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Where To Go

Many of Africa’s iconic experiences are seasonal in nature so take the guesswork out of planning your safari with our Travel Calendar: simply search by month or experience & find out the best time to travel to Africa for your requirements.


Africa in May

The best safari destinations in May are in Southern Africa, offering dry season conditions with shoulder season prices.

With most of East Africa still in the grip of the ‘long rains’, it makes good sense to go to Southern Africa for a safari in May. In this part of Africa the rainy season has almost ended and you’ll enjoy mostly clear sunny days and mild weather plus a sharp decline in the malaria risk. Safari destinations such as Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia and the Kruger Park are preparing for their busiest time of year but it’s still shoulder season in May and there are many good deals around; look for packaged fly-in itineraries as well as ‘pay-stay’ deals where you pay for five nights, for example, but stay six.

May also marks the improvement of wildlife watching: vegetation thins out and animals become easier to see, especially at the shrinking number of water sources – something that Africa’s predators use to their advantage. And some Southern African destinations are arguably at their best in May: Victoria Falls is in spectacular full flow while Botswana’s Okavango Delta is beginning to flood, attracting great numbers of animals and birds.

This is not to say that East Africa is impossible to visit; May is not the wettest month for gorilla trekking in Rwanda or Uganda and nor is it the wettest in the Masai Mara or the Serengeti where the wildebeest migration is taking place. There are good deals around for safari accommodation at this time of year and you’ll experience iconic places without the big peak season crowds. Rain is usually in the form of a brief downpour rather than cloud and rain all day. Ask us for more information.

Greater Kruger | Victoria Falls | Chobe | Okavango/Moremi | Hwange | Kalahari | Sossusvlei/Skeleton Coast


1. Kruger Park & Sabi Sands, South Africa


Lions during game drive in the Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve

The dry season is beginning & animals are clustered at water sources – good news for predators.

The beginning of the Kruger’s dry season: there’s little to no rain, temperatures are just right & animals are starting to gather at waterholes.

Sunny clear weather instead with temperatures about 12°C (54°F) for your morning drive and 27°C (81°F) for your afternoon one.

Fly to Cape Town or add-on Swaziland: the tiny kingdom lies next to the Kruger Park and blends wildlife with culture and tradition.

South Africa’s heavyweight reserve is perfect for a safari in May; the end of the hot rainy season almost completely takes away the risk of malaria. And with peak visitor numbers still a month or two away, this is a good time to see the park without the big crowds.

The Kruger Park is classic Big 5 country (lion, elephant, buffalo, rhino and leopard) and has a number of accommodation options but for a more exclusive Big 5 experience, we’d recommend the private reserves such as the Sabi Sands on the Kruger’s western border. These smaller reserves are privately managed and offer accommodation ranging from palatial villas and honeymoon hideaways to family-friendly lodges and even budget options.

INSIDER TIP: “It is still the Kruger’s shoulder season & you have time to benefit from reduced accommodation rates & ‘Pay-Stay’ deals: ask us for the current specials.”

Other Great months for Kruger Park & Sabi Sands: June through October for dry weather & peak safari season; November through January for the Green Season.

2. Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe & Zambia


Rainbow and spray over Victoria Falls gorge

May is a great balance between grand views of Victoria Falls & a more comfortable climate.

May offers perhaps the best balance between Victoria Falls looking at its best and the benefits of drier, cooler weather. Grand finale to a safari.

Temperatures are warm to mild though it can be very cold at night and in the early morning, close to or just below freezing (0°C).

Famous for its dry-season wildlife concentration, Botswana’s Chobe River is a 2-hour drive away & you will get shoulder-season rates.

You’ll need to decide whether you experience Victoria Falls from Zimbabwe or Zambia but in May the view is the same from either: the magnificent mile-wide Zambezi River thundering into a deep gorge with an earthquake-like rumble and a tower of spray sometimes a thousand feet high. And impressive as it is, this is a destination that goes far beyond the waterfall: Victoria Falls is Africa’s adventure capital and although it is too early in the year for white-water rafting, you can still go on river cruises, elephant-back safaris, bungee jumps and zip line adventures.

There is bird watching, rhino-tracking and wildlife watching available in local reserves on either side of the river, and if you’d like to spread the experience across both countries, the border crossings between Zambia and Zimbabwe are generally quick and easy for tourists.

INSIDER TIP: “The scale of Victoria Falls in May is really only appreciated from the air: we recommend booking a microlight or helicopter flight for the full picture & don’t forget to ask us about accommodation deals in May.”

Other Great months for Victoria Falls: March & April for Victoria Falls in full flow; June through October for dry weather & the best time for safaris as well as white-water rafting & adventures to Devil’s Pool.

3. Chobe River, Botswana


Suite view on the Chobe National Park & Chobe River

May is your last chance to enjoy great weather & game viewing at shoulder-season prices.

The dry-season starts in May & temperatures drop; it’s still the shoulder season however & reduced rates for accommodation but not for long!

Temperatures are similar to Victoria Falls: 10°C (50°F) at night and a pleasant 28°C (82°F) by mid-afternoon. The last of the rain disappears.

Botswana’s Okavango Delta floods in May as the rest of the country dries up, and we recommend the Khwai River area especially for rare predators.

Lying close to Victoria Falls, the Chobe River has a well-deserved reputation for elephants and other big animals, and May is when they start to return to the river. The area has been relatively quiet over summer but Botswana is drying up fast and herds of thirsty elephant and buffalo are arriving at the permanent waters of the Chobe River.

Great for views of hippos and crocodiles and also one of Africa’s birding hotspots, this is a destination best explored by both land and water whether it’s a small motor boat or larger river boat; local guides know all the best places for wildlife. The abundance of animals at the river is a magnet for predators – the Chobe River is always good for lions and hyenas but also leopards and occasionally wild dogs too.

INSIDER TIP: “Safari accommodation in peak season Botswana is generally expensive so take advantage of May’s end-of-shoulder-season packaged deals at Chobe’s top lodges.”

Other Great months for Chobe River: December & early January for the Green Season; June through August for the driest & coolest weather; September & October for hot dry weather & peak wildlife concentrations.

4. Okavango Delta & Moremi Reserve, Botswana


Mokoro in the Okavango Delta

Dry, mild weather & high water levels means May is the perfect time to explore the Okavango.

The Okavango Delta’s annual flood begins in May just as the rainy season finishes, enabling you to explore also by boat & canoe.

Cool nights & early mornings, mild to warm during the day with almost no chance of rain. High water – best for game viewing.

Contrast with Botswana’s Kalahari: activities range from Bushman walks & game drives to star-gazing & meerkat encounters!

The arrival of floodwaters in May is always celebrated in the Okavango Delta. Pure, clear water from distant Angolan highlands refills rivers and replenishes wetlands to double the size of the delta. And this happens at the exact time that the summer rains are ending and most water sources are drying up; good news for tens of thousands of animals, ranging from elephants and buffalo to zebra and wildebeest, which are now arriving in the delta for fresh grazing and water.

The drier fringes of the Okavango Delta are usually better for wildlife watching by vehicle whereas the ‘deep delta’ lodges are the places to go for water activities and non-motorised adventures – we’d recommend a combination of the two areas for maximum diversity of wildlife and experience.

INSIDER TIP: “Ask us about a 6-night fly-in package for the Okavango Delta: you’ll get good value plus a diversity of safari experiences.”

Other Great months for Okavango Delta & Moremi Reserve: June through August for dry, cool weather plus water activities; September & October (hot & dry) for wildlife watching at water.

5. Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe


Cheetah at the waterhole in front of the Camp in Hwange

Waterholes are becoming more interesting in May – you never know what may come down to visit.

Home to an estimated 30 000 elephants, huge herds of buffalo and all the big cats – lions, leopards and cheetahs. Lowest risk from malaria.

You’ll need an extra blanket at night: the temperature will be around 9°C (48°F) in the early morning & 27°C (81°F) after lunch.

Victoria Falls lies less than a 3-hour drive away, but we’d also recommend an add-on safari to Zimbabwe’s Matusadona National Park.

Travellers can expect sunny days and cold nights. The start of the dry season brings perfect temperatures and is the best time for game viewing.

Hwange National Park is part of an area that is home to around a third of Africa’s elephant population and it is in May that these iconic animals begin to arrive in large numbers at waterholes. Having spent the summer months deep in impenetrable forests, the elephant herds are joined by herds of buffalo, zebra and impala – an irresistible target for Hwange’s lions and spotted hyenas. It’s also a good destination for bird watching as well as some of Africa’s rarer predators – leopard and wild dog – and impressive antelope – sable, roan and kudu.

INSIDER TIP: “There are still accommodation specials around in May: ask us about ‘Pay 5 Nights, Stay 6’ deals & divide your time between different camps for maximum reward.”

Other Great months for Hwange National Park: June through August for peak safari season & dry, mild weather; September & October for hot & dry weather & animals at water; December & early January for the Green Season.

6. Kalahari, Botswana


Cultural experience: Bushmen walk with the San People

May’s cool mornings are the best time to explore the Kalahari on foot with your local San guide.

The start of the dry season means wildlife watching is easier & more productive as animals cluster around the last waterholes.

The dry weather offers the easiest game viewing. Great sunny weather, mild to warm during the day - certainly no rain - and cold nights.

Fly in the Okavango Delta and we’d suggest the Khwai River area for a diverse safari experience & a chance to see Africa’s largest predators.

Botswana’s Kalahari always surprises first-time visitors: this is a landscape of rolling grasslands and scattered woodland, punctuated by ephemeral rivers and waterholes. It’s also home to a great diversity of animals, combining desert specialists such as springbok, brown hyena and the rapier-horned gemsbok antelope with familiar species such as impala, wildebeest and zebra. The Kalahari is good for predators too – lion, cheetah and leopard as well as canines like jackals and wild dogs – and there’s a different set of birds to tick off as well.

Choose from a variety of lodges both in and next to wildlife reserves for game drives and guided walks, and if you have young children, ask us about which lodges offer a ‘meet-the-meerkats’ experience – your kids will never forget it!

INSIDER TIP: “It’s still early in the safari season & there are special packages & combo deals available for Kalahari tours & accommodation – ask us for the latest specials.”

Other Great months for the Kalahari: December & January (the wetter Green Season); June through August for the mild dry season; September & October for the hot dry season.

7. Sossusvlei & Skeleton Coast, Namibia


View of the Skeleton Coast dunes in Namibia

Enjoy quieter times & lower prices in May, the last month before Namibia’s peak season begins.

Mild & dry weather but not the volumes of peak-season visitors; there’s improved game viewing as animals start searching for water & a very low malaria risk.

Nights are cold in Namibia’s deserts but the month of May records less than half a day of cloudy weather and it will most likely be 30°C (86°F) by early afternoon.

Namibia's Kaokoveld: it’s the last true wilderness in Southern Africa & best explored from Hoanib, a desert surrounded by an ocean of silence.

This is a time to see Namibia’s iconic imagery without crowds of tours buses and high season prices, and there’s no greater imagery than the Sossusvlei dunes. Reaching heights of over 300 metres (1000 feet), these silent tsunamis of sand turn colour at dawn and dusk, progressing through purples, reds and oranges as the light grows or fades.

There’s great imagery on the Skeleton Coast too, so-named for the ghostly shipwrecks that litter Namibia’s wild Atlantic coast. Put both destinations on an easy fly-in itinerary and stay at lodges that offer game drives and walks as well as sight-seeing – there’s a surprising wealth of wildlife to be discovered.

INSIDER TIP: “Take advantage of shoulder season rates & book a fly-in Namibia safari package – you’ll save both money & time.”

Other Great months for Namibia: June to October – it’s mostly mild & dry at this time but very hot in September & October.

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