January on the Serengeti is the first preparation stage for the Great Migration. If December’s rains have been good, it’s time for the wildebeest and zebras to gain their strength and graze on the grasses.
January is also birthing time. During this period, thousands of wildebeest calves are born each day. Witnessing a wildebeest or zebra giving birth must be one of the most precious and unforgettable safari experiences, and it’s certainly possible if you plan your visit in January.
However, vulnerable calves and herds focusing on grazing also offer prime opportunities for predators. This is an ideal time to see the big cats, hyenas, cheetahs and wild dogs as they track down and attack the herds.
Although it’s rainy season, Botswana offers an abundance of lush greenery and an alternative experience for the seasoned safari goer.
Calving season is in full swing and it’s a good time to see big cats stalking springboks and impala mothers with their newborns. The Kalahari at this time of year is a bird lover’s paradise. Watch flamingos flock around lakes and migrating birds such as kingfishers, swallows and bee-eaters swooping in their thousands.
The green season is also time for herds to gather and commence their Great Migration. Especially impressive is the zebra migration through the wetlands to the Makgadikgadi Pans.
Over on the western side of Africa, Rwanda enjoys a brief dry season in January and February. As well as offering good hiking conditions and a lower risk of malaria, it’s also the perfect time for trekking through the rainforests to see mountain gorillas.
These magnificent animals are among the most endangered in the world, so seeing them in their natural habitat is a once-in-a-lifetime, humbling and emotional experience.
Another East African gem worth visiting at this time is Uganda. Protected mountain gorillas here can be found in two specific areas: the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in the Virunga Mountains, also home to the endangered golden monkey, and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
Gorilla trekking is strenuous though, so ensure you’re fit enough for the adventure!