Do you dream of bumping across wildlife-studded savannahs in a 4×4, binoculars in hand? Safaris are a bucket-list fantasy for many, offering a window into the world’s wildest landscapes and most majestic creatures. Whether you’re on a quest to spot the Big Five on boundless African plains or searching for tigers in the jungles of India, here’s the inside scoop on where to go when on safari. Whether you’re travelling in January to March, April to June, July to September or October to December, we have the best destinations for a perfect safari holiday.
While many African safari destinations are entering their rainy season, Tanzania remains dry and sunny. Following rains in November and December, the Serengeti is lush and green, attracting herds of wildebeest who come to graze and calve in the southern Ndutu area. This results in nail-biting big cat, wild dog and hyena hunts. Witness a kaleidoscope of colourful birds in Tarangire and Lake Manyara National Parks, where you can also search for tree-climbing lions and colossal elephant herds wandering among gnarled baobab trees. Stay in chic treehouses and lake-view safari lodges.
Enjoy hot, dry weather in Kenya at this time of year, perfect for spotting animals along key watercourses on safari. The Maasai Mara may be Kenya’s safari star for its vast herds of grazing game, Big Five beasts and regal cats, but there’s plenty more to discover. Laikipia is lesser known but boasts a wildlife density second only to the Maasai Mara. In Amboseli, watch parades of spear-tusked elephants march across the plains against a Kilimanjaro backdrop, while the Great Rift Valley is a birdwatcher’s paradise, with flocks of flamingos, pelicans and migratory birds. In arid, uncrowded Samburu, look out for the Special Five: the Somali ostrich, gerenuk, Grevy’s zebra, reticulated giraffe and Beisa oryx.
India’s elusive Bengal tigers are most visible at this time of year, as warmer temperatures cause camouflaging grasslands to die back and animals to search out water sources. A collection of protected national parks in the heart of India offer tiger-tracking safaris, including Pench, Panna, Bandipur and Bandhavgarh. Set in Kanha Tiger Reserve, Singinawa Jungle Lodge allows you to live out your Jungle Book fantasies. Tigers may be India’s headline act, but safaris will also grant you glimpses of black panthers and leopards, wild dogs and rare sambar deer.
It’s dry season in Botswana with blue skies and plenty of sunshine. Head to Chobe National Park or Moremi Game Reserve for Big Five safaris from some of Africa’s finest lodges, including Chobe Game Lodge and Camp Xakanaxa. For the ultimate safari, add a side trip to the Okavango Delta, which retains its water levels at this time of year, attracting thirsty animals to its network of waterways. Explore on a boat safari or by traditional mokoro to see crocodiles, hippos, birds and herds of bathing elephants. For aerial views of this UNESCO wonder, take a helicopter ride over the Delta.
Zimbabwe’s dry season is in full swing, drawing animals to vital water sources for supreme sightings. Take a water safari on the Zambezi at Mana Pools National Park, where a tented suite at Nyamatusi acts as a luxurious base for game drives and walking safaris. In Hwange National Park, a network of man-made waterholes draws animals from far and wide, from big cats to mammoth herds of elephants. Park up for wildlife-watching sessions and take part in pump runs to help deliver supplies to these life-giving water sources. You can even meet the white rhinos that have been re-introduced to Hwange. Complete your itinerary with a trip to UNESCO-listed Victoria Falls, which daredevils can experience by zipline or helicopter ride.
If you dream of seeing mountain gorillas in the wild, plan ahead to get your hands on a coveted trekking permit in Rwanda. This is peak trekking season, with dry weather and temperatures in the teens to mid-twenties, ideal for spotting these endangered creatures. Base yourself at Volcanoes National Park, home to around 340 gorillas. After long days of magical sightings, retire to a luxury lodge just outside the park; Wilderness Sabyinyo and One&Only Gorilla’s Nest feature everything from treehouse suites to fireside dinners with volcano views, infinity pools and massages to ease your aching trekking muscles.
Want a front-row seat to the world’s top wildlife show? Travel to the Serengeti or Maasai Mara to witness the Great Migration. At the beginning of the summer, you’ll catch massive herds of antelope, zebra and wildebeest beginning their pilgrimage from the scorched Serengeti, crossing the Mara River into the fertile plains of the Maasai Mara in August. Catch the action on exhilarating game drives featuring big cat hunts and crocodile-infested river crossings or on a hot air balloon ride.
Both countries offer lavish Out-of-Africa-style tented safari camps, including the original Governors’ in Kenya, home to the BBC’s Big Cat Diaries, and Serengeti Bushtops in Tanzania. You’ll enjoy guided bushwalks and scenic sundowners alongside your 4×4 safari drives, with visits to traditional Maasai villages. End your safari in style with a beach break on the sun-drenched Mombasa Coast or spice-infused Zanzibar Island.
Namibia’s wildlife-studded landscapes are best explored at your own pace on a 4×4 road trip. Search for the Big Five at Etosha National Park’s waterholes, which are a magnet for animals during this dry season, and seek out unique, desert-adapted creatures, from rare elephants to creepie crawlies who live in Namibia’s ancient deserts. Stellar conservation initiatives in places like Okonjima and Onguma also allow you to observe endangered species like black-faced impalas, cheetahs, rhinos and pangolins. As you drive through the country, you’ll traverse dramatic landscapes, from wind-sculpted dunes in the ancient Namib Desert to the seal-studded Skeleton Coast and giant rock formations in Damaraland.
Soak up sunny skies and balmy temperatures in South Africa. This is the best time for a safari on the malaria-free Eastern Cape, although Kruger National Park still enjoys some dry weather in October leading into the rainy season. Wind your way along the Garden Route, where you can glimpse dolphins and migrating whales until the end of November in Hermanus and Plettenberg Bay. Private game reserves like Kariega and Shamwari provide Big Five sightings and luxe lodges with bush walks, 4×4 game drives and river cruises. Learn about wildlife conservation at Shamwari’s Born Free Big Cat Sanctuary and rhino conservation at Kariega.
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