The Dry Seasons
May – October
This is a guide to the different seasons in Botswana and how the varying temperatures, rainfall, conditions and other factors can influence your safari experience. It will help guide your decision as to what time of year you choose to visit.
The “Cold Dry Season” – May, June, July and August
Otherwise known as our winter, this is a very popular time of year to visit. Temperatures barely get above 25 degrees C in the day and the sun is likely to shine continuously without any cloud. We have had the odd “freak” rain during this time, but this is very rare.
Temperatures suddenly drop after sunset, even getting down to zero on occasions, especially in the “Kalahari parks.” This cold is exacerbated on morning activities where wind chill on moving safari vehicles or boats makes it feel even colder! (Do read our travel advice section on what to pack for these conditions – yes you do need to bring gloves to Africa!).
You will find the roads dry and dusty, however excessive dust is usually temporary.
The game viewing during this time is excellent. In theory, the longer we are into the dry season, the better and more consistent the game viewing is – so the months of July and August are “technically” better for sightings. Further, the dry conditions in these months make for less grass and cover for the animals to hide, resulting in increasing ease to spot them. That is the theory anyway.
The lack of rain and colder conditions results in most migratory bird species departing for warmer climates in the Northern hemisphere – birders should mostly choose to visit when our rains start later in the year.
One of the most remarkable events at this time of year is the annual breeding season of the African wild dogs (between June and August), when the dogs will raise their puppies in den sites.
Another big highlight is that the Makgadikgadi zebra herds will be on the Boteti River at this time of year.
Further, you will be bothered less by mosquitos in these winter months and insects in general will mostly be absent from the campsites at night.
On an interesting note, these months are also the “flood’ season in the lower reaches of the Okavango! This is the best time to do a boat safari, as water levels will be at their highest and the floodplains inside the Moremi Game Reserve will be full. (Remember, there are huge variations in the timing of this flood and it may not even reach the lower parts of the delta!)
So, the Okavango “flood season” actually happens in our dry season. And in our wet, rain season, the Okavango rivers are at their lowest or can even dry up!
The “Hot Dry Season” – September and October
Although excessively hot, this is one of the most popular times to visit Botswana. From the middle of September, temperatures start to climb to above 40 degrees C. This can make the conditions in the campsites quite challenging. We do however, provide a mess tent and our vehicles are also well shaded for activities. It does not rain during these months although cloud and the odd thunderstorm may start to build up by the end of October. This lightning can sometimes start bush fires, although these are relatively slow spreading grass fires that can easily be avoided and are not life threatening.
Mosquitos will still be less of an issue and insects will again largely be absent from campsites. However, in the day time, the moisture in our campsites can attract flies and honey bees, although it is rare for them to swarm in camps out of control.
Now, having mentioned all the challenges of visiting in September and October, one must be made aware of why this is such a good time to visit! Basically, this is our best game viewing period and one will be rewarded with amazing wildlife congregations if you safari at this time – in fact we encourage it!
Why is this so:
The heat and lack of rain will have dried up all the waterholes, leaving the animals no choice but to gather where there is water. This means the herds of buffalo, elephant and other plains game swell in number on a daily basis as water and food become increasingly scarce. Predators take advantage of the deteriorating health of the animals, making kills and hunting behavior more common. Further, guides find it easier to track animals at this time of year as the lack of grass cover exposes the tracks more clearly. The bush also thins out making spotting that leopard that much easier!
October can also be classed as one of our “spring seasons” when a lot of acacia trees and other plants start to shoot new leaves and even flower. Birds also start to breed as temperatures warm up in October. This would be a good time to visit the heronries (water bird breeding sites) in the Okavango Delta.
You can visit any park during the “hot and dry” season, but we usually encourage guests to spend time camping near permanent rivers or waterholes that attract game. Desert safaris, although though in the heat, are still remarkable!
The Makgadikgadi zebra herds will be on the Boteti River at this time of year in big numbers.
Photographers will enjoy the soft light from the “haze” effect. This is when the sun passes through the atmosphere thick with dust particles and smoke from bush fires – just after sunrise and before sunset are the best hours for this, but this haze effect extends the “golden light” period as it reduces the more harsh direct sunlight on subjects. Further, dusty dry conditions mean that animals (particularly large herds) will stir up more dust, adding more drama to scenes and photographs.
The Okavango “flood” starts to drop in September, as the flood waters from Angola begin to subside. You can still do boat safaris in September most years, but by October there are usually too many shallow sand banks (again take note that there are big year-to-year variations in flood levels which are hard to predict).
DOWNLOAD OUR FULL “GUIDE TO THE SEASONS” HERE