If you are investing in an African safari, chances are you want to do your utmost to ensure the timing is just right for wildlife viewing – and this can be a very complex decision, given the current paradigm of global warming. Botswana, in particular, has a very confounding ecosystem. I want to help simplify the seasonality issue in Bostwana so that you can get the most out of your stay in this stunning country and ensure you are staying at a lodge offering ideal access for the time of year you are travelling.
The central thing to understanding the way the seasons work in Botswana is that rainy season is the opposite of the season when the Okavango Delta is full of water. This is because the Delta is filled from the rains in Angola which carry water slowly down the Kavango river, eventually fanning out into the Delta at the exact time when the rains end in Bostwana.
Below a concise breakdown of seasonality.
November – March is Green Season
Green season is when the Delta’s floodplain is relatively low, rain is falling from the sky, and the area of traversable land is the highest. With precipitation comes a growth in vegetation so it is beautifully green and lush. Wildlife disperses this time of year because waterholes in outlying woodland fill, and it is no longer necessary to congregate around permanent water sources. It is therefore best at this time of year, to combine areas with a wide variety of ecosystems with those where the wildlife finds new vegetation which is not available in the dry season. Predators are territorial so they will not make significant movements. The most significant migrations are among hoofed mammals and elephants. At the height of Green Season, you should definitely visit the Kalahari (rather than Chobe) where a migration of plains game make for spectacular viewing amidst the desert’s wide open grasslands.
A spectacular Botswana itinerary in this time period would include Savute, Okavango Delta (in a permanent water camp), and Kalahari.
*Note that although part of the rainy season, November can be very hot in Bostwana. January and February are by far the wettest months so least ideal for safari.
April – May is shoulder season
When the summer rains begin to dissipate and temperatures become cooler. This is a beautiful time of year to travel, as the landscape has been transformed into lush shades of emerald green and the sky is crystal clear – an ideal time of year for photographers, particularly as the crowds are much less intense compared to dry season. Given the wide availability of vegetation (sustenance), plains game favor this time of year for calving. If you choose your areas carefully for following historical wildlife migration patterns, this can be a lovely time of year to enjoy shoulder season prices and fewer crowds, and spectacular scenery.
An ideal Itinerary in April/May would include Selinda Game Reserve, Okavango Panhandle, and either Kalahari (April) or Chobe (May into June).
June until October
As the rainy season draws to an end in May, the Delta’s floodplain reaches its peak flood, meaning that the inundation of water is the greatest. It also marks the beginning of the dry season, ironically, which is in reference to the lack of rain and the withering of vegetation. As the dry season progresses water and vegetation become even more crucial, and wildlife congregates where there is the best of both. Early in the season, activities around the permanent water camps can be limited to birding or boat safaris, but later in the season those same camps can include land-based activities. Other camps which have seasonal water may entirely lose their ability to do water activities by October. Therefore, the best approach is to combine a stay at a combination of land and water camps in the Delta or even with a stay in Chobe whose permanent river of the same name is a magnet for elephant.
If you want further help understanding the seasons in Botswana or if you wish to book a safari with me, please contact me to start creating a tailor made itinerary together.