A landlocked country, South Sudan is bordered by Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Central African Republic, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. As a rule of thumb, the dry season (December – April) makes for the perfect time to visit, when the skies are clearer, the air cooler, and wildlife is on the march in incredible numbers. Journeys by Design currently designs safaris to Juba, Boma + Bandingilo national parks, Shambe National Park, and Imatong Mountains.
South Sudan consists of 10 states, including Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Unity, Upper Nile, Warrap, Western Bahr el Ghazal, Western Equatoria, Central Equatoria, Eastern Equatoria, Jonglei, and Lakes, and has two special administrative areas – Ruweng, Pibor, and Abyei, respectively.
Situated north of the equator, it is largely a land of plains and plateaus and is dominated by grasslands, wetlands, and forest habitats. Roughly a third of the land is covered by trees, two-fifths by shrub, and its key waterway is the White Nile, into which most of the country’s rivers drain. Other features include the Sudd – an enormous and centrally situated wetlands – and the country’s two highlands, the Imatong Mountains in the south and the Ironstone Plateau to the west and south.
South Sudan’s climate is influenced by the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ), a body of rain-bringing low atmospheric pressure that encircles and oscillates longitudinally across the equator. The ITCZ is characterised by heavy cloud cover, high humidity, and low winds, and is largely responsible for the country’s wet season, though its effects will vary in different parts of the country. The wet season begins in April and lasts through to November, with the heaviest showers occurring between May and September. The rains bring with them spectacular thunder and lightning storms.
All of which means the northern regions are drier overall compared with southern and central regions, and usually see average rainfall figures of between 700 – 1,300mm per year, though these numbers can be as low as 500 – 800mm in some areas. The south and central regions receive between 1,200 and 1,600 millimetres of rain on average per year. Some areas of the south, namely Western Equatoria and the high-altitude areas of Eastern Equatoria, such as the Imatong Mountains and Didinga Hills, can see up to 2,200mm of rain per annum. This said, owing to the effects of local topography, some lowland areas of these same states, such as Eastern Equatoria’s Ilemi Triangle, actually record the lowest national averages of less than 500mm of rain per year.
Throughout the country, the average temperature never drops lower than 25°C. The highest temperatures are found during the dry season, peaking in March and April, just before the wet season begins, when the mercury routinely punches above 35°C.
The best time for wildlife viewing would usually be the country’s dry season, so from December through to March. Certainly, this is when the white-eared kob, tiang and other antelope migrate east to west in search of water and better grazing. However, while less easy to spot, animal behaviour will change during the wet season, when the wildlife’s in better shape, when species tend to calve, and when the birdlife is prolific. Late March and April are perhaps the most optimal windows in this respect, as this is when early rains bring about a green flush of fresh vegetation to the savanna. This said, be warned: the wet season makes for a challenging time to visit South Sudan