I strongly dislike crowds. Any crowds. Concert crowds, crowds at a sale, food stall crowds, crowds on a beach, holiday crowds. All crowds really! Crowds and I are not happy bed fellows. Crowds, or to be more specific, the general lack thereof, are my ‘main’ and particular reason for planning my holidays in shoulder season.

ngorongoro crater crowds
Best avoided – the tourist crowd in the Ngorongoro Crater

I find absolutely no joy whatsoever, in throngs of people, all, attempting to do the same thing, at exactly the same time. Avoidance therefore, is my chief tactic.

Aside from this quirky disinclination exceptionally specific to me, there are numerous other really sound reasons to consider booking your next vacation, your Southern Africa holiday, in shoulder season.

Before you’ve even booked accommodation at your holiday destination, you may find a number of airlines offer upgrades in shoulder season.  Should you have accumulated airline miles, there is chance you may receive a fortuitous class upgrade to Business Class, something that rarely if ever happens in high season. On longer flights taking you into Southern Africa, this is certainly a very appealing consideration.

On a crisp autumn day in Cape Town, the prettiest beaches are gloriously deserted

Hand-in-hand with the possibility of off-peak airline upgrades, are cheaper accommodation rates. A good number of hotels and lodges, if not all, offer much lower rates in the quieter months, and there are also a large number who offer special deals incorporating free nights and other value adds. I certainly always keep my eyes wide-open for an additional night included with two nights booked or any similar offers. And there is definitely nothing awry with a bottle of bubbles on the house, and/or a complimentary massage, should these be part of the deal.

It also goes without saying that with less demand one stands a far greater chance of bagging the exact room or suite your little heart desires … and because of that same little ‘demand quotient,’ you will not only be able to secure the accommodation you desire, but at lower rates than high season prices. It really is a no-brainer all round!

With fewer guests in the safari lodges, chance are you’ll have your ranger all to yourselves

In addition to lower rates, with less visitors in off-peak season, staff at lodges, hotels and guesthouses are generally under less pressure and far more relaxed. This favourable guest-to-staff ratio allows staff to pay more attention to visitors, offer better quality service, and just generally ensures travelers of a more agreeable stay.

For guests on safari, less crowds and a favourable guest-to-staff ratio ensures more space and superior vantage points on game vehicles. Fewer guests also means that game rangers are able to offer a more personable interaction on game drives, resulting in a far more intimate and enjoyable game experience all round.

Now, let’s take a little look at the actual seasons and the weather associated with shoulder season.

Within Southern Africa, there are a number of climates and micro-climates, but we can generalise here somewhat and say that main Southern African destinations can be split into summer rainfall and winter rainfall regions respectively.

The winter rain occurs only in the South-western part of South Africa. All other countries and regions receive most of their rainfall in the summer months.

Generally, April, May, June are considered Autumn, and September, October and November are considered to be Spring, and thus both part of the shoulder season.

While Autumn in Southern Africa is lovely and mild and offers visitors from hotter climes a pleasant reprieve from the heat, in my mind, it is spring in Southern Africa that is particularly enticing.

botswana green season
Botswana in the green season – a photographer’s delight

November, in most Southern Africa countries, is when the first glorious life-giving rains arrive, and with these heavy rains, new life … both fauna and flora. Deserts spring to life, dormant species leaping into bloom. On the African plains grasses sparkle lushly under heated skies, the savannahs a carpet of tall grasses, full succulent foliage fills the panorama.

As the grasses turn green, the Plains game give birth, luring the predators, and turning the landscape into killing fields. The plains are alive with the cycle of African wilderness life in all it’s magnificence!

In-between dramatic downpours, the days are warm, and as many of the showers occur in the afternoons or at night, these deluges make for spectacular viewing complete with beyond beautiful light … a photographers dream.

What more can really be said, fly for less, secure the accommodation you want … at cheaper rates, enjoy temperate weather, relish spectacular wildlife, receive great service, AND in my books, above all else, avoid the maddening crowds. What are you waiting for, visit Southern Africa in shoulder season without delay!