Dawn on an African savannah and the impala are cautious. Ears swivelling, the wide-eyed antelopes move closer together, staring at the tree line where shadowy figures lurk. The reason for their distress is suddenly clear. Streaking out from the trees come Africa’s most efficient predators, putting the impala into instant flight.
Spring is slowly coming to the northern hemisphere, luring many people from their hunkered-down hibernations, but in the south, winter is coming. But winter in the south is nothing like winter in the north – in fact, its cool evenings and balmy, dry days are perfect for game watching. High season for both safari and the Great Migration is fast approaching and lodges and camps are gearing up to welcome guests from across the globe.
They say that the third Monday in January is ‘the most depressing day of the year’ as the bloom wears off your Christmas and New Year’s memories, you get back into the work grind and the bills start arriving again. Then around rolls February, usually the coldest, wettest and generally most miserable month in the northern hemisphere. Is it any wonder at this rather bleak time of year that our hearts and minds focus on escaping to warm beaches, sunny climates and tropical islands?
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.
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.
The Company’s Gardens date back to the 1600s and are the raison d’etre for Cape Town. Looking for a way to the East Indies - the source of spices, silks, tea and porcelain for Europe - the Dutch East India Company chose a route around the tip of Africa. The journey took months and sailors were at severe risk of scurvy from a lack of fresh produce. So the Company sent some employees to the Cape of Storms and told them to start a vegetable patch. More than three centuries later, that ‘vegetable patch’ is now a green lung in a cosmopolitan city that bustles with workers, sightseers, squirrels and hadedahs (what South Africans call sacred ibises). Easily walkable in a morning or an afternoon, there is plenty to see and do in and around the Company’s Gardens.
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.
One of the biggest questions to ask when you're considering a safari in Africa is: east or south?