Green Season Safaris
Sometimes you will want to take a safari outside the peak time. The wetter summer months from December to March are considered the green season. But it may be the only time you can travel. Or you may be combining a safari with a summer trip to the Cape? You could well be wanting to escape the endless grey winter days of the northern hemisphere. So on this page we compare and contrast the Green Season safari options in South Africa, Zambia, Botswana and East Africa.
What are Green Season safaris like?
So the wet summer months are generally not the ideal months for a safari in terms of sheer quantity of animals. The game-viewing will not be as prolific as in the dry winter months. It will also be harder to spot because of the lush bush. But the wildlife won’t be completely absent. Indeed this is the time when many animals are giving birth so you’ll see lots of youngsters around.
It’s also a beautiful time of the year when all is green and lush. All the migratory birds in full breeding plumage. It’s a great time for butterflies, flowers and colourful insects.
The skies are exploding with colour and are very photogenic especially at dawn and sunset. So keen photographers often love the summer season. The afternoon rains bring slightly cooler weather – you might even need a sweater just after the rains – though days are hot and sunny.
Where do we recommend for Green Season Safaris?
South African game lodges don’t usually offer lower prices as they remain busy through the summer months. (This is because they are often combined with Cape Town and the Garden Route by people escaping the Northern hemisphere winter.)
But they have the advantage of fenced national parks and private game reserves. This means that the South Africa reserves are not as noticeably affected by animal migrations as the unfenced reserves of Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Madikwe is in the summer rainfall area but it is generally drier than the Kruger National Park and less prone to the cyclonic influences coming in from the Indian Ocean from mid January to early March.
Ironically the Eastern Cape game reserves are about the only area in Africa where the months of May to August are NOT the best time for a safari. The Eastern Cape has a temperate transitional climate which means that it can rain at any time of year. Its winters are typically pretty cold and so the animals tend to head for protective thick bushveld away from the wind and rain. So the summer months are a perfect time for a safari here. There may be some rain but much less than in the rest of Africa.
Hang on a second, we said elsewhere that Zambia was ‘closed for business’ during the summer months! Generally true but not completely… Some of the central lodges of the South Luangwa remain open for the green season, some open especially for a few weeks. They focus on game walks, boating and game drives in the small part of the park which is not flooded. This can be surprisingly good for game-viewing given that the animals are ‘forced’ to hang out in these non-flooded areas as well.
Botswana has two attractive reasons to visit at this time of year.
Firstly, November, and again from mid January to March are some of the best months to visit the Kalahari desert and Makgadikgadi pans in Botswana with the annual migration of zebra and wildebeest to and from these areas.
More mundanely nearly all Botswana camps participate in green season pricing. This means that the price of the camps can be a fraction of the peak season. If the very high cost of a Botswana safari in July or August brings on a panic attack, this is the way to see the beauty of the Okavango Delta. Without having to pawn Granny’s jewellery collection…