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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 unique game, including Grevy's zebra.

Samburu National Reserve – 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.

It’s hot in February so choose a lodge with a pool, 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. 

Where to go in Africa in February - Samburu National Reserve
Samburu is less famous than the Mara but also home to the Big 5.

How to do it: the fly-in Discover Kenya Wilderness Adventure mixes the Samburu with the Masai Mara 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 three-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. 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 suburbs, 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 - Constantia Winelands
The Constantia Winelands are Cape Town's oldest & home to some of the World's 50 Best Restaurants.
Where to go in Africa in February - Cellars-Hohenhort
A romantic dinner in the Cellars-Hohenhort wine cellar.
Where to go in Africa in February - Fine dining in Constantia
The Cape Malay dining experience in the Constantia Winelands.

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. 

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 - Mnemba Island, Zanzibar
Beach bliss at Mnemba Island Lodge in the Zanzibar Archipelago.

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.

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
Visit Odzala in February when the gorillas feast on seasonal fruit and it's one of the drier periods to explore the rainforest.
Where to go in Africa in February - Forest elephant in Odzala
The elusive forest elephant, spotted near Lango Camp in Odzala.
Where to go in Africa in February - Forest butterflies
Gorgeous, indigenous butterflies in Odzala-Kokoua National Park.

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.

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
Scuba diving in the Seychelles is amongst the best in the world.
Where to go in Africa in February - sailing in the Quirimbas
Sailing in the Quirimbas Archipelago off the coast of Mozambique.
Where to go in Africa in February - a classic private Seychelles island
A classic Seychelles experience includes some time on a private island.

How to do it: the Quirimbas Castaway Dream features blissful Vamizi Island while the Luxury Safari and Island Honeymoon combines Big 5 game viewing with beaches in the Quirimbas. For the Seychelles, the Spectacular Seychelles Island Seclusion and the Seychelles Island Hopping Paradise offer a mix of different islands and experiences while the Exclusive Cape, Kruger and Seychelles Escape combines South Africa’s two must-see destinations with five nights at a luxurious Seychelles resort.

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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