Safari in Summer: 5 Things to Know

A major consideration about going on safari is what time of year to go. Is one season better than another? Is there a best time to visit?

The reality is that things simply change. There is no “best” time to visit the African Bush. It is simply a matter of what you want to see and the type of experience you want to have that should determine you visiting month.
Given that the Southern African summer is almost upon us, we thought we’d discuss five elements of the coming season that will help you prepare better, both in your mind from an expectation level, and in your packing so you don’t bring the wrong things.

Here then, are five key points to know:

It’s Probably Going to Be Warm

This may sound obvious, given that summer equals higher temperatures, but some parts of Africa can get very warm. This isn’t a problem when on safari; lodges shift their game drive and activity times to allow for the changing times of sunrise and rapidly climbing temperatures. The general approach is simply to do what the animals do; get active early while it’s still cool, rest up for the day in the shade (read: in the pool at the lodge with and ice cold G&T in hand) and then get active again in the late afternoon when things get comfortable once more.

Clothing-wise be sure to pack light clothes and most definitely a sun-hat. The sun is high by 8am and you’ll already be wanting to apply the suncream. And remember to drink lots of water.

It May Rain

Despite the heat (it’s not always hot, so don’t worry), summer is also the rainy season. For the most part rain in the Southern African bush falls as spectacular showers that build up in the afternoon, unleash briefly, ands then subside again into a spectacular sunset punctuated with a rainbow and everything looking washed clean and revitalised.
A rain jacket is most certainly a good idea when visiting the bush between October and March. Most lodges will provide ponchos for game drives but bring your own rainwear just in case. It’s usually warm rain at this time of year but you may get a day or two with some extended clouds and showers, so have a warm under-layer just in case.
And remember to take any rainstorm or adverse weather in your stride and treat it with a sense of humour; the bush can be at its most spectacular when the challenging conditions arrive.

It’ll be Green

Water is life, and the plants reflect this, flushing into the most beautiful verdant foliage over the summer. Photographs are vibrant and life seems to be everywhere. Many birds nest during this time of year, migrant species come south to take advantage of the plentiful food, and one can fill an entire game drive of four overs covering only four hundred metres of road, so much is there to see. Impala lambs and wildebeest calves are being born, as well as warthog piglets and monkey infants around the camps, and everywhere you look you feel the sense of reawakening that the rains bring.
The bush is a bit thicker during this time of year though so predators can be harder to spot, but the landscape is at its most beautiful.

Days are Significantly Longer

Bring a book. Or at least be prepared for some downtime. A mentioned in point 1 above, summer days mean an earlier return to camp in order to avoid the heat, as well as a later departure in the afternoon, so you will be able to spend some lovely relaxing time back in camp, swimming in the pool or lounging on your deck or catching up on some of the sleep you missed having woken at 05:00 to be on game drive. Summer in the bush is when you really feel like your on holiday, as that three hour nap which is so hard to come by is just begging you to take it between game drives.

The Bugs aren’t Bad

Many people fear the insect life in summer (a lot of the smaller things come out with the rain), but truth be told, there aren’t that many to worry about. Occasionally a combination of heat and rainfall brings about a termite emergence and there may be quite a few of them buzzing around, but in actual fact this is one of the bush’s most spectacular events. Everything benefits from the termites swarming; eagles, frogs, jackals, leopards… you name it. The feast of protein on offer doesn’t go to waste, and spending time at a colony pouring out its dispersers is a sight to behold.

For many die-hard safari-goers, summer is the time to visit the bush. It is less predictable than winter, but that is the appeal. The lucky dip of life and conditions gives this time of year its own unique X-factor, and we at Iconic can’t recommend a summer visit highly enough.

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