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.
February is a great time for both safaris and beach holidays if you know where to go, and you’ll be perfectly in time for some of the year’s biggest wildlife experiences. If you’ve ever wanted to snorkel with a 12-metre whale shark or encounter a rare western mountain gorilla this is the time to do it. It's time for cool wine cellars on sprawling estates in the Cape's magnificent winelands and palm-thatched bandas on endless white beaches.
Africa in February? The heat is on and good times are just getting started.
Samburu National Reserve & the Masai Mara – Kenya
Nudging northern Kenya’s savannah plains, the Samburu National Reserve is a very different destination to its more famous southern cousins, Amboseli and the Masai Mara. Samburu’s palm groves and thorny scrub are in complete semi-desert contrast to the Mara’s rolling grasslands but the wildlife is just as superb. You'll find all the regulars here – elephant, lion and leopard - along with some species unique to the region. The Samburu 5 include Grevy's zebra, the long-necked gerenuk, reticulated giraffe, Besia oryx and Somali ostrich.
Remember, it’s hot in February so choose lodges with pools but this is a nice dry window of opportunity between Samburu’s rainy seasons. Game viewing by 4X4 is the main activity here alongside cultural encounters at the local villages, fascinating guided nature walks and camel-back safaris.
Combining the Samburu with the Masai Mara is one of the best ways of experiencing Kenya in our opinion, as you can enjoy the diversity and unique landscapes of the Samburu, with the iconic savannah and wildlife of the National Reserve.
Constantia Wine Route – Cape Town
February is the connoisseur’s choice for summer in Cape Town. Free from the festive-season crowds, it’s as sunny as Africa should be and as dry as an oak-matured chardonnay. From the spectacular white-sand beaches of Camps Bay and Clifton to the shopping hub of the V&A Waterfront, there is plenty to do and see, but my advice is to skip the sun-baked City Bowl and head south for the cooler, shadier slopes of Table Mountain where plump rows of green vines mark the start of the Constantia Wine Route.
One of Cape Town’s most exclusive neighbourhoods, Constantia is home to South Africa’s oldest wine estates and the February heat makes those chilled wines and under-the-oak-tree picnics sublime. There is excellent hiking in nearby Silvermine Nature Reserve, organic food markets to browse and local beaches to visit. Finish off a lazy summer day with a music concert in the natural beauty of Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens - the perfect way to spend February in Cape Town.
Whale shark season – Zanzibar & Kenya
Longer than a London bus and weighing twice as much, the whale shark is the ocean’s biggest fish by a country mile. But its great size belies a curious fact: slow-moving, filter-feeding whale sharks are about as dangerous as a dozing cow. Snorkellers have even grasped a table-sized fin to catch a ride! Young whale sharks are known to be playful with human divers.
A migratory species, these beautiful giants grace the East African coast between October and April in numbers unheard of just a decade ago and February is the best month to see them. Head for the south coast of Kenya or Zanzibar’s islands where your visit will happily coincide with the archipelago’s best weather. Chumbe Island is great for general snorkelling, while Mnemba Island has its own marine reserve, and Pemba and Mafia islands are legendary whale shark snorkelling spots.
Experience a gorilla trekking safari
Elephants, chimpanzees and forest buffalo are big attractions, but the stars of the show are endangered mountain gorillas. Although Gorilla trekking is considered a year round activity, February is one of the best times to see gorillas in the Congo, Uganda and Rwanda because it's in the middle of dry season. For most of the year, gorillas eat a diet of plain, starchy vegetation, but come February, they can be found beneath the trees heavy with fruit.
Seychelles & Quirimbas Archipelagos – Indian Ocean
If you’re planning an Indian Ocean holiday in February, you’d better pack an umbrella: it’s cyclone season. So why am I recommending the Quirimbas and the Seychelles? Because they are located outside the cyclone zone and although there are occasional afternoon showers, both destinations offer classic sun-drenched, palm-fringed beaches at the time of year when the northern hemisphere is under snow and ice.
The small, exclusive Quirimbas Archipelago lies off northern Mozambique and is ideal for honeymooners and adventure-seeking families. The Seychelles experience ranges from family resorts to private islands with everything in between. Both destinations offer an unbeatable blend of water sports action and indulgent pampering and, thanks to easy logistics, both make a fantastic add-on to your safari itinerary.
Want to see blue skies overhead? Book a February vacation in Africa – it might not be peak season in the most popular places, but it’s the perfect season for the destinations above, and a little R&R under the African sun.