Botswana is a landlocked country in Southern Africa known for its abundant wildlife, breathtaking landscapes, and unique culture. With so much to see and experience, choosing the best time to visit Botswana can be quite difficult! As African safari travel specialists who have committed much of our working lives to managing safari camps in the Okavango Delta and beyond; herewith our take on the different seasons in Botswana and the best times to plan your visit. Please note that the information on travel in Botswana is purely a guideline, as more recently, we have witnessed vast changes in weather patterns, which can affect one’s journey.
Botswana has two main seasons – a wet season and a dry season, with the latter falling roughly during Southern Africa’s winter months. The wet season runs from November to March and is characterised by heavy rainfall, while the dry season runs from April to October and is known for its hot and dry weather.
Many people believe the dry season is the best time to visit Botswana, as it is considered by many to be the best time for viewing wildlife. During this time, animals tend to congregate around water sources, making them easier to spot. As the last remaining water points dry up, large animals, including giraffes, antelope and buffalo, gather around the remaining water sources as the dry season advances, and roaming prides of lions become easier to spot. African wild dogs (also called painted dogs) stalk prey, including the kudu and impala, which congregate to quench their thirst while keeping a watchful eye for lurking crocodiles below.
The dry season is also the best time for exploring Botswana’s stunning landscapes; the vegetation is sparser, the skies clearer, and the bush tracks are easily navigable, allowing for long day drives to explore far and wide.
June to August is the peak tourist season in Botswana, as the weather is cooler and drier, making it easier and more comfortable to spot wildlife. This is also the best time of year to visit Botswana if you wish to see the annual flooding of the Okavango Delta. The water levels are at their highest during this period, making for a more scenic and overall, more enjoyable experience by boat or open 4×4 vehicle.
By July, Botswana is in the heart of its dry season. However, the Okavango Delta follows its own seasonal rhythm, with channels and flood plains fed by distant sources in the Angolan Highlands and their rainfall season, creating a wildlife-rich oasis in the Kalahari. The movement of the resident wildlife is affected by the rising waters, which provides the best opportunity to explore by mokoro (dugout canoe). This traditional African canoe offers a unique vantage point and peaceful alternative to exploring the Okavango Delta that you simply can’t get on land excursions.
As one moves into August, temperatures start to increase and with the last of the waterholes long dried up, predators such as Lions and Hyenas take advantage of the old, weak and dying, including elephants, who start to succumb to these very harsh conditions. It is, however, worth noting that the later part of the dry season can be hot, dusty and windy, which can be uncomfortable for some travellers.
Because of the high demand to witness one of the natural wonders of the world, accommodation during the peak season is more expensive, so it’s essential to book well in advance to secure the best deals and take advantage of the best safari camps and lodges offering both water and land-based activities.
For those who don’t mind the heat, visiting Botswana during the shoulder season, between the dry and wet seasons, September to October, and even the beginning of November can be very productive. This time of year, the days are hot and sunny, with mid-day temperatures sometimes exceeding 37 degrees Celsius (100°F), especially in October, so wildlife activity shifts to early and late in the day as predators actively take advantage of the cooler hours to hunt. The plains are bone-dry, and the trees are leafless—which is excellent for game viewing. The flooded Okavango Delta offers a contrasting scene, with water-loving, yet shy, sitatunga, red lechwe, and waterbuck antelopes enjoying its marshy expanses.
Shoulder season is the time of year that safari travel specialists such as Safari-Guru takes advantage of reduced costs for our travellers, allowing more extended vacations in this highly sought-after safari destination. This time of year also brings the largest concentration of elephants to the banks of the Chobe River and the Linyanti Private Reserve, where a visit to Kings Pool, DumaTau or Savuti Camp will allow visitors to view up to tens of thousands during a three to four-day visit.
The heat continues from October into the wet season, mid-November onwards, and tapers off in March and April, yet it can be a unique and rewarding experience. The landscape comes alive with lush greenery and flowers, and the birdlife is particularly abundant with the arrival of all the migratory birds taking advantage of the abundance of food and the perfect breeding conditions that the wet summer season brings.
Although large animals are more widely dispersed at this time of year, many Botswana experts note that to fully experience the country’s natural riches, one should see it both during the dry season, when the big game is most concentrated and in the rainy season, when the landscape is lush, green, and alive with birds.
The wet season also coincides with the calving season for many animals, so you may be lucky enough to witness baby animals taking their first steps. This also attracts a number of predators taking advantage of an abundance of weak and inexperienced young.
While the wet season can make certain areas of the country inaccessible due to spectacular thunderstorms and localised groundwater saturation, exploring many parts of Botswana during this time is still possible. Regular rainfall keeps the grasslands green, which helps to nourish young grazing animals like zebras, antelopes, and wildebeest. These grazers need all the strength and speed they can muster to evade the predators that stalk them. It is also a time of plenty for many of Botswana’s 550 species of birds, who are attracted to the abundance of food that the rains bring. Colourful residents like the lilac-breasted roller are joined by the many seasonal migrants who are only here during the wet season, many displaying full breeding plumage.
Safari Guru Top Tip: Pack appropriate clothing and gear to stay comfortable in the rain! See Safari Guru Safari Packing suggestions.
April and May are also considered shoulder seasons and offer a great time to visit as the temperatures grow cooler and the rain clears up. Male antelopes begin to engage in head-butting contests as the mating season begins. Impalas establish mating territories to defend their females, otherwise referred to as harems, from potential rivals. Leopards and African Wild Dogs exploit the preoccupied animals as the cooler temperatures extend their hunting activity.
What is the Best Time to Visit Botswana?
In conclusion, the best time to visit Botswana largely depends on your preferences and what you want to experience during your trip. If wildlife viewing is a top priority, consider visiting during the dry season from April to October, with June to August being the peak season. However, if you’re looking for a unique experience and don’t mind a bit of rain, the wet season from November to March can be a great time to explore Botswana’s lush landscapes and abundant birdlife.
Whatever season you choose, Botswana is sure to leave you with unforgettable memories and experiences.
For further reading, once you have chosen your preferred travel window, visit Botswana Safari Requirements or contact Safari Guru directly.