Going on safari in Kenya and Tanzania during the off-peak seasons is a good option that does not spell game viewing disappointment and miserable weather.
In fact, travelling in the low seasons - the long rains from March to June and the short rains from October to December - is an enticing option. As the Lonely Plant’s Best in Travel 2016: The Best Trends, Destinations, Journeys & Experiences, puts it:
"...venturing out on a safari in the rainy season offers more than shaving off money and crowds. The wet seasons (March to June and October to December) also have luminous sunsets and plenty of animals nurturing their young – excellent reasons to brave the rain (which, by the way, is patchy rather than perpetual downfall)."
The shoulder seasons which fall between the low and peak periods offer similar advantages to the low seasons. Falling at the start and end of the rains, the shoulder seasons are often the best time to go on safari in East Africa in terms of balancing cost, game viewing, visitor numbers and weather. The shoulder season between the long and short rains - from January to March, is actually considered by some safari veterans to be the best time to go game viewing in Kenya and Tanzania.
5 Reasons to go on Safari in East Africa during the Shoulder & Low Seasons
1. Save Money
East Africa is not the cheapest of African regions to visit. As the traditional heartland of African wildlife safaris, the prices in East Africa are higher than in most Southern African countries. These higher costs can put budget conscious travellers off, but the good news is that prices drop during the off-peak times of the year, bringing these classical safari destinations within reach. One of the reasons prices fall is because mainstream travel advice is to avoid the rainy seasons and that winter game viewing is best. Also, most travellers tend to travel during the northern hemisphere summer and over Christmas and New Years.
You can save between 20 and 40% on safaris outside of the high and peak season.
It's not just the safari packages that are cheaper in low season, the accommodation rates drop saving you money on pre and post tour accommodation. Activities are also offered at reduced prices, as are day trips. If you're travelling independently in East Africa during low season you also have more leverage for bargaining and negotiating better deals too. Flights are also cheaper, due to lower demand! All-in-all it can make an otherwise too expensive African safari affordable.
2. Dodge the Crowds
One of the main drawbacks of going on safari in East Africa is that the world-renowned safari destinations of Tanzania and Kenya are often crowded. The legendary Masai Mara in Kenya and the Serengeti in Tanzania are considered Africa's ultimate safari destinations (or at least amongst the top), which means tourist traffic is high.
By travelling in the atypical months (low and shoulder times) you can avoid getting stuck in a game viewing traffic jam and having to vie for space at wildlife sightings.
Travelling in the less-crowded rainy season makes for a more authentic experience - one that allows you to connect with the wild places and local people of East Africa.
In the low season when there are fewer travellers at the game lodges and on the game drives, you get more time to appreciate the wildlife and savannahs in peace and engage with your guides and the people you encounter.
3. Go for the Baby Animals & Birds
Many animals give birth in the wet seasons when food and water is plentiful. This is a great time to see wobbly legged fawns, foals and calves, and playful cubs and pups.
This is also when flocks of migratory birds arrive for the wet summer season. The Great Lakes attract a bright and diverse array of birdlife - making low season a magical time for bird watching enthusiasts! Lake Nakuru attracts over 400 migratory bird species from across the planet.
4. Pretty & Photographic Times of the Year
The rainy seasons offer excellent conditions for photography in East Africa's top game parks, which come alive with the rains. In the wet seasons the light is intense and moody, and the dramatic sunsets are spectacular. This is when the grasslands are green and the skies dramatic with billowing rain clouds. The showers settle the dust, leaving the air, landscapes and vegetation fresh, crisp and vivid.
During, in between and just after the wet seasons the scenery is at its most beautiful, as the dusty plains are transformed into lush grasslands. Photographic opportunities abound with frolicking young wildlife and migratory birds aplenty, as well as predators taking advantage of the abundance of prey.
5. Superb Game Viewing & the Great Migration
The game viewing in East Africa, is spectacular year-round in many destinations, including Serengeti and Masai Mara.
The good news is that with planning you can still see the Great Migration in action. The dates and durations of the seasons vary from year to year and so too does the timing and course of the Wildebeest Migration. In Tanzania the migration can be seen at any time of the year, so catching the spectacle depends largely on knowing where to be at the right time.
Over the past few years the massive herds of the migration have been arriving earlier and staying later in southern Kenya, which means that the Great Migration has been witnessed by out of season travellers. Catching the world-famous spectacle of the Great Migration in action, comes down to getting expert advice about timing and the right places to go, as well as luck.
Finding the Balance
The weather is warmer during the wet summer months, which is worth considering if you don't cope well with the heat. It does not typically rain continuously, but rather in short downpours that clear up after brief afternoon thundershowers.
To escape the crowds, try to avoid the peak seasons from the start of July to the end of October and over Christmas holidays if possible. If you're not convinced about the perks of low season travel then aim for the shoulder seasons which can offer the best conditions - all factors considered.
Charter Tours are ideal for taking advantage of lower off-peak prices, especially if you are travelling in a big group. Tailor-made safaris enable you to customize your itinerary in order to maximize chances of witnessing the migration, escape the crowds and choose exactly when to travel, along with heading off the beaten track in season or out.