In the African bush, January continues a season of rejoicing. The rains have set in and the wilderness is now green, thick, lush and adorned with flowers, migratory birds and baby animals. The crisp, clean air is filled with the sounds of birdsong. For many seasoned safari goers, this season of plenty is their favourite time to visit the bush.
In Botswana, in January, you will be bewitched by the vast grasslands, migrating zebra and spectacular stormy skies of the Makgadikgadi. The Makgadikgadi Pan, also known as the Botswana Salt Flats, are salt pans in the middle of the dry savanna in the central region of Botswana. For most of the year, the region is known for its vast, cracked white earth, endless horizons, dust, and heat. Following the rainy season in January, the area becomes a lush green grassland punctuated with shallow briny pans. These verdant grasses provide an important habitat for migrating animals, including zebra and wildebeest.
In Zambia, the water levels of the Zambezi River and, hence, Victoria Falls, have been rising since December, and the waterfall is now truly impressive. The force of the water catapults the spray into plumes that reach high into the sky. The rainforest that surrounds the waterfall has come to life with birds and blooming flowers. Livingstone is an excellent location for exploring the Zambezi River and visiting the Victoria Falls, with a wide range of activities on offer, wildlife in the surrounding areas and an interesting history.
Further downstream, far below Victoria Falls, lies Lake Kariba, a huge man-made lake surrounded by wildlife. The lakes' vast expanses make for a variety of recreational water-based activities such as game-watching by boat, canoeing, fishing, and simply relaxing. Each January, the areas surrounding the lake are green and bursting with life, and each afternoon, rain clouds build up. Frequent electrical storms offer an incredible spectacle as they roll dramatically across the lake.
The Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana
The Makgadikgadi grass plains and accompanying pan complexes of Sowa, Makgadikgadi Pan, Ntwetwe, and Nxai are scenically spectacular, and visitors will be impressed by the vastness of the sky and the enormous sense of space and light. From May to November, herds of zebra, springbok, and wildebeest are found in the region, attracted by the lush grasses that absorb the nutrients around the pans. This is Africa’s second-largest zebra and wildebeest migration. As the rains fall, the herds migrate north, and they are closely followed by predators such as lions, cheetahs, and hyenas. Desert-adapted species like the aardwolf and brown hyena, which are rarely observed elsewhere, can be found in large numbers here. Migratory birds arrive from December onwards in large numbers, and the area is one of only two southern African breeding sites for greater flamingos.
Livingstone town in southern Zambia lies on the northern bank of the Zambezi River on the Zimbabwe border, just north of Victoria Falls. The Livingstone area offers a wide range of activities. Livingstone town features a wonderful artisan market and museum, particularly for people interested in Dr. David Livingstone's adventures. The powerful Zambezi flows broad and calm above the falls. Boat tours and canoe excursions upstream of the falls allow visitors to view wildlife on the riverbanks and within the river. Or you can enjoy afternoon tea on an island in the middle of the river at the top of the waterfall itself. Bungee jumping and white-water rafting are popular among adrenaline enthusiasts, as are beautiful flights over the waterfalls by light aircraft, helicopter, or even microlight. There are also guided walks and drives through the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park, which is home to giraffe, zebra, buffalo, and the majority of Zambia's antelope species, as well as elephant. On guided treks around the national park, white rhinos may be seen. Livingstone can be easily added on pre or post-safari in Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, or Namibia.
Lake Kariba, Zimbabwe
The Kariba Dam flooded much of the central Zambezi Valley in the late 1950s, creating Lake Kariba, one of the world's largest man-made lakes. The valley's abundant wildlife was focused on its southern bank, which became Matusadona National Park. Atmospheric and lovely, Lake Kariba will charm you with breathtaking sunsets and dramatic landscapes. There is plenty of wildlife around Lake Kariba, from elephant herds to crocodiles. The big five, including black and white rhinos, can also be found in Matusadona National Park. Because of the variety of habitats available, the bird life is remarkable. The lake is a wonderful site to view the sunset, with the Matusadona Mountains in the background, making for great photo opportunities, and storm watching is also incredible in January. Thunderstorms form and sweep across the lake, lightning shatters the sky, thunder shakes the air and the whole spectacle is reflected in the lakes surface.