December is a wonderful time to go on an African safari, with the warm and sunny weather creating ideal travel conditions. In some areas it’s very hot with cooling rainstorms while in other areas it’s the beginning of the full-on rainy season. The rains in some parts have transformed the landscapes into lush green paradises, enticing a diverse range of wildlife. The rainstorms disperse the herds from the watering holes, where they form smaller groups, and spread them across the grasslands and savannas.
Certain regions offer extraordinary scenery and an exceptional game-watching experience during December. It’s a popular time for visitors, especially families on festive holidays, so planning ahead and securing the right accommodations is crucial for the best experience and deals. Here’s a list of the best places to visit in December for an African safari:
December is the short rainy season in Tanzania, often only overnight rains, and the hottest month with high temperatures. The festive period from mid-December to mid-January is a popular time to visit and it’s worth noting that safari destinations and coastal resorts are busy and more expensive.
In the eastern Serengeti National Park you can spot the wildebeest migration as the vast herds move southwards. The migration attracts predators such as lions, hyenas, and leopards, who follow the herds, looking for opportunities to make a kill. It is an important time for giraffes, elephants and buffalos this is the start of the birthing season for them.
The scenic wonder that is the Ngorongoro Crater together with its neighbour, the Serengeti National Park, offers exceptional game viewing. However, don’t overlook the lesser-known reserves such as Katavi, Ruaha and Selous, which are less-visited gems, perfect for the more adventurous safari travellers looking to experience other areas of Tanzania. In addition, Mahale rainforest and mountains is a great spot for trekking and is home to endangered chimpanzees.
- 5 Days Wildebeest Migration, Tarangire, Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater
- 5 Days Mahale Mountain National Park Safari
South Africa beckons with its popular safari destinations like Kruger National Park and Sabi Sands. These renowned parks provide luxury safari experiences and are home to Africa’s iconic “big five”: lions, elephants, rhinos, buffalos, and leopards. As the rains transform the wilderness into lush green habitats, migratory birds and a variety of antelopes begin to appear. And where there are antelope there are predators!
If you are looking for a tranquil beach vacation, KwaZulu Natal offers stunning beaches and coral reefs for scuba diving. KwaZulu Natal is also home to the 960 km2 Hluhluwe–iMfolozi Park, the oldest proclaimed nature reserve in Africa and renowned for its rhino conservation efforts. Addo National Park in the Eastern Cape has over 600 elephants as well as lion, buffalo, black rhino, leopard and spotted hyena, and is the third largest national park in South Africa.. The Central Kalahari region is a hidden gem in December, boasting natural habitats teeming with antelopes and cheetahs and black-maned lions.
December is the period of short rains, which means that prices are sometimes lower (except possibly the festive period), and wonderful warm weather. The premier national park, the Masai Mara National Reserve is an ideal safari location for spotting elephants, lions, leopards and rhinos. Most of the migrating herds of zebra, wildebeest and Thomson’s gazelle have moved south to the eastern Serengeti in Tanzania by now, but there is a chance to catch the last stragglers and the following calving season. The short rains also welcome a huge influx of migratory bird species.
Meanwhile, December is the perfect time to experience Kenya’s stunning coastline, with water conditions ideal for snorkelling and diving. The weather is always more hot and humid along the coast, and for stays during the festive period, book early as it’s a popular time to visit.
December is the summer season and rainy season in Botswana, often with spectacular thunderstorms. Some areas may not be accessible with the rains making tracks impassable. The summer heat and afternoon rains transform the lands into verdant grazing grounds, attracting large herds of elephants, buffalos and zebras. There is also abundant bird watching in the Okavango Delta, with migratory bird species arriving to escape the cold climes of the northern hemisphere.
December is the birthing season for impalas and springboks, which almost certainly guarantees sightings of predators too – leopards, cheetahs, lions and wild dogs. The Kalahari Desert metamorphoses into a lush green oasis with the rains, offering incredible wildlife sightings. The Savuti area of Chobe National Park and the Kalahari have lower crowds and offer a great safari experience in December.
Zimbabwe is a fantastic destination for a safari adventure in December – the weather is warm with rains in the afternoons which clear the air, and its the low season with less visitors so it can be a great value time to travel here. There is a wide variety of resident and migratory birds, plenty of wildlife to see and a variety of national parks and game reserves to explore. Hwange National Park in the west of the country, one of the largest game reserves in Africa, boasts an impressive population of elephants and lions while its grasslands and mopane woods are home to African wild dogs.
Mana Pools National Park is another popular destination, known for its stunning floodplains and large herds of buffalo and elephants and Matobo Hills National Park is a must-see, with its unique rock formations and population of black and white rhinos.
Namibia generally has low visitor numbers, which makes for a more intimate safari experience. December is the hot and humid rainy season in December in Namibia. The rains thicken the vegetation meaning it can be harder to spot wildlife which also disperses as water sources become more plentiful. Etosha National Park, the most popular park in Namibia, is home to an abundance of wildlife, including lions, leopards, elephants and rhinos, which gathers around the waterholes.
With its rugged coastline and unique desert landscapes, the Skeleton Coast National Park is known for its shipwrecks and is a fascinating place to visit. It’s a hostile environment, but you may still see some wildlife such as brown hyena, desert lion, jackal, kudu, zebra or desert adapted elephant. Another one of Namibia’s renowned attractions is its stunning western desert environments, with the towering sand dunes of Sossusvlei in Namib Naukluft National Park.
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