Seasons of the Southern African Bush

Safaris 4 Africa • 19 March 2014

Wild Zambezi is grateful to the Destination Management Company, Safaris 4 Africa, which has written this useful guide to the seasons in the Southern African bush. 

JANUARY: THE BUSH IS VERY ALIVE

Spectacular afternoon thunderstorms.  Temperatures warm - Daytime average 86F. Night time average 68F.  Peak period for colourful migrant birds, breeding plains game. Excellent wildflowers and brilliant green foliage. Constant sounds day and night from insects and birds.  Game viewing average - predators active.  Ideal month for photography with brilliant colours and dramatic skies.

FEBRUARY: NOISY AND ALIVE
Wet and dry spells.  Afternoon thunderstorms with dramatic skies and sounds. Temperatures warm -  high.  Daytime average 86F. Night times average 68F. Vegetation rampant with growth.  Ripe figs attract fruit bats.
Water lilies, butterflies, birds, frogs etc abundant. The giant bullfrog emerges from months and sometimes years of hibernation to indulge in nocturnal feeding frenzies. Resident wildlife enjoins plentiful water and growing young.

MARCH: VISIT NOW AND SEE WHY THE VICTORIA FALLS ARE TRULY ONE OF THE 7 WONDERS OF THE WORLD

Temperatures still warm both day and night but the air is drier and rains less frequently.  The Zambezi River is in full spate & the Victoria Falls are incredible and powerful.  River rafting is often closed at this time.  The Marula trees are fruiting and attract bull elephants who wander from tree to tree in search of their favourite meals.  The start of the rutting leads to the sleek and fat male impala snorting and cavorting to attract
females.

APRIL: THE FIRST SIGNS OF THE CHANGING SEASON APPEAR
Night time temperatures drop to below 68F but daytime temperatures are still high.  Cooler mornings with high humidity lead to wonderful early morning mists especially over water.  The impala rut is in full swing, with major clashes between rival males and noise continuing through the night.  Baboon are often seen with impala as they assist with the safety of the preoccupied impala.  Trees have now flowered and fruit is ripening.  Massive sausages hang from the Sausage Trees.  The reptiles are actively breeding and feeding in anticipation of the dry about to start.

MAY: FLOOD WATERS RAISE WATER LEVELS
The rains are over.  Nights are cooler - averaging 59F. Daytime is warm - not more than 95F. Jackets are advisable for night drives.  Buffalo and elephant begin to group into larger herds.  Seasonal pans begin to dry. The green colours start to fade into the duller dry season colours. The predators begin to enjoy themselves again as their colours blend with their surroundings. The migratory birds begin their flights to winter feeding and breeding grounds in faraway places.

JUNE: AN EXCITING TIME

Temperatures are their coldest by end June - at night as low as 41F.  Very cold on early morning and night drives due to the wind chill. Daytime temperatures very comfortable up to 77F. Dusty dry conditions begin to dominate. The African Wild Dogs look for a den.  Some green bushes and trees persist, but most are losing their leaves. Pans are drying up everywhere. Animals now concentrate at the permanent water as do their predators.

JULY: ANIMALS CONGREGATE NEAR WATER AND FLOODPLAINS

Nights are still cold but days are marginally warmer, sunny and clear. Wildlife concentrations around permanent water are rewarding for game viewing. Soft early morning and evening light combine with dust to provide excellent photo opportunities.

AUGUST: PLENTY OF ACTION AND WITH PATIENCE AND PERSEVERANCE, THE REWARDS ARE GREAT
The weather is warming, even at night - daytime average 86F, nighttime average 50F. The herds are getting larger, and limited space near the water leads to tension between the breeding herds of elephant.  The nights are filled with elephant sounds.  The bush is bare and dust pervades.  The herons, storks and other birds begin nest building.

SEPTEMBER: THE CLIMATE HAS CHANGED. WINTER IS ALL BUT GONE
Nighttime temperatures rise rapidly within the month and by month's end average 59F with daytime temperatures soaring into the 80sF.  Sunny days, clear skies and dry air.  High concentrations of elephant and buffalo.  Predators are busy - a time of plenty for lions. The colourful carmine bee-eaters and other migrant birds return from their winter grounds.  Water levels start to drop.  The fish begin to get active.  Some trees start to get their Spring flush of new leaves.

OCTOBER: IT'S REALLY HOT, BUT GAME VIEWING IS EXCEPTIONAL.

Daytime temperatures regularly rise above 104F and nights are warm - average in the high 60F.  Morning game viewing activities start very early and night drives depart later to avoid the heat of the day.  There is no place for the animals to hide, everything is bare and the grasses are either eaten or trampled.  The pervading dust makes all scenes dramatic.  Night drives are the best.   There are fishing frenzies with the annual catfish run in the rivers.  Birds are in full activity with thousands breeding and nesting.

NOVEMBER: WONDERFUL PHOTOGRAPHY WITH EXCELLENT COLOUR, ACTION AND VISIBILITY

Temperatures remain high both day and night.  The first rains begin normally around mid-November.  Game viewing excellent as the animals await an end to the dryness and dust, and feel relief once the rain comes.  They then disperse to feed on new vegetation and drink from the seasonal pans that have formed.  The birthing season begins. Predators seek out the vulnerable young and kill many times a day to get their fill - plenty of action.  Trees burst into life and short green grass begins to appear.   Excellent visibility.

DECEMBER: THE PANS FILL AND THE COLOURS SHINE IN BRILLIANT GREEN

The rains become more regular with thunderstorms every few days.  The impala complete their lambing and protein-rich grasses feed the mothers while the lambs and calves grow at astounding speed.  Grazers enjoy the green, tender mouthfuls.  Predators are active, but their winter camouflage lets them down and they have to work harder for their catch.  The bush becomes denser providing more hiding places for the predators to stalk their prey from.   All the migrant birds have returned.

 

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