Botswana

When to go to Botswana

the best time to go to botswana

As Botswana lies south of the equator its seasons are opposite to that in the northern hemisphere, however, this works out well for us as the ideal time to safari in Botswana is their winter, running from April to October, with drier days and clear skies.

‘Pulu’ is the Setswana word for rain and this influences much of the locals’ way of life. They depend on this to grow their crops and for the animals and people to survive. Therefore, although we may look at the rainy season unfavourably, it is vital to Botswana’s communities.

In summary, the best time to go to Botswana is:

  • May to September is the most popular time to visit, with clear days and cooler temperatures. This is the best time to for game drives giving you high chances of seeing some of the big five and some beautiful birdlife.
  • October and April are shoulder seasons between summer and winter and therefore are still likely to have fairly dry, bright days.

BOTSWANA IS CHARACTERISED BY ITS HOT AND DRY CLIMATE INTERSPERSED WITH UNPREDICTABLE RAINY MONTHS THROUGHOUT THE SUMMER.

When to go

This is a guide for the country as a whole, indicating good times to plan a holiday, taking into account popular places to visit, wildlife encounters and overall weather. Please remember that where in the country will vary depending on month of travel.

botswana seasonal overviews

As with most safari destinations, Botswana has clear seasons, each with their pros and cons. Below is a quick round up of the seasons and the differences between them.

April to November

The dry season broadly occurs from April to November when you can expect to see clear and near uninterrupted blue skies. June to August are the coolest months, when desert temperatures in the Kalahari are known to drop below freezing. From September onward the heat gradually builds up and peaks, sometimes unbearably, in October. Temperature extremes are much more moderate and pleasant in the Okavango Delta. Here, the height of the dry season coincides with the year's highest water levels, which are the most conducive to wildlife sightings. With less land available, the terrestrial animals of the region like elephants, lions and buffalo will be found in more concentrated pockets than when water levels are lower. The drier conditions also cause animals to congregate around remaining watering holes – another boon for sightings. Outside of the Delta, the dry season also makes travel much easier as roads and trails become more easily traversable.

December to March

The wet season from December to March is typified by cooler temperatures and heavy showers, with January and February being the wettest months. However, these short, sharp showers are often followed by bright sunshine and are unlikely to last all day, meaning game drives are still possible. These months are a time of abundance in Botswana that coincides with the birthing season for many herbivores, and with lots of young around, the possibility of predator-prey interactions is high. Even in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, high concentrations of game can be found making the most of the lush grasses and flowers that cover the usually dry riverbeds. Birdwatchers will be well catered for thanks to the many summer migrants that flock here, while photographers can make use of the excellent light conditions to capture the land's vibrant colours from behind their lens. The shoulder seasons of November/December (as well as May/June in the dry season) also result in great game viewing and reduced prices offering great value for money.

Water Levels in the Okavango Delta

As one of Africa's greatest natural wonders, the Okavango Delta is without a doubt Botswana's biggest attraction for safari-goers. The Delta is supplied by the Okavango River, which has its headwaters in the highlands of Angola and travels hundreds of miles to eventually spread over a huge portion of northern Botswana. About 2.5 trillion gallons of water flow through the Delta each year, covering an area that stretches over 2,000-6,000 square miles, depending on conditions. Water levels in the Delta fluctuate throughout the year, so make sure you take these into account if you're planning a trip here.

Water levels in the Delta start to rise in May, but this may occur slightly earlier if there have been very heavy local rains in the area during January and February. Water levels are at their highest in June and July, as this is when the rains that fell in Angola at the start of the year finally reach the Delta and spread out. Starting in August, the Delta's water levels begin to recede, and the cycle begins anew. Bear in mind that the highest water levels coincide with Botswana's dry season – although there will be plenty of water on the ground in the Delta, there will be very little (if any) rain.

The sand of the Delta is like a sponge. When it's been dry for a while, it will quickly soak up any water once introduced; after this, less and less water will soak in, with more and more remaining on the surface. This contributes to the rising water levels during the middle of the year. When water levels are higher, the Delta's wildlife is forced onto the higher land that remains above water, which results in better game viewing as there are fewer areas of dry land where terrestrial animals can be found. Also keep in mind that as you push further north into the Delta – getting closer to the Okavango River as you do so – the water levels will remain higher for longer.

events & expert view

A lively country, Botswana has lots of events you can try to experience during your safari. Find out more here, as well as our experts favourite time to travel.

Events

The second-largest terrestrial animal migration in Africa takes place between the months of January and April, as huge herds of zebra and other herbivores arrive into the usually arid salt pans of north-central Botswana which come alive with vegetation after the arrival of the annual rains. Chobe National Park is home to an estimated 50,000 elephants – perhaps the highest concentration in all of Africa – which migrate between the southeastern section of the park during the dry season and the Chobe and Linyanti Rivers during the wet season. In Botswana, the wild dog denning season occurs between June and September, which offers the best chance of seeing the predators as they will stay close to their dens in order to tend to their pups.

Experts view

Arabella, one of our Botswana experts says ‘September is the best time for game as this is the end of the dry season so the bush is less dense and animals congregate at the waterholes and it is before it gets too hot. I also really like November as it is a more affordable time to go and it's when a lot of the wildlife gives birth, so plenty of baby animals everywhere! If you want to combine Botswana with Victoria Falls then the best time to go is May/June as the falls are in full flow at this time. Any time though is great for a Botswana holiday!’

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