A GUIDE TO SAFARI SAFETY IN AFRICA
An African safari is one of the most thrilling experiences on earth. Learn how to stay safe with our top safari safety tips.
Malawi has two distinct seasons - the wet and dry season - each offering different experiences. The best time to visit Malawi is the dry season, between May and September. The dry season has cooler temperatures, fresh mornings and better chances at spotting wildlife.
During the wet season, it is harder to spot animals, but it’s a great season for bird watchers as thousands of migratory birds appear in the trees.
It’s also easier to explore the country in the dry season, as the roads are clear and dry. In the wet season, some areas can be difficult to navigate due to heavy downpours and flooding. From May to August, the days will be sunny with blue skies, but from September onwards some clouds will start to appear and temperatures rise.
September is still a great month to spot Malawi’s animals as most of them are congregating around the remaining watering holes, and you can combine a safari with a trip to the Lake of Stars music festival at Lake Malawi’s shores.
From November to March, daily temperatures reach 25°c and barely drop below 20°c at night, but in the dry season, temperatures can drop to single digits, with July and August being the coldest months. Temperatures in the Nyika Plateau are usually cooler than the rest of the country, so the Plateau is a good place to escape the wet season heat.
January in Malawi is characterised by heavy rainfall and high humidity across the country. Since January has one of the highest rainfalls of the year, flooding in remote areas can delay or restrict travel. It's not the best time to visit the country for a safari as animals will be mostly hiding in the deep jungle or obscured from view by vegetation. Those who do wish to see wildlife will be rewarded with glimpses of animals interacting with their natural habitat, but patience is needed. It’s a great month for birdwatching as thousands of migratory birds can be spotted all over the country.
Large thunderstorms roll over the landscape daily, but these are impressive to experience. Temperatures will vary from 15°c at higher altitudes to 26°c in the heat of the daytime, but humidity will make the weather feel hotter. Some lodges and hotels will be closed in January, especially around the shores of Lake Malawi, but it’s still possible to visit the stunning body of water, and there are still some lodges operating.
February is another wet month in Malawi, but the country is glowing a vibrant shade of green from the previous months of rainfall. Classed as low season, some hotels and lodges close during January to March, especially around Lake Malawi’s shores. However, the benefit of visiting in February is that there will be fewer tourists, and visitors are more likely to experience the incredible friendliness of the local Malawians.
February is an incredible month for birdwatching, as Malawi's national parks are full of migratory birds from Europe. Nyika National Park is a great place for birdwatching and the native orchids will be in bloom over the plateau. Temperatures vary from 18-26°c across the country, but humidity will make the temperatures feel hotter and stickier. Patience is needed on safari in February as the thick vegetation makes it harder to spot animals. Majete Wildlife Reserve is very overgrown in February, so instead head to Liwonde National Park which is flatter and more open.
March sees the highest rainfall of the year, so it’s not the best time to visit. The rain causes regular flooding to Malawi’s underdeveloped infrastructure, and many resorts and lodges are closed in March as it is low season. Safaris in March require patience as the animals are mostly obscured from view by the lush vegetation. However, when you do see wildlife, they will be interacting with their environment, climbing trees or tending to their growing young. Birdlife is excellent in March as the migratory birds are out and about, enjoying the rain and warm weather.
Temperatures in March vary from around 18°c at night to highs of 26°c, although the humidity makes it feel hotter. Nyika National Park has a higher elevation so it will be cooler, and there is still the chance to see some endemic orchids in bloom on the main plateau. Depending on the year towards the end of March, the rains decrease in intensity.
April is the last month of the wet season and can be a little unpredictable. Some years there is a lot of rainfall in April, while other years only experience scattered showers. Either way, the whole country is has an abundant green landscape. This is the last month to see the migratory birds as they head back to Europe for the increasingly warm temperatures there.
Temperatures in Malawi start to fall with daytime highs of up to 25°c and night times dropping to 15°c. The higher regions like the Nyika Plateau tend to be even colder at night, so pack warm layers if you plan to explore higher altitudes or the southern areas. In April, antelopes start their fights as the males clash to impress the females. Fights between males can often be seen on safari, as the animals are more interested in their opponents than safari vehicles.
May is a great time to visit Malawi. It’s an incredibly green month, with days of sunshine and temperatures cooler than the previous months. After the last few months, the landscape is at its best with vibrant green jungles, full rivers and well-fed animals accompanied by their energetic offspring. Although there are still a few days of rain in May, the weather is mostly clear and the air feels fresh in the national parks. Temperatures in the evenings drop to around 10-12°c (with the higher regions dropping to single digits) but in the daytime you can expect a pleasant 22-24°c. It’s worth packing waterproof clothing and warmer layers because May is a transitional month between wet and dry season, and the weather can be a little unpredictable.
Wildlife sightings are unusual this month, with male antelopes in rut fighting over females, and crocodiles beginning their courtship season. To see both of these romances playing out before you, head to Liwonde National Park or Majete Game Reserve. Other animals are also enjoying the green season, with abundant food and a chance to roam around larger areas rather than sticking close to watering holes. Game viewing might take longer in May as the vegetation is thicker, but the reward is seeing animals climbing trees, sharing fruit and exploring their habitat.
June is the start of high season in Malawi. With excellent weather and great wildlife sightings, June is a good month to visit because it tends to be less busy than July, August and September. Most days are characterised by sunshine and blue skies, and temperatures hover around a pleasant 20°c. Night temperatures drop significantly, usually around 5-7°c, and higher altitude areas like Nyika National Park are even colder at night. Bring warm layers for evenings and mornings, although most accommodations will have warm bedding and fireplaces to keep you warm.
June is a good time to visit Lake Malawi and soak in the cool water or go snorkelling to see some of the many endemic species of fish that swim in Lake Malawi. The sunsets in June are beautiful, and you can watch them on a boat or on the sandy shore after a day of relaxing on the beach. In Liwonde National Park, incredible flocks of Lilian's lovebirds arrive to explore the park and can be easily spotted all over the region.
July is peak season in Malawi and sees a lot of tourists as it’s a great time to visit. Malawi is now in its dry season and daytimes are characterised by pleasant temperatures and seemingly endless sunshine. The nights can get quite cool, with temperatures dropping to 5-7°c but most lodges have wood fireplaces and warm bedding so evenings are comfortable. Bring warm clothing or layers for early morning walks on Nyika plateau or safari drives through the national parks, as it takes a few hours of sunshine for the temperatures to warm up. Daytime see highs of 20-23°c which is perfect for most activities in Malawi.
Elephants love the weather in July and it’s easy to see large herds roaming through reserves, with up to 100 elephants in each herd. July is mating season for many animals, so expect to see crocodiles, antelope and elephants frolicking amidst the vegetation. Liwonde National Park continues to play home for thousands of Lillian's lovebirds as they pair off and decorate the trees of the park.
August is another peak month for Malawi, with days of sunshine, cool evenings and excellent wildlife sightings in the national parks. With minimal rain in the last few months, Malawi is still looking pretty but the vegetation is not as thick as in the green season. This means that travelling through the national parks and reserves offer countless sightings of monkeys, zebra, giraffes, elephants, lions and more hanging out in their natural habitat. Most species can be seen around watering holes, as water is now a scarce resource. Expect to see some clashes as predator and prey stand side by side. Liwonde National Park sees massive herds of elephants grouping around their rivers for water and the nutritious river grass, and the park is still graced with hundreds of lovebirds.
August temperatures reach up to 25°c in the heat of the day, but the nights are still cold, especially at higher altitudes like Nyika National Park. Expect the nights to drop as low as 5°c, although most lodges have wood fireplaces to keep guests warm. Evenings and mornings can feel chilly so pack warm layers. Since August can be a busy month the limited accommodation fills up fast, so book lodges in advance if possible.
In September temperatures are warming up, and the lower areas of the country, like Lake Malawi, can feel quite hot. Temperatures reach highs of around 28°c in the midday heat and evenings drop to around 10-12°c, getting warmer towards the end of the month. If you like warm weather this is a good month to travel to Malawi as there are fewer tourists compared to the previous few months, and with such little rain, wildlife viewing is excellent. Liwonde National Park sees hundreds of elephants crowding around the shores of its river, enjoying the water and eating the remaining vegetation around the banks.
Lake Malawi is a good place to cool off as the winds make the temperatures feel cooler and make for great sailing conditions. You can go swimming and snorkelling, and the clear skies are also perfect for seeing the lake of stars at night. At the end of September, the popular ‘Lake of Stars’ music festival graces the shores of the lake.
October is the hottest month of the year, with temperatures occasionally hitting 40°c, and even the evenings only dropping to around 16-18°c. This is a great month to see Malawi’s animals, as the heat and prolonged dry season means that you can find them all crowding around the remaining watering holes. Don’t miss a chance to see all the incredible species living in Majete Wildlife Reserve. A safari through the varied terrain of the park offers sightings of Africa’s Big Five, as well as herds of other wildlife. If you are lucky you may even spot some of the rare black rhinos roaming the reserve.
The shores of Lake Malawi can feel quite hot in October, but this is a good time to get out on the lake or take a dip in it. Swimming and snorkelling offer relief from the heat of the day, or head to the rolling plateau of Nyika National Park with an altitude of 2,500m for cooler temperatures. This is a good place to see the erland antelope, which regroup on the plateau for the mating season.
November is a transitional month in Malawi and usually sees fewer visitors as the weather can be unpredictable. If you can deal with the heat at the start of the month, November offers excellent opportunities for seeing Malawi’s animals, and safaris can feel very remote as its unlikely you will meet other vehicles or people in the reserves. Elephants stick close to water sources in Liwonde as other animals try to weave through the large herds to get to the river.
This is the best month to spot Majete's black rhino population, as they frequent the remaining watering holes. Towards the end of the month, the first rains start to appear, with daily showers and occasional storms watering the country. The landscape adjusts quickly into a lush, green paradise again and the rain brings flocks of migratory birds. Temperatures throughout the month hover between 15-30°c, with the shores of Lake Malawi feeling hotter than the higher plateaus of Nyika National Park.
December is the start of the wet season with a lot of rainfall throughout the month. The rains start earlier in the north, so head to Majete National Park if you want to avoid the rains. Malawi’s landscape becomes green overnight and are great for birdwatchers as the rain attracts flocks of thousands of migratory birds. The days are a mixture of sunshine and thunderstorms, but these tend to last only a few hours at a time. Temperatures fall slightly with daytimes being a pleasant 24-26°c and evenings around 15°c.
At the start of the month it's still relatively easy to see wildlife as they still stick close to water sources, but towards the end of the month, they start to explore the national parks and reserves more, enjoying an abundance of food and water sources. December is the birthing season with many mammals having babies in tow, while along the sand covered shores of the Shire River, baby crocodiles are hatching out of their buried eggs. The mother crocodile is there to guard these newborns and she transports them to the river's edge as they start to explore their new home. Towards the end of December accommodation fills up from Christmas holidays, so if you are planning on visiting over Christmas or New Year then book as far in advance as possible.