An African Summer at the Beach
When people think of a hot, sun-soaked holiday, most think of a beach holiday. From Cape Town’s icy swells to sweltering Seychelles, Africa’s beaches and islands are at their best in the first few months of the year.
Unlike the rest of Africa Cape Town shrugs off its rainy season at the end of winter and produces hot, sunny days without a drop of rain. March has to be my favourite month in Cape Town; long, warm, windless days to explore Table Mountain, the Peninsula towns, the Cape Winelands and of course, the numerous beaches of Cape Town.
For an extended South African beach holiday drive up the East Coast from Cape Town to the beaches, forests, coastal towns and fun-filled activities of the Garden Route. Keep going north to reach the Wild Coast and the wild beaches of KwaZulu Natal. The sea gets steadily warmer and more tropical as you travel north allowing you to spend hours splashing in the waves before drip-drying in the sun.
If your dream sun-drenched holiday comes with palm trees, Indian Ocean and laid-back island living then set your sites on the Indian Ocean Islands of Mauritius or Seychelles. It’s summer in the tropics so although you might encounter some brief rain showers, this is the time to go for hot beach days and maximum sun exposure.
The islands of Zanzibar are the perfect accompaniment to an East African summer safari; excellent game viewing topped off with shimmering beaches, welcome ocean breezes, and refreshing cocktails served under palm trees. These early months also offer excellent diving in a bit of ocean known the world over for its great dive sites.
For something completely different try a beach holiday on Lake Malawi. A few late rains may interrupt your sun tanning, but it will be hot and humid as you explore deserted coves by kayak and swim through schools of colourful cichlids.
Southern Mozambique’s beaches are best avoided until later in the year when the unbearable humidity and threat of cyclones have passed. However, the northern Mozambique islands of the Quirimbas escape the traditional cyclone path and make great island holiday destinations for heat seekers.
An African Summer on Safari
The rule of thumb is that the dry winter months are best for game viewing in Southern Africa as the animals are easier to spot through the thin vegetation, and water sources attract the thirsty. The summer rainy season results in thick, lush vegetation full of new life. Young wildlife explores this fresh new world and the landscape quivers with birdlife.
However, in East Africa the first three months of the year are not considered the rainy season although a welcome afternoon thundershower could occasionally cool things down; perfect safari weather. In fact, these are the best months for a Tanzanian safari, as the wildebeest migration and all its hangers on have moved into the southern Serengeti where they the cycle of birth and death provides the greatest show on earth.
Kenya is a very rewarding game viewing destination just about all year round, with frequent sighting of the Big 5, elephant, rhino, lion, leopard and buffalo. With the famous migration having moved into Tanzania by January, February you might even be able to find some good travel deals at the Kenyan lodges.
There are some good travel deals in the Okavango Delta at this time of year too. Although be sure to choose your Delta accommodation carefully as not all lodges will offer water-based activities at this time of year. The Delta safari season lags behind as it waits for the summer rainfall in the rest of Southern Africa to filter into its wetlands.
The Kalahari is a great African summer safari destination, but maybe a bit too hot? Well at this time of year the summer rains have arrived to cool things down a bit and produce vast plains of green grass, leafy trees and far more vegetation than a desert is really entitled to. This abundant food source attracts herds of herbivores which in turn attract the predators making for great game viewing. The birding is also incredible during these early months with various raptor and migrant species keeping the twitchers happy.
The Southern Africa safari destinations of Zimbabwe, Zambia and Kruger Park are hot this time of year, very hot. Although not the best time for game viewing, rest assured, the animals are still there. There is also a special buzz in the air at this time of year; the background hum of insects, the hazy heat of late morning and the electrified air just before a thundering afternoon storm.
For a particularly refreshing shower, visit the spectacular Victoria Falls. By February the summer rains have filled the Zambezi River which thunders over the edge of Zambia as the most impressive wall of water in the world.
The Eastern Cape reserves are closer to the coast making them moderately cooler; they are great for game viewing and combine effortlessly with the beaches of the Garden Route.
If heat and sun are what you are after, an African summer definitely delivers. The beaches are at their best and the wilderness areas always provide a special kind of magic. Find a safari lodge with a large refreshing swimming pool or your own private plunge pool to laze around between game drives to make the most of your African summer.