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Africa in December
Africa’s a great place to be in December – read about the best places to visit & how to avoid the Christmas crowds.
December is a popular time to travel to Africa and for good reason. It’s mid-summer and the beaches from Cape Town to Zanzibar are warm and sunny. And although it’s the early rainy season, December is a popular time for a wildlife safari in destinations like the Kruger Park and Botswana. Put them together and you have a classic ‘beach and bush’ holiday whether for a family, honeymoon couple or group of friends.
But Africa’s top travel destinations are also busy in December – especially over the Christmas period – and it pays to play smart. You’ll need to book well ahead for your preferred Cape Town accommodation for example, and if you keep your safari to the first half of December then you can take advantage of shoulder-season rates before the premium you’ll pay for a Christmas booking.
1. Cape Town & Garden Route, South Africa
It’s December and most people are getting ready to relax and enjoy the festive season. It’s a good month to be in Cape Town and the Winelands, and the city combines easily with the Garden Route, a holiday region of beaches and mountains further along the Cape coast.
But December is a popular time at these destinations and it helps to have local advice to deliver the classic experience but without the Christmas crowds. Unless you specifically want Christmas in the Cape, for example, it is a lot less busy in the first two weeks of the month and you won’t be paying the festive-season premium for accommodation.
INSIDER TIP: “Be aware of a minimum-night stay policy at some accommodations if you are planning to spend only a night or two in some places.”
Other Great months for Cape Town & Garden Route: September through May.
Don’t be put off by the phrase ‘Green Season’: sure, it’s a synonym for rainy season but it’s no false advertising: the December rains have triggered a great wave of greenery and the Botswana landscape is lush and fertile. It’s a great time for wildlife watching: big herds of elephants, buffalo and zebra are on the move while other animals – impala and springbok particularly – are in the middle of their birthing season which almost guarantees predator action.
There’s always good game viewing at the famous Chobe River and Okavango Delta but this is a great time to discover Botswana’s lesser-known destinations which are at their peak in December according to many safari veterans. The Savuti area of the Chobe Park and the Kalahari region are both particularly good – they are green, covered in herds of animals and home to the biggest predators: lions, hyenas, cheetah, leopard and wild dogs.
INSIDER TIP: “Ask us about “Pay for Two, Stay for Three Nights” specials available.”
Other Great months for Chobe: July, August, September & October.
3. Kwazulu Natal, South Africa
One of South Africa’s big December holiday destinations, KwaZulu Natal is large and diverse enough to deliver a unique holiday while avoiding the big crowds of the provinces more popular places. It’s primarily a ‘beach and bush’ destination with a different slant on both compared to the more familiar Cape beaches and Kruger wildlife.
KwaZulu Natal is sub-tropical and its Indian Ocean is warm in December (around 25°C or 77°F) with coral reefs to explore on scuba dives while its wildlife is concentrated in smaller, highly diverse reserves, often with an emphasis on rhino conservation. It’s the country’s top birding destination, home to exciting walking safaris, great for families, and has a long and fascinating history – put it all together on one itinerary.
INSIDER TIP: “It’s hot in December: choose a safari lodge with a swimming pool!”
Other Great months for Gorilla Trekking: May through November.
4. Kruger Park & Sabi Sands, South Africa
The Kruger Park and its adjacent Sabi Private Reserves are renowned for their Big 5 game viewing (lion, elephant, rhino, buffalo and leopard) and a December safari – especially one over Christmas – has become something of a tradition. The rains have begun in December but the bulk of it is yet to come; the landscape is green and rejuvenated, migrant birds are arriving and many animals – especially antelope – have given birth which means plenty of predators.
Given that the greenery may make animals harder to find, we’d recommend a safari to the Kruger’s private reserves. Their smaller size and expert guides make it easier to locate the big sightings, and although they are home to some of the most luxurious and exclusive safari accommodation in Africa, the Sabi Reserves also have a range of more affordable lodges and child-friendly camps.
INSIDER TIP: “Go to the Kruger during the first two weeks in December before the big holiday crowds.”
Other Great months for Kruger Park: May through November.
5. Bazaruto Archipelago, Mozambique
With the ocean temperature reaching almost 30°C (86°F) on some days, it’s fair to say that Mozambique’s Bazaruro Archipelago makes a perfect beach holiday destination in December.
A collection of different islands, each with their own character, Bazaruto is a place of long white-sand beaches and lazily nodding palm trees. There are coral reefs and dhow sailing cruises, spa treatments and yoga classes, horseback rides and snorkelling – something for everyone whether a family with young children or a honeymoon couple.
INSIDER TIP: “Make sure you know about the minimum-night stay policy at some Bazaruto accommodations. “
Other Great months for Bazaruto & Quirimbas: June through November.
The southern Serengeti is the most obvious destination on the itinerary of a Tanzania safari in December. It’s here that the great wildebeest herds have gathered after their trek from the Masai Mara and the birthing season is beginning. It’s prime time for the Serengeti’s many predators – especially lion and cheetah – and you’ll see all the other classic animals too such as elephant, buffalo and giraffe.
Other wildlife destinations like the Ngorongoro Crater and Ruaha National Park are looking green and lush and still offer rewarding game viewing. There’s a wide range of safari accommodation available – from very luxurious to those aimed at families with children or budget travellers – and if you have your eye on the Serengeti wildebeest migration, then we recommend a migration camp, a semi–permanent tented camp located on the path of the migration.
INSIDER TIP: “Low-season accommodation rates last until the middle of December: it’s a good time for a safari across the country but especially in the Serengeti.”
Other Great months for Tanzania: Between November & August for the Serengeti wildebeest migration; between June & October (the dry season) for Tanzania’s other reserves.
Namibia doesn’t get much rain in general but what rain it does get has an amazing effect on the landscape. Great swathes of greenery appear as cracked-mud waterholes fill up and forgotten rivers begin to trickle.
In Etosha Park, Namibia’s prime wildlife reserve, the zebra and antelope herds are in their birthing season and elephants are taking advantage of all the new greenery. December is a good time to see predators in Etosha and it’s one of the best months for birdwatchers as well. Combine the action of the savannah with the haunting loveliness of Namibia’s deserts with trips to Damaraland and the Sossusvlei dunes.
INSIDER TIP: “We’d recommend travelling during the first half of December to avoid the Christmas holiday crowds in places like Swakopmund & Etosha.”
Other Great month for Namibiawhale-watching: June through October.