Rain Seasons | African Safari Guide

Rainbows over Okavango at Chitaba Camp. BotswanaRainbows over Okavango at Chitaba Camp. Botswana

What is meant by the rainy season and why does it affect travel to Africa in the way that it does?

The rainy season is the time when the life-giving rains bring new life to the wilderness areas of Africa, bringing forth new growth - and it is a time that is considered to be the low season with regards to safari travel. It is true that there are some areas that close to visitors during the rainy season due to inaccessibility but there are many more areas where the rains enhance the experience.

The seasons of Africa

With the location straddling the tropics safari Africa's seasons are generally wet and dry. The southern parts have one wet season and one dry season whereas East Africa will have the dry season but also have two wet seasons. The wet season refers to the rains and many areas are closed to travel during the rains due to inaccessibility.

In general what happens in the wilderness areas of Africa is that with the dry season much of the surface water dries up and the animals have to find sources of permanent water. These sources are usually in the form of a major river - or they may be artificial waterholes set up to provide water during the dry times - and they draw the wildlife from a long way away.

As the dry season deepens the vegetation in the proximity of these water sources is all but destroyed and the animals have to wander further each day in search of food - but will always return to the water source. For game viewing the winter months provide the opportunity to see the animals concentrating in areas of permanent water - and the denuded vegetation makes it easier to view animals.

Coming of the Rains

With the onset of the rains the winter-dry land will be studded with pools of water and the vegetation will begin to green. Animals will then not need to head to the permanent water sources as there will be sufficient water all over the wilderness - and the vegetation will be more nutritious than that sprouting around permanent water sources.

With a lot of water and food about - and no need to head to the permanent water - the animals will spread out over the wilderness. The vegetation will green providing a great deal of sustenance for the wildlife. What this does is provide more cover for the animals making them harder to spot.

Attracting the great herds

There are, however, many places in Africa where the rains may improve the game viewing. The plains of the Masai Mara and Serengeti are alive at all times of the year and the herds of the Great Migration are attracted by water and vegetation. In fact one of the most dramatic sights in Africa is that of the great herds concentrating on the southern plains of the Serengeti after the late rains have fallen.

It is true the rainy season affects the movement of game and that in some areas the wildlife viewing is severely inhibited during the wet rainy season but there are many wilderness areas that will awe visitors any time of the year.

African Safaris Guide to South and East Africa
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