Timing is everything. If you want the best seats in the house, you need to book your place well in advance. When it comes to once-in-a-lifetime journeys to Africa’s vast playground, you definitely want front-row seats to all the legendary spectacles.
Halfway through the year, Africa’s mostly dry winter months arrive along with safari season.
The arrival of May during my northern hemisphere childhood promised the long, warm and sometimes sunny days of summer. South of the equator, however, things are heading in the opposite direction. Days are shortening and chairs are getting pulled a little closer to the campfire.
It is the question safari guides across Africa dread the most: 'Will we see a leopard?' The answer is tricky because although Panthera pardus is found from the lush Cape Winelands in the south to the rolling hills of northern Kenya, the leopard's mastery of camouflage and stealth makes it extremely elusive.
April is when Africa’s great summer sighs to a halt and the year catches its breath before winter. Down in the sun-baked Western Cape, the city of Cape Town welcomes its first autumnal showers. Further north, safari destinations like the Kruger, Botswana and Zimbabwe emerge after months of heavy rain. Cloaked in green, they offer lovely scenery and birding but big game is often hard to find.
Weighing as much as three family cars, you’d think that an elephant would make a racket when moving through the wilderness. Instead, they have the unnerving habit of appearing out of the landscape without warning, strolling unstoppably towards a favourite waterhole, riverbank or fruiting trees.
You follow a narrow hiking trail through the lushness of a tropical rainforest, wiping sweat from your eyes and feeling grateful for your gators. Suddenly, a tracker returns from scouting ahead and excitedly halts your group - it's time to drop your backpack and move forward slowly with nothing but your camera and the thrill of anticipation. Grinning, your guide turns and whispers the words you've been waiting to hear: ‘There they are.’
There are the well-known and beloved classics of Africa: the golden plains of the Serengeti, the thunder of the Great Migration, the splendour of Victoria Falls. And then there are the secret gems – the attractions that may not make it onto postcards but which are incredible natural phenomena that belong on every traveller's must-see list. It may take longer to reach them but, as if often the case, the reward is all the sweeter for the extra effort…
March is not a relaxing month.The poet Ogden Nash described it as that month of 'wind and taxes', but March in Africa is an interesting ‘shoulder month’ between high summer and the start of autumn.
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.