Africa: When is the best time to visit?

African sunset

When is the best time to visit
Africa - especially its waterfalls?

The answer depends on which part of the landmass you're visiting. That's because there are distinctly different climatic regions throughout. Even within a country like say Uganda, there could be a region that experiences two wet seasons while a different part of the country typically gets finer weather without such frequency of rains.

There's too much to talk about regarding Africa as a whole so we'll break down cases of interest to waterfallers (particularly those that we've experienced firsthand). We'll also include in this section a little bit about timing a wildlife safari based on what we know about the subject matter.

Zambia: If you're visiting Victoria Falls, click here. For the rest of the country (namely Northern Zambia since that's where we went waterfalling), the seasons break down as follows: January-April is the rainy season, May-September is the dry season, October-December is the hot season (almost like the buildup to the rainy season). Even with that said, we did see thunderclouds building up throughout the day around Mansa, Kawambwa, Kasama, and Isanga Bay [Lake Tanganyika], but the clouds often didn't provide enough punch to deliver significant downpours where we were at (but they did hit other regions we could see on the horizon). The weather is generally warm and can get a bit humid the further north you go (Lake Tanganyika is especially hot). However, we did freeze in Central Zambia at the Mutinondo Wilderness. It just goes to show you there is no blanket scenario in terms of weather here.

Tanzania: We didn't go to this country to see waterfalls (though we totally could have if we budgeted another day at Ngorongoro Crater, but that's another subject). Instead, we came here to see wildlife. Generally, the further into the dry season you are (beyond June towards September/October) the better your chances of seeing wildlife as the water becomes more scarce and the wildlife congregate at water holes. Peak season is July-August. Our trip was in early June, and we arrived in time to see the wildebeest migration in the Western Corridor of the Serengeti. Even though we were there at the start of the so-called "dry" season [that doesn't mean there's no rain as it did indeed rain on a couple of days], wildlife sightings were stellar (especially after comparing it to other wildlife safaris we've been on in hindsight).

Uganda: Despite its position on the equator, the country is actually not all that hot and humid as say the Amazon jungle. That's because the country sits on a plateau (as part of the Rift Valley escarpment) between 3600-6000ft. There are two rainy seasons - March-May and October-November. Even though we were there in June, we still experienced some pockets of heavy rain north of Lusaka as well as the Sipi Falls area of Mt Elgon. Now these blurbs are just generalities. Certainly, there are also regional differences like the dry northeast of the country. Plus, our Ugandan guide said Global Warming messed everything up so he could no longer say for sure what's going to happen based on time of year.

Kenya: Since this country encompasses a wide diversity of ecosystems, there are also dramatic climatic variations - from the hot coastlines near Mombasa to the snow-capped Mt Kenya to the dry and dusty lands near Isiolo and the somewhat warmer, wetter regions near Nakuru. In fact, even the equator also crosses through Kenya, you'll find that its highland areas are quite mild thanks to the high altitude (after all, those highlands are where marathoners go to train). In the lower elevations, you can experience conditions that are a bit more tropical, but it seems rather mild relative to other tropical places in South America. In terms of wildlife sightings (besides the dry season is better condition due to scarcity of water), the wildebeest migration usually shows up to the Maasai Mara by the end of July and into August. In our situation (at the end of June), the migration didn't come to Kenya yet, but we did spot large herds of wildebeest grazing. However, wildlife sightings weren't nearly as good as in Tanzania. We're not sure how much of that was due driver/guide skill, Kenya's climate, or just bad luck. Nonetheless, Thomson's Falls (the lone waterfall we saw in Kenya) did have a healthy flow.

Egypt: This perpetually sunny country is pretty much dominated by the Sahara Desert. If it wasn't for the Nile River, there probably wouldn't be many people living there. That said, the high and low seasons are dependent on the temperature. We were there in June and it was scorching hot (so much so that people were getting sick and fatigued from the heat). It was not unusual to see 45-55 degrees Celsius (113-131 F) in the Nile Valley. Cairo saw temperatures around 30-40 degrees Celsius (86-104 F) with some humidity thanks to the Nile Delta nearby as well as some canals and pollution. The peak season here is in the winter (December-February) where the temperatures are more mild.

For more information about Africa's climate as well as maps providing visual clues on what to expect, check out these links:

Writeup on Climate by AfricanOnline

Climatic Map of Africa by Penn State University

Have A Great Story Or Comment You'd Like To Share?

Here's your chance to share them (as well as post a picture)!

Click here to see visitor comments

[Back to top]

[Return from When is the best time to visit? to the Africa Page]