So, you’re busy planning your once in a lifetime trip to South Africa; the Timbavatiis high on your list and a particular tented camp called Tanda Tula has caught your eye! You start doing a little research along the lines of who you are going to take with you, what device you might use to capture the experience and maybe even what clothes you should pack.
But, hold on one second, how do you know what clothes to pack if you don’t know what the conditions will be like when you get there? After all you don’t exactly need a jacket suited for the Canadian winter if you’re coming to the Greater Krugerduring the summer, or ever for that matter. Plus, you need that valuable packing space for your camera! I thought it may be helpful if I put together a piece in an effort to help you not only plan your attire, but also to help you understand what you can expect from our various seasons (as far as wildlife viewing and landscape are concerned). I think you will find that every season has its charm and for avid safari goers, it really is worthwhile visiting at different times and experiencing these changes – things are vastly different from season to season!
Let’s start with what is generally the most celebrated season in the world, summer. Now I know for our northern hemisphere guests, summer is definitely a time of the year to get very excited about. Those glorious three months of warmth, flowers and that much needed outdoors time. Well, our summers are similar in many ways, but a bit warmer and longer! Our summer months are technically from December through to the end of February. On average, we are greeted by days that are around 30 to 35 degrees Celsius. So indeed, this area can be quite warm during the summer, but wow, is the
I realise that for most people thinking about this sort of heat can be a bit of a concern, but let’s face it, this is Africa after all. These months can often prove to be the most beautiful of the year to visit the Timbavati. The reason for this is due to everything being green, lush and alive. You see, for most of South Africa, including the Kruger region, we experience summer rainfall and if you have never seen an Africa thunderstorm breaking over the savanna then you really do have something to look forward to. Most days are stunningly clear until suddenly, dark clouds start appearing on the horizon, moving in closer and closer until the entire area is bathed in dark gloomy light. Flashes of lighting and cracks of thunder proceed the often-sudden downpour, it is absolutely breath-taking!
Here are a few tips and tricks if you are traveling during our summer months;
- Bring sun scream
- Your clothes should be light, airy and comfortable
- Bring a waterproof jacket for the off chance that it may rain
- Flip-flops will be your best friend for around camp and a decent pair of hiking boots will keep your feet dry and comfy should you head out on a bush walk
- Bring a bathing suit (we call this a swimming costume in South Africa or a “cozzie” for short); you’ll love our infinity pool at Safari Camp
- Get ready to see an Africa that is truly alive with birds and frog calls
- If you’re really lucky, you will get to see dry riverbeds turn into torrents, right before your eyes
- Lastly, get ready to shoot some of the most gorgeous and colourful photos you have ever taken
Naturally, the next season is autumn or “Fall” for our North American friends, and what a stunning season it is! Our autumn months range from March to the end of May. The summer heat doesn’t just go away over night, but it does subside relatively quickly especially in the mornings and evenings. Just like everywhere else, this season comes with its own unique colour pallet – the leaves start to go reddish brown and start to slowly fall to the ground. This happens in a beautifully gradual manner until winter really sets in.
It’s easy to understand why autumn is so popular with safari goers; the temperatures can be absolutely perfect. Generally speaking, you can expect temperatures to range from around 20 degrees Celsius to around 32. In other words, hot enough during the day for a swim, yet cool enough to feel comfortable at all hours. This time of year, can still have the odd shower here and there, but for the most part you can feel the earth around you slowly winding down and preparing for the cold and dry winter ahead.
Wildlife viewing at this time of year can be really good! As the environment begins to dry out animals are forced to seek larger bodies of water in order to survive. The waterholes begin to teem and by the end of autumn, these larger waterholes are just about all that is left to sustain the many thirsty animals. For those of you that have photography in mind, this season is great!
Here are a few tips and tricks if you are traveling during our autumn months;
- Bring sun cream (some days will still catch you off guard)
- Don’t just bring shorts and dresses, you will need the odd pair of longs pants, especially on those fresh mornings
- A light scarf will also go a long way
- A waterproof jacket will not only keep you dry should there be unseasonal rain, but it will also keep you warm on those night drives back to camp
- Flip-flops will still be a good friend of yours, but bring some comfy trainers if you are prone to coldish feet
- Your “cozzie” will still get a moment to shine
- Get ready to see Africa slowly turning from a vibrant oasis to a dryer and more romantic landscape
- Your chances of seeing lions in action earlier on in the evening due to the cooler conditions means you just simply cannot leave your camera behind
Next up is winter, which ranges from June to the end of August! For the northern hemisphere readers out there, don’t panic, these parts have not seen snow in…well, ever. I actually think it is pretty accurate to equate our winter temperatures to that of a European summer, for the most part. You can expect highs of around 18 to 25 degrees Celsius and lows of around 10 to 14 (also known as ‘freezing’ in South Africa). Occasionally, we will experience cold fronts. In fact, this happens several times during winter. They sometimes bring a slight drizzle, but more importantly, as the name suggests, they bring even colder conditions. When these cold fronts hit, we can experience temperatures lower than 8 degrees Celsius.
Generally, winter is characterised by gorgeous open skies with not a cloud in sight, so this is the optimum star gazing season. Winter gives this area its iconic African look, with many trees that appear to be dead, when in actual fact they are lying dormant waiting for the first springs rains.
The environment is also full of warm tones – all the grass has completely dried out which creates a sea of golden yellow. This is definitely the most romantic time of the year to be here, for all those honeymoon love birds out there. Especially with those long, drawn out sunsets that result in a golden band forming around the horizon for what seems like forever before slowly disappearing into a black twinkling sky.
What I love most about this time of year is the photographic opportunities; golden hour is a full hour – bliss! There is not a shred of foliage between your lens and the wildlife – animals are drawn to waterholes like bees to a can of Coke. I remember once seeing 4 of the Big 5 come down to drink from the same waterhole within one hour of just sitting there and waiting!
Here are a few tips and tricks if you are traveling during our winter months;
- Bring sun cream (yes even in winter – this is Africa)
- You might find some time around midday to wear some lighter, cooler clothes
- A jacket, a fleece, a beanie, gloves and a scarf are a must, but don’t worry, we also supply hot water bottles and blankets
- Bring moisturiser and lip balm
- Maybe leave the flip flops at home for this one. Don’t worry, next summer you can rekindle your friendship with them
- Bring your “cozzie” if you’re very brave
- Get ready for spell bounding moments looking out over the African landscape…the sun dipping below the horizon and the sky a vibrant orange…you are just taking a first sip of your gin and tonic, then you think to yourself: “man, it’s good to be alive”
- The lighting will be just about perfect, all the time. Have your camera ready
Last but not least, let’s chat about the season of new beginnings; the season we are in right now which runs from September until the end of November: spring. This is such a stunning time of year. I think the Greater Kruger has one of the best spring seasons in the entire country! Suddenly, there are pops of colour catching your eye everywhere you look as the flowers start to emerge. Little flushes of green start to grow from the base of the golden sea I spoke about earlier, and the most amazing bird calls all of a sudden perk up your ears as some of the migrant species start to return.
You might hear the low rumbling of thunder far in the distance as the first of the rains start to approach. With these rains those little flushes of green turn into a full-blown carpet of soft green grass. The trees quickly shake off their morbid state and little leaves and flowers begin to take center stage. Spring offers the best of both worlds as the daily temperatures are lovely and warm, but come night fall, they drop to perfect sleeping temperature. In spring, you should expect temperatures to drop below around 15 degrees and only occasionally will they go above 30. This is by far the most favoured season for avid safari goers as it really does seem like the stars align for a brief period to create an unmatched experience in this region.
Here are a few tips and tricks if you are traveling during our spring months;
- Bring sun cream (I am sure you get the point by now)
- My advice is dress more lightly, but be wary of the chilly mornings
- A jacket will come in handy at this time year, as will a light scarf
- Because the rains may not have come just yet, you may find the environment to still be fairly dry so chuck a chap stick in your bag just in case
- It probably won’t hurt to have your flip flops on stand-by. It’s not like they take up a lot of packing space or weight…rather nurture the relationship
- Even if you don’t swim, a good bit of sun bathing will warrant the bringing of your “cozzie”
- Get ready for goose-bump inducing sunsets, as dramatic cloud formations clash with the bright setting sun to produce some truly awe-inspiring and memorable moments
- Take photos, but as with every season don’t forget to put your camera down every once in a while; close your eyes, breath in deeply and feel the connection with mother nature all around you
There really is something to love about every second spent out here on safari at Tanda Tula. Don’t be swayed by a particular season as there really is no such thing as a bad time to go on safari. After all, nature is what we are all wanting to connect with, and it makes sense to appreciate it at every stage of its cycle.