When to go on a safari sometimes depends on when you can actually take a vacation. If you're looking for the best safari experience and don't mind what country you go to, this is a useful guide for you. It's a month by month account of the best animal viewing opportunities in Africa.
If you have a destination in mind and want to know what the best time to go on safari is, If you have specific animals in mind that you would like to see, like gorillas, chimpanzees or whales,
January is prime safari time in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. The weather is usually dry and the animals will congregate in dense numbers around permanent water supplies. The migrating wildebeest, zebra and gnu can be found in Tanzania's northern parks during this time of year particularly in the southern Ndutu and Salei plains.
February is one of the best months to go on safari in Tanzania's northern parks because thousands of wildebeest are usually born around this time. Most of the wildebeest give birth within the same three week period. If you like baby animals, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda are all perfect this time of year. Southern Tanzania can get quite hot and humid this time of year, so stick to the northern parks if you think the weather will bother you.
East Africa is still the place to be in early March if you're looking for the best safari experience in Africa. Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda are still in their dry season and the density and diversity of animals can't be matched elsewhere this month. If you're visiting Uganda and want to see the Gorillas you should avoid March.
April is a good month for those looking for discounted safaris because the rains usually start in East Africa and are on their way out in Southern Africa. Rains bring plentiful water and the animals tend to disperse making them harder to find while on safari. Vegetation begins to get very lush which can obstruct your views of the animals. And perhaps most importantly, the dirt roads in national parks can get washed out and become impassable.
You can still enjoy an excellent safari in Tanzania without the crowds, especially in the northern parks. Southern Africa is coming in to its own in April with cooler, drier weather. Botswana and Namibia are good bets for April.
The Victoria Falls (Zambia/Zimbabwe) are at their most spectacular in April with the start of the heavy rains. They are easily combinable with a visit to any Southern African safari destination.
In May, the best country to go on safari is probably Zambia. Zambia offers a truly wild African safari (and the best walking safaris) and there aren't too many months when the parks can operate at full tilt, so you have to take advantage of it when you can. The rest of Southern Africa is good as well though as the dry season is well on its way.
If you have your heart set on an East African safari, May isn't the best time to go, but you'll still see a lot of animals, especially in Tanzania. Make sure the camps and lodges you wish to go to are open. You should be able to get some nice discounts.
Southern Africa is heading into its best safari period by June. South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Namibia enjoy their high season this time of year. Be prepared for some chilly nights and bring a jacket for the early morning drives.
July - September
Take your pick of destination from July to September. Every major safari destination is primed for business. Kenya's Masai Mara lays out the green carpet for millions of migrating wildebeest. This is the time for those spectacular river crossings with the crocodiles lying in wait for feeble wildebeest to stumble into their watering jaws. Southern African parks are dry and packed with diversity which you can enjoy from your lodge bar overlooking a water hole.
Since this is also when the northern hemisphere takes their summer vacation, parks can get crowded and booked up well in advance. If you're looking for a budget safari, try a different season.
Zimbabwe, Kenya and Tanzania are the best places for a safari in October. The small rainy season has usually not arrived yet and the months of dry weather makes game viewing very rewarding.
While Southern Africa begins its rainy season with significant heat and humidity, Zambia is still a good destination for a safari because of a unique wildlife event that takes place in Liuwa Plain National Park. A smaller version of the great east African migration takes place, and for safari aficionados, this can be very exciting to witness. Unfortunately the rest of Zambia's parks during this time aren't at their peak, but game viewing is still fair.
Northern Tanzania is the best place to go on safari in November, as the migrating herds make their way back to the Serengeti plains.
If you're a birder, Botswana's Okavango Delta begins to fill up with migrating birds this month, starting their breeding season (which lasts until March).
East Africa reigns once again as the best safari destination if you'd like to spend Christmas in the bush. Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda enjoy some dry weather and excellent game viewing.