Our Safari Forecast for NovemberBy Bushtracks Expeditions
October 27, 2021
Ah, November… the season of respite when the rains finally sweep across the dry African plains. The smell of petrichor fills the air as storm clouds gather and break every few days in electrifying downpours that last a few hours. The bush is still sparse, but green leaves are budding on the trees and many trees are in bloom. In areas where migrations happen, animals such as zebra, wildebeest, many bird species, and even bats, are drawn by the promise of a season of plenty. Trees bear fruit, fertile plains shoot nutritiously rich grass, migratory birds are in breeding plumage and many animals begin to calve their young.
It’s a life-affirming time to visit the wilderness!
In Tanzania, the Serengeti’s sweeping savannas seem to last forever and are host to an ever-changing parade of animals. If you visit the central and southern Serengeti in November, you can witness one of the world’s greatest natural spectacles: the annual migration. Watching as an endless stream of wildebeest and zebra move across the vast plains, driven by unshakable and ancient instinct is mesmerizing.
Also in Tanzanian territory, Zanzibar is an archipelago off the coast famed for its beautiful beaches and calm waters. Zanzibar is an excellent place to relax following a safari in mainland Tanzania and pairs perfectly with the migration. Days can be spent snorkeling and diving among coral reefs, sailing on a traditional dhow, and learning about Swahili culture. Stone Town, on the main island of Unguja, often known as Zanzibar, is a historic trade town with Swahili and Islamic influences. As with the Tanzanian mainland, November is the month of the ‘short rains’ here. Days are still warm and balmy and sea temperatures are ideal, so don’t be put off by a few afternoon showers.
Further south, in Botswana’s dry savanna, is a collection of salt pans known as the Makgadikgadi Pans. They make up the world’s largest salt flats and cover an area the size of Portugal, which is largely uninhabited by humans. When it rains from November to March, the pans fill with water, attracting migrating zebra, springbok, and wildebeest, pursued by their predators. The shallow pans and lush landscapes become a hive of activity for wildlife. The zebra migration, with herds of up to 20,000 migrating through the pans, is a little-known but truly spectacular event.
Southern Serengeti – Tanzania.
As a safari location, the Serengeti is unrivaled. The huge ecosystem is home to undulating grassy plains, complex river systems, the Big Five, and the yearly wildebeest migration. The migration is the world’s greatest single animal movement. There is an incredible sense of space and a variety of wildlife surrounds you in amazing numbers. The Serengeti is also noted for its dense population of carnivores, and seeing large cats up close is a highlight at any time of year.
While November is a rainy month, it normally only rains in the afternoons, making it an excellent time to visit the Serengeti if you want to witness the great migration herds in action. There’s nothing like seeing the world’s largest yearly animal migration, which includes two million wildebeest, as well as zebras, gazelle, eland, hartebeest, and predators looking for a meal.
At this time of year, you’ll want to stay in the Serengeti’s southern and central regions. The wildebeest herds are now in large numbers in the Lobo, Mbuze Mawe, and Seronera Valley areas as they migrate south toward fresh pastures. The central Seronera Valley is one of Africa’s most reliable leopard hunting grounds, but it’s also become a favored area for tree-climbing lions in recent years. Bird-watching is at its best in November as migratory birds are present and because it’s a slower season, some lodges offer discounted rates.
Zanzibar Archipelago – Tanzania.
The exotic and tropical islands of the Zanzibar archipelago are made up of 4 main islands and a handful of lesser islets.
Zanzibar is magical, a spice-scented haven in the Indian Ocean. Whether you’re looking for high-octane activities or peaceful coastal fun, you’ll find it here. Miles of palm-fringed, sandy beaches are lapped by tropical, blue waters. Coral gardens filled with marine life thrive in the warm water.
When the temperatures rise in November, the ‘short rains’ begin. During the steamy mornings, clouds build up and in the afternoons they break in magnificent, but brief, showers. Blue sky generally follows the downpours. Daytime temperatures average 93°F, so it’s still warm, and water temperatures reach 84°F by the end of November. If you brave the possibility of a few rainstorms, there’s fantastic diving and snorkeling to be had. November also has fewer visitors and better hotel rates.
In addition to relaxing on the white shores and in the aqua waters of the main island of Unguja, you can visit the World Heritage Site of Stone Town, Zanzibar City’s historic district. Learn about the cultural effects of seafaring traders and taste the delicious legacy of their cuisine. Get a glimpse into the town’s glorious past by strolling through a tangle of winding alleys and lively market stalls. Further north, you can discover the Jozani Forest Reserve and explore exotic spice farms.
Makgadikgadi Pans, Botswana.
The rainy season in Makgadikgadi National Park begins in November when the pans are turned into a lush emerald-green grassland and thousands of zebra and blue wildebeest feast on the sweet summer grasses. Up to 20 000 zebras pass through each season and lions, cheetahs, and hyenas are always close by. Flocks of migratory birds arrive and add vibrant color and birdsong to the landscape. The green season in the desert is a magical time to visit.
Specialties such as brown hyenas and meerkats can also be seen in the grasslands, while aardwolves, bat-eared foxes, honey badgers, aardvarks, gemsbok, springbok, and black-backed jackals, and the black-maned Kalahari lion are among the desert-adapted carnivores to look out for. Thousands of flamingos travel here from Namibia and East Africa when the pans are flooded, attracted by the abundance of algae and crustaceans. The pink clouds of flamingos are a truly mesmerizing sight when they pass overhead.