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Choosing when to visit Eswatini (formerly Swaziland) comes down to personal priorities. This is not one of those African destinations where the seasons force your hand: most roads are perfectly navigable all year round and the wildlife does not all exit the country at certain times. Tourism numbers peak around the Christmas holidays but the place is never congested.

The warmest months are from October to March, when it may become too hot for some people’s comfort in the lowveld but remains bearable in the highveld. Conversely, the coolest are from June to August, when it is chilly at night in the highveld but remains pleasantly mild in the lowveld. In other words, because temperatures vary so widely across the country, you can always go where it is warmer – or cooler – according to taste. The rainy season brings violent electrical storms, generally in the afternoon, and mist often swathes large areas of the highveld. In general, however, Swaziland’s weather can never be forecast with the same certainty as a little further north in Africa, where the rainy and dry seasons are more clearly defined.

Similarly, from a wildlife-watcher’s perspective, there is not the same peak/off-peak seasonal pattern of many safari destinations. The dry season, when vegetation dies back and water sources dwindle, is best for game-viewing in the lowveld. But Swaziland’s parks are small, so the game is never hard to find. The rainy season is best for birds, with everything singing and displaying and, from September to March, all the summer migrants – including such rarities as the blue swallow – joining the residents. The rains also bring out reptiles, frogs and insects, which may or may not be your thing but certainly makes a night in the bush much noisier. Mosquitoes and other biting irritants are more prevalent during the rains but never a serious deterrent. For plant enthusiasts, the highveld floral display peaks in October/November.

Seasonal factors do influence certain activities. Hikers should bear in mind that summer brings sapping midday heat and violent afternoon storms, so it’s a good idea to make an early start to the day. Heavy downpours also have an impact on whitewater rafting and caving, leaving some rivers too swollen to tackle. For photographers, however, there is no doubt that the rainy season brings the best light, with lush foregrounds and dramatic skies. Dry-season bushfires produce a dusty haze that is not conducive to landscape photography.

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