On a continent famous for sunny skies, it's not surprising that Africa’s Green Season (Usually late October to April) rarely gets promoted. But its unique advantages are worth mentioning:The Good: No crowds, great value for money, ideal conditions for photography, and seasonal events (zebras migrate, calves and cubs are born).The Average: Thundershowers most afternoons, more bugs than usual, and animals spread out over wider areas.The Beautiful: Thundershowers are usually short; they settle the dust and create beautiful light for photographers. The wildlife in top destinations is resident year-round, which means excellent game viewing, come rain or shine.If you go to the right destinations, the Green Season can be the best time to visit Africa.
Green Season: What's it All About?
A herd of elephant grazing in the lush green plainsThe Green Season is simply the “rainy season”. It’s during the summer months of roughly December through April where you can expect the most rainfall in the southern safari hotspots of Africa - South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. East Africa too (particularly Tanzania) has incredible sightings on offer during the low season.The rainfall is welcomed in the reserves after a long dry winter and with it comes new life - gushing river systems, blossoming flowers, dense thicket, migrant birds, and breeding herds. Babies are born and birds return making for unusual sightings and opportunities aplenty for predators of every description.Often than not, the best game viewing is experienced during the rainy season. The days are long and hot, resulting in massive cloud build up before the rain beats down on the earth. The thundershowers are usually not very long and give way to clear beautiful skies.
What makes the “Green Season” attractive?
The Green Season is perfect for the seasoned African traveler or traveler on a budget. You can expect to save up from 30-50% off regular daily safari rates. International guests prefer to travel during their summer break of July through September, but this is when most African countries experience a dry winter. With a vegetation that is less dense, it tends to be easier to spot wildlife on a safari, but this should never steer you away from traveling at other times of the year. Many lodges are situated within private conservancies which means that no matter the time of the year, the guides will always have the advantage of driving off-road, affording up-close encounters with Africa’s beautiful creatures. It may take a little longer to find the animals but it’s undoubtedly an adventure worth taking.Traveling in the Green Season means no crowds, lower accommodation rates, and ideal weather conditions for some incredible wildlife photography. Each season brings about change, so depending on your chosen destination, there could be an opportunity to experience some remarkable natural phenomena.
An incredible aerial view of Uganda in the green season
Where to go for the “Green Season”
- Cape Town is a popular choice during the months of January through March. The sunny weather and clear skies are ideal for exploring the region’s top attractions which include the iconic Table Mountain, Robben Island, marine safaris and the Cape Winelands. It is also a destination that is easily combined with a safari in one of the numerous South African Big Five game reserves.
An aerial view of Cape Town on a clear summer's dayWe would recommend these tours in Cape Town.
- Southern Serengeti plains and Ngorongoro conservation area are blessed with sweet short grass and provide sanctuary to massive herds of wildebeest and zebra as they give birth during January and February. The herds are closely watched by hungry predators, waiting on an opportunity to strike. The Grumeti Reserve in the western Serengeti and the Masai Mara in Kenya are attractive wildlife viewing destinations all year round but offer affordable accommodation options during the green season.
Various wildlife congregate in and around the Ngorongoro CraterWe would recommend these tours in Tanzania.The Okavango Delta is a destination that offers an incredible safari experience all year round but for travelers wanting exceptionally good accommodation rates, the delta is most attractive during November and then again from January to April.
A herd of elephant and their young gathered in the plains of the Okavango Delta at dawnWe would recommend this tour in the Delta.
- Victoria Falls is a world-renowned destination that attracts thousands of travelers each year. With the incredible selection of activities and accommodation, Victoria Falls offers an unforgettable experience all year round. If you are looking for a real adrenaline rush then I recommend trying your hand at white water rafting on the Zambezi River during the low water months of August to December. It is also an ideal time to visit Devils Pool which generally opens from mid-August to mid-January.
The low water months afford incredible views of the Victoria FallsWe would recommend these tours in Victoria Falls. Chobe National Park is a mere one hour drive from Victoria Falls and is home to the world’s largest herds of elephant, along with the famous Big Five. It’s one of the few destinations where travelers can experience both land and water based activities.
Chobe National Park offers some of the worlds best elephant sightingsWe would recommend these tours in Chobe.
- The Central Kalahari is at its best just after the summer rains (December to April) when the wildlife is less dependent on the permanent water systems of the Delta and Chobe river. The animals tend to congregate around the pans in the Deception Valley area.
A beautiful cheetah drinking from a waterhole in the Kalahari's Deception ValleyWe would recommend this tour in the Kalahari.
- The Luangwa Valley is fantastic during November and December with access into some of the best remote camps and a great alternative to Mfuwe from January to March when many camps close during the wet season. During the green season Luangwa offers great rates, fewer people, good game viewing, and incredible birding safaris.
An incredible sighting of Carmine bee-eaters nesting in Luangwa National ParkWe would recommend a stay at Luangwa River Camp.
- Hwange National Park is generally quiet during the green season, affording travelers the opportunity of having access to the best guides and wildlife areas. It’s also a birders paradise with over 400 bird species in Hwange during the green season. It’s a sight to behold!
A pair of Grey Crowned Cranes perched on a tree in Hwange National Park
- Both Uganda and Rwanda reserves are green and lush during the wet green season months of March to May, and although it may be a little harder to spot wildlife, you’ll still have the opportunity of seeing several newborn animals. Gorilla trekking departs as scheduled even if it pours down with rain. The trails can become slippery and challenging but the advantage of the green season is the fee reduction for permits (Uganda) and lower accommodation rates. There are also fewer crowds which is beneficial when securing permits.
Traditional boat rides offered at Lake Bunyonyi in UgandaWe would recommend these gorilla trekking tours.
- Namibia offers incredible sightings of newborn animals and migratory birds during the green season. The rains are generally short showers in the afternoon and rarely have a negative impact on your trip. The reserves are lush and although animals are harder to spot, Namibia is a year-round destination that has something for everyone.
Hot air balloon rides afford uninterrupted views of the Sossusvlei DesertWe would recommend these tours in Namibia.
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How to make the most of the “Green Season”
- Make a list of experiences you are wanting to have on your visit to Africa, ranking them from crucial to least important. Weighing up your choices and taking into consideration your time constraints, it would be best to plan your trip around visiting either Southern Africa or East Africa.
- For a cultural and safari experience it would be best to consider visiting South Africa. Cape Town offers a rich heritage, beautiful scenery, adventure activities, and daily flights into top game reserves such as the Kruger National Park.
- For sightings of huge animal herds, it would be best to look at visiting southern Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Crater area.
- Big game safaris are at their best in the Luangwa, Hwange and Okavango Delta.
- Birding safaris are widely available throughout Africa with many beautiful migrant species making their way to Chobe, Okavango Delta, Hwange, Namibia, and Uganda.
- For a selection of extraordinary experiences, the Central Kalahari and Namibia offer one of a kind activities and a diverse landscape that offer incredible photographic opportunities.
Incredible animal sightings and picture-perfect sunsets in the African bushAlthough traveling in the green season means that you will most likely need to pack a poncho or umbrella or welcome an afternoon shower after a day out in the hot sun, it’s a small price to pay for the somewhat more exclusive experiences at a heavily reduced cost.An adventure awaits you in Africa, and we’re here to help you plan the trip of a lifetime.