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Africa in September
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It’s a great month for travel to the continent but choosing where to go in Africa in September can be overwhelming. Many destinations are at their best in terms of experience and weather so it’s worth putting together combination itineraries – a Big 5 safari plus a beach holiday for example, or gorilla trekking followed by whale watching and wine tasting.
East Africa is one place to go in September for classic wildlife encounters. The migrating wildebeest herds are braving crocodiles and big cats in the Serengeti and Masai Mara while the rainforests of Rwanda and Uganda are still relatively dry in September – good news if you are thinking about gorilla trekking and chimpanzee safaris.
And in Southern Africa, it is peak safari season: wildlife is concentrated around water, often in huge numbers, and is easy to see. If you’re undecided about where to go in September for game viewing, then consider places like the Chobe River, Luangwa Valley and the Lower Zambezi where you’ll see some of Africa’s greatest concentrations of big animals – especially elephants.
September is also a good time for Mozambique’s Indian Ocean islands: the weather has warmed up after winter but the summer rains are still a month or so away. And although the ocean temperatures are colder down in South Africa, if you’re looking for somewhere to go in Africa in September that combines wildlife, whale watching and wine tasting, then there’s only one place: Cape Town and the Whale Coast – and September is when the flowers are out.
1. Masai Mara & Serengeti, Kenya & Tanzania
September is still great weather in East Africa and sees migrating wildebeest herds spilling across the rivers that divide Tanzania’s Serengeti from Kenya’s Masai Mara. The herds are heading for the fresh green grazing of the Masai Mara but have to run the gauntlet of crocodiles that lurk in the rivers as well as big cats and packs of spotted hyenas on the other side.
It results in spectacular game viewing, especially when combined with the general wildlife of the region – these reserves are also full of elephants, buffalo and antelope.
INSIDER TIP: “It’s a popular time to visit the region – book accommodation in a private reserve for more exclusive views & fewer other vehicles.”
Other Great months for Masai Mara: October & November.
2. Chobe National Park, Botswana
Chobe in September means some of the best game viewing of the year: it’s deep into the dry season and Africa’s biggest concentration of elephants has gathered at the Chobe River. Thousands more crowd waterholes at other areas within the Chobe Park – the Savuti region especially, plus the Linyanti area. And waiting their turn at the water are herds of buffalo, zebra and antelope, all of which attracts big cats, wild dogs and hyenas.
It’s a great opportunity to see predator/prey interaction, and because so many animals are at water, September is a great time for a Chobe River boat cruise.
INSIDER TIP: “The Chobe River area gets busy in September: beat the crowds & peak-season prices by staying at accommodation in private concessions near the park.”
Other Great months for Chobe: July, August & October.
3. Gorilla Trekking, Rwanda & Uganda
Late dry-season for trekking and there will likely be some rain in September; there’s an average of 13 rainy days in the month but certainly less than the following few months.
You can fly in to each destination but your big decision is where to go in September: Uganda has a cheaper gorilla trekking permit and more entry-level accommodation; Rwanda has more of the higher-end accommodation with services such as private transfers. Gorilla trekking in both destinations is combined with other guided activities such as hiking, birdwatching and wildlife spotting but Uganda has the better infrastructure for an add-on safari – in particular, the Queen Elizabeth and Murchison Falls National Parks for big game, birds and chimpanzees.
INSIDER TIP: “Trekking in the rainforest can be challenging for older or less fit travellers: ask us about shorter, less strenuous gorilla treks.”
Other Great months for Gorilla Trekking: January & February; June, July & August.
4. Kruger Park & Sabi Sands, South Africa
The Kruger is Africa’s best Big 5 game viewing region. The dry winter months have forced animals to concentrate near water and the result in September is easy game viewing.
And while the game viewing is excellent in the Kruger Park itself, we recommend a safari in one or more of the adjoining private reserves: the Sabi Sands, Timbavati and Thornybush, among others. Here you enjoy what is perhaps the best Big 5 viewing in Africa from the comfort of a range of lodges that cater for all kinds of travellers from families to honeymooners. The weather is warm and a lodge with a pool is a good idea in September.
INSIDER TIP: “On honeymoon? There are great lodges in the Sabi Sands where the bride pays only 50% – ask us which ones have the current best deals.”
Other Great months for Kruger Park: May through August; November.
5. Bazaruto & Quirimbas Islands, Mozambique
Mozambique’s Indian Ocean archipelagos of Bazaruto and the Quirimbas make a great post-safari treat. Both destinations offer great scuba diving and snorkelling in an ocean that sits at a balmy 23°C (73°F) and there are also sailing cruises, desert island picnics and horse rides on the beach.
Accessible via a short flight from South Africa – and even directly from the Kruger Park – the Bazaruto and Quirimbas islands combine well with a Big 5 safari in the Kruger or Sabi Sands.
INSIDER TIP: “Accommodation on Mozambique’s archipelagos can be expensive: try mainland Vilanculos for good-value beachside accommodation. There is a range of lodges along the coast offering most of the experiences you’d have on the islands.”
Other Great months for Bazaruto & Quirimbas: June, July, August & October.
6. South Luangwa & Lower Zambezi, Zambia
Zambia has successfully put itself on the safari map in recent years and two of its reserves are definitely where to go in Africa in September for heavyweight game viewing. The South Luangwa National Park is renowned for its big game viewing and September is prime walking season. In combination with game drives and even boat cruises, walking safaris take you into the African bush at its most exciting time of year, safe in the company of expert guides and armed rangers.
There’s also walking in Zambia’s Lower Zambezi National Park but the emphasis is more on exploring the Zambezi River by boat and canoe as well as its grasslands and forests by 4X4. A magical landscape of land and water, the Lower Zambezi offers a great diversity of wildlife – hippos and crocodiles as well as elephants, big cats and antelope.
INSIDER TIP: “Combine two or three lodges from the same operator for discounted long-stay specials.”
Other Great months for Zambia: May through August; October.
7. Cape Town & Whale Coast, South Africa
September is one of the best times to be in the Cape if you’d like things natural with a glass of red on the side. Cape Town can always offer Table Mountain, penguin colonies and shark dives but September is when migrating Southern Right whales arrive on the Cape coast – easily visible from land. It’s also when several local national parks are ablaze with colour as sheets of spring flowers paint the landscape.
And providing the dramatic backdrop to it all are the mountains of the Cape Winelands where you’ll find cosy wine estates, fine food and chocolate tastings.
INSIDER TIP: “Save on costs with our well-located, self-catering apartments in Cape Town & Hermanus.”
Other Great month for whale-watching: October.