When to Go Overlanding

Africa’s climate is as varied as the continent itself; if you decide on one of the longer overland trips - say from Nairobi to Cape Town - you’ll travel through a range of climatic zones and will undoubtedly encounter both good and bad weather along the way.

But there is another aspect to consider: most parts of Africa experience well-defined rainy and dry seasons which can radically change the nature of a landscape, dictate wildlife concentrations or movements and render many roads impassable. It’s vitally important to match your expectations with an understanding of these seasons and their effect.

Read our overview of the climate and seasons in East and Southern Africa below and then consult the table for more detailed climate information on specific countries to answer the question about when to go Overlanding.

East Africa

East Africa straddles the equator but that doesn’t mean that everywhere on the equator is hot: altitude is normally the determining factor. For example, many people are quite surprised at the mild climates of Uganda and inland Kenya: this is simply because most of this region is well above sea level.

East Africa’s short rains arrive in October and November when most afternoons there is a pounding of rain before the sun shines brightly again. These rains don’t lead to too much inconvenience whilst travelling, but it is the long rains from February to March when you might want to avoid travelling in East Africa: it’s not much fun rolling up a wet tent every morning or digging your truck out of the mud.

Southern Africa

Summer below the equator is from November to March which coincides with the rainy season although most days are clear and sunny. Little rain falls in the entire region between May and October, and these months are the coolest with the lowest numbers of mosquitoes.

Extreme weather is a feature of some Southern African destinations: in February and March the tropical coast of Mozambique gets heavy rain as well as the occasional cyclone and this is not the best time to travel there; the Zambezi Valley in Zimbabwe and Zambia become extremely hot during October and November before the onset of the rains; and Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe experience very heavy rain in January/February.

Botswana and Namibia receive little rain apart from the December to March summer months. These are desert or semi-arid regions, and like all deserts temperatures drop sharply at night. Camping out in the depths of winter here - July to August - is quite a challenge if you are not prepared for literally freezing temperatures.

South Africa

South Africa has an interesting climate: much of the country (including the Kruger and KwaZulu Natal) follows the climatic patterns of the rest of Southern Africa (hot, wet summer; dry, cool winter) but the Western Cape - and Cape Town in particular - is wet, cold and sometimes windy in the depths of the June - August winter period and hot, dry and often very windy in the November to April months.

Quick Guide on When to Go to East Africa

Kenya
Best Time for Migration: July - Nov
Dry Season: Jan - March
Rainy Seasons: April - June; Oct - Dec

Tanzania
Best Time for Migration: Nov - June
Dry Season: June - Oct
Rainy Seasons North & East: March - May, Oct - Dec
Rainy Season South & Central: Dec - April

Uganda
Best Times for Gorilla Trekking: Jan - Feb, June - Sept
Dry Seasons: Jan - Feb, June - Sept
Rainy Seasons: April - May, Oct - Nov

Rwanda
Best Times for Gorilla Trekking: Dec - Feb, June - Sept
Dry Seasons: Dec - Feb, June - Sept
Rainy Seasons: March - June, Oct - Dec

Quick Guide on When to Go to Southern Africa

Botswana
Best Game Viewing: May - Oct
Dry Season: May - Oct
Rainy Season: Nov - April

Namibia
Best Game Viewing: May - Oct
Dry Season: May - Oct
Rainy Season: Nov - April

Zambia
Best Game Viewing: May - Oct
Best Time for Vic Falls: March - May
Dry Season: May - Oct
Rainy Season: Nov - April

Zimbabwe
Best Game Viewing: May - Oct
Best Time for Vic Falls: March - May
Dry Season: May - Oct
Rainy Season: Nov - April

South Africa
Best Game Viewing: May - Sept (Kruger)
Dry Season: May - Sept (Kruger)
Rainy Season: Oct - April (Kruger)
Summer in Cape Town: November - March

Mozambique
Dry Season: May - Oct
Rainy Season: Nov - April
Malawi Dry Season: May - Oct
Rainy Season: Nov - April