When is the Best Time to Go on Safari in East Africa?

By Micato Staff May 30, 2019

You often hear in life that, “timing is everything.” Fortunately for you, there’s never a wrong time to embark on an African safari with Micato. While weather patterns may change, you’re certain to have an amazing experience regardless of whether you choose to travel in November or in July.

A major attraction for people on safari is witnessing the great wildebeest migration. Therefore, we’ve put together a guide to give you a good idea of what you can expect throughout the year and seasons in East Africa. With that said, let’s dive right in.

First, A Note on the Great Migration

Before we give you a month by month rundown on travelling to East Africa, we want to touch upon the great wildebeest migration a bit further. This huge, constant migration of over a million wildebeest is truly a sight to behold. Not to mention the wildebeest are accompanied by another half million mix of zebras, gazelle, and elands. This massive array of animals makes game viewing excellent and the possibilities of what you may see or encounter on safari truly endless.

While you may think it difficult to properly time your vacation based on certain aspects of the migration, you’ll be pleased to hear it’s not. Granted, the migration can be a bit variable depending on the unique rainfall patterns each season, but coordinating a migration specific safari isn’t as hard as you’d think.

January Through April

Let’s start when the new year kicks off, shall we? As January begins, the herd typically finds itself on the plains of the Serengeti to the south. Throughout January and February, the plains are absolutely packed with animals. With wildebeest everywhere, the collective mooing is quite loud in the wide open space.

While you may be amazed at the sheer number of wildebeest and zebra you’ll see (and hear!) on the plains, their numbers will grow significantly before March is through. You see, calving season begins in late January running through to March where nearly half a million wildebeest are born. This timeframe is when you’re most likely to spot young animals on safari, so get those cameras out and ready.

While new mothers and their young roam the Serengeti plains, predators will naturally move into the area as well. All of these densely packed wildebeest, zebra, gazelle, and eland attract the attention of cheetahs, lions, and hyenas. This is one of the rare times you’ll see lions and cheetahs occupying the same area, as they are natural competitors for game. For both parties, however, the sheer number of opportunities are too enticing to pass up.

From January to March is stellar for safari game viewing. At this time of the year, Africa is absolutely pulsing with life. Lush green is everywhere and the plains and the animals inhabiting them are simply thriving, with lovely views in any direction you look.

Pro Tip: If you fancy photography, January might be one of the best times for you to capture beautiful landscape shots, especially during sunrise and sunset. Everything from the colours to the scenery is superb.  

The plains will get continually drier throughout March, with the rains arriving late in the month. Late March all the way through April are when the “long rains” arrive. At Micato, we don’t have any departures to East Africa in April due to the excessive precipitation. If you’re eager to travel in April, we suggest a magnificent trip to Southern Africa instead.

May Through June

After the “long rains” of April, the dry season will begin its approach and the migrating herds will make their way towards the Grumeti River. If your safari is particularly focused in Tanzania, you’ll likely have the opportunity of witnessing the great herd cross the Grumeti River. While you might think of a river crossing as simple, this one is anything but. With thousands of wildebeest looking to cross at a time, hungry crocodiles lie in waiting for a chance bite. It’s quite an action-packed!   

Things continue to dry up throughout June. In addition to the herd, you’ll likely spot hippos and crocodiles in the Grumeti River, along with the elephants and Cape buffalo in the forests along the river banks. This period of time, like any other, is a spectacular time to safari.

July Through October

As July makes its way onto the scene, the grasses around the Grumeti River are severely depleted and the herd finds itself moving on. For most of the next three months, the herd will situate itself in the northern regions of the Masai Mara in Kenya. The Mara is home to rolling grasslands, stunning vistas, and extraordinary wildlife. In short, it’s gorgeous. Since the grasslands here are particularly rich at this time of year, they support the large herd for the next few months. As the herd congregates in droves among the grasses, lions will begin making an appearance. The Mara River is a hotspot for wildlife activity from July through October. A thrilling experience awaits in the Masai Mara at this time of year, and it never disappoints.

As October comes about, remarkable rain clouds begin rolling in to herald the “short rains” season but don’t fret as this is still a lovely time to spend your days in Africa. Anticipating the oncoming rain, the herd begins winding its way south back to the Serengeti. October can be one of the most surprising times to set off on safari since the rains can bring parts of the herd to new areas seemingly overnight.

November Through December

The “short rains” truly arrive in November, which sees the herd heading deeper into the southern region of the Serengeti. This is a particularly great time for walking safaris, as the local scenery is incredible and you get a good mix of plains and woodlands. It’s worth noting how lovely the plains are at this time of year too. Genuinely great photography opportunities and wildlife encounters await those who travel to the Serengeti in November.   

As December draws near, the herd is again fully situated in the southern plains of the Serengeti. They’ve come full circle since January and will remain for a while to feast on the bountiful short grasses the southern plains provide. December is one of the best times to encounter scores of wildebeest and zebra as they gather on the plains. This is, again, a great time to spot big cats as they continue to follow the herd’s trajectory. Due to all this activity, it’s a perfect time to get everyone together for a multi-generational family trip to East Africa for safari. What better way to celebrate the holidays with your loved ones than by having a once in a lifetime experience in the Serengeti?   

East Africa is a Great Destination All Year Round

No matter how you spin it, East Africa is excellent for safari adventures any time of the year. If you’re looking for an unrivaled vacation, a safari through East Africa with Micato has everything you desire and more. Contact our Safari Experts to start planning your trip and experience the wonder of East Africa for yourself!    


Want to discuss when and where to travel in East Africa?

Up Next: Kenya: A Country That Thinks Green