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Elephants at waterhole in Greater Kruger National Park, South Africa
Elephant herd in Greater Kruger National Park © Simon Espley

July in Africa finds you in prime safari season across southern and East Africa, with fantastic wildlife sightings and high visitor numbers in national parks and wildlife reserves. You will have booked your safari many months ago, because lodges in good areas are sold out during July, with waiting lists.

Temperatures and humidity levels have dropped considerably from the highs of the rainy summer season, and the dark hours can be chilly – especially if you are near bodies of water and at higher altitudes. Remember to pack those scarves, gloves and beanies for the game drives.

Read this article for a complete safari packing list and this article for more about the seasons in Africa.

From mid-morning and most of the daylight hours, short sleeves are still the norm, with comfortable daytime temperatures in the mid to late twenties (Celsius). Many of those pesky mosquitoes and other insects have largely disappeared, and although the risk of malaria is lower during the cool, dry months, we recommend that you still take precautionary prophylaxis during this period.

The previously verdant green grass and shrubs have reverted to dry stalks, and it is now far easier to spot those elusive leopards and lions.

July
Leopards are easier to see in July because of the thinning vegetation ©Simon Espley

The lack of rain combined with the drying up of temporary groundwater sources (pans, wallows, non-perennial rivers etc.) results in animals having to frequent permanent water sources such as perennial rivers, dams and deep pools. Many grazing species such as elephant, buffalo, wildebeest and zebra that fan out during the wet months into the vast, remote backcountry to find nutritious green grass have now returned to areas nearby the tourism lodges – bringing the predators with them. This concentration of wildlife near water sources makes wildlife movements more predictable, meaning that your guide will have an easier time finding them for you.

Of course, there will be exceptions to these seasonal norms – including Cape Town and the Garden Route, where the Mediterranean climate brings wet and cold weather in July.

July safari
The herds crossing the Grumeti River ©Frank Gabriel

Places to consider for your July safari

SOUTHERN AFRICA

July is a great time to visit the Greater Kruger National Park in South Africa, especially in the late weeks of the month – once local school holidays are over. But, of course, this is prime safari season, so expect plenty of fellow wildlife enthusiasts. We recommend the private reserves on the western edge of the park, where privacy and lack of crowds add 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 July. Not only is this a malaria-free area, but it is also an excellent place to spot the Big 5 and other sought-after species such as cheetahs, wild dogs and brown hyenas.

Elephant at waterhole with guests watching on in Madikwe Game Reserve
Madikwe Game Reserve is an excellent place to spot the Big 5 © Anton Kruger

July is also a great time to visit just about anywhere in Botswana. The annual floodwaters have arrived in the Okavango Delta from their origin in the Angolan highlands, and this water wonderland is buzzing with life. Seasonal water sources from rain season downpours throughout Botswana have dried up, and wildlife congregates at permanent water sources such as the Chobe River and perennial rivers feeding the northern floodplains.

In Zambia,  the annual floodwaters have dried up, and wildlife paradises such as the Luangwa Valley and Kafue National Park are 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.

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

July is mating season in Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park and that fantastic spectacle, the Great Wildebeest Migration, is moving northwards through the western corridor of the park. Crossings of the Grumeti River are dramatic and worth the effort – but the Serengeti is vast and relatively under-developed with lodges, and so river crossings are harder to find. The herds graze their way northward, as they move toward the Maasai Mara in Kenya. Click here for a month-by-month description of this, the greatest show on Earth. Maasai Mara in Kenya is also a good bet (at any time of year) because even though the migration has not yet arrived, resident predators and prey species are plentiful, and the hordes of tourists have not yet arrived.

Trekking for mountain gorillas, chimps and golden monkeys in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Kibale National Park and Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park is now at its best, and the views across the mountains and volcanic lakes go on forever.

Silverback lowland gorilla Odzala-Kokoua National Park © Odzala
A silverback gorilla in Odzala-Kokoua National Park, Congo © Odzala Discovery Camps

For lowland gorilla trekking, head out to Odzala-Kokoua National Park in Congo and take advantage of the dry season to tick of these gentle giants plus other specials such as bongos, forest buffalos and forest elephants.

For bird-watchers, July is a time of plenty in Uganda and Rwanda. The short rains have ended, and Albertine Rift endemics are there to be ticked off. Highly sought-after avian jewels such as green broadbill and green-breasted pitta are breeding and easier to locate.

African green broadbill
African green broadbill © Christian Boix

Read this article about finding more affordable lodge accommodation based on the time of year: How to find luxury safari lodges at a discount.

ADDITIONAL READING

Read other ‘Safari in Africa’ month posts:

• January safari in Africa

• February safari in Africa

• March safari in Africa

• April safari in Africa

• May safari in Africa

• June safari in Africa

• August safari in Africa

• September safari in Africa

• October safari in Africa

• November safari in Africa

• December safari in Africa

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