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Open-air safari dinner - Weather | Southern African Safaris | Classic Africa

Most of "safari Africa" is either tropical or sub-tropical, enjoying a warm, dry climate with low humidity - the relative dryness is a primary reason for the existence of savanna in these areas, as opposed to the rainforests that are more typical of tropical locations. Seasons are reversed from the northern hemisphere, with spring and summer spanning September to February, and autumn and winter being from March to August.

Southern Africa

There is just one rainy season in southern Africa's safari areas, starting in mid to late November and continuing into early March. Even during this timeframe, persistent, heavy rainfall is unusual, and rain typically takes the form of short afternoon thunderstorms that have little impact on safari activities. Safari camps in most parts of southern Africa are open year-round. Broadly-speaking, the year can be divided into three safari seasons:

Cool dry season (March through August) - characterized by warm days (70s to low 80s) and cold nights (40s to 50s). Occasional thunderstorms can persist into March and April, followed by a virtually complete absence of precipitation. Wildlife becomes more concentrated as the dry season progresses.

Warm dry season (September into November) - average daily highs climb into the 90s, cooling off to the 60s and 70s at night. Humidity remains low, and animals become heavily concentrated at the few remaining water sources. Sporadic thunderstorms can start from late October, but reliable rainfall doesn't arrive until December.

Green Season (December through February) - cloud cover brings average daily highs down into the upper 80s, with fairly regular afternoon thunderstorms; night time temperatures remain in the low 70s. The savanna is at its most verdant and beautiful, plains game give birth to their young, and migrant birds return.

Cape Town is an anomaly, with a rainfall pattern that is out of sync with the rest of the region - rains can start in April and continue into September.

East Africa

Most of East Africa's safari areas lie within a few degrees of the equator, but high elevations (4,000'-6,000') keep temperatures moderate, and there is relatively little temperature variation throughout the year. Annual rainfall amounts tend to be higher than in southern Africa, with two rainy periods and somewhat less predictability. Broadly speaking, the year can be divided into four safari seasons:

Cool dry season (June to October) - characterized by warm days (70s to low 80s) and cold nights (40s to 50s). Occasional thunderstorms can start in October. The great migration is in the northern Serengeti and Maasai Mara.

Short rains (November into December) - average daily highs in the 80s and lows in the 60s, with fairly frequent afternoon thunderstorms that have minimal impact on safari activities. The great migration disperses as the herds move south to their calving grounds.

Warm dry season (January to March) - very similar conditions to the short rainy season, but thunderstorms are a little less frequent, picking up again in late March. The great migration concentrates on the plains of the southern Serengeti as the wildebeest give birth.

Long Rains (April and May) - characterized by more frequent thunderstorms and heavier rainfall, and cooling temperatures (low 80s in the day, 50s at night). The great migration disperses and starts moving north. Some safari camps close for refurbishment within this timeframe.

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