When to go? Wildlife holidays

| April 19, 2014

The timing of your holiday becomes all the more important when a safari is involved, so we have created a guide to help you decide when to depart for a wildlife holiday. Make sure you seek expert advice before finalising your travel plans.

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Few experiences compare to seeing some of the world's most majestic and beautiful wildlife in its natural habitat - exactly the reason that safaris are something that most of us aspire to go on at least once during our lifetime. Choosing the best time for this kind of trip is largely a question of your destination, with the ultimate place for wildlife spotting being Africa.

But of course, Africa is a vast continent and you will need to make a number of other decisions before you alight on the right time to travel. What you want to see and which country you want to visit are just a few of the factors at play.

Today, we aim to give you an introduction to selecting the ideal time for your wildlife holiday. Thanks to its incredible variety of flora and fauna, Africa will be our main focus, but we'll also touch on a number of other worthwhile wildlife destinations, such as India and Nepal.

Africa - the top times for wildlife holidays

We'll begin with a quick overview of the best time to visit some of Africa's best-loved wildlife hotspots, before looking in more depth at what else you should consider when organising this kind of break.

• Zambia: June to October.

• The Serengeti: July to September.

• The Masai Mara/the great wildebeest migration: Mid-July to early October.

• Botswana: April to October.

• Zimbabwe: May to October.

• Tanzania: Year-round, but March/April and December are particular highlights, thanks to the annual wildebeest migration.

• Madagascar: April to October.

What else to factor into your holiday plans

Seeing amazing wildlife such as giraffes, elephants and lions up close in their natural habitat is surely one of life's most moving experiences. While some people are more than happy to enjoy whatever the landscape has to offer, others have particular animals or experiences in mind - and if you fall into the latter category, this is something else you will need to consider before booking.

Be mindful, though, that wherever you go, you'll be entering the wild - and that means there are no guarantees on what you'll see. So, travel with an open mind and remember that while you might not spot every single animal on your wish list, you will absolutely have an authentic, unique experience of the African wilderness.

It's also well worth discussing the length of your trip with a specialist. While you might assume that three or four weeks is needed for an African safari, it's actually best to cap it at 10 to 12 days - any longer and, despite how amazing the experiences are, you will begin to crave a change.

Another thing to bear in mind is price. It's all too easy to assume that Africa is a cheap destination, but safaris in this part of the world, including extras like tips and such while you're out there, are expensive holidays - though always very worth the cost.

Stepping into the wild in India, Nepal and Sri Lanka

Few countries can compare to Africa when it comes to safaris, but that doesn't mean this continent is the only option worth considering. India, Nepal and Sri Lanka all have much to offer travellers - particularly if you are keen to add other kinds of activities to your itinerary.

India, for example, is a better destination for a culturally focused holiday; but, being home to some wonderful wildlife, it's easy to work a few nature-spotting trips into your itinerary too. Tigers are the number one creature to look out for, though a stay in Gujarat will give you the opportunity to see Asiatic lions - one of the few places in the world you can encounter this particular species.

Another advantage of visiting Gujarat is that it's virtually a year-round destination - the only months to avoid are June, July and August, when the monsoon hits and the dirt roads in the parks become impassable.

Like India, Sri Lanka offers a combination of culture and wildlife, with the opportunity to relax on the beautiful beaches available too. Like Gujarat, Sri Lanka can be enjoyed at its best almost the entire year - though monsoons hit the south-west coast between May and October, and the north-east between October and December.

Nepal's unique appeal lies in the fact that here you can pair wildlife adventures with trekking in the Himalayas - something that's utterly unique to this country. Should this pique your interest, between March and May and from September to November are the best times to travel here, thanks to the combination of warm weather and clear blue skies.

Mixing culture with wildlife

Africa undoubtedly steals the crown when it comes to 100% wildlife-focused holidays - but that doesn't mean it can't deliver on more varied trips. South Africa, for instance, is a fantastic destination if you're keen to balance wildlife with culture, because it gives you the chance to explore cities like Cape Town and discover the Cape Winelands, as well as hit the beach and head out to Madagascar for remarkable encounters with lemurs and other colourful creatures.

And as we mentioned briefly above, India is another good spot for mixing culture with wildlife; if you want culture to make up the majority of your trip, India may just be the place for you.

The importance of thorough planning

Also impacting the organising of your getaway is the fact that wildlife holidays need extremely thorough planning; indeed, you cannot book the trip of a lifetime to Africa at the last minute. Consulting a travel specialist really is crucial, as you'll require expert advice on everything from when and where to go, to places to stay and what you'll need to bring.

And of course, the need for detailed, thorough planning may mean that you cannot travel as soon as you initially thought. In turn, you might find it's then better to wait for the next prime safari season rather than jetting off as soon as possible - after all, it's the quality of the experience that matters.

That said, it's important to remember that no amount of planning guarantees you'll see a particular animal or wildlife phenomenon. The beauty of a safari is that you're stepping into the wild - so your experiences will be as unpredictable and untamed as the wilderness itself. Embrace the unknown!

A note on eco-friendly travel

The environmental impact of travelling is something that you cannot help but have at the forefront of your mind in the present climate - and this is likely to be an even greater concern when organising a foray into the wilderness of Africa, where the unspoiled nature of the environment is the key attraction.

While you can't erase the carbon footprint of flying, staying in eco-friendly lodges made of natural materials and that hire local staff, such as those provided by us in the Masai Mara, helps make sure your travels are as eco-conscious as possible - and that they give something back to the local community.

View Cox & Kings' wildlife holidays to Africa, or contact one of our Africa experts on 020 7873 5000.

If you enjoyed this article, you may also like to read our Wildlife in Focus series – Part 1: AfricaPart 2: The Far EastPart 3: India and Part 4: Latin America

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