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.
It’s impossible not to like giraffes. Their languid manner and slightly puzzled expressions have entranced us since one was shipped to a disbelieving Italy in the 1400s. It is an animal so peculiar in appearance that its scientific name - Giraffa camelopardalis - reflects its perceived similarity to both a camel and … uhm … a leopard.
South of the equator, January is midsummer. If you’re planning to come to Africa at this time, you might hear things like: it'll be hot, it'll be wet, the wildlife is as widely dispersed as the abundant surface water (instead of conveniently concertrated around waterholes), and some lodges and camps are closed for the "off" season.
Soft white snowfall on Christmas Day is a real scene-stealer, but the months before and after the powdery magic give the Northern Hemisphere Winter a bad name: sludgy ice mixed with mud tracked all over your living room and grey skies as dull and endless as left-over turkey. Luckily, there's a a perfectly balmy solution to escape your central heating and trade your thermal underwear for beachwear and sandals: say ‘hello’ to Christmas in Africa.