By Rachel O’Conner
Are you planning an epic African trip for this coming summer?
For many people, a trip to this large continent is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. But you want to make sure you’re visiting the right places at the appropriate time of year.
But let’s get one important fact straight first.
Depending on where you are in the world, an African summer may be the opposite of what you’re used to.
For example, if you’re travelling from North America, Christmas in summer may sound foreign to you. But that’s exactly what happens in Africa.
In South Africa, the summer spans from mid-October through mid-February.
But since nearly 90 percent of the world’s population resides in the Northern Hemisphere, we’re going to focus on travel during the June through September summer season.
So without further ado, here are the top 8 places to visit in an African summer vacation.
With about 300 days of sunshine every year, there’s almost never a bad time to visit Botswana. The summer months are great for game viewing, but you might be surprised to learn the nights can be cold. Pack layers, especially if you’re going to be camping. Shorts and tees are appropriate during the day, but you’ll want something warmer for the chilly Botswana nights.
While you’re here, make sure you have a reliable vehicle and service the car before you drive off the beaten path. You’ll want to visit Chobe National Park, Kwando and Selinda Reserves and Okavango Delta.
June to October is the dry season in Kenya, and this is hands-down the best time to visit. Not only is rain unlikely, but the bush is less dense, so wildlife is easier to spot. And if you visit anytime between July and October, you’ll get to see the wildebeest migration.
The summer is the absolute best time to visit Uganda, especially if you’re there for the gorilla tracking (like most people). The months of June through August are considered the drier months, and there’s plenty of sunshine. Naturally, this doesn’t guarantee that you’ll have a dry gorilla trek, but the chances are good.
Bwindi Impenetrable NP or Kibale NP are the places to go for gorilla tracking. If you’re looking for a safari, go to Murchison Falls.
The dramatic Namib Desert comes to mind whenever you think of Namibia. The vast, beautiful desert covers thousands of kilometres of sand and copper dunes, plains of silvery grass and mountains that turn purple at dusk. This is the best places to go hot air ballooning- rise with the sun at dawn, watch the sun kiss the horizon, turning the vast bluey-grey landscape into golden hues. Admire the dunes, the startling gemsbok and zebra from your elevated position.
Animal sightings aren’t quite as common in Namibia as they are elsewhere, but the sightings can be more rewarding. The best wildlife experiences can be had in Etosha Pan. In the dry season (June through August), the wildlife will gather around any water source, so it can be easy to spot them. Summer nights in Namibia can get chilly, despite arid daytime weather, so pack warm clothing too.
Most people like to plan at least a short stop in South Africa because it’s the best place for a diverse experience. Not only can you spot wildlife on safari, but you can also spend time on beautiful beaches and experience a trendy city. The dry season is May through September, so summer is a great time to visit.
Zanzibar is Tanzania’s premier beach holiday destination, and you can easily slip there for your summer holiday. In Zanzibar, you’ll enjoy clear, turquoise-blue water; shallow sandbars perfect for wading, brilliant green of the seaside vegetation, and nearly deserted islands virtually unvisited by tourists. The Island is also steep in history and culture, and its famous Stone Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Tanzania is also a top pick for wildlife safaris, especially in the summer months. With three safari circuits, a wildlife enthusiast could spend an entire holiday in Tanzania.
But if you have limited time here, focus on the Northern circuit with the Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Crater. During summer, you may also get to experience the wildebeest migration here. And as a bonus, where there are large numbers of wildebeest, their predators aren’t far behind. So you’re likely to see some amazing creatures during your summer safari in Tanzania. The dry season in Tanzania spans from June through October. Just remember that temps are likely to drop as the altitude increases.
Rwanda’s capital, Kigali, is renowned as the cleanest city in Africa and one of the top eco-friendly cities in the world. The city is very popular among business travellers. Holiday goers mostly visit Rwanda to enjoy beautify nature in a secure environment.
Among tourists, Rwanda is well known for its fantastic gorilla tracking experience, but it is also a well-respected safari destination. So you may go for the gorillas, but you’re likely to have a well-rounded wildlife experience in this African country.
Plan to visit Volcanoes National Park for gorilla and golden monkey tracking. Here, you can also go on volcano hikes. Visit Nyungwe Forest National Park to see chimps and other primates.
Since Rwanda straddles the equator, you’ll find rather uniform temperatures throughout the year. But there is a wet and dry season. Like other countries in this area, the dry season spans from June through September.
If you’re up for an adventurous summer holiday, it may be time to check a canoeing safari off your bucket list. In Zambia, you can canoe down the Zambezi with a safari guide – but it’s not for the faint of heart. This isn’t the most popular safari destination on the list but does offer a real wilderness experience without the crowds you’ll find at the safari hotspots. You’ll also get a chance to see Victoria Falls.
You may not get to visit all 8 countries in one trip, but you’ve probably already made a mental list of your favourites.
Which African country will you visit this summer?
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