The Wet Season
November, December, January, February, March
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.
Also known as the “Green” season, “Emerald” season or “Summer,” there is a bit of variation from year to year as to when the rain actually starts.
November usually brings the first thunderstorms as temperatures and humidity increase daily. Bushfires may also ignite due to lightning, but are slow moving and can be avoided. Temperatures can rise to above 40 degress C, but once the cloud clover comes, temperatures get to a high of about the mid thirties in the day.
This is a fabulous time to be in the bush as most of the antelope (specifically impala) drop their young during the first 2 weeks of the month. By December, each impala herd brings their young out of hiding and into large nursery herds. This is therefore the best time to see young predators practicing their hunting skills on newborns, with the help of their mothers of course.
The first big significant shower of rain ignites the emergence of winged termite “alates.” Witnessing this event is rather spectacular as the sky is thick with millions of flying termites that are consumed by all manner of birds and wildlife.
The first migratory birds will have started to arrive in Botswana in September (maybe August), but by November, all of the “summer” migrants should be present. This is a good time to see large congregations of birds either at breeding sites, feeding on termite eruptions or gathering at reducing water bodies that trap fish.
Many canid species will also start to den at this time of year – namely Jackal and bat-eared foxes. The best place to maybe see puppies is in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve.
November is also a month of great change – the first rains usually bring about the first new shoots of green grass, several species of trees get new bright green leaves and even flowers and cloud build up can bring relief from high temperatures.
You can visit any park during this time of year, however, the changes from dry to wet conditions can seem more pronounced in the Kalahari Parks.
Insects and mosquitos increase dramatically with the onset of rain and will be attracted to the lights in the campsites. We have good insect repellent and our tents are completely insect proof. It is rare that the camps become unbearable because of insects or mosquitos and the repellents really work well – so don’t worry too much about it.
By our “wet season”, most of the rivers in the lower reaches of the delta will have started to recede, as the flood “pulse” from Angola does not sustain itself much past September (varies every year!).
Remember: The Okavango “flood season” actually happens in our dry season. In our wet, rain season, the Okavango Rivers are at their lowest or even dry up!
December can be very similar to November in terms of the above. Indeed, the first rains may not fall in November, but rather a month or two later! In which case all of these events can also happen in December. In fact, this is when the consistent rains usually start.
We like December because the arrival of consistent rain cloud brings a reduction in temperature and a flurry of life. Many bright flowers first emerge and the termite eruptions continue. Saturated ground and large rainwater puddles can spur the emergence of giant bullfrogs as they race to breed before the water disappears.
(Remember that our tents are waterproof, we provide game viewing vehicles with canvas roofs and roll down sides and we have a mess tent in our camps – you do need to bring your own personal rain protection for yourselves and your gear).
December can also be the month of animal dispersal, when the herds are no longer restricted to permanent rivers, but can drink from newly revived waterholes. For example, one might not find a single elephant along the Chobe River in December! We therefore usually encourage spending time in the Kalahari and Makgadikgadi Pans ecosystems during this time as the dispersal (or movements) of animals here, makes game viewing more productive.
At this time the Makgadikgadi zebra will be on the move. This is the time to go and look for them in their “wet season” range on the edge of the salt-pans.
January, February and March are probably our wettest months. However, there is considerable variation in rain from year to year (frequency and timing). Because of this, there is a belief that you cannot safari (mobile camping) during this period. However, each time I do take people on safari during this season, we prove this belief wrong! Indeed, wet season safaris can be very productive indeed.
The flurry of flowering plants, breeding birds and migrating animals continues through these months. Vegetation conditions do change in the bush however: The most significant change being the length of the grass – tall grass makes it that much more difficult to spot animals.
Driving conditions also become more challenging as roads become inundated with rainwater. Most parks remain passable all year, however, if local rains far exceed the usual average, then the authourities have been known to close park gates to visitors. This only happens on rare occasions, mostly in Moremi and Khwai. The Kalahari parks are less susceptible to closure although they do have their own set of challenges when the roads become wet. If a park on your itinerary becomes no longer accessible, we will simply move our mobile camp to another location – it is indeed a “camp on wheels.”
We also usually recommend safaris in the wet season to some of our frequent clients that safari with us on a yearly basis – many choose to safari at this interesting time of year to see animals in settings and conditions that are not possible in the dry season.
Photographers should also note that they may enjoy the dramatic dark clouds, rainbows and soft lighting that wet and cloudy conditions will provide!