June signals the beginning of the peak safari season, although the high visitor numbers of July and August are still a month away.
The rainy season is in the rear-view mirror, the temperatures and humidity are lower and it’s all systems go for another cracker safari season. The deciduous bushveld trees start shedding leaves, the previously verdant green grass and shrubs revert to dry stalks and it is now far easier to spot those elusive leopards and lions.
Don’t be surprised by the chilly nights and early mornings, especially at high altitudes and near water – and bring warm clothing for those times of your safari day. But for the rest of the day short sleeves are still the norm, with comfortable daytime temperatures in the mid to late twenties (Celsius). Also expect more dust in the air than during the wet season, so be sure to bring protection for your camera equipment. Many of those pesky mosquitoes and other insects have largely disappeared, and although the risk of malaria is lower during the cool dry months, we recommend that you still take precautionary prophylaxis during this period.
The lack of rain combined with the drying up of temporary ground water sources (pans, wallows, non-perennial rivers etc.) results in animals having to frequent permanent water sources such as perennial rivers, dams and deep pools. Many species such as elephant, buffalo, wildebeest and zebra that fan out during the wet months into the vast remote backcountry now start returning to areas nearby the tourism lodges – bringing the predators with them. This concentration of wildlife near water sources makes their movements more predictable, meaning that your guide will have an easier time finding them for you.
Of course, there will be exceptions to these seasonal norms – including Cape Town and the Garden Route, where the Mediterranean climate brings wet and cold weather in June (although at time of writing this area is experiencing a severe drought).
© Sayari Camp, Serengeti, Tanzania
Places to consider for your June safari in Africa
June is a great time to visit the Greater Kruger National Park in South Africa, especially in the early weeks of the month – before the onset of local school holidays and the prime international safari season. We recommend the private reserves on the western edge of the park, where privacy and lack of crowds adds to the experience, and excellent guiding increases your chances of spotting the Big 5 (lions, leopards, elephants, rhinos and buffalos).
Also in South Africa, we also highly recommend a safari to Madikwe Game Reserve in June. Not only is this a malaria-free area, it is also an excellent place to spot the Big 5 and other sought-after species such as cheetahs, wild dogs and brown hyenas.
© Tau Pan Camp, Central Kalahari Game Reserve, Botswana
June is also a great time to visit just about anywhere in Botswana. The annual floodwaters are seeping into the Okavango Delta from their origin in the Angolan highlands, and although they are not yet at their peak, there is enough water to experience the magic of this water wonderland. The drying up of temporary water sources from rainy season downpours throughout Botswana means that wildlife is starting to congregate at permanent water sources such as the Chobe River and perennial rivers feeding the northern floodplains.
In Zambia, floodwaters from the annual deluge of rain that makes much of the country tough to access for 4-5 months of the year have receded and areas such as the Luangwa Valley and Kafue National Park are now open for business. The seasonal bush camps of South Luangwa National Park are a particular treat for seasoned safari-goers and walking safari enthusiasts.
The Zimbabwe safari season is also in full swing now, with Hwange National Park attracting large numbers of elephants, lions and other species that are attracted to the pumped water and Mana Pools National Park providing some of the best elephant and wild dog encounters on foot.
And then there is Victoria Falls on both the Zambian and Zimbabwean sides, open for business throughout the year, and a must for any serious Africa-fanatic.
© Somalisa Expeditions, Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe
EAST AND CENTRAL AFRICA
That amazing spectacle, the Great Wildebeest Migration, is moving northwards through the western corridor of Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park, and approaching the dramatic Grumeti River crossings.
Maasai Mara in Kenya is also a good bet (at any time of year) because even though the migration has not yet arrived, resident predators and prey species are plentiful, and the hordes of tourists have not yet arrived.
African green broadbill © Christian Boix
Trekking for mountain gorillas, chimps and golden monkeys in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Kibale National Park, Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park and DRC’s Virunga National Park is now at its best, with the rainy season having ended, and the views across the mountains and volcanic lakes go on for ever.
For lowland gorilla trekking, head out to Odzala-Kokoua National Park in Congo and take advantage of the dry season to tick of these gentle giants plus other specials such as bongos, forest buffalos and forest elephants.
© Odzala, Odzala-Kokoua National Park, Congo
For bird-watchers, June is a time of plenty in Uganda and Rwanda. The short rains have ended and Albertine Rift endemics are there to be ticked off. Highly sought-after avian jewels such as green broadbill and green-breasted pitta are breeding and easier to locate.
First Published by African Geographic