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What is the "Green Season" in Africa?

The "Emerald Season" or "Low Season" for Safaris in Africa

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Baby warthogs

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When researching the best time to go on safari in Africa, you may have come across the term "green season". Safari companies and tour operators will also refer to it as the "emerald season", or the less colorful "low-season". What is this season in Africa, when is it, and is it worth booking a safari during that time?

When is the "Green Season"
In East Africa (for safaris in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda), the "green season" generally falls from December to May. In southern Africa (for safaris in Botswana, South Africa, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe) the "green season" tends to run from mid-November through April.

Why is Called the "Green Season?"
The "green season" matches the rainy season, when brown landscapes turn a million varieties of green. It rarely rains all day, you're likely to get showers and maybe some extra clouds, but you'll still see plenty of sun. Lots of baby animals are born at this time, hundreds of thousands of them on the Serengeti plains alone. It's also the perfect time to see birds.

Benefits of Going on safari During the "Green Season"
The "green season" is an excellent time to go on safari for the reasons listed below:

Exciting and Unpredictable -- Safari veterans often prefer the "green season" because spotting animals in dense foliage, with plenty of water to go around is more challenging and so the rewards seem greater. The dry season is traditionally the "high season" for safaris because among other factors, animals congregate around waterholes and are easier to spot (more about the "best time to go on safari"). During the green season the animals are more spread out, the grass is tall, and the bushes are bushy. A safari is therefore more of an adventure, you never know what you'll get to see, so it can be more exciting. The green season is therefore good for repeat safari clients who are not necessarily ticking off lists of animals they want to see for the first time.

Save Money - The best deals on safari lodging is always during the "green season". Some camps use this time to close down entirely and refurbish. Other camps may not be open due to poor road conditions during the rain. But the camps that stay open cut their rates and you can benefit greatly from reduced prices. More tips on cheap safaris...

Less Crowded - as with any off-season, the crowds are fewer and this is really a wonderful benefit to a safari at this time. No queues of mini-buses around a lion kill, or a race with other vehicles to spot a leopard. If you want to go gorilla tracking, it's easier to get permits during the rainy season.

More water based safaris on offer - one of my favorite ways to enjoy a safari is by cruising down a river and watching them come to the banks for a drink. It's cooler than a 4x4 and the sunsets are spectacular. Check out the Okavango Delta in Botswana during this season, and the South Luangwa Valley in Zambia. Waterfalls are very impressive during the green season, especially the grandaddy of them all, the Victoria Falls.

Birds and Babies - the best time for bird watching in both east and southern Africa is during the wet season as flowers bloom and insects abound. It's also baby season, since water and food are in much higher supply, many animals give birth at the beginning of the rainy season. Baby animals attract predators so there's lots of opportunity to witness nature at its most exciting.

The Great Migration - The great annual migration of millions of wildebeest and zebra is in full swing in middle and western end of the Serengeti during the "green season". It's best to time your visit as early in this season as possible, because the lodges and camps are in the center of the park, so usually an easy drive to see the huge herds. By then end of the "green season" the migration tends to head west and north, making it difficult to follow because the roads are a muddy mess.

Drawbacks of Going on Safari During the "Green Season"

There's a reason why less people go on safari during the "green season" and why you can get some great discounts on your safari, read on...

It's harder to spot wildlife - with dense foliage, plenty of water and muddy roads, a safari can be less rewarding during the green season. If you only have a few days on safari, or it's your first time and your expectations of seeing a huge amount of animals is high, then it may be best to avoid booking a safari during the green season.

It can be lonely - You may be the only guests at a smaller camp, for some this can feel a little isolating. Having a full staff on hand to serve you dinner, tend the bar and perform a traditional dance can be a little awkward. Sharing what you've just seen with other excited guests is always a highlight of a safari dinner, so you could miss out on the camaraderie.

Humid and buggy - The rains bring humidity and more bugs, so if you are afraid of flying and/or crawling beasties it may be best to plan your safari during the dry season. It's not fun pulling insects out of your teeth when you poke your head out of the sun roof of your safari vehicle. The rainy season also tends to coincide with the hottest time of the year in southern Africa, so be prepared to wear light clothing and book a few nights at a camp or lodge with a pool to cool off in.

Muddy Roads and Closed Camps - Safaris are in remote locations and you get around on dirt roads. If the rains have been good and strong, many smaller roads or even entire parks can shut down which limits your safari experience.

Would I go on safari during the Green Season? I prefer to go on safari during the green season. Not just because it's cheaper and less crowded, but I like a lush landscape. I really enjoy the birds and beautiful blooming trees and flowers. I've been on safari dozens of times, so I am not looking to spot the "Big Five" or a lion kill necessarily. I just love being out in the African bush and being surprised and excited by the little dramas that are played out. But to truly appreciate a green season safari you need a good guide and the best guides often work for the high end safaris. So I'd also recommend a luxury safari during this time of year.

If you have questions about planning your safari, you can see all my safari articles here, and you can also always e-mail me.

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