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Where to Go in Africa in February

It's February in Africa and summer is in full swing. Rain has settled in across much of the continent and many of its top safari destinations, drenching the tropical coastline in afternoon showers. But it's not all grey clouds: choose the right destination, and you’ll find yourself under Africa's classic blue skies and gorgeous sunshine.

February is a great time for both safaris and beach holidays if you know where to go, and you’ll be perfectly in time for some of the year’s biggest wildlife experiences. If you’ve ever wanted to snorkel with a 12-metre whale shark or encounter a rare western mountain gorilla this is the time to do it. It's time for cool wine cellars on sprawling estates in the Cape's magnificent winelands and palm-thatched bandas on endless white beaches.

Africa in February? The heat is on and good times are just getting started.

Where to go in Africa in February - Samburu National Reserve zebra
The Samburu National Reserve in Kenya is known for its endemic species like Grevy's zebra.

Samburu National Reserve & the Masai Mara – Kenya

Nudging northern Kenya’s savannah plains, the Samburu National Reserve is a very different destination to its more famous southern cousins, Amboseli and the Masai Mara. Samburu’s palm groves and thorny scrub are in complete semi-desert contrast to the Mara’s rolling grasslands but the wildlife is just as superb. You'll find all the regulars here – elephant, lion and leopard - along with some species unique to the region. The Samburu 5 include Grevy's zebra, the long-necked gerenuk, reticulated giraffe, Besia oryx and Somali ostrich.

Where to Go in Africa in February
This content leopard enjoys an afternoon snooze at Joy's Camp in Kenya.

Remember, it’s hot in February so choose lodges with pools but this is a nice dry window of opportunity between Samburu’s rainy seasons. Game viewing by 4X4 is the main activity here alongside cultural encounters at the local villages, fascinating guided nature walks and camel-back safaris. 

Combining the Samburu with the Masai Mara is one of the best ways of experiencing Kenya in our opinion, as you can enjoy the diversity and unique landscapes of the Samburu, with the iconic savannah and wildlife of the National Reserve.

Where to go in Africa in February - Samburu National Reserve
The Samburu offers an action-packed game viewing experience and serves well as an alternative to the Masai Mara.

How to do it: the Luxury Samburu & Mara Experience mixes both reserves for an epic safari in two diverse settings. February is a good month for Kenyan safaris in general: the climate is mild and mostly dry with game viewing is at its peak. Try the Adamson’s Footsteps Kenya Explorer for a 3-park game viewing adventure. 

Constantia Wine Route – Cape Town

February is the connoisseur’s choice for summer in Cape Town. Free from the festive-season crowds, it’s as sunny as Africa should be and as dry as an oak-matured chardonnay. From the spectacular white-sand beaches of Camps Bay and Clifton to the shopping hub of the V&A Waterfront, there is plenty to do and see, but my advice is to skip the sun-baked City Bowl and head south for the cooler, shadier slopes of Table Mountain where plump rows of green vines mark the start of the Constantia Wine Route.

One of Cape Town’s most exclusive neighbourhoods, Constantia is home to South Africa’s oldest wine estates and the February heat makes those chilled wines and under-the-oak-tree picnics sublime. There is excellent hiking in nearby Silvermine Nature Reserve, organic food markets to browse and local beaches to visit. Finish off a lazy summer day with a music concert in the natural beauty of Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens - the perfect way to spend February in Cape Town.

Where to Go in Africa in February
Camps Bay beach in Cape Town lies at the foot of the craggy Twelve Apostles mountain range.
Where to go in Africa in February - Constantia Winelands
The Constantia Winelands are Cape Town's oldest and are home to some of the world's best vintages.

How to do it: Cellars-Hohenort Hotel is a restored 18th Century Constantia wine estate set in award-winning gardens. For something smaller and more intimate, try the very discreet boutique hotel The Last Word Constantia. If you simply have to have a sea view, then The Last Word Long Beach is the answer. A 20-minute drive from Constantia, it sits on a dazzling beach with mountain views. 

If you would prefer to be closer to the city or the Atlantic Seaboard, but still within driving distance of Constantia, then we recommend the iconic and family-friendly Belmont Mount Nelson Hotel, exclusive and award-winning Ellerman House situated in Bantry Bay, or the private and romantic Tintswalo Atlantic, set on the slopes of Chapman's Peak.

Where to Go in Africa in February
Tintswalo Atlantic has unending views of Hout Bay from its enviable position on Chapman's Peak Drive.

Whale Shark Season – Zanzibar & Kenya

Longer than a London bus and weighing twice as much, the whale shark is the ocean’s biggest fish by a country mile. But its great size belies a curious fact: slow-moving, filter-feeding whale sharks are about as dangerous as a dozing cow. Snorkellers have even grasped a table-sized fin to catch a ride! Young whale sharks are known to be playful with human divers.

A migratory species, these beautiful giants grace the East African coast between October and April in numbers unheard of just a decade ago and February is the best month to see them. Head for the south coast of Kenya or Zanzibar’s islands where your visit will happily coincide with the archipelago’s best weather. Chumbe Island is great for general snorkelling, while Mnemba Island has its own marine reserve, and Pemba and Mafia islands are legendary whale shark snorkelling spots.

Where to Go in Africa in February
Diving with serene and gentle whale sharks must rank as the ultimate bucket list activity.

How to do it: the 13-day Extravagant Tanzania and Zanzibar Escape kicks off with a comprehensive safari to Tanzania’s top reserves then wind down on Crusoe-style Mnemba Island where unspoilt reefs and long lazy days await. If you want to get straight into the ocean for world-class diving, then Fundu Lagoon on Mafia Island is about as good as it gets.

Where to go in Africa in February - Mnemba Island, Zanzibar
Beach bliss at Mnemba Island Lodge in the Zanzibar Archipelago.

Odzala-Kokoua National Park – Congo

I’m not recommending a holiday in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) but in the Republic of the Congo. Why? Because this lush, under-the-radar country has just opened up to tourism, giving intrrepid travellers the chance to explore some of Africa's most pristine rainforest.

Elephants, chimpanzees and forest buffalo are big attractions, but the stars of the show are Odzala’s western lowland gorillas. February is one of the best times to see gorillas because it's in the middle of fruiting season and is one of Odzala's short dry seasons. For most of the year, gorillas eat a diet of plain, starchy vegetation, but come February, they can be found beneath the trees heavy with fruit. 

Where to go in Africa in February - Odzala, Congo
February is one of the drier periods to visit the Odzala rainforest, and it's also the time when gorillas feast on seasonal fruits high in the trees.

How to do it: the Congo is a fly-in, fly-out destination with just two safari camps in the Odzala region – Ngaga and Lango Camp. The week-long Congo Explorer includes both on its itinerary – expect to be thrilled and amazed.

Where to Go in Africa in February
Shy forest elephants can be spotted at rustic-chic Ngaga Camp in the Republic of Congo.

Seychelles & Quirimbas Archipelagos – Indian Ocean

If you’re planning an Indian Ocean holiday in February, you’d better pack an umbrella: it’s cyclone season. So why am I recommending the Quirimbas and the Seychelles? Because they are located outside the cyclone zone and although there are occasional afternoon showers, both destinations offer classic sun-drenched, palm-fringed beaches at the time of year when the northern hemisphere is under snow and ice.

The small, exclusive Quirimbas Archipelago lies off northern Mozambique and is ideal for honeymooners and adventure-seeking families. The Seychelles experience ranges from family resorts to private islands with everything in between. Both destinations offer an unbeatable blend of water sports action and indulgent pampering and, thanks to easy logistics, both make a fantastic add-on to your safari itinerary.

Where to go in Africa in February - scuba diving in the Seychelles
The scuba diving in the Seychelles is among the best in the world.
Where to Go in Africa in February
Azura promises sunny days, balmy nights & endless ocean views.

How to do it:

The 12-day Luxury Safari and Island Honeymoon combines a premium South African safari experience with a Quirimbas island getaway, while the Spectacular Seychelles Island Seclusion brings you the best of both: a private romantic retreat and an action-packed resort in the Seychelles. 

For an extra-special holiday, we recommend the 2-week Private Mara, Samburu & Seychelles Villa holiday, which includes stays in exceptional exclusive-use safari and beach villas in some of Kenya and the Seychelles' best destinations.

Where to Go in Africa in February
Desroches Island in the Seychelles is the epitome of a tropical Indian Ocean paradise.

Want to see blue skies overhead? Book a February vacation in Africa – it might not be peak season in the most popular places, but it’s the perfect season for the destinations above, and a little R&R under the African sun.

Written by Dominic Chadbon. Connect with him on Google+.

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