planning a trip.
East Africa, for instance, has brief periods of rain October through December and a much heavier rainy season from March to June. It’s otherwise hot, humid and sunny. Some safari camps and roadways close during the heavier rainy season due to roads deteriorating. In South Africa, rainy season coincides with winter and may be a great "off-season" time to visit the Western Cape. The crowds are fewer then, and abundant rain mixed with days of balmy weather and sunshine creates an explosion of magnificent wildflowers throughout the countryside.
Avoiding the crowds
Without early planning, visitors can find it impossible to book flights and accommodations around the school holidays in South Africa. This may nix plans to experience the energy of Cape Town or Victoria Falls. The specific dates vary, but typically occur in December, January, April, June, July and September. Check the South African Tourism site for complete information. Otherwise, the sheer size of Africa means there’s usually plenty of room to go around, but some safari camps and lodges strictly limit the number of guests allowed during a season.
Prime safari season
Like most African adventures, the best time for a safari depends on the region being visited and which animals interest you most. Safari lodges in Zambia close between December and March due to heavy rains and flooding. May through August are the best months to spot elephants and other big game in South Africa’s vast Kruger National Park. This is the region's dry season, when less foliage makes spotting animals easier and declining mosquito populations mean fewer welts and a lower risk of contracting malaria.
To get an eyeful of a million wildebeests and hundreds of thousands of zebra grazing on the Serengeti, plan a trip according to the migratory pattern of the animals. But to see the playful chaos that countless wildebeest calves and zebra foals can cause, schedule a safari just before the rainy season. Hungry lions and other predators follow the herds and increase greatly in numbers during calving.
For a wetter experience, consider a whale-watching expedition to see Southern Right whales calve and nurse their young in the waters off the Western Cape between June and November. Humpback whales migrate through the area from May to December.