August in Southern Africa marks the end of the region’s short-lived winter and the welcome return of warmer temperatures. Down in Cape Town, the last few winter storms wring themselves out and the days get longer, while up in safari country the weather is pretty perfect: sunny, warm and dry.
Famous for its Kalahari setting, Botswana is generally a place of empty blue skies and dazzling sunshine. It does have a rainy season however - often disarmingly called the Green Season - but don't worry too much about that word 'rainy'. The absolute wettest part of the country records as much precipitation in a year as London or Melbourne do, while the rest of the country gets about enough to fill a coffee cup. You're not going to need to pack an umbrella. And besides, nearly all the rain falls between December and April with soggy February accounting for the bulk of it.
Is it just coincidence that August is the month when many people go on holiday and Africa becomes the perfect place to visit? In fact, there’s so much happening across the continent that travellers really are spoilt for choice: safari destinations feature the best game viewing conditions, while the beaches and tropical islands bask beneath warm, dry skies.
With an enviable 300 days of sunshine a year, Botswana is a year-round destination but anyone planning a safari should note that it's not always benignly warm and sunny.
Johannesburg is Africa's economic powerhouse known to locals as Joburg, Jozi and Egoli (the ‘city of gold’). The city is modern and enormous, sprawling in all directions as the heart beat of commerce demands more offices, houses and malls. About 60 kilometres away lies Pretoria, which is the seat of administrative government in South Africa and a very pretty city with jacaranda-lined streets. Both of these urban centres are vibrant and cosmopolitan, linked by a fast-moving, multi-lane highway and the high-speed Gautrain, making it easy to explore the places that played a critical role in Nelson Mandela’s life story or which honour his legacy.
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.