We often get asked this question when guests are planning their safari to Botswana. Our answer is that each season has its own peculiarities and offers something unique. It will also depend on the main focus of your safari i.e water based activities, birding or game drives. The truth is a visit to the Okavango Delta is rewarding any time of the year and certainly a destination to be included in your safari itinerary
March and April (cooler weather)
Between March and April the daytime temperatures are a bit cooler compared to the previous months. You still might need a light jacket in the early mornings and evenings.
May and June (winter months – dry season)
Temperatures are very pleasant during the day with blue and clear skies but they considerably drop at night. There is nothing to worry about – a good along with fleece a jacket and a soft scarf will keep you warm in the mornings when hitting the road on your game drive.
July to August (milder temperatures – dry season)
July and August are travellers’ favourite months to visit the Delta as temperatures are at their mildest during the day and at night. Saying this, it has to be noted that July and August are peak season months.
September and October (hotter weather – dry season)
From September onwards the temperatures start rising and the weather becomes hot, especially in October.
November to March (rainy season)
The rainy season starts around late November and last until March (which is the summer months). The November rains bring along some soothing with the characteristic late afternoon summer thunderstorms and as the rains become more frequent the bush babies arrive, plants regenerate and food becomes abundant. Furthermore, there are fewer travellers and the rates are also lower.
The Okavango Delta annual flood
As one of the last remaining unspoilt corners on Earth, the Okavango Delta (located in north-western Botswana) is the largest inland delta in the world.
This natural wonder is made up of channels, riverbeds, waterholes, lagoons, swamps and floodplains and offers travellers the opportunity to explore and discover the greatness of Mother Nature. It begins its journey 1600 km away in Angola, where the Rio Cubango and the Cuito River join to form the Okavango River as it leaves Angola and passes through Namibia, on its way to Botswana and the Kalahari Desert. The water of the Okavango River follows the seasonal capricious of nature and it heavily relies on the Angolan rains (as this is where the main caudal comes from every year) taking the form of the much needed and expected annual flood. The summer rainfall from the Angolan highlands arrives in March and the water spreads out across the delta over the course of the next months between March and June.
The annual flood brings life along with it. The vegetation turns from brown into lush green, migratory birds appear on the scene, the channels and lagoons fill up and cause everything around them to flourish, from reeds, to trees to the amount of wildlife that comes to quench their thirst or bathe.
Best time to see wildlife
By May, the summer rains are gone and the vegetation starts to dry out again, but the floodwater takes months to filter and spread through the delta. The flood peaks between June and August when animals move from farther areas to gather in greater numbers at the remaining permanent water sources. This is one of the reasons why the drier (May to October) months are considered the best to spot wildlife. It is an incredible wonder that deserves to be witnessed!
Best time for water based activities
From March the flood starts arriving, slowly but surely, to the Northwestern part of the Delta. Depending on the amount of water carried out by the flood, water levels would be sufficient to enjoy a mokoro (traditional dugout canoe) or a boat safari. Whilst the flood continues its journey towards the East, the water levels continue raising so usually by May it reaches the most eastern part. The months between May to August see the flood on an epic scale and these are the most favourable to partake in water based activities.
Best time for birding
From November to April is the time when the Delta becomes a birdwatcher’s paradise. Many different species of migrant birds arrive which means a lot of activity with birds breeding and nesting – January being peak breeding time. The variety of bird-life is quite remarkable – bee-eaters, malachite, giant kingfishers, ueglin’s robin, kori bustard and secretary birds amongst others.
A year round destination, the Delta offers beautiful scenery and bountiful wildlife. That said, planning when to go should take into account its seasonal nature and your interests.