Africa Travel Articles
A Seasonal Guide To Planning Your Botswana Safari
Author: Dominic Chadbon
With an enviable 300 days of sunshine a year, Botswana is a year-round destination but anyone planning a safari should note that it's not always benignly warm and sunny.
Living in Botswana, I had to get used to the Kalahari's sub-zero winters as well as white-hot summer days. I've had my camp washed away by flash floods, been stuck in axle-deep mud and pelted by hailstones.
There's plenty of weather in Botswana and given the effect it has on the country's wildlife - triggering migrations for example - an understanding of Botswana's seasonal nature is essential if you want your expectations met. If you were planning a Botswana safari to see thousands of elephants on the Chobe River in February, read on.
These two months are together for a simple reason: they're wet. Rumbling afternoon downpours soak the country while the wildlife is either hidden in thick vegetation or wanders off into the remote back country. It's also hot and quite humid, though not tropical.
Considered the poorest time for game viewing, a wet season Botswana safari can nevertheless deliver incredible game viewing and bird watching. Many antelope give birth (great for predators), migrations are in full swing and the bird watching is sensational.
Game viewing is getting better as the rains ease and animals return to more accessible dry season areas. Vegetation is still thick and temperatures are hot though not as baking as earlier in the year. However, with so much water lying everywhere, March means mosquitoes. Indeed, March and April are the months with the highest malaria risk, especially in the Chobe River/Zambezi region.
The Kalahari region is still worth visiting, and although it can be a bit hit and miss in Botswana's other reserves, bear in mind that this is Botswana: there are always animals!
Arguably the best months to visit Botswana: expect an afternoon shower or two but most days are warm and the nights cool as the rain disappears for the next four months. The landscape is still green but seasonal waterholes are rapidly drying up and animals are arriving at permanent water sources like the Chobe River, Okavango Delta and Moremi Game Reserve.
Poised just before peak season, this is a great time of year to go on a Botswana safari. You'll get all the classic destinations but with fewer other visitors compared to the next few months. The game viewing is often as good as prime time and you'll make big savings on accommodation.
Behind Botswana's flawless blue winter skies lies a surprise: it's really, really cold. Admittedly it's not Siberia and by lunchtime you'll probably be in shorts and T-shirt and wondering what all the fuss was about, but night time temperatures can dip below freezing and you'll be wrapped up in blankets on your early morning game drives. But there is no rain, very few mosquitoes and the game viewing is beginning to get as good as they say it is.
Go to the Chobe National Park; the private Linyanti, Kwando and Selinda reserves; Moremi and the Okavango Delta - the latter destination is now in full flood and delivering great game viewing.