Why we love an African safari in November
November is a month celebrated by true Africa hands. It is often dismissed for being too hot in the south, and too wet in the east. Wrong wrong wrong! True, November marks a turn of seasons in Southern Africa: the dramatic build-up of heat and the start of the rains: afternoon thunder and lightening and if you’re lucky, life-saving rain. In Kenya and Tanzania this is the season of the short rains.
In a continent as arid as Africa, no prayer forgets to include the hope of rain, and when it does come, what a miraculous sight! Weather patterns the world over are hard to predict, but recent years in Africa seem to purposefully contradict the norm. Mid November should see the clouds burst, the build up to this point is the pinnacle of theatre in the bush, the congregation of game around surface water is never greater, competition for space, heat, dust, dehydration, drama and death!
More animals, fewer people
When it comes, rain brings life, it settles the dust, freshens the air, fills the waterholes. November is often referred to as the ‘emerald’ season, a reference to the vivid lushness of the bush, we call it the secret season. Typically a time of year with fewer safari visitors. It nestles between the peak periods, outside of school vacations - lodges drop their rates, often dramatically, and those traveling at this time of year are in for a glut of mind-blowing, crowd-free wildlife spectaculars!
Witness wildlife reacting to the changing environment. Head to the Serengeti to see the Great Migration thunder its way back south to feast on the new grazing. The waterholes of Katavi National Park are a heaving, writhing mass of hippos and crocs which disperse with the first rainfall. The tan hides of big cats stand out boldly against the green hills across Kenya. The Maasai Mara settles back into its calmer daily routine, without the migration chasing hoards, but with incredible resident wildlife and all the space to enjoy it.
Down south, it’s time to celebrate for all photographers, Zambia’s South Luangwa doesn’t get more beautiful or dramatic than this – from leopards stalking thirsty prey on the river bank, to the arrival of tens of thousands of flying migrants. The zebra and wildebeest migration leaves Botswana’s Boteti, heading back to the Makgadikgadi and the dust bowl of the salt pans become shallow lakes packed with flamingo. It’s the last month visitors can enjoy Zimbabwe’s Mana Pool National Park before this favorite African wilderness is off limits for the season, over in Hwange the elephant population is at its height – there is no experience like watching the giant Hwange bulls queuing patiently for their turn at water. How about being a witness to the greatest sand dunes turning green before your eyes, see the desert bloom!
Marine wildlife in November
If marine activity is what you are after, you’ll catch Humpbacks migrating along the Indian Ocean coast, whale sharks off Tanzania, Manta Rays off Mozambique, and turtles right across the east coast beaches. Down on the Cape you’ll hit the height of the Southern Right Whale season, November is a great month to visit the southern edge of the continent: the Cape experiences a climate all of its own and late Spring is a top time to visit.