December is a much sought-after month to embark on a safari expedition in Africa. From favorable weather conditions to spectacular wildlife encounters and enticing travel offers, this time of the year beckons adventurers to explore the uncharted territories of the continent. With temperatures often comfortably warm and precipitation levels at a lower ebb, the conditions are conducive to outdoor exploration and animal spotting.
Moreover, the wildlife sightings during December are nothing short of awe-inspiring. From the iconic Big Five to a plethora of other magnificent species, Africa’s diverse fauna graces the landscape in all its splendor during this period.
In this comprehensive guide, we’re poised to equip you with all the essential information you need to plan your African safari in December. From choosing the perfect destinations, to curating experiences that will etch memories into your heart, we’re here to ensure that your December safari is an unforgettable journey.
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Is December a good time to go on safari?
Absolutely! December is a wonderful time to go on a safari in Africa.
Here are some of the reasons why:
Another captivating aspect of December safaris lies in the opportunity to witness the birth of new life within the animal kingdom. This particular month sees the arrival of offspring across numerous species, including elephants and lions.
As you venture through the African landscapes, you may be fortunate enough to witness the tender moments when these young creatures take their very first steps in the wild. The sight of baby animals navigating their surroundings with curiosity and vulnerability is nothing short of remarkable.
Improved wildlife viewing
As vegetation thins out due to the dry season, wildlife becomes more visible and easier to spot. With water becoming scarce, animals tend to gather around water sources, providing excellent opportunities for observing a variety of species in their natural habitats.
In December, bird enthusiasts are in for a special treat as this month marks the arrival of many migratory bird species to Africa. These birds undertake impressive journeys across continents to find suitable habitats during the colder months in their breeding regions.
Different parts of Africa welcome specific species, which are adapted to thrive in particular habitats. Wetlands become temporary homes for waterfowl and waders, grasslands host various raptors and ground-nesting species, while forests resonate with the calls of songbirds and canopy-dwelling birds. This dynamic interplay between migratory birds and resident species.
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What is the weather like in December for a safari?
In December, the weather you’ll experience during your safari adventure depends on where you’re headed. This month typically marks the onset of the dry season in many renowned safari destinations, bringing about varying climatic conditions across the diverse regions of Africa.
Typically, you can expect warm and inviting temperatures in most safari areas. Daytime weather ranges from comfortably mild to pleasantly hot, creating an ideal environment for engaging in outdoor activities like thrilling game drives. There is also a noticeable decrease in rainfall compared to previous months. This reduction means you’re far less likely to encounter heavy showers or the challenges of navigating muddy paths, making both travel and wildlife observation much smoother.
However, keep in mind that Africa spans a vast expanse with an array of climates:
- East Africa (Kenya, Tanzania) revels in warm temperatures and minimal rainfall, making it the prime window for safaris in iconic locales such as the Maasai Mara and Serengeti.
- Southern Africa (South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe) similarly enjoys dry conditions, creating an optimal setting for game-watching in celebrated parks like Kruger and Chobe.
- In desert regions like Namibia, daytime temperatures can soar, but evenings bring cooler air, giving you chance to admire unique desert landscapes and wildlife that has adapted to such an environment.
Staying updated on the local weather forecasts for your chosen destination is a savvy move, ensuring you’re well-prepared for your journey.
What is it like to go on safari at Christmas?
Spending Christmas on safari is a magical experience that blends the wonder of the wilderness with the spirit of the holiday season.
Despite being far from home, many safari lodges and camps go the extra mile to create a festive atmosphere for guests. Decorations such as local crafts, tree ornaments inspired by African animals, and traditional elements typically adorn living and dining areas.
Many also arrange special Christmas celebrations for their guests. This could include festive meals, traditional dances, and even gift exchanges. In some cases, Christmas meals are often enjoyed outdoors (weather-dependent, of course!). Imagine dining under the open African sky, surrounded by the beauty of nature and the warmth of a campfire…
While on your trip, you could enquire about visiting local communities to gain insight into local cultures and traditions and how they celebrate the festive season. You might have the opportunity to participate in the celebrations and learn about their own holiday customs.
Where to go on safari in December
If you’re considering a safari adventure in December, there are plenty of destinations across Africa that we recommend to make the best of your trip at this time of the year. Here are some top places to consider for your December safari:
The Maasai Mara, especially in December, emerges as a top destination for those seeking an exceptional safari experience. This time of the year offers a harmonious blend of wildlife encounters, holiday cheer, and the unique cultural tapestry of the Maasai people.
One of the standout features of visiting the Maasai Mara in December is the fantastic wildlife viewing opportunity. As the dry season unfolds, your chances of spotting iconic species such as lions, elephants, buffalos, leopards, and rhinos—the famed “Big Five”—are greatly heightened.
You may also be lucky enough to witness the tail end of the wildebeest migration. While the main migration typically occurs from July to October, pockets of wildebeest and zebra herds may still be traversing the Mara in search of grazing land and water sources. December also marks the arrival of migratory bird species to the Maasai Mara. This presents a treat for bird enthusiasts, as the Mara’s avian population becomes adorned with vibrant colors and diverse species.
If you have always dreamed of having an up, close, and personal wildlife encounter, visiting the Masai Mara should be on the bucket list. Why not book our 4-day trip over the festive season?
December in Botswana’s Okavango Delta marks the beginning of the enchanting green season. The landscape awakens with vibrant greens as plants flourish following the rains.
One of the most anticipated aspects of this season is the arrival of migratory birds from the northern hemisphere, which coincides with the birthing period of numerous herbivores, including baby impalas and wildebeests.
During this time, embarking on boat safaris becomes a favored way to explore the delta’s intricate waterways, channels, and floodplains. From the comfort of your boat, you’re treated to a fresh perspective of the diverse ecosystem in the park. Keep your camera ready for unexpected encounters – whether it be elephants or antelopes enjoying a leisurely drink at the water’s edge or crocodiles basking lazily in the sun.
In the early days of December, Serengeti National Park in Tanzania becomes a stage for a remarkable natural phenomenon: the start of the wildebeest migration. This event is concentrated in the northern part of the park and offers a fascinating opportunity for wildlife enthusiasts to observe both the migratory herds and the interactions between predators and prey.
Again, in the northern Serengeti, you have the chance to witness predator-prey dynamics up close. Carnivores like lions, cheetahs, and leopards are drawn to the migratory herds, presenting an opportunity to witness their hunting strategies in action. The park is also a haven for birdwatchers. A variety of bird species (both resident and migratory) can be spotted during this time.
If this type of safari adventure is right up your street, why not check out our 6-day Serengeti Safari!
Tarangire National Park might stand in the shadow of its more famous counterpart, the Serengeti, but when December arrives, Tarangire transforms into a hidden gem of wildlife encounters.
The Serengeti typically draws more crowds, but this park offers an intimate and less busy safari experience. In turn, you’ll be able to fully engage with the sights and sounds of nature, free from distraction.
The Tarangire River takes center stage in this national park, where a mesmerizing gathering of wildlife takes place. Imagine elephants, giraffes, zebras, and an array of antelope species converging along its shores, seeking refreshment and relief from the hot sun.
Kruger National Park
December emerges as an exceptionally enticing month to visit South Africa’s Kruger National Park. First and foremost, it marks the peak of the summer season in the southern hemisphere. The comfortable temperatures and extended daylight hours provide visitors with ample opportunities to engage in outdoor activities. Game drives remain a cornerstone of the experience, offering the chance to traverse the park’s diverse landscapes and come face-to-face with the Big Five and an array of other remarkable species. Guided walks led by experienced rangers provide a more intimate connection to nature, allowing visitors to absorb the finer details of the ecosystem, from the intricate flora to the smaller creatures that often elude the casual observer.
While the allure of the park’s diverse wildlife is a year-round phenomenon, December unveils a unique spectacle due to its convergence with the dry season. This season sees animals from across the park gather around waterholes, providing an exceptional opportunity for wildlife enthusiasts to witness a vibrant tapestry of creatures engaging in their natural behaviors.
Are there many mosquitos during a December safari?
No! The drier conditions of this month usually mean fewer of these pesky insects and mosquitos compared to the wetter months, meaning a reduced likelihood of irritating insect bites that can put a damper on your adventure.
Nonetheless, it’s always a smart move to exercise caution. While the mosquito population might be lower, they’re still present in some areas. During the early mornings and evenings, when they tend to be more active, it’s advisable to take some preventive measures such as applying mosquito repellent and long-sleeved clothing.
What clothing should I pack for a December safari?
When preparing for your December safari, your choice of clothing plays a crucial role in maximizing your comfort and overall experience.
During daylight hours, the temperatures can rise significantly, so opt for lightweight and breathable clothing. Dressing in long-sleeved shirts and pants crafted from moisture-wicking materials not only shields you from the sun but also keeps you cool. Earthy shades like khaki, olive, and beige help you seamlessly blend into the natural surroundings while minimizing any disturbance to wildlife.
As mornings and evenings can bring a drop in temperatures, packing layers such as a light sweater or jacket is always a good idea. And when it comes to footwear, always opt for closed-toe shoes or sturdy hiking boots. They safeguard your feet against uneven terrains and potential critters. Additionally, tossing in a pair of lightweight sandals is a great idea for those moments of relaxation at the camp or lodge.
A wide-brimmed hat becomes your trusty companion while on every safari to ward off the sun’s rays, as well as UV-protective sunglasses.
Despite December’s tendency for reduced rainfall, it’s still a wise move to have a lightweight rain jacket or poncho on hand, just in case.
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So, what are you waiting for?