African safaris can be a once in a lifetime goal, or can become a multi-year obsession. Just ask Connie Koenigkann, G/Hardy Tours’ Africa Specialist, who shares her top recommendations on when to visit Africa based on her personal experiences. With more than 15 years exploring Africa’s wonders, no one is more passionate or knowledgable about Africa than Connie.From South Africa to Kenya and well beyond, the continent offers diverse and raw, natural beauty. When I spotted my first lion, I was head-over-heels hooked, and I’ve been lucky enough to visit Africa annually and experience the best safari destinations. My favourite safaris are always a combination of active, cultural, and luxury experiences.
WHERE is the best place to experience my first Safari?
My answer is based on priorities, starting with a follow-up question: “what do you want to see the most?” The vast array of incredible options can be overwhelming. The answer is far from a one-size-fits-all. You must choose the best safari experience in Africa for your particular travel style. I personally prefer smaller or more remote conservancies with few visitors, and where I’m not limited to closed-sided vehicles. I’ve done safaris by boat, on a horse, walking, and even cycling! You, however, may want an uber-luxury camp with a private plunge pool and butler. The possibilities on safari are literally endless and will surprise you, so I always underscore the importance of choosing the right lodge and game reserve with an ethos that meet your priorities.
Where to go is also predicated on WHEN to go on safari.
The best time to go on safari depends on seasonal differences and that’s why I’m breaking it down by month. So for all of you animal lovers, here is the list of WHERE and WHEN to go on safari in Africa!
January & February
My recommendation is to go to Kenya & Tanzania, which are still in their dry seasons, have short grasses AND also have plenty of cute babies of all shapes and sizes to see! The Masai Mara and other underrated but equally stunning elephant filled parks in Kenya (e.g.: East and West Tsavo and Laikipia) and Southern Serengeti in Tanzania are absolutely superb at this time of the year. Uniquely, January and up to mid February is prime gorilla trekking time, and nothing beats the incomparable experience of coming eye to eye with entire gorilla families in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park.
These are the wet season months in many of Southern African top safari destinations (Kruger in South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Namibia). While this means lush landscapes, lots of cute babies, and quieter lodging, it also means your chances of perfect photo lighting and unobstructed views of wildlife are not guaranteed.
South Africa’s Cape Town and iconic Garden Route is exceptional at this time, and you can plan the perfect holiday encompassing culinary excellence, wine sipping excursions, superb safari in the Gondwana Game Reserve. The best summer beach vibes on the Overberg coast (known as the Whale Coast, need I say more?), so pack your bathing suit!
March & April
In March, Tanzania’s rainy season is only just starting and the fabled wildebeest migration is happening. This is the time to go to the Serengeti! You’ll be marvelling at the incredible vistas at the same time as newborn wildebeest are also discovering the world around them.
Thanks to the rains, it’s also hard to describe Botswana’s raw beauty of a flooded Okavango Delta or the sheer might of the Victoria Falls. Although Botswana is known as a more exclusive destinations to safari, if seeing the flooded Okavango Delta is on your bucket list (and it should be!), April is the time to go.
Meanwhile in South Africa, the weather is lovely in Cape Town and it’s a dream to drive along the Garden Route combined with a Gondwana Game Reserve visit. The luxurious and private Sabi Sands game reserve, which borders the legendary Kruger National Park ,is also nearing perfection during these months.
In May the Northern Hemisphere is warming up while the Southern Hemisphere is experiencing a chill in the air. It’s the start of the dry season in South Africa, and peak season crowds and rates have yet to kick in. As a special add-on to any South African safari, the dry and calm weather inMozambique makes for great visibility for all of you scuba divers!
Come June, we say goodbye to the rain and hello to perfect sunshine! June is absolute perfection for safari. Bonus: peak tourist season hasn’t started and conditions are great.
If I had a choice of when to do a driving tour of Namibia, June would be it. The weather is dry and warm, the stargazing in dark sky preserves are unbeatable, and the watering holes are diminishing, making it easy to spot desert-adapted big game. Nothing beats the Namibian feeling of true expansive wilderness, freedom, and needing-to-stop-at-every-moment-to-photograph the breathtaking surreal landscapes!
South Africa is still perfect with sunny and dry days in the northern part of the country, and this is peak game viewing time! In the south, Cape Town may start experiencing rain but it’s the start of the famed whale migrations in the aptly named Whale Coast right up to October. Hand’s on opportunities abound with G/Hardy Tours’ marine conservancy partner, and these offer amazing family experiences.
July & August
In Kenya and Tanzania, there is absolutely mind-blowing wildebeest and zebra viewing during the Great Migration in Serengeti and Masai Mara. Flawless conditions exist luring majestic herds of elephants in Botswana’s famed Okavango, Chobe and Moremi areas. Meanwhile, Zimbabwe is at the top of its game, and superb conditions in South African game reserves make this the best safari season full stop. Given this is the most popular time of the year for safaris, the best lodges sell out quickly. Picking the right lodge in the best-managed conservancies is critical for your first safari experience.
September is the middle of the dry season, and the biggest of the Big 5 are at various places around the continent.
The Great Migration is still happening in Tanzania & Kenya, with those National Geographic-style river crossings and elephants thundering through.
September is also the best month to go to Botswana, with sweet spots in the Okavango, Moremi and Chobe (lots of elephants!). Zimbabwe is also favoured, with dry conditions and very few tourists, the country is at a peak big-game viewing. Namibia’s Etosha Park offers incredible wildlife viewing, and a drive or fly-in safari to the Skeleton Coast and the dunes of Sossusvlei will leave you short of superlatives.
Mozambique, a place I visited in September, offered me the opportunity to enjoy hands down the most beautiful beaches in Africa. It was where I had my bucket list chance to snorkel along Whale Sharks! If you’re looking to squeeze in a beach break during your safari, look no further and head to Mozambique in September.
October gives you an opportunity to find great safari conditions across the continent. South African game reserves and Botswana are prime, and Zimbabwe has quite hot and dry conditions with animals still lounging by the most popular water sources. Kenya delivers great seasonal value, and animals are still active and visible. Tanzania is still in its peak season and the weather is not as hot as Zimbabwe.
October is when I visited Rwanda to hike up the misty mountains and see a family of gorillas up close. I will never forget when a gorilla toddler hit my leg with a stick and ran away, seemingly begging me to run after him! I highly encourage everyone to visit Rwanda at least once and be thoroughly enthralled by these magnificent mammals and all that the country has to offer.
The life-giving rains are back, bringing hot summers in the Southern Hemisphere. Namibia is still dry and a three week bike trip I did last November was as close to perfection as I’ll ever get (e.g.: great weather, cooler nights, bright constellations in the sky…).
Top tip: if you’re a birder, do not miss Botswana’s aviary migrations through the Okavango Delta happening in November.
Celebrate the holiday season and ring in the New Year in East Africa. Kenya’s scenery is a gorgeous green, with the Masai Mara and Laikipia (where possibly the best wildlife conservancy exists) are stunning. The Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania are also superb, with very mild and intermittent rains that will not impact your holiday cheer! For many families, the extended holiday school break is the optimum time to take vacation, so for those seeking an adventuresome getaway, Tanzania in December is a top pick.
Africa truly is a year-round destination and the choices are as vast as the continent itself. Whether you seek the drama of a river crossing, the majesty of elephants, or the serenity of the Namibian wilderness, Africa’s diverse beauty awaits you, month by month.
Plus, Africa has the kindest, most interesting people I have met anywhere! The unparalleled culture on offer and the wide array of activities and excursions available require careful planning and attention to detail. Contact me if you have any questions or would like to discuss a trip to Africa!
Vice President, Adventure & Experiential Travel