Most believe the best time to go on an African safari is during the dry season, which runs from June to October (for the majority of African safari hotspots). At this time of year, animals are easier to spot as they congregate at water sources.
However, the wet season also has its merits for a thoroughly enjoyable African safari. During these months there are fewer visitors to the parks, offering a more private safari experience, where you can enjoy the abundance of wildlife, birds and green savannah in relative seclusion.
How to time your safari in Africa
One of the most difficult decisions to make while planning a safari is deciding the time of year to visit. The truth is, it all depends on what kind of wildlife you want to see, your specific destination, your price range, and your weather preferences.
We specialize in East African safaris, so have focused our attention on this region.
Keep reading to learn more about the unique offerings of an African safari during every season.
The best time to go on Safari in East Africa
Most tourists choose to go on safari in East Africa during the winter months of June to October. At this time, the weather in East Africa (Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda) is typically dry and sunny, making it excellent for spotting wildlife on game drives.
The coldest months in this region are during the dry season, which falls between June and October, with average temperatures in the 70s (Fahrenheit).
March through May and October through December are the rainiest seasons, and the wettest month is usually May. The driest and hottest month is January.
Check out our country-by-country guide below…
- January to March: The dry season offers great game viewing and cheaper prices, a win-win.
- April to June: A safari might be muddy during the peak rainy season, but this is the best time to beat the crowds and get the most value out of your trip.
- July to September: This is the most popular (and most expensive!) time for a safari, as this is the best time to see the wildebeest herds on the move during the Great Migration.
- October to December: This short rainy season is ideal for spotting baby animals and migratory birds.
- January to March: Animals are fewer in Tarangire National Park, but birds are plentiful during this time of year.
- April to June: As Tanzania’s rainy season, you can see newborn animals at lower prices.
- July to September: Dry season provides the best wildlife viewing, but with this comes higher prices.
- October to December: This short rainy season offers more affordability and fewer crowds. You also can see the migration herds making their way through central Serengeti.
- January to March: One of the best times for a safari is in January and February when conditions are excellent for game viewing. It gets rainier in March, and with the rain comes fewer crowds. Even with the rain, you will still likely see quite a few animals.
- April to June: While April and May are typically wetter months, June marks the beginning of another dry season, ideal conditions for a safari.
- July to September: July and August provide the perfect weather for trekking to see gorillas and chimpanzees. In September, the rainy season begins again.
- October to December: While October and November have lots of rain, December is the beginning of the next dry season, creating ideal safari conditions.
- January to March: Expect a rainy season in the Nyungwe Forest, with a few dry patches in January. Look for discounts on gorilla permits during this time of year.
- April to June: In the Nyungwe Forest and Volcanoes National Park, April and May are the rainiest months of the year.
- July to September: This is the driest weather of the year, and it’s perfect for gorilla and chimpanzee trekking. This is the best time to go on an African safari in Rwanda.
- October to December: October and November are stormy in the Nyungwe Forest and Volcanoes National Park, but December offers a break from the rain.
Month-by-month guide for traveling on a safari
During this time of the year, you will experience high temperatures and zero rainfall on the Eastern Cape of South Africa. This weather is ideal for spotting wildlife. To see newborn animals, check out Kenya in January. Fresh rain creates greenery that supports the annual baby boom in this country.
This month is the prime green season in Tanzania, where you can spot packs of wild impala, a rare thing to see any other time of year.
A few thousand zebras make their way from Botswana to Namibia, a total of 480 kilometers. This journey is the longest migration of any African mammal, and this is best seen in southern Botswana’s Makgadikgadi Pans. The rest of Sub-Saharan Africa undergo heavy rains in March, making many roads impassable and creating unideal circumstances for safaris.
April marks the end of the wet season and offers cooler temperatures, making this a fantastic month for a safari destination. You will see plenty of Kalahari lions and migratory birds during this time of year.
Amidst the dry season, flora and fauna thin out, revealing wildlife formerly hidden by foliage. Botswana in May boasts healthy animals, lower prices, and a good amount of vegetation.
July is the height of the dry season in East and Southern Africa, making this one of the best times for a safari. Botswana turns into a wetland, and scenic flights can offer you the best views of this scenery.
Wildebeest and zebra participate in the Great Migration, creating iconic African safari scenes as the animals cross the Mara River. This is a popular time for safaris, as visitors want to experience these scenes, so the crowds of tourists can be offputting.
September is another popular choice for safari viewing as the dry season continues in East and Southern Africa. Walking safaris and leopard sightings are typical in South Luangwa in Zambia during this time of year.
You will begin to see more rain in October, resulting in more greenery, lower prices, and fewer crowds. This month is the best time for an African safari for those who want a more remote viewing experience.
Temperatures begin to rise along with more rains in Southern and East Africa. For those who love birdwatching, check out Mahale Mountains National Park in western Tanzania, featuring plenty of migratory birds, butterflies, and roaring waterfalls.
While December has lots of rain and high temperatures, you can still see an abundance of wildlife during this time, plus the crowds are fewer. The Masai Mara has plenty of greenery and elephants, and you will also be able to experience a luxury safari experience for a fraction of the cost.
When is the best time to trek with gorillas in Rwanda and Uganda?
The best time to trek with gorillas in Rwanda is during the long dry season, which runs from mid-May to mid-October. In Uganda, the best time to trek with gorillas is during the country’s two dry seasons, either between January and February or from June to September.
Gorillas can be hard to track, and during the rainy season, muddy paths make it tricker to locate the animals. Therefore, it’s best to avoid the rainy season in Rwanda and Uganda from March to April and October to November.
Because their habitat has been significantly reduced, gorillas don’t have very far to roam and can be seen as a year-round attraction. But be aware that the trek to find them can vary significantly in length, from 2 hours to 8 hours each way.
You can find chimpanzees year-round in Western Tanzania and Uganda.
Like gorillas, chimpanzee safaris are more challenging during the rainy season due to the muddy paths. However, chimps might be easier to locate during the rain because they don’t have to travel too far to find water.
The rainy season is from February to June and November to mid-December. For better photos, visit during the dry season, from July to October and December.
You can find plenty of birds in East Africa between January and March.
The best destinations for bird-lovers include Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, and Kenya.
From June to November, the Cape coast in South Africa comes alive with southern-right whales, along with humpbacks and orcas. Much of the sea life can be seen from the shore, so there’s no need to spot marine life via boat.
What time of day is best for a safari?
The best time of day to see abundant wildlife on a safari is early in the morning and in the evening before the sun goes down. The animals are more active either before the sun comes up or as the sun is setting. As a bonus, the temperatures will generally be milder during these times of the day.