Any guide will tell you that wildlife can be unpredictable, so planning a trip around migrations and other seasonal behaviors is key.
As a rule of thumb, the dry season is better for game viewing, when food isn’t abundant and animals congregate around bodies of water. Conversely, the rainy season brings thick, camouflaging vegetation, and the heat, prompting animals to retreat from the midday sun.
Since the animal kingdom is interdependent, predators follow prey, and a favorable time to see antelope is also a favorable time to see cats.
Any safari guide will tell you that wildlife is unpredictable, but there are some wildlife encounters that can be better planned.
Here, some tips on timing it right.
Tree-Climbing Lions in Ishasha, Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda
When to Go: Visit during the dry season, in June and July, when lions from this population clamber up fig trees to escape the heat.
Where to Stay: Kyambura Gorge Lodge has eight modern cabins overlooking the dramatic, densely forested Kyambura Gorge. from $626.
Wildebeest Migration in the Grumeti Reserves, Tanzania
When to Go: Arrive in June, when the wildebeest herds, together with predators like hyenas and lions, follow the rains into the Grumeti Reserves, on the border of the Serengeti.
Where to Stay: An elegant, old-world manor house, Singita Sasakwa Lodge has stunning views of the Serengeti’s sprawling plains. from $1,604.
Elephants in Chobe National Park, Botswana
When to Go: Chobe is home to the greatest population of elephants in Africa. Visit between May and October, when the herds head to the banks of the Chobe River in search of water.
Where to Stay: The classic Sanctuary Chobe Chilwero has 15 river-facing cottages on the edge of Chobe National Park. from $990.
Leopards in Sabi Sands, South Africa
When to Go: Come during the dry season, May through September, when temperatures are lower and the cats are more active — and therefore easier to spot.
Where to Stay: Londolozi Tree Camp is a modern, family-owned lodge tucked under a canopy of leadwood trees in the Sabi Sands Game Reserve. from $906.
Mountain Gorillas in Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda
When to Go: Peak gorilla-watching occurs between December and early February, when the weather is dry. Avoid the rainy season, from March through May, when primates often hide in vegetation.
Where to Stay: Launching this fall, the new property from Wilderness Safaris, Bisate Lodge, will have six striking cabins inspired by traditional straw huts. from $1,400.