The first rule of planning a safari to any destination in Africa, is knowing that seasonal fluctuations can bring about incredible transformations to the natural landscape and the wildlife present.
Nowhere is this more so than one of the brightest jewels in Africa’s safari crown – Botswana. Just comparing the seemingly barren Makgadikgadi Salt Pans with the watery paradise of the Okavango Delta, it is clear that Botswana is a land of vastly different environments, which is further exacerbated by the changing weather over the course of the year.
This seasonal guide will help you plan a Botswana safari that will bring you the best opportunities to experience the landscapes, wildlife and activities that are at the top of your travel bucketlist:
Dry season Botswana safari
Home to Africa’s greatest concentration of elephants in the Chobe National Park and a stronghold of some of the continent’s largest predators in the Moremi Game Reserve (eastern Okavango Delta), Botswana is serious big game country. Many Botswana safari aficionados are drawn here during the winter months from May to October, as the drier weather shakes the trees and bushes bare, leaving animals and birds without many places to hide.
An elephant takes a dip in the Chobe River as guests watch from the motorboat © Under One Botswana Sky
Scarce water in most of the country’s major parks means wildlife congregate in large numbers at reliable water sources in the Okavango Delta, Moremi Game Reserve and the Chobe River in the Chobe National Park. As zebra and impala gather at these few available waterholes, predators capitalise on this chance to take down the ungulates when they are at their most vulnerable. Likewise, great numbers of birds flock to these permanent water sources and where pools are drying to mud, sandpipers and crakes arrive to feed on the trapped fish and crustaceans.
A leopard prowls in the Moremi Game Reserve © Under One Botswana Sky
At the Makgadikgadi Pans, roads are in good condition over this season and it is sometimes possible to drive onto the pans. Don’t expect to see the flamingos in full breeding plumage, however, as it is the green summer months when they gather for their breeding season. Despite the dry season being the most popular and therefore most costly time to take a Botswana safari, the country’s “low volume, high quality” approach to tourism means the parks generally still feel uncrowded as compared to other safari destinations over their dry season.
A giraffe strolls past a game drive vehicle in the Okavango Delta © Under One Botswana Sky
Even if just for the cooler weather (excluding September and October), lack of rain and clear skies, a Botswana safari in the dry seasonis well-worth the extra expense. The soft wintery light and great game-viewing makes this a dream for photographers eager for that perfect shot. The weather shift also means there are fewer irritating mosquitoes and the risk of malaria is at its lowest, which means it is a good time of year to take children on safari.
Guests take a mokoro ride with guide in the Okavango Delta © Under One Botswana Sky
Another big drawcard is that this is the season to enjoy boating and mokoro rides in the Okavango Delta, while the Chobe River allows for year-round water-based activities. In south-eastern Okavango Delta, Under One Botswana Sky’s newest camps, Rra Dinare (Father Buffalo) and Mma Dinare (Mother Buffalo), as well as Kwando Safaris’ Lagoon and Splash camps in the Kwara Reserve, offer water-based safari activities over this time.
Green season Botswana safari
While Botswana is considered a year-round birding destination, with the wide range of habitats homing equally varied waterbirds and dry-country specials, it really is a green season Botswana safari that will delight birders and twitchers alike. As summer arrives in November and the Okavango Delta begins flooding from around February, wattled cranes, storks and egrets gather to feed off the insects and other creatures pushed up by the rising water levels.
A wattled crane strides through the grasses of the Okavango Delta © Under One Botswana Sky
From November to March, the Makgadikgadi Pans receive the summer rains that bring a profusion of migratory waterbirds. The highlight is the greater and lesser pink flamingos that breed on the pans when the water is high enough to protect their nests from predators. In fact, the Makgadikgadi Pans is one of the most important breeding sites in Southern Africa for these beautiful birds. Under One Botswana Sky’s Nata Lodge is found in the Nata Bird Sanctuary next to the Makgadikgadi Pans, which is paired well with Kwando Safaris’ Nxai Pan Camp, found in another pan destination, the Nxai Pan National Park.
Crowned cranes at the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans © Under One Botswana Sky
A green season safari has a major cuteness factor going for it. The lushness is the perfect condition for ungulates to give birth, and from the Okavango Delta through to Chobe National Park, wobbly calves learn to walk and play under the watchful eye of their mothers. In the Moremi Game Reserve, Botswana’s predator capital, game drives often encounter young being targeted by the likes of wild dogs and lions.
An elephant calf is protected by older family members at a waterhole in the Okavango Delta © Under One Botswana Sky
The summer rains tend to be mostly short afternoon showers, except for heavier downpours in January and February, and they bring greenness to the landscape, creating picture-perfect settings for a Botswana safari. There is a profusion of colourful wildflowers and dramatic light following thunderstorms, which make for good photography. Unfortunately, the wetter conditions bring those pesky mosquitoes so netted beds, mosquito spray and anti-malaria medication are all a necessity.
Guests take a sunset cruise along the Chobe River © Under One Botswana Sky
While Chobe National Park has the Chobe River that allows for year-round water-based activities, during the green season before the Okavango floods, the water levels across the delta are at their lowest. At this time all water-based activities in the delta are limited, whilst guests at Under One Botswana Sky’s Chobe Safari and Chobe Bush lodges can still experience river boating safaris.
Contact us to discuss which season in Botswana is best suited for your safari budget, interests and travelling style.