The price you pay for your safari lodge is largely determined by when you travel, and so with a bit of flexibility as to the timing of your holidays you can slash big chunks off your accommodation cost.
It helps to understand what it means to go on safari outside of the usual tourism seasons, and so we have prepared an explanation of the when and what of the safari seasons.
The HIGH / PEAK season – June to October
This is when most people take long leave (the northern hemisphere summer break), and go on safari.
The rules of supply and demand kick in, and lodges are priced at their peak – AND you will find that popular areas such as Botswana and Kruger become fully booked during this period, far in advance. Some publicly accessible wildlife areas can be congested during this period, whereas lodges with exclusive traverse areas don’t suffer from this problem.
These are the dry and dusty months, when there is less vegetation to hinder your view and when animals congregate near water sources and are therefore easier to find. You are likely to see more wildlife during this period, and have a higher chance of seeing predators in action.
[box] Wild dogs share a Savute waterhole during the dry season with elephants © James Gifford[/box]
The SHOULDER seasons – November/December & April/May
This is when most international travellers have gone home, and the local and regional travellers are left to enjoy the show.
Lodges drop their prices and the crowds evaporate – a good time to travel!
November/December is a great time for safari, because the height of the dry season has broken and the first brief rains bring change to the landscapes, as grass and buds start popping up everywhere. Cute babies start dropping all over the place and resident predators have a field day. Migratory animals start dispersing after the first rains, but resident populations of most species keep the show on the road.
Migratory birds arrive, and most birds get stuck into breeding and are therefore more vocal and visible. Flying termites emerge and are preyed on by many species, from eagles and snakes to frogs and even leopards. Temperatures are more bearable than in September/October, and the usually infrequent rain clears the smoke and dust from the air.
In April/May the rains have ended and widespread water sources are starting to dry up, and animals start moving to areas with permanent water. Temperatures are pleasant and the bushveld is particularly lush and beautiful.
[box] November/December sees bursts of green grass and buds after the first rains © Simon Espley[/box]
The LOW / GREEN / EMERALD season – January to March
This is when all major holiday periods (local and international) are over and few people go on safari.
Lodges drop prices significantly as occupancies plummet. This a great time to negotiate good rates and those extras that make you feel pampered and special!
This period sees trees, shrubs and grasses thicken up – making wildlife viewing more difficult. Rainfall (usually once a day in the late afternoon) means widespread water availability, and many species disperse to take advantage of specific food opportunities and to get away from predators. Many resident species remain though, but are harder to see. For some experienced travellers, this is their favourite time – because nature is now at full throttle as many species are breeding and there is plenty of food for everybody.
[box] During the green season the grass is long and the trees and bushes are thickly foliaged © Kelsea Lee[/box]
Ask an expert
Of course, these ‘rules’ vary regionally, and according to local conditions and animal movements. For example, the Kasanka bat and the Liuwa Plain wildebeest migrations in Zambia happen in November.
That’s why you need sound advice about when, where and what on safari. There is nothing like experience to guide your safari choices.