Botswana is a wildlife lover’s dream, with a huge range of wildlife from the “Big Five” to huge herds of game and hundreds of bird species to enjoy. With national parks and private concessions taking up much of the country’s surface area, there’s a great variety in the habitats and ecosystems on offer here. This means that deciding when to go on a Botswana safari can be tricky, different seasons can radically change the wildlife population from region to region as rains swell areas like the Okavango Delta, and animals migrate to find water during dry seasons. In this guide we’re going to look at what the Botswana weather does throughout the year, and where you should be heading depending on the month that you go.
Elephants crossing the Chobe River from Botswana to Namibia. Photo by Kate
November to December sees the start of the rainy, summer season in Botswana (also sometimes referred to as the “green season”, which lasts until April/May. Minimum temperatures are around 20 degree celsius, making it hot and humid, with plenty of mosquitos in wetter areas. Weather is changeable, with some sunny days, afternoon thunderstorms and overcast days spread throughout the season. The lighting conditions and dramatic skies make it a good time for photographers to get inspiring shots. This heralds the start of the low season in the country, prices drop and availability is high - except over Christmas and New Year. Note that some safari lodges in Botswana close during the green season.
Rainfall can disrupt travel, game walks, and can make park driving difficult at times due to mud and poor track conditions. However rainfall usually falls only in the afternoon, meaning it shouldn’t negatively affect your experience too much. With the rains comes new greenery, transforming the landscape. This makes wildlife less easy to spot than in the dry season, but on the plus side many animals breed during these months so you can spot plenty of babies. Migratory birds also descend in the rainy season, exploding in numbers and species, making it a good period to visit for bird enthusiasts.
This is a good time to visit Botswana for bird enthusiasts. Photo by Linda
December/January is the best time to visit the Central Kalahari region which is it’s peak season. It becomes particularly hot there during this period, but to make up for this the antelopes give birth and many animals roam its plains and pans. This also attracts extra predators, and you can watch all the wildlife against dramatic afternoon storm clouds on the lush plains. Most of the rest of country is fine to safari in during the Green Season if you don’t mind the weather, and the lower prices and better availability makes it ideal for those with a lower budget. Much of the Okavango Delta is usually best viewed outside of the rainy season, as counter-intuitively it floods during the dry season, which is when the most wildlife appears. There are however still permanent waterways in the area so don’t dismiss it completely.
The start of the green season, rains begin to fall, although not too badly and typically only in afternoons. Birthing usually begins in the Central Kalahari in December and migratory birds start appearing around the country. Greenery begins to sprout with the new rains, making for a lush landscape but making it harder to spot wildlife.
Giraffes seen in Botswana in the Okavango delta. Rain and thunderstorms are common during this time. Photo by Linda
The green season continues. These months are when the rains hit hardest, and the climate most hot and humid. Big thunderstorms in the afternoons are common and sometimes rains continue for days. This is the period when lodges are most likely to shut their doors temporarily. Other than the increased rainfall and temperature, January and February are much like November and December in terms of what to expect. Most visitors will want to avoid these months although you can find the cheapest prices at this time. From February to May is a great time to hop across the border from Chobe to visit Victoria Falls, which is at its most voluminous during this time.
Thunderstorms and rains still occur in the afternoon and it remains hot although temperatures fall a little. But the weather is improved from February and this continues into April.
A shoulder season when the rains stop falling and sunny, clear days start to appear regularly against a lush green landscape. Temperatures start to drop, becoming comfortable during the day but chilly at night and early morning, when you may want a jacket. This heralds the start of the dry winter months in Botswana. The Okavango Delta starts to flood, bringing a surge of life and making it a good time to start visiting the area. In May, the Linyati region of Chobe sees a big influx of game and elephants. April and May can be particularly good months to visit Botswana. Shoulder season prices are cheaper and visitor numbers lower, but wildlife is starting to blossom in lush landscapes with decent weather.
An Oryx running across the plains. Seen in winter in Botswana. Photo by Ben
May to October is Botswana’s dry season, and the peak season for tourists with prices reaching their height. Although visitor numbers are at their maximum, you’ll barely notice except in hotspots like the Chobe river, thanks to the country’s wide spread of camps and lodges across its huge parks. These months see the most wildlife in the reserves, being much more concentrated and easier to spot as animals congregate around water sources and greenery thins out. Skies are generally clear and sunny. Temperatures are comfortable and much less humid than the green season, but drop a lot during evening, night and early morning - so you’ll want some warm clothes for those romantic dinners and early-rise safaris. By October and November it warms up dramatically. The Okavango Delta swells with the floods from the highlands from June and teems with life of all kinds, making winter the best time of year to visit its floodplains, particularly in July and August when the wildlife concentrations are at their greatest. Chobe is inundated with huge herds of elephants, buffalo, zebra and antelopes in dry season. In general, dry season is the best time to safari in the country, excepting Central Kalahari which is at it’s finest during the green season.
The weather is fine and wildlife is abundant across the country, attracted to waterholes and making game viewing easy. The weather warms in July and waterways fill up, making it the best time for fishing and boat trips in places like Okavango. In Linyati this is the best time to see wild dogs.
Springbok seen in september, a very common antelope in the Kalahari Desert and other drier regions of southern Africa. Photo by Gregory
Temperatures start to rise, drying out the landscape and making it more barren and dusty. Animals concentrate even more around waterholes and rivers. Along with the lack of plant life in these months this makes it very easy to spot wildlife and one of the best times to see big game. However, bird life is in much shorter supply as a result. In October it gets very hot, with temperatures reaching as high as 40 degrees celsius. If you don’t mind the dry, scorching landscape, then it’s the best time of year to see wildlife, which is at its highest concentration during these months.
A shoulder season, November’s weather is unpredictable, usually starting very hot and dry but often seeing the start of the winter rains towards the end of the month. Prices and visitor numbers start to fall. Migrant birds begin arriving in Okavango and sporadic rains in the Central Kalahari coincide with birthing from grazing herds like springbok and oryx, bringing in more predators. Game spotting is easy in the dry plains of Chobe, and the first rains trigger a huge zebra and wildebeest migration moving from Linyati to Savuti.
Plan your Botswana safari well in time. Photo by Linda
These articles have some more detailed information about how the climate affects specific regions and wildlife in Botswana throughout the year:
Now that you know when to go to Botswana, it’s time to plan your Botswana Safari! Botswana is a great safari choice in that you can visit at any time of year and there will always be a region that’s rich in wildlife. If you want to save a bit of money, aim for the shoulder seasons when with luck, weather and wildlife conditions will be nearly as good as peak season. This article will give you a general idea of prices for a Botswana Safari . Despite the rainy weather in the green season, most regions still have good wildlife spotting opportunities and a vibrant landscape to enjoy, or you can pay more and head to the Central Kalahari which is at its prime.
We hope you found this article useful, and if you’re interested in Botswana safaris and tours , do check out our other articles on the site with lots more information on this enchanting country!