The Best Off-Season Safari Experiences In East Africa : East Africa experiences distinct climate seasons, such as dry, shoulder, and wet seasons, just like other parts of the world. The behavior of wildlife and the growth of vegetation is impacted by weather changes. The animals will migrate, breed, and reproduce appropriately in both the savanna regions and the tropical rainforests.
THE DRY SEASON
In East Africa, the dry season lasts primarily from December to February and June to September. In general, this is the best time to go gorilla trekking in Uganda and Rwanda, as well as game viewing in Kenya and Tanzania.
The savanna vegetation shrinks, and some water sources dry up due to excessive sunshine and little rain. Large mammals like elephants, buffaloes, giraffes, and wildebeests therefore frequently congregate near perennial waterholes. The wildebeest migration, in particular, occurs in the dry season as the animals move in search of new water sources and fresh pasture in Serengeti National Park and Maasai Mara National Reserve.
On the other hand, certain plants that the primates eat shrink during the dry season in the tropical forests that are home to several primate species, including mountain gorillas, chimpanzees, and golden monkeys. In order to find new foliage, primates will typically venture further into the forests. While searching for and finding gorillas, for instance, in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park may take longer as a result, hiking on the dry forest trails becomes much simpler.
Variable day and nighttime temperatures, heat, and dust are characteristics of the dry season. For instance, in the Serengeti and Maasai Mara National Parks, daytime highs of 25°C and nighttime lows of 14°C are not uncommon. Samburu National Reserve and other northern semi-arid Kenya safari destinations will experience temperatures rising to 31°C and falling to 17°C. The Kidepo Valley National Park in northeastern Uganda is the same.
THE SHOULDER SEASON
“Shoulder season” is the interval between its high and low seasons. If you want to visit East Africa while the weather is dry and not too rainy, this is a great time to do so.
THE WET SEASON
In East Africa, the wet season is characterized by prolonged periods of heavy rain from March through May and from October through November. Heavy rains can occasionally result in flash floods and a lot of mud. Because of this, driving on muddy roads can be difficult and often necessitates the use of 44 vehicles.
Due to these situations, the majority of people tend to avoid traveling. But those who do can greatly benefit. Given that the high season draws huge numbers of visitors, it is actually quite the opposite during the wet season. The same locations will see few visitors during the off-season. As a result, travel agencies and lodging companies frequently offer discounts. There is a good chance that inexpensive safaris exist. Additionally, in some places, wildlife viewing can be enjoyable. Here are some advantages and crucial advice for anyone considering booking an off-peak safari in East African safari:
ADVANTAGES OF TRAVELING IN THE OFF-SEASON
The off-season has several advantages for people who want to travel alone, with friends, or with kids. The most obvious reasons are to avoid crowds, find affordable safaris, see young animals, and take in the lush surroundings.
Amazing game viewing, including sighting newborn animals
The off-season in Kenya and Tanzania is from March to June and from October to December. Given that game viewing occurs all year long, it is still possible to see the wildebeest migration, the Big 5, and flamingos during this time. Depending on the park, the animals might not be present in significant numbers. Therefore, the key is to make travel arrangements to specific locations, such as the southern Serengeti plains, in order to witness wildebeest calving. Additionally, most mammals are currently giving birth, increasing the likelihood of seeing young animals.
Wonderful time for bird watching
The adage that birds migrate south for the winter is probably one you’ve heard. Palearctic migrants, such as raptors, terns, storks, geese, gulls, and ducks, migrate through East Africa between March and September. The species move from the northern to the southern hemispheres, where rain and lush vegetation offer an abundance of food, including insects. In Uganda’s Mabamba wetland, which is famous for the shoebill stork in Entebbe on the shores of Lake Victoria, intra-African migrants can be seen, including the blue swallow.
Gorilla treks are usually shorter and more adventurous.
Fresh vegetation grows during the rainy season, and there is an abundance of food for wildlife. Mountain gorillas, in particular, prefer to feed in one location. Even if they do move, they’ll probably remain close to the park’s edge. The shorter duration of gorilla treks in Rwanda and Uganda during the low season has almost become the norm. However, the frequent rainstorms make hiking trails slick and muddy, adding to the adventure of gorilla trekking, particularly in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Due to the lack of undergrowth in the bamboo vegetation in parks like Volcanoes National Park and Mgahinga in the Virunga Mountains, the encounter is a little bit different there.
Discounted gorilla permits in Rwanda
In the off-season, Rwanda typically lowers the cost of a gorilla permit to as little as $500 for Africans and foreigners living in East Africa and $200 for East African citizens. Given that the same permit costs $1,500 during the peak season, this is a significant incentive. Bookings for permits can be made through the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) or travel agents such as Focus east Africa Tours. Check for any discounts on 2023 Rwanda gorilla safaris, as this promotion has been ongoing since the COVID-19 outbreak and is updated annually.
Low-cost safaris and lodging with no need to book in advance
The majority of lodges will offer reduced rates to boost occupancy due to low visitor numbers. Even for luxury safaris, the overall cost of the trip will decrease in the end. The ability to make last-minute reservations is the biggest benefit. In other words, the off-peak is the most cost-effective time to book an East African safari.
Scenic natural beauty for photography
The best time to visit for photography may be when the vegetation changes during the wet season into a green landscape. Less dust is present, and the clouds can produce breathtaking skies. Photographing newborns is a possibility for wildlife photographers.
TIPS AND GUIDELINES FOR OFF-SEASON TRAVELERS
Splash floods are frequently caused by heavy rain, which can make it difficult to travel on dirt roads to remote national parks. For instance, 4×4 vehicles are required for the road leading to Uganda’s Kidepo Valley National Park. When you make a reservation with a reputable tour operator, you can be sure that trained guides and necessary supplies will be provided for your safari.
Given that the weather is unpredictable, bring a few extra items. This must depend on your intended destination and your planned activities. You need rain jackets, waterproof gaiters, or high-knee hiking boots for gorilla trekking in Uganda, Rwanda, or the Democratic Republic of the Congo during the off-season. When planning to hike in the Rwenzori Mountains, Mount Kilimanjaro, Mount Meru or Mount Kenya, be sure to pack the appropriate equipment. Having extra gear is important for game drive safaris as well as mountain or primate trekking. There is a good chance that the savanna national parks in Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, and Tanzania will experience morning mist, excessive wind, or light rain. Some game-drive tracks may be so difficult that you must exit the vehicle.
WHERE TO GO FOR AN OFF-SEASON SAFARI IN EAST AFRICA
Uganda is one of the most culturally and biologically diverse countries in Africa, according to Winston Churchill’s findings in his book “My African Journey.” Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park is home to more than 56 indigenous tribes, more than 1,060 bird species (11% of Africa’s bird species), tree-climbing lions, and half of the world’s mountain gorilla population.
Including the snow-capped Rwenzori Mountains, the Virunga volcanoes, savannas, and tropical forests, the 10 national parks and 13 wildlife reserves cover a variety of habitats and landscapes. The Kibale forest is famous due to the fact that it is home to 13 primate species, including chimpanzees, gray-cheeked mangabeys, blue monkeys, Demidoff’s potto, and black-and-white colobus monkeys.
A variety of affordable African safaris are available in Uganda, including gorilla game viewing safaris by boat, cultural tours, white-water rafting, mountain climbing, butterfly watching, birding, and spot fishing. Additionally, there are numerous opportunities for avid nature and wildlife photographers. The dry season, which lasts from December to February and June to September, is the ideal time to visit Uganda.
Uganda is situated across the equator, though, so the climate is consistently warm and cool, even in the shoulder seasons of April to May and October to November. Eight of the ten protected areas are located in the western part of Uganda, where the majority of safaris occur. Four of the five savanna parks—Toro-Semliki Wildlife Reserve, Queen Elizabeth, Murchison Falls, and Lake Mburo National Parks—as well as the Bwindi and Mgahinga gorilla parks—are among them.
The vast Narus valley and the rough volcanic mountain ranges in the north-eastern region, known as Karamoja, have a semi-arid climate and turn green and spectacular during the low season. Kidepo Valley and Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve, Uganda’s second-largest protected area, are two of the main attractions in the area. The only places in Uganda to see cheetahs and ostriches are both of these.
The majority of the country’s wildlife species, such as roan antelope, white-eared kobs, Aardwolves, and black-backed jackals, are uncommon in other regions. Entebbe Airport and Kampala’s capital city are also located in the central region. Your safari will probably start or end there, and there are options for day trips like whitewater rafting and going to Jinja to see where the Nile River originates. With access to the Ssese islands and the chimpanzee sanctuary at the Ngamba islands, Entebbe town is located along the northern shores of Lake Victoria.
The capital city of Nairobi and the port of Mombasa are easily accessible from Kenya’s great wildlife destinations thanks to the country’s strong infrastructure. The peak season (July to October) is the best time to travel because you have a good chance of seeing the great migration of wildebeest crossing the Mara River in the Masai Mara National Reserve.
The northern, less visited Laikipia Plains, Mount Kenya, or Samburu National Parks could be added to your itinerary if you don’t want to miss the great migration but also want to avoid crowds. There are private wildlife conservancies like Ol Pejeta and Lewa Wilderness that offer uncommon activities like camel riding and elephant tracking on foot with a ranger. These locations see fewer visitors even during the busiest times of the year.
The best time to go to Kenya is in the off-season, though. Travel during the brief rains in March, May to June, and November to December to avoid the wettest month of April. The safari lodges in popular locations like Amboseli, Lake Nakuru, and Tsavo National Parks typically offer discounted rates because there aren’t many tourists there.
Additionally, Kenya’s low season coincides with those in Uganda and Rwanda, giving travelers the chance to combine their east Africa safaris. The East African tourist visa is available for booking through the website of the country from which you plan to depart on your trip, making travel to both countries possible. A trip to Mombasa, the Lamu Islands, or Diani Beach combined with a Kenya wildlife safari offers the best of African experiences.
Some of the natural wonders of the world can be found in Tanzania, including the Serengeti National Park, Ngorongoro Crater, and Mount Kilimanjaro, which is the tallest mountain in Africa. Numerous wild animals, including the Big Five mammals, the annual migration of the wildebeest, and endangered species like cheetahs and African wild dogs, call both of these protected areas home.
Tanzania is home to some of Africa’s best beach destinations, in addition to its wildlife. Zanzibar is a group of tropical islands. From Dar es Salaam, the largest commercial port in the nation, a 3-hour ferry ride will take you to Stone Town, the Zanzibar’s capital city. Abeid Amani Karume International Airport is another way for visitors to get there.
You can fly into Kilimanjaro International Airport in Tanzania’s northeast when visiting for a safari. This makes it simple to reach popular locations like the Serengeti, Tarangire, Lake Manyara, Ngorongoro Crater, and Mount Kilimanjaro. The domestic airport in Arusha town is to the east of Kili airport.
The parks are more easily accessible if you start in Arusha because Tarangire or Lake Manyara are both 127 km2 (2 hours away). The off-season in Tanzania is from January to March and from November to December. This is the time of year to see the Grumeti Reserve’s rutting and mating season and the wildebeest birthing season in the southern Serengeti plains.
Due to rain, expect both hot and wet weather. The once-golden savanna plains turn breathtakingly green. The Maasai, semi-nomadic pastoralists who speak Nilotic, and the Kuria, cultivators who speak Bantu, are two indigenous groups that surround this park.
Recently, the Tanzanian government has urged its citizens to adopt more contemporary lifestyles, such as going to school and practicing sustainable agriculture. But both of these tribes are committed to keeping their traditions alive through tourism, which gives them the means to continue producing their traditional arts and crafts. While visiting the Serengeti, you can stop by the nearby Maasai villages to learn more about their rich cultural heritage and perhaps purchase some of their handicrafts as souvenirs.