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Southern Africa: Best month to travel

Southern Africa: Best month to travel

From beach escapes to wildlife safaris, wine tasting tours and whale watching expeditions, there are some truly exceptional travel experiences on offer in Southern Africa. But this vast and varied sub-continent contains some of the most disparate landscapes on earth – from the bone dry deserts of Namibia to the luscious hippo-filled deltas of Botswana to the tropical island archipelagos of Mozambique – each with their own micro-climates and seasonal dos and don’ts. So what is the best time of year to travel? Here is Ampersand’s month-by-month guide to help you plan your trip based on the best weather in each region.

enter image description here JANUARY: Cape Winelands, Garden Route, Mozambique, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe & Zambia... Southern Africa sits in the Southern Hemisphere meaning that January is the peak of summer. An ideal time to escape to glorious sunshine and escape from damp, cold and dreary winters of the Northern Hemisphere. Good spots to visit in January are the Cape in South Africa and the lovely Garden Route. Mozambique is also beautiful in January although it can get very hot and there is a chance of rain although these are generally short and vigorous downpours after which the sun comes out again. Due to the rains in the summer season, vegetation is thick, green and beautiful which can mean that wildlife is a little more dispersed and high grasses make viewing more difficult. For the birding fanatic, there can be no better time than during their summer months to visit Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Zambia where the migrant birds flock to breed, including flamingos, pelicans and the rare and beautiful Woodlands Kingfisher. Butterflies, wild flowers and iridescent insects are all out in their thousands making a spectacular sight. Sunsets are also at their most dramatic with storm clouds reflecting the vibrant colours in tandem with the moonrise.

FEBRUARY: Mozambique, Victoria Falls, Cape Winelands & the Makgadikgadi Pans... Escape the English winter and enjoy an African summer on the sun-drenched beaches of Mozambique, a jaw-dropping sunset over the Victoria Falls in Zambia or sip a cold glass of vintage South African wine on the award-winning Boschendal Estate whilst contemplating tomorrow’s day of wine tasting in one of the many sublime vineyards in the Cape Winelands. For the safari-lover, February is also a great time for seeing a wide variety of migratory birds including being wowed by the huge flocks of flamingos across the Makgadikgadi Pans in Botswana or the exquisite call of the magical Woodlands Kingfisher.

MARCH: Botswana, Zimbabwe & Zambia... As the English winter comes to its close, the summer rains in Southern Africa begin to taper off and the temperatures start to cool a little. Tourists in the Cape start to thin out and in Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Zambia, the bush is alive with young antelope, a whole array of butterflies and flowers and thick, green fauna and flora. Probably the prettiest time to go although not necessarily the best time for predators due to the high grasses and thick vegetation.

enter image description here APRIL: Kalahari Desert, Okavango Delta, Etosha, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Zambia & the Eastern Cape... The autumnal African April is an excellent all-round month to visit Southern Africa. Perfect temperatures (think best of the English summer), abundant sunshine, high water levels, inland seas across the vast Kalahari Desert and the beginnings of the wondrous flood of the Okavango Delta in Botswana. April makes an ideal Easter holiday in Southern Africa. It is a super time to visit Namibia before the temperatures start to drop, and the clear blue skies and deserted beaches of Mozambique are paradise. The vegetation in the wildlife areas of Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Etosha, the Eastern Cape and Mpumalanga has begun to thin out making it easier to view the wildlife, especially lion and leopard. 

MAY: Mozambique, Botswana, South Africa, Namibia, Victoria Falls... May marks the beginning of winter although the African winters are remarkably mild with day time temperatures reaching a very lovely 70-80 degrees with night-times dipping to the early 50s or 60s. The dipping temperatures mean that wildlife is more active in the late afternoons and evenings making May the beginning of the ‘safari-season’.  As well as being a good time for safari, May is also a super month to visit Mozambique with the cooler evenings and hazy, blood-red sunsets. South Africa and Namibia are also great to visit during May and at Victoria Falls, the water levels are ideal. All in all, a perfect all-rounder if you are planning on combining a bit of sun, sea, dunes, wildlife and Cape culture.

enter image description here JUNE: Mozambique, Victoria Falls, Sossusvlei, Cape Town & Garden Route... Winter in Southern Africa is simply sublime. Expect warm days and chilly evenings, although it is worth noting that the evenings can be very chilly especially in Namibia, Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The safari camps and lodges are all very well prepared for the cold nights and snuggling up under your duvet with hot water bottle and hot toddy listening to the African nightjar is very special indeed! The daytimes, on the other hand, are glorious with bright, white sunny days and wildlife in abundance. If a safari doesn’t appeal, scuba diving in Mozambique, sightseeing at the mighty Victoria Falls or standing in awe at the bottom of Big Daddy at Sossusvlei are all on the menu, as is a visit to Cape Town or the Garden Route where the landscapes can be enjoyed with fewer tourists and some fantastic luxury lodgings with a roaring log fire.

JULY: Mozambique, South African Cape, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe & Zambia... An African Winter is a far cry from the grey days we have come to expect from our northern climes. Winter in Africa equals endless blue skies, temperate climates on the fabulous Mozambique shoreline, cozy log fires in the culture-rich South African Cape and some of the best game viewing of the year in Mmpululanga, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Zambia. July tends to be more of a ‘safari’ month than a ‘Winelands’ and landscape month but combines well if you are content to wrap up in the evenings around a fire and reflect on a day wine-tasting in the Cape or climbing the highest freestanding dune in Namibia.

AUGUST: South African Eastern Cape, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Namibia, Okavango Delta, Chobe National Park, Linyanti and Selinda & Mozambique... August marks the onset of Spring in Southern Africa, making it an ideal time to visit if you are on safari. In South Africa, game viewing in Mmupulanga and the Eastern Cape is at its best. The vegetation is now very sparse and with the drying waterholes the animals are easily seen and tend to congregate around the available water to drink. A safari-lover’s dream! The same applies in Zimbabwe, Zambia and Namibia. In Botswana, the Okavango flood has now reached its highest level and the islands offer exceptional game viewing as does the Chobe National Park and the Linyanti and Selinda regions. As with July, August is a prime safari-month although the weather along the South African Cape region can be a little unpredictable. Mozambique remains gloriously warm during the day with cloudless blue skies. An excellent time of the year to combine safari and beach, so excellent for honeymooners!

enter image description here SEPTEMBER: Botswana, Kruger National Park, Mozambique & Skeleton Coast... September is another superb safari-lover’s dream with fantastic game viewing. As the temperatures start to rise again, the trees start to bud and the birds no longer snuggle up in their feathers and nature prepares once more for the coming summer months. Mozambique remains a super destination in September and the evenings along the Skeleton Coast are warming up. In South Africa, the Cape can still be a little rainy and chilly but think English summer rather than English November! 

OCTOBER: Cape Town, Garden Route, Bazaruto Archipelago, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe & Zambia... Whale watching along the Garden Route, basking on the soft sands of a deserted beach on the Bazaruto Archipelago or climbing the highest freestanding dune in Namibia – October is an excellent all-rounder month. For the safari enthusiast, sparse vegetation makes outstanding game viewing across the board although in Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Mmpulanga be prepared for the heat! October can very hot with temperatures regularly reaching over 100 degrees during the day. There are plenty of plunge pools to cool off in during the heat of the day and many of the lodges have managed to get air-conditioning in the tents! For the wine-lover and beach-lover, South Africa and Mozambique are not as hot as their northern counterparts and October is a very pretty month in both.

NOVEMBER: Mozambique & South Africa... Throughout Southern Africa, November is the month where nature comes alive with the advent of the ‘rainy season’.  Dry stretches of plains become an explosion of colour as the new buds appear and flowers and butterflies appear like magic. Mozambique’s shorelines become lush vegetation once more and the migratory birds flock to Africa in their millions ready for the breeding season. The antelope are plump with the new green grasses and the predators wait in greedy anticipation of the newly born. The Cape in South Africa becomes bustling and vibrant with an influx of tourists and a there is a general feeling of joy as the rains bring life across the continent. November is perfect time to visit South Africa, although temperatures in Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique can still be on the high side. 

DECEMBER: South Africa, Botswana, Northern Namibia, Zimbabwe and Zambia... Experience a thrilling and vibrant Christmas on the African continent where Father Christmas is more likely to be seen on water skis than on a sleigh! December is a really exciting month to visit Southern Africa with peak season in full flow. This is in contrast to the safari hotspots where the peak season is traditionally in the winter months due to the better game viewing conditions. Having said that, December is a really fun month to travel to Southern Africa and whilst the bush in the more northerly countries (Botswana, Northern Namibia, Zimbabwe and Zambia) tend to be quieter, they still have exceptional birdlife and the landscapes are awash with young antelope, colourful birds, wild flowers and brightly-coloured butterflies. The rains in Mozambique have begun, although these tend to be short, sharp downfalls in the late afternoon followed almost immediately by clear skies and sunshine. All in all, a fabulous place to escape the European winter and immerse yourself in a sunshine Christmas!

For more information on the best season to travel or to start planning your tailor-made holiday to Southern Africa please contact us: info@ampersandtravel.com // +44 (0) 207 819 9770

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