Best Time to visit Botswana
The best time to visit Botswana is during the dry winter and spring seasons from June to September, and into October if you can bear the heat. But that is not the only time to visit Botswana. Not by a long way.
As a rule, the general game viewing in Botswana is best in the dry season with thinned out bush and scarce water supplies. And the Okavango Delta actually fills up in the dry season attracting more wildlife and offering you the full range of water and land-based safari activities that make Botswana one of Africa's elite safari destinations.
But there are reasons, compelling reasons at that, for visiting Botswana in the "Green Season" as the locals call it. Some go so far as to call it the Emerald Season in reference to the vivid greens and sheer beauty of the lush sub-tropical landscape.
The Wet Season
Botswana's rainy season from December to April is typical of the sub-tropical climate: hot, humid days build up and give way to spectacular thunderstorms taking the edge off the heat and transforming the landscape into a lush utopia of life and vitality.
The undiscovered gem of this season is the annual zebra migration from northern Botswana into the Kalahari and Makgadikgadi in anticipation of fresh grazing in the endless grasslands of Botswana's prairie-like interior. With up to 25,000 animals on the move this is the second largest Zebra migration after the great migration of East Africa.
The Central Kalahari and Makgadikgadi are generally better in the wetter season as there is plenty of wildlife to see. Lions and hyena - cheetah and leopard if you're really lucky - hunt the plains game that feed off the nutrient-rich grasses. Flamingoes by the thousand breed in the wet pans having crossed half the continent from Walvis Bay Lagoon in Namibia. You also get incredible wildlife activity as the time of plenty is also a time for calving, territorial and mating disputes and everywhere you look, life is busy regenerating after the parched winter.
It is well known that the best safaris in southern Africa are to be had during the dry winter months. The reason is simple: you can see the animals. The bush is thin and sparse and, water being scarce, wildlife congregations around remaining sources. You will probably not see as much wildlife as you would in the peak safari season but you will also escape the busy tourist traffic. So if you've been on safaris before, have ticked off all the big game and now want a new safari experience with perhaps fewer people around, a lush landscape and a different wildlife perspective then Botswana in the wet season is definitely an option.
The Dry Season
The dry season in Botswana extends from May to October and, depending on local variations in weather patterns, November can either be dry, very wet or an exciting combination of both. Nights and mornings are cool to cold with occasional frost but the days are clear, dry and warm. And where you are often confronted with a wall of foliage in summer, the bush in winter dies back and thins out improving the game viewing opportunities dramatically.
If you are coming to Botswana, chances are you want to see elephants, lion, buffalo, giraffe, zebra and the host of antelope and mammals that inhabit Africa's great plains. And for that type of safari holiday, the game viewing is undoubtedly better in northern Botswana during the latter part of the dry season.
The Okavango Delta, with permanent water, can be visited all year round but the thinned out plains in winter and paradoxically higher water levels offer better visibility. Water-based game viewing activities take centre stage in winter.
The famous Savute area of southern Chobe is also good all year round but best in the drier times when the animals are drawn to waterholes and rivers. However, the few weeks after the first rains in November when the grasses are at their very best, draws large herds of zebra, impala and other plains game to the area and with it comes the predators! I have been to Savute in all the seasons and have always found it a superb area to view wildlife.
Northern Chobe is dominated by the Chobe River and this area is also best in the dry season when the animals migrate from the south to be near the river for their daily water requirements. During the dry season huge herds of up to 300 elephants and 600 buffaloes move into the Chobe River's flood plains along with hundreds of zebra, impala and other antelope bringing lions and other predators into the picture as well. Animals like the chacma baboon, bushbuck, crocodile, hippo, lechwe and waterbuck as well as many hundreds of birds stay along the Chobe River throughout the year.
The best time to visit Botswana is September, which is the start of spring. This all-rounder of a month offers the best game viewing, milder temperatures, plenty of water in the Delta and excellent birdlife. With very limited accommodation availability in Botswana you need to book your holiday well in advance if you want to travel at peak times.
For first-time safaris and general game viewing, the dry season from June to September in Botswana is the safest bet. Tourist traffic does drop significantly in the summer making the wet season from December to April a good option for return visitors wanting a more intimate safari experience without the essential need to see specific animals. October and November are hit-and-miss months - they can be amazing or they can be disappointing as October can get unbearably hot and if the rains come early, November can be total wash-out.
Do you want to visit Botswana?
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More In Botswana
Maun. A town in northern Botswana. A town on the banks of Thamalakane River. To the San people, the place of short reeds. To today's tourists, the hub, gateway, meeting place and launch bay for the Okavango Delta, Moremi Game Reserve and Chobe River. It's a tiny outpost really, halfway between the juicy delta and the parched salt pans. This is Botswana's tourism capital.
Central Kalahari Game Reserve
The big attractions: wilderness, wildlife and the San hunter-gatherers. With such vast expanses of uninhabited land you're about as remote as you can be on planet Earth without putting your life at risk. Explorations barely scratch the perimeter of this savanna wilderness and the wildlife roams far and free.
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