November in Africa and the sun is setting later and rising earlier - summer is on its way! Now is the time to come on a beach vacation because Africa’s tropical island destinations – like the Seychelles, Mauritius and Zanzibar - are stunning in November. If you’re thinking of a November safari, choose your destination carefully: the start of summer also means the start of the rainy or green season in many African safari destinations.
Botswana, the Kruger National Park, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Namibia are caught between the end of the dry season and the beginning of the rainy one (known as 'shoulder season') and the animals are on the move. The massed elephants, buffalo and antelope that packed October's waterholes and rivers are dispersing in search of the fresh grazing triggered by early summer rains.
November is in between the peak game-viewing season and the busy Christmas period, which means travellers can pick up great value ‘shoulder season’ travel deals in prime safari locations. In prime destinations, the game viewing is great year-round, bird watching is excellent in November and the peak season crowds are gone.
In East Africa, the November rains trigger the start of one of nature’s most awe-inspiring annual cycles: the Wildebeest Migration. From their grazing grounds in Kenya’s Masai Mara the vast herds head south to the southern Serengeti, making a Tanzania safari one of the best options in November.
Central & Southern Serengeti – Tanzania
It’s not easy being an East African wildebeest. After a couple of months’ rest in the Masai Mara, the scent of rain carries on the breeze from the plains of the Serengeti, signalling that it's time to take a deep breath and rumble over the border into Tanzania, to the fresh grazing on the Serengeti's rolling southern grasslands and central plains.
Waiting patiently for the wildebeest to arrive are the Serengeti’s apex predators. The Seronera Valley, for example, has the biggest lion prides and is said to be home to Africa’s greatest concentration of cheetahs. Wild dogs and hyenas are regularly seen chasing down straggling wildebeest, while leopards lie in wait for unwary gazelles.
How to do it: the Wildebeest Migration depends on shifting seasonal patterns and is not an exact science. The precise timing of the arrival of the herds depends on local rainfall so it’s wise to have a couple of destinations on your itinerary. The 6-day Serengeti Safari Experience splits its time between two camps that make the most of their locations to deliver classic migration viewing. Alternatively, with both the Masai Mara and the Serengeti on its itinerary, the Luxury Migration, Lake and Crater Safari makes the most of any chance to witness the Migration, while the Scenic Tanzania Sky Safari flies you between Tanzania’s best safari destinations.
Masai Mara & Samburu - Kenya
So if the wildebeest have started heading south into Tanzania, why would a Kenyan safari in November be good? The answer is easy: November is a great time to experience a crowd-free Kenya safari. As good as the Masai Mara is in its prime months - from August to October - the reserve is chockful in terms of visitors. And it's important to know that the Mara's resident game, which does not move with the herds of migrating wildebeest and zebra, is superb, year-round.
The Mara's resident game includes plenty of favourites, like elephants, big cats and giraffe. If you choose to base your safari in one of the private concessions bordering the Masai Mara reserve, you will most likely have the place to yourself and may even enjoy this exclusivity at lower rates. It's a great time to combine several attractions in one safari - Kenya in November is a diverse and rewarding destination.
How to do it: the Luxury Mara and Samburu Experience showcases the unique northern wildlife of Kenya’s Samburu Reserve before flying you into a sprawling private concession on the edge of the Masai Mara. Here you’ll enjoy world-class game viewing as well as guided nature walks and the chance to go hot-air ballooning.
Migration Safari & Zanzibar - Tanzania
If you’re torn between a safari and a beach vacation, we say: do both! Tanzania is home to the legendary Serengeti and the island of Zanzibar, making it easy to combine the two without crossing borders. The Wildebeest Migration is heading to the southern Serengeti, iconic rolling plains where the rains have triggered the growth of fresh, tender grazing - ideal conditions for the mass birthing of calves and foals.
In Zanzibar things are heating up nicely. And although it’s the start of the short rainy season, this Indian Ocean tropical island loses an average of only nine days in November to rain, leaving you plenty of sunny days to spend on the beach or exploring historic Stone Town, the island’s cultural heart. It’s great underwater, too. Scuba divers enjoy some of Zanzibar’s best underwater visibility in November as well as the chance to swim with gentle giants. November is whale shark season and they are commonly seen in the archipelago’s waters at this time of year and Zanzibar offers one of the best chances for intrepid divers to swim with nine tons of gentle giant.
How to do it: the Fly-in Crater, Migration and Island tour lives up to its name: a week on safari followed by four nights at a barefoot luxury at a beach lodge on a private island. If you want to combine Kenya, Serengeti and Zanzibar, look no further than the Luxury Mara, Serengeti and Zanzibar safari – crowd-free Big 5 game viewing in the Masai Mara, migration action in the Serengeti plus the unique Ngorongoro Crater, all followed by rest and relaxation at a private beach villa close to Stone Town on Zanzibar.
Cape Town & the Garden Route – South Africa
In November, you enjoy an average of nine hours of sunshine a day in South Africa. Cape Town’s most popular attractions, such as Table Mountain, Cape Point and Boulders Beach's endangered African penguin colony, are mostly uncrowded in November and, if you’re lucky, you might still see a few late-season southern right whales off the coast. It’s a great time to make the most of the Cape’s best experiences before the local school holidays start – you can drive yourself around the Cape Winelands and up the Garden Route to the Easter Cape's safari region with ease, stopping off at guesthouses and boutique hotels along the way.
How to do it: Families can’t go wrong with the Cape Town, Garden Route and Safari Meander. This self-drive tour delivers the most child-friendly itinerary we can think of, finishing with a Big 5 safari in a malaria-free reserve.
Africa in November. The big rains are still to come and the Christmas season crowds are still thinking about what to pack. Go on safari in November for all the advantages of summer sunshine and great travel deals (and you’ll still be home in time for a white Christmas).