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Where to go in Africa in January

Where to go in Africa in January

Post Christmas Blues? Escape to the African Sun.

January - for people in the Northern Hemisphere, this can be a truly depressing month!  The excitement of Christmas is a memory now, you are back to work after time off, and the weather is cold, dark and damp.  So why not cheer yourself up by planning for a holiday and get away to some guaranteed Southern Hemisphere sunshine, not to mention the opportunity to go on an exciting wildlife adventure as well!

Fewer people tend to travel in January too, so there is normally always space to be found somewhere.

And it will make Christmas shopping more exciting - as well as presents for everyone else, you can also treat yourself to some new 'holiday essentials' at the same time!

Quick 'At a Glance' Summary

  • Along the coast from Cape Town to an Eastern Cape safari lodge - city, beach and safari all in one trip!
  • Gorilla trekking in Uganda
  • Safari and beach holiday to Kenya or Tanzania
  • Botswana's Makgadikadi/Nxai Pan - for something 'away from the norm'

South Africa

This is a beautiful time to travel to Cape Town, along the Garden Route and end with a safari in one of the private reserves in the Eastern Cape.  It is the peak of summer here, the weather is beautifully warm day in, day out, and there is not a drop of rain in sight.

Uganda

Mountain GorillaIf you want to trek to find the endangered mountain gorilla families in the Bwindi National Park,  January is an excellent month as this co-incides with the dry season.  The habitat of the rainforests where the gorillas live is naturally wet (the clue is in the name!) so you can't avoid rain completely – but the rain is definitely less and therefore the trails are easier to manage.

However, as this is one of the most popular months to do this activity, very early booking is strongly advised due to the limited number of daily gorilla permits available.

If you have longer, then combining seeing the gorillas with a holiday to any of Uganda’s other National Parks such as the Queen Elizabeth NP, Murchison Falls or encountering chimpanzees in the Kibale National Park will give you a wonderful and adventurous holiday to remember for years to come.

Kenya

January is the height of summer in Kenya, with daytime temperatures well into the late 20 degrees C (mid 80s degrees F).  This makes it a very popular destination for Europeans and people travelling from the United States looking to escape the otherwise cold, wet and miserably January days at home, however, visitor numbers are still lower over this period compared with the peak July-September travel months.

The beach resorts are therefore less crowded, and for divers and snorkelling enthusiasts, the big draw is firstly the visibility in the Indian Ocean, which is at its clearest, closely followed by the opportunity to swim with whale sharks, as this is one of the best months for sightings of these aquatic mammals.

In all the safari reserves, this is a good time to spot game, for a couple of reasons – firstly as there is limited surface water readily available, the game is concentrated around remaining rivers and waterholes, making finding the wildlife that much easier; and secondly, the bush and vegetation is dry and knocked back, so there is less cover for the wildlife to hide behind!  This is a good time to also spot lots of newborn animals frolicking around – which in turn leads to some of the predators being more active. 

This is also one of the best months to hike up Mount Kenya, and the higher temperatures mean the air at the higher elevations feels less chilly, especially at night.

Tanzania

The wildebeest continue to amass on the Southern Serengeti Plains in their thousands, as they get ready to give birth to the new generation.  You can easily combine this with a stay at the Ngorongoro Crater, which is a year-round safari destination, and also take in a game drive at Lake Manyara National Park to see if you can spot the tree-climbing lions amongst the green foliage.

After your safari, you can head to the exotic spice island of Zanzibar to relax on the white sands and enjoy the enticingly warm Indian Ocean waters.  The days are very hot, with temperatures reaching the mid 30 degrees C (early 90 degrees F) and the occasional afternoon thunderstorm – but not enough to interrupt serious sunbathing!  The clear waters means this is an excellent time for diving and snorkelling enthusiasts.

Botswana

In the Makgadikadi/Nxai Pan areas of this vast country, January is the month to travel here for some of the best game viewing as a lot of wildlife, including zebra and wildebeest, have already migrated to the area and a lot of the antelope will give birth – so predator sightings are also amazing.  As a result of the good game experiences, however, the lodges apply a high season rate for safari goers.