There are a number of advantages to travelling in low season throughout southern and Eastern Africa. The hottest, rainiest months are often referred to as the ‘secret season’, because although it’s not the most popular time to travel, safari experts know how rewarding green season safaris can be – and we’re going to spill the beans on why that is.
What is the green season?
The green season or emerald season are names for the wettest months of the year in southern and East African countries. These monikers reference the verdant, lush landscapes, transformed by the rains.
Lush scenery in South Africa. Credit: Kwandwe.
When is it?
In South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi, green season is during the southern hemisphere’s summer, from early December to the end of March.
In East Africa, there are short rains in October and November and long rains in April and May.
What are the pros and cons of a green season safari?
Let’s start with the well-documented downsides of travelling in green season:
- The reason this period is low season is primarily because of the rain, which can make access to certain parts of a park difficult or even impossible. However, it’s important to note that the rain usually falls in one big downpour during the afternoon, after which conditions quickly clear up.
- The rain is often thought to make wildlife sightings trickier, because of the thick vegetation and the fact that animals don’t need to cluster around waterholes as in the dry season.
- Some camps and lodges also close in the green season either because of flooding or because they use this quieter period to carry out maintenance.
- As well as being rainy, it’s also very hot and this invites more insects to the area.
For those in the know, there are a lot of advantages to going on safari in the green season. Here are the main perks:
- It’s quiet. What’s better than travelling to a wilderness area and being the only people for miles around? In low season, there are few other tourists and you can take advantage of the solitude and privacy this affords.
- Rates are much more affordable. This is easily the best value time to travel on safari, as camps often slash their prices dramatically. In addition, they often forego single supplements, which is great if you’re travelling solo. For those not quite ready to travel during the wettest months, there are often discounted rates during shoulder season too, which is the period in between low and high seasons.
- It’s a dream for photographers. The green, healthy lushness of the landscapes makes safari areas considerably more photogenic than during the dry, dusty months. Big clouds form dramatic backdrops and create impressive sunsets. The light is better for photography and the air is clearer, resulting in sharper images.
- The rains bring migrating birds in their hundreds. It’s the ideal time for birders – or anyone hoping to improve their birding knowledge – to be on safari.
- This is the main birthing season, which means green season safaris are full of baby sightings, from delicate miniature impalas to teeny little warthogs. In Tanzania, you can see thousands of new-born wildebeest calves being dropped in the vast migration herds.
- In Botswana, you can witness the zebra migration herds gathering in the Nxai and Makgadikgadi Pans.
- In places such as Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe, big cat sightings are great, as lions and leopards tend to avoid the tall, wet grass by making use of the roads.
- In southern Africa, it’s warmer in the mornings and evenings. The winter can bring downright freezing early-morning conditions, so if you’re not keen on dressing up in hats and scarves, the summer months might suit you better.
- Africa’s green season falls over the northern hemisphere’s winter, which is a smart time to take a holiday. January and February are commonly considered the most depressing months of the year in Europe and North America, so it’s an ideal time to jump on a plane and enjoy the African summer. It’s also a brilliant time to visit Cape Town as part of a city and safari combination trip.
Inspired to take a green season safari? It’s important to speak to a safari expert, as different areas offer very different experiences during low season. Drop us an email to start planning your green season safari with the help of our invaluable first-hand advice.