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Where to Go in Africa in June

Halfway through the year, Africa’s mostly dry winter months arrive along with safari season.

Southern Africa’s best wildlife destinations lie under clear skies in June. Its frosty-cold nights take unprepared visitors by surprise (bring warm clothes!) but there’s very little rain between now and October, except along the southernmost coast. The result is that animals gather around permanent rivers and wetlands as surface water begins to dry up.

You can go on safari anywhere from South Africa’s Kruger to Zambia’s South Luangwa and expect excellent game viewing in comfortable conditions. Days are short so there’s no need to get up before the birds for a game drive, and the rainy-season mosquitoes have largely disappeared. Vegetation is sparse and thin, making easier animals to spot, and peak-season crowds are still a month or so away.

But it is in East Africa where things become very interesting in June. Some of Africa’s most sought-after wildlife events put their best attractions on display. You're spolit for choice when deciding where to go in Africa in June, but my advice is a safari in Southern Africa or combine an East African game safari with either gorilla trekking or an island getaway.

Where to Go in Africa in June - Intro
The Kruger National Park is drying out, which means shorter grass, less dense vegetation & a better chance of spotting rare game.

Gorilla Trekking – Uganda, Rwanda & the Congo

As a nature-obsessed child, I longed to travel to the great equatorial rainforests. When I finally got there as an adult, all I wanted to do was get out! I foolishly travelled in the wet season, which meant constant downpours and permanent damp. Not so in June - it is one of the driest months in the region and one of the best times to go gorilla trekking

In June, Uganda’s rainfall is a fifth of what it was back in March; in Rwanda it’s down to around 10% of March and April levels. There will be some rain but it won’t feel like you are taking a day-long shower with rubber boots and a poncho on. With easier trekking conditions and more sunlight for photography, June is made for gorilla trekking. In fact, your hardest task will be choosing a destination.

Uganda and Rwanda are the two most well known options. Uganda’s gorilla trekking safaris are usually a longer itinerary combining well with game viewing and chimpanzee trekking in other reserves. Rwanda offers a simpler experience: fly into Kigali, transfer to the Volcanoes National Park a few hours away, and trek into the forest after breakfast the next morning.

Where to Go in Africa in June - Gorilla 2
Uganda offers excellent gorilla safaris that can be easily combined with game viewing & chimp trekking.

The Congo is a different proposition. The Republic of Congo has conserved remote tracts of pristine rainforest where gorilla trekking goes hand-in-hand with game viewing of the most unique and privileged kind. Home not only to western lowland gorillas but chimpanzees and forest elephants too, the Congo’s Odzala National Park offers a glimpse into the secretive world of Africa’s dwindling rain forests. Stake out salt licks to watch rare bongo and sitatunga antelope rub shoulders with shaggy-red forest buffalo before drifting down a jungle river on a pirogu, serenaded by parrots and bee-eaters, some of the park’s 450 recorded bird species. 

How to do it: Uganda’s Gorilla, Culture and Wildlife Safari is an 8-day fly-in tour combining gorilla trekking with traditional game viewing. If you’re looking for a shorter itinerary, you can’t beat Rwanda’s 4-day Exciting Gorilla Encounter - it's an ideal add-on to an East African game safari. The Congo Explorer tops my bucket list with a week divided between gorilla trekking and rain forest exploring in one of the earth's most pristine wild places. 

Where to Go in Africa in June - Congo
The Congo is Africa's newest safari destination, with virgin tracts of jungle & superb gorilla trekking.

Grumeti River Crossings – Serengeti

If there is one activity a large, tasty mammal should avoid, it is swimming in the rivers of the western Serengeti. But from about June the migrating wildebeest herds arrive, crumpling up like squeezed accordions as they dig in at the river banks, peering anxiously at the silent brown water.

Fresh grazing lies on the other side... and the wildebeest are hungry and exhausted after their trek from the south. When the tension breaks, the wildebeest begin crossing, in ones and twos before the storm breaks and the herds pile across in white-eyed frenzy. What follows next may need parental guidance.

Up to five metres long and weighing between 300 and 900kg, the Nile crocodile is one of Africa’s apex predators. Its form unchanged since the time of the dinosaurs, the crocodile is armed with over 60 dagger-like teeth and its bite is one of the most powerful in the animal kingdom. Exploding out of the water like an armoured missile, crocodiles grab the desperately paddling wildebeest in a spectacular display of nature at its most raw and authentic.

How to do it: your guide will find a vantage point up on the river banks from which to watch the mayhem below but accommodation in the western Serengeti is in high demand in June – you need to book now for next year! The 7-day Sensational Singita Grumeti Safari offers six nights in three different locations, delivering unbeatable game viewing along with the comfort and exclusivity of gold-standard Singita lodges.

Where to Go in Africa in June - Gremeti 1
The Grumeti River crossings...
Where to Go in Africa in June - Gremeti 2
... deliver high-octane drama!

Masai Mara – Kenya

In life there’s always a ‘but’. Here it is: the Serengeti river crossings are sensationally dramatic but you will have to share the experience. It is one of the most eagerly anticipated episodes in the Great Migration (not least by the crocodiles) and well-sited positions on riverbanks are lined with game drive vehicles.

Across the border in Kenya’s Masai Mara things are decidedly quiet when it comes to 2-legged visitors (everyone is in the Serengeti) but there is plenty of resident game to see. The wildebeest herds are still two months away and the Mara is gearing up for their return. Grass grows tall while predators sharpen their stalking skills. Elephant, giraffe and buffalo remain in the area all year, and the reserve’s big cats are plentiful.

Where to Go in Africa in June - Mara 1
Masai Mara game viewing is very rewarding all year round.

June is cooler and drier than the previous few months so you will enjoy more comfortable conditions and a wider choice of accommodation than in August or September (when the Great Migration arrives). Choose between the can’t-go-wrong Masai Mara National Reserve itself or head for one of the many private conservancies neighbouring it for a more exclusive safari and non-reserve activities, like night drives and guided walks.

How to do it: the 10-day Wilderness Retreat Flying Safari has three nights in the Masai Mara at a tented camp straight out of Hemingway and takes in two of Kenya’s less-visited reserves: Born Free Shaba Reserve and the diverse Laikipia Plateau. The 11-day Adamson’s Footsteps Kenya Explorer follows a similar itinerary, ending off in a tree-shaded Masai Mara camp after six nights in the Meru and Shaba reserves. 

Where to Go in Africa in June - Mara 3
The Adamson's safari takes in Joy's Camp's excellent location...
Where to Go in Africa in June - Mara 2
... and the superb Elsa's Kopje.

Zanzibar

After short plane ride from the teeming savannahs, East Africa’s coastline appears on the horizon, glittering like an open treasure chest. White-sand mainland beaches and Crusoe-type islands run all the way along the coast from southern Tanzania to northern Kenya, leaving travellers trying to decide where best to go. But in June, the choice is fairly straightforward: Zanzibar. June is the start of Zanzibar’s long dry season and temperatures have cooled down to a pleasant 25 degrees Celsius (77 degrees Fahrenheit) accompanied by lower humidity.

Infused with Tanzania’s Swahili heritage, the Zanzibar archipelago is a collection of islands, some barely inhabited, others home to colonial forts, mosques and colourful markets. Its unique culture makes for an intriguing contrast with that of the Maasai and a tour of Zanzibar’s historic Stone Town is worth sacrificing a day on the beach for.

Where to Go in Africa in June - Zanzibar 1
Matemwe Lodge on Zanzibar is the epitome of a tropical island paradise...

It is a destination made most famous for by its beaches. Some of East Africa’s finest lie on Zanzibar and are easily accessed from family-friendly resorts, honeymoon hideaways and boutique lodges. And if your interest in oceans extends to what happens underwater, then Zanzibar is home to several top dive spots. In June, the island’s northern reefs offer the best diving and snorkelling conditions.

How to do it: the 8-day Romantic Zanzibar Rendezvous gives you a week at laid-back Matemwe Lodge on Zanzibar’s prime north-east coast followed by a night at a restored palace in the heart of Stone Town. It's the perfect add-on to a big game safari itinerary.

Where to Go in Africa in June - Zanzibar 3
Visibility is very good...
Where to Go in Africa in June - Zanzibar 2
... & 'water sporters' are spoilt for choice.

June is a great time to visit Africa. The arrival of winter weather sees heat, humidity and rainfall take a tumble all over Africa, making it a good time of year for families with children and those who want a milder, drier Africa without peak-season crowds or wet-season mosquitoes. With the continent’s wildlife arriving en masse at winter waterholes, it’s definitely time to take that safari you’ve been dreaming about. 

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

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