We’re often asked by travellers what they should be booking by when to avoid disappointment. There’s nothing worse than having your heart set on doing a southern Africa safari with your kids for the Easter holidays and thinking you have oodles of time to arrange it all, only to find that all the best accommodation was booked up months previously. It’s no fun staring at the four walls of your living room when you could’ve have been watching endangered wild dogs on the hunt or a leopard snoozing peacefully in the branches of an acacia tree…
While it’s not an exact science, we’ve put together a rough guide of what to book now to ensure the vacation of a lifetime. You can also use this guide to plan your holiday based on when you can take your annual leave.
Three months from now: February & March
It’s the green season in Botswana, which means high water levels, lush vegetation, stacks of bird (it’s a twitcher’s paradise) and baby animals galore. And where there are babies, predators are sure to follow, picking off the weak and vulnerable to ensure their own survival. While green season means high temperatures, in Botswana it also means the world’s largest zebra migration, when about 25 000 of these black-and-white beauties gallop through the Magkadikgadi and Nxai Pan National Parks in search of water and fresh grazing.
It’s also green season in East Africa, which means great value-for-money holidays for families in some of the world’s most iconic safari areas, like the Serengeti and Masai Mara. Not only are equatorial temperatures surprisingly mild this time of year (in the mid-20C / late 70F) but you can often find great deals on luxurious accommodation and roads in national parks will have their lowest traffic levels all year. Best of all, the herds of wildebeest with be out on the open plains, mating and calving – expect plenty of predator action as lions and cheetahs take advantage of nature’s bounty.
Where to go?
Why not combine the best of the Okavango Delta in Botswana with a week on an island in Mozambique’s lush Quirimbas Archipelago in a 15-day tour that takes you from the Chobe River to breath-taking coral reefs?
If you prefer a classic safari with a twist, you can’t go wrong with a ‘sky safari’, which leverages the speed and convenience of air transfers to ensure you see and do more on your vacation. For eight days, you’ll explore three Tanzanian hot-spots: Tarangire National Park, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and the unequalled Serengeti. Not only does flying cut out long stretches of transfer by road to leave you more refreshed but you also get a bird’s eye view of Tanzania’s undulating landscape.
For the ultimate honeymoon when all you want to do is escape the grey skies of the northern hemisphere, this 14-day journey whisks you and your partner away on a romantic East African odyssey through the Masai Mara, the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater before setting you down on a golden beach on the fragrant ‘spice island’ of Zanzibar…
Six months from now: April & May
When it comes to April and May in Southern Africa, you are simply spoilt for choice!
After months of rain during the preceding green season, the Victoria Falls are in full flood, sending a magnificent curtain of water hurtling down sheer rock forming a column of spray that can be seen for miles around. Cherry on top: if you plan a Zambia or Zimbabwe safari to coincide with a full moon, you may be treated to a ‘lunar rainbow’ when, on a cloudless night at full moon, you can see a rainbow in the spray from the Falls.
It’s the start of the southern African safari season as summer rolls gently into autumn. Temperatures drop, afternoon thunderstorms cease and wildlife starts concentrating around permanent water sources and good grazing. In early autumn, the temperarture stays above the chill cool of winter, meaning you won’t have to wrap up in gloves, scarves and beanies for dawn and dusk game drives. Try the Eastern Cape in South Africa, which is conveniently malaria-free and lies at the end of the gorgeous Garden Route, which is a family-friendly favourite and popular route for independent self-drive vacations.
It’s a great time for Namibia too, a country whose wide open spaces, good road infrastructure and minimal road traffic (the whole population is a paltry two million people) make it another perfect family self-drive destination. In Cape Town, the summer wind abates and the winter rains have yet to start, making for perfect balmy days in the Winelands, at Cape Point or on Table Mountain.
The Zambezi is one of Africa’s great rivers. Giving life to wildlife and people alike, it is also a non-stop powerhouse of adventure. For eight days, you can stay on its banks and experience all that it has to offer. Think white-water rafting, sunset river cruises, boat safaris and more.
If you want a more sedate holiday that blends the cosmopolitan Winelands and Cape Town with the Zimbabwean side of Vic Falls and ending back in South Africa at the inimitable Kruger National Park, then look no further than this iconic 11-day journey.
12 months from now: October & November
If you’re keen on doing nothing more than lying on a hammock on a glorious tropical beach, you’re in luck. This is a great time to visit the Indian Ocean islands: the Seychelles, Zanzibar and those off Mozambique – Vilanculos, Bazaruto and Quirimbas – have very little rain and exceptional visibility for diving, up to a staggering 100 feet in some places. With the western hemisphere marching steadily to into a snowy winter, a dose of sunshine is always welcome.
This is a 'limbo' time of year in Southern Africa. The most popular safari season has pretty much passed but Christmas and New Year’s festivities are still several weeks away. In many places, the heat builds and summer thunderstorms begin again, but it’s a great time of year for Africa’s hidden gems – places like Ruaha and Katavi in Tanzania. They’re well off the beaten track, so you’ll be rewarded with having much of the parks to yourself and superb big game viewing.
Where to go?
Why not combine a memorable wildebeest migration experience in Kenya with the barefoot luxury of a castaway Zanzibar island in a ‘bush ‘n beach’ adventure? ‘Decadent but delightful’ is perhaps the best way to describe this vacation that pampers you from Out of Africa surroundings to sheer bliss on Zanzibar Island.
One of the best things about working with our African Safari Experts is that you can tailor-make every aspect of your journey. Rather than slotting into a package that offers little flexibility or creativity and even less in the way of one-the-ground support, tell your ASE when you want to travel and what matters to you, and let her find the best route and accommodation. You get the thrills; she gets the admin. Happy travelling!