October is for the intrepid traveller, and the reward is probably the best wildlife viewing of the year in Southern Africa. The peak safari season is well and truly over, the early summer heat has arrived, and there is very little standing water available for wildlife to drink. In the rainforest areas of East and Central Africa that are home to the great apes, the rainy season has commenced, making travel uncomfortable on those areas. The Mara-Serengeti ecosystem great wildebeest migration continues, and the river crossings in the north offer pulsating action.
Some call October in Southern Africa ‘suicide month’ because of the intense heat and the dry dusty conditions. Expect fewer tourists and exceptional wildlife viewing as thirsty animals crowd around the available water sources and become easier targets for predators.
Be sure to get up very early in the morning, while it is still dark, to avoid the intense heat and dust of mid-morning to late afternoon, during which time you should be back in camp and enjoying cool beverages and a refreshing dip in the pool. Remember to pack lightweight clothing to cover exposed areas, a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses and high factor sun lotion. Read this article for a more complete safari packing list and this article for more about the seasons in Africa.
Because there is very little surface water in Southern Africa, mosquitos are not usually a problem – but we still recommend that you take precautionary prophylaxis during this period.
The lack of water means that animals gather at whatever water sources remain in the parched landscape – especially water-dependant species such as elephants, buffaloes, wildebeest and zebras. And of course, the lions, leopards, wild dogs, cheetahs and hyenas are waiting for these easy meals, and this is a great time to see them in action as they target thirsty victims. This concentration of wildlife near water sources makes their movements more predictable, meaning that your guide will have an easier time finding them for you. Added to that is that many trees and shrubs have no leaves and grasses have dried up into stalks – so it’s a lot easier to see animals than during the lush rainy season. Some deciduous trees such as mopane start budding during October in anticipation of the first rains that are usually only a month away, and migrant birds have arrived and are starting to breed.
The Mediterranean regions of Cape Town and the Garden Route are in early summer, but you can still expect some wet and cool weather in October.
Places to consider for your October safari
October is a great time to visit the Greater Kruger National Park in South Africa, for all of the above reasons. The national park is busy throughout the year, 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 October. 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.
October is a great time to visit just about anywhere in Botswana. 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 bushveld away from the water is very dry and dusty, leading to excellent sightings as wildlife congregates at permanent water sources such as the Chobe River and perennial rivers feeding the northern floodplains.
In Zambia it’s leopard-central at the Luangwa Valley, and Kafue National Park is also in full safari mode. The seasonal bush camps of South Luangwa National Park are a particular treat for seasoned safari-goers and walking safari enthusiasts, and in their final month before closing down for the rainy season.
The Zimbabwe safari season is also in full swing now, with Hwange National Park attracting large numbers of elephants, lions and other species that are attracted to the pumped water and Mana Pools National Park providing some of the best elephant and wild dog encounters on foot.
And then there is Victoria Falls on both the Zambian and Zimbabwean sides, open for business throughout the year, and a must for any serious Africa-fanatic.
EAST AND CENTRAL AFRICA
October sees the herds of the Great Wildebeest Migration still spread out like flies over the great plains of Kenya’s Maasai Mara and Tanzania’s northern Serengeti. Most of the herd are now grazing the nutritious green grass and dodging lions, leopards, cheetahs and hyenas that track them all year round. Hang out along the Mara River (on either the Kenyan or Tanzanian side) for dramatic river crossings, as the herds wander back and forth. Click here for a month-by-month description of this, the greatest show on Earth.
It’s the rainy season in the mountain gorilla and chimp trekking areas of Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Kibale National Park and Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park, and it’s probably best to avoid travelling there at this time.
The same applies for the lowland gorilla trekking area of Odzala-Kokoua National Park in Congo (also good for bongos, forest buffaloes and forest elephants), where the rainy season has set in, and we advise no travel during this period.
Islands such as Zanzibar, the Seychelles and Mozambique’s Bazaruto Archipelago are superb in October, 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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