So, you’ve decided, ‘Right, I need a holiday’; and then you thought, ‘OK Africa seems cool, but What to do there?’; obvious – safari comes up top of the list.
Then what’s the first thing you ask? Where? You start researching countries and you’ve chosen to go on the road less travelled to find a hidden gem and decided on Zambia and Malawi. What’s next? Ah… When to go? So, you fire up Google again and type in ‘what’s the best time of year to travel to Malawi and Zambia’, and what pops up? ‘These are the peak months to travel to Malawi and Zambia’ – perfect! Or is it…?
We’ve posted about off-peak-season travel before and shown you the highlights – beautiful flowers and green scenery, baby animals, birds galore, water-based safari activities, low prices, few other guests and private sightings, yep, it has it all – want more convincing?
Our low season typically spans from the beginning of November to end of March which is our summer and rainy season.
You’d be a fool to let the term ‘rainy season’ put you off, you only need to experience an African storm once to have your soul stirred by it forever. One minute the sun is shining and the skies are blue, the next minute the clouds come rolling in like a tidal wave and the sky transforms into a dramatic scene of blacks, greys, pinks, blues and purples.
The atmosphere thickens and the unmistakable smell of the impending rain on the hot African soil fills the air as the rumbling thunder builds overhead. And then it happens… the wave comes crashing down and the heavens open; bloated droplets of rain cascade into the dusty valley, washing the air and landscape clean. Thunder and lightning raid the sky like a firework show as new life breeds below. An African storm assaults every sense, making you feel both fragile and alive.
When you have acquired a taste for the dust,
and the scent of our first rain,
you’re hooked for life on Africa,
and you’ll not be right again.
Until you can watch the setting moon
and hear the jackals bark,
and know they are around you
waiting in the dark.
When you long to see the elephants
or hear the coucal’s song,
When the moonrise sets your blood on fire,
then you’ve been away too long.
It is time to cut the traces loose,
and let your heart go free,
Beyond that far horizon
where your spirit yearns to be.
Africa is waiting – come!
Since you have touched the open sky
And learned to love the rustling grass
and the wild fish eagle’s cry.
You’ll always hunger for the bush;
for the lion’s rasping roar;
To camp at last beneath the stars
and to be at peace once more.
What’s the best thing about these storms? They last 1-2 hours and then the clouds dissipate and the sky is clear, sunny and blue once more, leaving behind ‘petrichor’, the earthy aroma after rainfall. This makes it the best time of year for photography, not just because of the vibrant colours and scenery but because the rains completely clear away any haze, leaving your images crisp and clear.
Another cool thing about the rainy season is that after these rains, you’ll find most of the furry predators don’t like to hide in the wet bushes with the leftover droplets sprinkling them with every flick of a tail. Like your regular house cat, lions and leopards generally like to keep themselves clean and dry, so after a rain, you’ll find that they like to stick to the roadways and open paths to avoid the wet and muddy soil until the African sunshine dries it up again; this gives us awesome opportunities to spot and admire them in an open area.
Now, this blog is intended to give you a different perspective of the ‘green season’ without pushing the same old clichés that we all use, but I’d be an idiot to not mention the green season birdlife at least once.
At this time of year, you can spot the Narina Trogon, African Pitta, Böhm’s Bee-eater, Carmine bee-eater, Pel’s Fishing Owl, Yellow throated apalis, Thyolo alethe, Bar-tailed Trogon, various parrots… I could go on, and on, but those names alone should get those binos twitching.
This is an excellent time of year to see the elusive wild dogs which we are lucky enough to have in abundance in Zambia, particularly South Luangwa National Park; it’s in about the latter half of the rainy season that the pups from the previous year are old enough to keep up with the pack and join in the action. This creates a feasting frenzy around the park, given that the green season is the time when many baby antelope are around – perfect prey for the teen pups to stretch those legs and practise their hunting skills.
I know we all go on holiday for a little bit of sunshine, but trust me, if you come to Zambia and/or Malawi in the green season you will get all of the above, quiet destinations, much cheaper rates AND will still get plenty of sunshine – we are in Africa after all!