Botswana is a country of legendary safari status, and the question we hear most often is, ‘When is the best time to visit Botswana?’ In all honesty (and as with many things in life) there’s no black and white answer. Each season has its own unique charms and experiences, and one person’s favourite time of year may well be someone else’s worst. To help kick-start your planning, we’ve come up with a broad guide to the seasons in each of Botswana’s safari hotspots. If you are looking for even more in depth Botswana tips, make sure to read our Botswana Travel Guide and, if you’re trying to save some pennies whilst travelling, check out How to plan an affordable Botswana safari.
Generally, the climate in Botswana is typical for southern Africa. This means that June to October are considered the dry season months and bring with them little to no rain, bright blue skies and lots of sunshine. Conversely, December to March are the wet season months, or ‘green’ months as we prefer to call them, which leaves November and April/May, commonly known as the transition months, where just about anything can happen. So, what does all that mean for game viewing and when actually is the best time to visit Botswana?
December – March
First up is the green season and the months of December to March. Contrary to popular belief, it certainly doesn’t rain every day during this time and instead, you can expect dramatic thunderstorms mixed with sunshine and clouds – none of that infamous English drizzle here! For photographers, this is one of the best times to visit Botswana: the air is clear, the bush is luscious and green, and colours are kaleidoscopically beautiful. Game wise, it’s birthing season for antelopes across the country and the grassy plains are alive with springing babies, causing great excitement among the predators. Birding is also exceptional with the return of several of the most fascinating migrant species.
Despite the abundance of rain in the green season, the water in the Okavango Delta actually begins to recede at this time of year, leaving behind a blanket of luscious grass. There are therefore more areas available for walking safaris and game drives on the exposed islands and plains, but mokoro safaris and other water-based activities (boat trips and fishing) may be slightly more limited. If floating along the waterways in a traditional mokoro is high on your bucket list, it’s certainly still possible – just make sure you choose a permanent water camp in the Delta. In the Kalahari, game viewing is quite simply spectacular, and here it could certainly be considered one of the best times to visit Botswana. The once sandy desert is covered in a carpet of lush green grass, attracting animals from far and wide, but what is most unique is the blossoming of desert bulbs and wild flowers in a riot of beautiful colour.
April and May (and November!)
Often overlooked for a Botswana safari are the transitional times of the year (April and May, as well as November). At this time, the landscape is in a bit of a limbo period whilst it waits for the next season. Days can be bright or cloudy, sunny or rainy but the game viewing is generally very good and doesn’t differ much from the preceding months. Highlights in April include the arrival of the zebra of Africa’s second largest migration at the Boteti River (which can be viewed from the clifftop bedrooms at Meno a Kwena), whilst in November, they have made their way across to the Makgadikgadi Pans and are best viewed from Jack’s Camp or Camp Kalahari. In the Kalahari, it’s also a lovely time to meet the bushmen, away from the searing summer temperatures but not quite in the cold of the winter. If you’re willing to don a raincoat and embrace the element of unpredictability, then this is a lovely time for a trip and in fact one of the best times to visit Botswana on a budget with many camps offering deals that would be unheard of at other times of year.
June – October
Once again, the dry season months of June to October steal the spotlight for the ‘best’ time to visit Botswana – but we’ll leave it up to you to decide. In the Okavango Delta, it’s high-water season, and wildlife of all shapes and sizes migrate to the region in search of water, meaning superb game viewing all round. As water levels are high, it’s also the best time of year to enjoy an iconic mokoro or canoe safari, and float through the tranquil streams and rivers at leisure.
Further afield in the Linyanti, the Savuti Channel is one of the only permanent water sources in the area from June to October and it’s a magnet for thirsty animals, particularly big cats. Elephant viewing at this time is some of the best in Africa (try visiting the underground elephant hide at Hyena Pan in the Okavango Delta for a real treat!), and June, July and August are renowned for phenomenal wild dog sightings. Generally, the dry season is an excellent time to visit all areas in Botswana, but beware the rising temperatures towards the end of the season (September/October), particularly in the desert lands of the Central Kalahari.