Southern Africa’s “green season” (December – April) is the off season for tourist travel—which makes it a great reason to visit then, as I recently discovered on Natural Habitat Adventure’s trip Botswana: Kalahari, the Delta & Beyond, which I took through part of WWF’s KAZA landscape during this past December and January.
Read on to find out if traveling at this unique time of year be right for you, too.
Five things you’ll get in green season that you won’t at other times of year:
1. Fewer tourists
Since this isn’t prime tourism season, there are fewer people in the camps and out on safari. This makes the trip feel much more exclusive—and allows for very intimate connection with the wild. There were many hours in our jeep where it felt like we were the only humans anywhere. The experience of turning off the motor and just listening to the quiet and the animal noises all around you, or sitting right in the middle of a secluded gathering of more than a hundred towering wild elephants, or hearing a solitary male lion just feet away from you begin to roar—all while not hearing another human-made sound—is an indescribably moving experience. You really do feel “at one” with the environment you are in.
2. Completely changed habitat
Most times of year, the landscape in these areas is very brown and dry. But during green season, the summer rains arrive, and you get the pleasure of seeing the entire landscape become green and bloom literally overnight. Every day of our trip, after each rainfall, we could see how much greener and more alive the landscape had gotten. It was an exhilarating feeling, for us, and apparently also for the animals, who often got much more active after a rainfall.
Green Season is also birthing season, so it’s the optimal time to see baby…everythings! Can you imagine how cute it is to see tiny baby warthog piglets running after their mama, with their tails sticking up in the air? Or how thrilling it is to come upon a giraffe mother nursing its calf? Or to see a leopard carrying her newborn cub in her mouth, right past you? Well, if you travel to KAZA during green season, you won’t need to imagine, because babies are everywhere, large and small—elephants, eagles, wild dogs, antelope, and even tortoises—we saw all these babies and more.
Most safari-goers hope to see the big predators like leopards, lions, cheetahs, and even crocodiles. Well, it’s a basic (if harsh) rule of the wild that when there are more babies around, there are also more predators around, looking for easy dinner opportunities. So with all the green season babies, travelers are more likely to see lots of predators. On my two-week safari alone, we saw 9 lions, 7 leopards, 3 cheetahs, and a good number of enormous crocodiles (I forgot to count those!).
5. Amazing photographic opportunities
Obviously, animal babies, big predators, and lots of greenery and water all around makes for beautiful photography. Plus, there are some gorgeous local species that only come out during this time of year, like butterflies for instance. And let’s not forget that because of the intermittent rain during green season, there are also lots of rainbows and dramatic lightning strikes to be captured. With all this available on a daily basis, it really does feel like even people who are inexperienced with photography (like me) really can’t help but get some stunning shots during green season.
Three more things you’ll get…
Obviously visiting during green season has some incredible advantages you won’t get any other time of year. But there are a few things to keep in mind when deciding if the trip is for you.
1. It’s hotter
This is a very hot time of year (although not the hottest) and many camps do not have air conditioning—though they do have showers, fans, and cooling towels. You have to be okay with getting quite sweaty every day and not worrying about it. The good news is everyone else is also hot and sweaty, so you won’t stand out.
2. It’s wetter
This is rainy season, and while that brings lots of benefits listed above, you need to be aware that you can’t predict what might happen with the weather. Some rains are very short, some last for hours. Your travel agenda may need to be reconfigured on the fly as a result. The ability to stay flexible is important.
3. It’s buggier
Obviously, heat and humidity after a rainfall is a favorite combo for insects. You simply can not avoid bugs being present during this time of year, so if you are excessively bothered by them, this season may not be for you. If you’re okay with some winged visitors hanging around, all the camps are all equipped with mosquito repellent and bed nets, which help keep some of these critters at bay.
In the end, only you can decide whether green season is the right time for you to visit. But as for my own experience with it, whatever minor inconveniences we encountered were far outweighed by the many benefits. Even seeing rain in Africa felt like a novelty I was lucky to experience!
By Deborah Ackerman, Senior Writer, WWF