December in Africa means long hot days, the odd thunderstorm, and the transition of the bushveld from browns and yellows to green. This is the breeding season, and there are young animals and birds everywhere! The bush literally buzzes with excitement and abundance. In contrast to the short, dark days of the Northern Hemisphere festive season’s white Christmas, Africa celebrates the end of the year with colour and vibrancy.
Expect fewer tourists than during the peak safari months, although local school holidays in South Africa can result in national parks and coastal areas being crowded for most of December. Many lodges away from easily accessible areas offer discounts at this time of year, so be on the lookout for special rates. Read this article about finding more affordable lodge accommodation based on the time of year: How to find luxury safari lodges at a discount.
Wildlife viewing can be patchy in places, particularly if the early rains have been good, but bird-watching is fantastic because of the breeding activities and the presence of summer migrants. This is a good time to enjoy the smaller things celebrating this time of plenty, such as the emergence of frogs and tortoises from their dry season hibernations, and the convergence of eagles, snakes and even leopards to feast on flying ants that emerge after rain to start their breeding cycle.
Be sure to pack lightweight clothing to cover exposed areas, a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses and high factor sun lotion. And, of course, keep a raincoat nearby, for the odd shower. Read this article for a more complete safari packing list and this article for more about the seasons in Africa.
Please be aware of mosquitoes – wear long sleeve shirts and pants during the dark hours, sleep under a mozzie net and apply some form of repellent liberally. We recommend that you take precautionary prophylaxis during this period – please consult your doctor.
Places to consider for your December safari
Cape Town and the Garden Route are in full festive season party mode, with excellent opportunities to wine, dine and chill on the beaches. Perhaps combine coastal celebrations with some bush time? Read more about bush & beach combo safari to Cape Town and Kruger.
The Greater Kruger National Park in South Africa is good for all seasons, and December is no exception. The national park is busy throughout the year, especially during school holidays, and we recommend rather the private reserves on the western edge of the park, where privacy adds to the experience, and excellent guiding increases your chances of spotting the Big 5 (lions, leopards, elephants, rhinos and buffaloes).
Also in South Africa, we highly recommend a safari to Madikwe Game Reserve in December. Not only is this a malaria-free area, it is also an excellent place to spot the Big 5 and other sought-after species such as cheetahs, wild dogs and brown hyenas.
In Botswana many lodges are offering good green season discounts. Be aware that the annual Okavango Delta floodwaters from the Angolan highlands have receded, and only permanent deep-water channels still offer water activities such as boating and mokoro outings.
The adventure capital of Victoria Falls, on both the Zambian and Zimbabwean sides, is open for business throughout the year, and a must for any serious Africa-fanatic.
EAST AND CENTRAL AFRICA
December sees the herds of the Great Wildebeest Migration heading towards Tanzania’s southern Serengeti, in anticipation of the nutritious green grass and the coming breeding season. Click here for a month-by-month description of this, the greatest show on Earth.
Kenya’s Maasai Mara is now enjoying its ‘secret season’, when tourists are few and resident predators get to ambush the large numbers of prey species that do not follow the migrating herds. Resident species such as Thomson’s gazelles, impalas, warthogs, topis and Coke’s hartebeests have recently calved, or are about to – easy picking for the big cats made famous by BBC’s Big Cat Diaries. For many Kenyan locals, this is the best time to be in the Maasai Mara.
Islands such as Zanzibar, the Seychelles and Mozambique’s Bazaruto Archipelago are superb in December, making a combined bush-and-beach vacation an irresistible choice.
Read this article about finding more affordable lodge accommodation based on the time of year: How to find luxury safari lodges at a discount.
Read other ‘Safari in Africa’ month posts:
WHERE TO FROM HERE?
FLY WITH AIRLINK
The Africa Geographic team flies with Airlink, who offer multi-destination flight options across southern Africa and a convenient Lodge Link program, direct to popular lodges in the greater Kruger National Park and beyond.
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