Best Time to Go on an African Safari

Giraffes in Kenya with Mount Kilimonjaro in the background

Giraffes in Kenya with Mount Kilimonjaro in the background

Perhaps the most difficult decision in your safari planning is where to go, followed by figuring out the best time to go. The best time for an African safari will change with a specific region’s seasonal diversity and the type of wildlife you want to see. When the plains become sparse and scarce during the dry season, you can sea for miles and the wildlife has nowhere to hide while also giving you the best hiking conditions in the jungles. But an African safari offers something unique in every season. The following guide will show you why African safari in East Africa or Southern Africa is a great opportunity no matter the time of year.

Best Time to Visit by Season

Leopard cubs in a tree in East Africa

Leopard cubs in a tree in East Africa

East Africa

Dry Season: July | August | October

The best time for an African safari is during the winter dry season between July, August, and October. Any rainfall that does happen is short and replenishes the grasslands for the herds leading into the wildebeest calving season. The lack of tall grass gives you great visibility while also forcing wildlife and birds to gather around the limited water sources giving way to the likes of wildebeest, zebra, and elephants.

Wet Season: December | January | February

The wet season in East Africa has the best African safari opportunities in December, January, and February when the short downpours turn the high grass and thick foliage emerald green. The gorgeous scenery can hide the wildlife making it more challenging for your hopes of game viewing. The ample rain also provides greater sources of water allowing the wildlife to spread out. However, most species give birth when there is plenty of food and water meaning more wildlife and more active predators.

Southern Africa

Dry Season: May | September

The best time to visit Southern Africa for a safari is the winter dry season in May or September. The wildlife clusters around the waterholes and rivers mainly in the cooler hours of the early morning or night. The shorter grass also makes it easier to spot wildlife including elusive animals like the pangolin, African civet, or sidestriped jackal revealing the sheer concentration of wildlife across the region.

Wet Season: November | December

The best time for African safari during Southern Africa’s wet season is in November and December when the wildflowers start blossoming and the vegetation turns emerald. The rainy season across Southern Africa brings a different perspective to the wildlife perfect for birding, butterflies, and finding lesser-visited corners with wide ranges of dramatic herds often only viewed by safari aficionados with the beginning of the wet season consisting of short rains rather than the long rains in April and May.

Best Time for Game Viewing

Lion pride in Masai Mara, Kenya

Lion pride in Masai Mara, Kenya

East Africa

Best Months: June | July | October

June, July, and October will give you the best game viewing experience in East Africa at the heart of the dry season. The weather is sunny and mainly rain-free but is also the time of year for famous game-viewing opportunities on the Serengeti, Masai Mara, or Samburu National Reserve.

Southern Africa

Best Months: May | September

The limited rainfall in May and September will give you the best opportunity for seeing wildlife during a Southern Africa safari with typically sunny and cool days. Parks and conservancies brim with the likes of elephants, lion, and kudu while the spring flowers blossom along the plains.

Best Time for the Great Migration

Wildebeest migration in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

Wildebeest migration in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

Best Months: August | September | October

The best time for you to experience the Great Migration on an African safari is in August, September, and October depending on where you are visiting. The celebrated annual migration occurs between July and November when the staggering hordes of wildebeest, zebra, and gazelle travel between the Serengeti in Tanzania and the Masai Mara in Kenya. Depending on where and when you plan your safari, you can witness the spectacle in either park.

Best Time the Zebra Migration

Herd of zebras in Bostwana

Herd of zebras in Bostwana

Best Months: February | March | April

The best time to witness the Zebra Migration in Botswana is between February and April during the rainy season giving you a view of the largest mass migrations in Africa. The zebras embark on a journey of over 360 miles roundtrip between the Okavango Delta and the Makgadikgadi grasslands.

Best Time for Gorilla Trekking

Mountain gorilla with her baby in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park

Mountain gorilla with her baby in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park

Best Months: June | July | August

June, July, and August are the best months for gorilla trekking whether in Uganda or Rwanda. The weather is usually warmer with less rain resulting in a more comfortable and easier trekking experience for you. During the wet season, the paths can be steep and muddy but also less-visited.

Best Time with Family Travel

Family by the pool watching elephants in South Africa

Family by the pool watching elephants in South Africa

Best Months: February | March | September | October

The best time for a family African safari is in February, March, September, and October. These months give you the best weather and therefore also maximize your game-viewing opportunities. Whether traveling in Southern or East Africa, by visiting as a family between February and March or again between September and October, you can also couple your safari excursions with other unforgettable family-friendly activities.

Best Time for Couples

A romantic night under the African sky at Sanctuary Makanyane Safari Lodge in the Madikwe Game Reserve, South Africa.  Photo © Sanctuary Retreats

A romantic night under the African sky at Sanctuary Makanyane Safari Lodge in the Madikwe Game Reserve, South Africa. Photo © Sanctuary Retreats

Best Months: June | July | August | September

The dry season from June to September will give you the best chances of a romantic African safari steeped in ideal seclusion. Wildlife is easily found around known watering holes and the diverse protected landscapes can reveal stunning displays of leopards, giraffes, and elephants. The dry season also makes it easy to couple an African safari with nearby exotic islands.