The Other Great Migrations: Rainy Season in Southern Africa - Fauna Travel

The Other Great Migrations: Rainy Season in Southern Africa

Zebra Migration / Courtesy Natural Selection Travel

12 Days

January through March is the rainy season for most of Southern Africa. However, this doesn’t dampen the safari experience everywhere. The rains bring fresh grasses, and this creates herbivore migrations in Zambia and Botswana that are second to the Serengeti in size. If you aren’t concerned with dramatic river crossings and smaller animal numbers, it’s a spectacular and uncrowded wildlife spectacle for the off-season.

View herds of 45,000 wildebeest in Zambia and 30,000 zebra in Botswana in Southern Africa’s rainy season.

Day 1: South Africa

Hotel: Intercontinental Airport

Arrive on your international flight in the evening or afternoon and overnight at the Johannesburg airport. Rest from your long flight at an airport hotel before a morning departure.

Day 2-5: Liuwa Plain, Zambia

Camp: King Lewanika

Fly to Lusaka, Zambia, in the morning, where you will clear customs and take a charter flight to Liuwa Plain National Park in far western Zambia. The 1,300 square mile park is home to the second largest migration of wildebeest on earth – though it is more of a gathering than a migration. Over 45,000 animals congregate and graze on fresh grasses that appear after the rains. Some local people live within the park boundaries, but the only safari lodge in the park is King Lewanika, a chic tented camp by Time + Tide.

Game drives at King Lewanika / Courtesy of Time & Tide
Game drives at King Lewanika / Courtesy of Time & Tide

The large numbers of wildebeest on the plain attract many predators. There is a handsome lion pride in the park as well as cheetahs. However, the true apex predator here is the hyena which hunts in large packs that can raise quite a call in the evenings. Spend your days here on game drives exploring the vast open plains.

In the early rainy months of January and February, Liuwa Plain is also an excellent kayaking destination. As the plains flood with water, they become navigable, but there are no hippos or crocodiles to threaten a paddler because of the temporary nature of the water. Another one of our favorite activities is a sleepout under the stars, which is a thrilling way to end your stay.

Day 6-7: Victoria Falls, Zambia

Hotel: Royal Livingstone Hotel

After breakfast, depart on a flight back to Lusaka, where you will then fly to Livingstone, Zambia overlooking Victoria Falls. We often book more immersive tented camps upriver from the falls. However, the weather can be unpredictable this time of year, and the Royal Livingstone is excellent for a short stopover. It’s an extremely comfortable hotel just minutes from the falls.

Victoria Falls near Toka Leya / Dana Allen / Courtesy of Wilderness Safaris luxury Zambia safari
Victoria Falls near Toka Leya / Dana Allen / Courtesy of Wilderness Safaris

Spend the next day viewing one of the largest waterfalls on Earth. It may be shrouded by mists, rainbows, or passing storms, which makes for a dramatic experience. This is also an excellent time of year for birding, and the well-kept grounds of the hotel are home to placid zebras and giraffes. Enjoy a nice meal in the evening and prepare for your morning departure.

Day 8-11: Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana

Camp: Jack’s Camp

Your driver will greet you in the morning and take you one hour to Kasane across the border in Botswana. From here, you can connect to Maun and onward to the Makgadikgadi Pan. The vast salt pan is barren for most of the year, but summer rains transform it into a shallow pool surrounded by lush grasses. This lures in birds, including flamingos and up to 30,000 zebra from northern Botswana. Your lodging for the next four days is Jack’s Camp, one of the most iconic tented camps in Africa. It is only one of three places to stay in this one-million-acre preserve.

Jack's Camp Luxury Botswana Safari Horseback Riding / Courtesy Natural Selection Travel
Horseback Safari / Courtesy Natural Selection Travel

Jack’s Camp is a lavish mixture of Persian and colonial styles. Some of the most photogenic features include a tented swimming pool, library, and pillowed tea tent. If not for the spectacular environment, you might want to linger all day.

However, mornings and afternoons can be spent on game drives or horseback rides through the zebra herds. Brown hyenas and Kalahari lions can also be seen. Other activities on the pan include quad bike excursions, walks with the local San bushmen, and meerkat colony visits. On your last day, we suggest splurging on a helicopter flight for an aerial view of the migration before enjoying the sunset over the pan.

Day 12: Departure

Depart for Maun the next morning. From there, you can return to Johannesburg for your flight home, or if you have extra time, continue to Cape Town. It’s summer in the Western Cape and a great time to visit the city and Winelands for some of the world’s best dining.

View of Franschhoek and La Cle Vineyards / Courtesy of Classic Portfolio
View of Franschhoek and La Cle Vineyards / Courtesy of Classic Portfolio

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