Botswana

A Monthly Guide

A Month by Month Guide to Botswana

Unlike many of Africa’s other safari orientated destinations, Botswana remains a destination that can be visited throughout the year.

The summer rainy season a viable time to travel, thanks largely to how well the rains drain through the sands of the Kalahari Desert that covers much of the country. This, coupled with amazing wildlife viewing and prices that can be less than half of what they are in the drier winter months, it is an incredible time to visit for those that don’t mind the heat and some rain storms.

That said, the traditional dry season months are still incredibly popular and offer some of the finest game viewing anywhere in Africa.

Our month-by-month guide is designed to give you a flavour of what to expect in Botswana throughout the year and help you decide when to travel.

January

January sees the rains arrive in earnest, although it should be noted that these tend to take the form of spectacular afternoon storms as opposed to prolonged tropical downpours. The rains transform the landscape into a carpet of lush green grasses and blooming trees which, coupled with the moody iron grey afternoon skies make for stunning photographs as you explore.

From a game viewing perspective it is a strong time of year for predator sightings, driven in the main by the fact that the antelope and other plains game are giving birth to their young. Elephant herds tend to disperse more at this time of year so can be harder to find, but lone bull sightings remain very good and are always a popular sighting. Large zebra herds can be found migrating through the Makgadikgadi Pans National Park which draws plenty of visitors here.

Activities tend to be restricted to game drives and some walking owing to the rains, but camps with access to permanent water in the Okavango Delta continue to offer boat activities. Prices are at their very lowest in January and it is a very rewarding time of year to travel.

Very similar to January across the board, albeit with the chance of the rains being more intense as we move into the very peak of the wet season.

The game viewing remains very strong however and it is a hugely popular time for photographers to take advantage of the unique backdrops that the bush offers. February is also the last of the reliable months to see the Zebra migration across the pans as the herds are starting to disperse come the start of March.

Change is in the air as March rolls around, with a notable easing of the rains and daytime temperatures starting to drop from their summer peak to more pleasant levels.

The last of the zebra herds are starting to move north from the Makgadikgadi region towards the plains of Savuti and eventually the Chobe river, although their arrival there remains a few months away. Big cat sightings remain strong across the country and the plains game whose newborns have survived their first few months start to grow and become more confident as they play with the rest of their herds. The easing of the rains sees the larger herds of elephant move back to more central areas around the Okavango Delta and sightings of them become more common.

March is the last month of low season pricing until the end of the year so savvy travellers can take advantage of this and still enjoy some remarkable wildlife viewing.

Autumn is very much in the air as rain becomes an increasing rarity, temperatures continue to drop and the bush starts to fade from lush green to hues of brown and yellow.

The drop in temperatures mean animals tend to stay out in the open much longer and the drier underfoot conditions mean walking safaris become more of a possibility from camps that offer them. The very first floods from the highlands of Angola that feed the Okavango Delta are starting to reach the upper end of the Okavango River system, although it remains a few months until they will reach the areas around the lodges.

Prices are starting to increase but remain some way off their highest so it remains an excellent time of year to take advantage of this.

For those in the know this is when the safari season really hits its stride, with all of Botswana’s iconic wildlife seen in strong numbers once the rains have subsided almost entirely and temperatures continue to drop.

For many camps, this is when they can start to offer the full suite of activities including game drives, guided walks, boat and mokoro canoe safaris. It is also the first month of the year when sleepouts become a possibility again, so a great time of year to enjoy this unique experience. Over in the Makgadikgadi region the dry conditions also mean quad bike trips are on offer again and it is a superb time to see perhaps the most endearing of Botswana’s wildlife – their habituated meerkat colonies.

Prices remain at April’s level and is the final month where many camps offer reduced rates.

With the safari season now in full swing Botswana starts to become incredibly popular and the more accessible areas including the Chobe National Park and Moremi Game Reserve, as well as the Savuti region, do get busier with self-drivers so this should be noted when planning to visit these areas.

With the rains gone until the back end of the year game viewing is now at its best and will remain so for some time, with the lower temperatures now conducive for full day game drives which are always a treat. The floods of the delta are starting to reach some of the more northerly camps and those that offer seasonal boating activities can now get guests back out on the water. Exploration season in the Makgadikgadi region is now in full swing with guests able to visit the stunning Kubu Island and mobile safari operators are preparing for months on end in the bush.

Many lodge companies have now moved to peak season pricing, although a small handful still offer discounts from their highest rates in June.

Alongside August and September this is the most popular month for safaris in Botswana and if you are looking to stay in any of the “headline” camps then planning a year or more in advance is advised.

Game viewing is at its very best, with the dry conditions, thinned out bush and low temperatures meaning animals are easy to spot and at their most relaxed. The delta is starting to flood properly now, drawing all manner of wildlife to the maze of channels and lagoons – a helicopter flight to see the delta in full flood is highly recommended. The full range of activities remains on offer from all camps so safari experiences are incredibly diverse and no two days are the same.

Peak season pricing is now applied across the board, although some “circuit” discounts are offered so if you do 6 or more nights with the same brand of lodges there are still discounts available.

It really is hard to beat Botswana as a safari destination in August. Temperatures are at their lowest, it doesn’t rain and the bush is as dry and sparse as it gets meaning animals are spotted almost everywhere you look.

Breeding herds of elephant congregate around the lagoons and channels of the delta in their perennial hunt for water and vegetation and huge herds of red lechwe can be seen on the floodplains in lower-lying areas. Predators can be found in abundance and it is an especially good time of year for seeing wild dog. The floods of the delta have now reached the very lowest points of the ecosystem so the full range of activities is available across the country. Further north the Savuti and Chobe regions remain excellent for elephant viewing and it is prime time of year to be in the Makgadikgadi region.

Prices remain high and will be such until November rolls around.

Much like August, there are few better places in Africa for wildlife enthusiasts to be than Botswana in September. As temperatures remain low it is a great time of year to enjoy a more adventurous safari experience such as a mobile camping safari through the Moremi Game Reserve and Savuti Region, whilst those looking for a different side to Botswana can consider a visit to the Tsodilo Hills.

Found to the west of the Okavango Delta, these are Botswana’s highest point and offer a chance to see bushman rock art sites and to learn about the anthropology of Botswana. Water levels in the delta can start to recede depending on how high the flood levels have been, but all told it is still a great month, albeit likely the last one, where the full range of delta experiences are offered across all camps.

September remains a peak season month for pricing, but circuit discounts remain in place when booking multiple camps from the same brand.

October sees a turning of the seasons, as temperatures increase sharply and sporadic rains return, especially on very hot afternoons.

The game viewing remains incredibly strong, especially with predator sightings and breeding herds of elephants which are always high on the lists of visitors to Botswana. The prolonged dry season means that water levels across the delta are starting to drop which means that some of the water-based activities are starting to be scaled back, but game drives and walks remain outstanding. Huge herds of elephant and buffalo can be found on the banks of the Chobe River in the north of the country and although busy, boat trips on the river are very rewarding.

For those looking to enjoy sleepouts it is the last month where they are routinely offered.

Generally prices are still at peak season levels, although some brands are moving to lower pricing so it is worth exploring these options.

The change in seasonality is very pronounced as the blue skies of the dry season are replaced by towering clouds, bringing more frequent afternoon rain.

Temperatures start to increase as well and although the game viewing remains strong the onset of the summer rains does mean that some of the more migratory animals, most notably elephant and buffalo herds become more and more dispersed. Visitors looking to enjoy boating as well as land based activities are restricted to a much smaller selection of camps, but the presence of permanent water in the heart of the delta does mean there is still plenty of choice.

There is a notable drop in the cost of almost all camps across Botswana so it is a superb time of year to visit, especially with the game viewing remaining so good.

Summer is in full swing now, with temperatures approaching their peak and rain an almost daily occurrence, albeit usually limited to afternoon storms.

Activities become more restricted to game drives and the occasional walk, although dry afternoons do still allow for boat trips. The game viewing remains very good owing to the sheer volume of wildlife found in Botswana, but elephant sightings are more restricted and wild dog can be harder to find.

Visitors looking to spread their wings a little can head down to the Central Kalahari where the summer rains bring the grasses in to full bloom and black-maned Kalahari Lion are found roaming the plains.

Prices are at their lowest at this time of year, although the Christmas and New Year period does revert to peak season pricing such is the popularity of being on safari at this time.

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