From the aquatic wilderness of the Okavango Delta to the sweeping semi-arid savannah of the Kalahari Desert and the lunar-like salt pans of Makjadikgadi, Botswana offers incredible wildlife viewing year-round.
The best time to go to Botswana depends on what you want to see, the parks you want to visit, and your budget. Longing to see African wild dogs, lions swimming, or one of Africa’s largest migrations? Perhaps you dream of drifting along the reedy waterways along a path Mukuru (hidden narrow canoe) or hopping over sparkling salt pans on a quad bike? Would you rather avoid the crowds? Are you planning to take your children?
Don’t underestimate how hot and dusty it can be during the dry season, how easy it is to get stuck in mud when it rains or how cold desert nights can get. But whatever the time of year, the wild creatures and epic landscapes here will amaze you.
Here are the best times to visit Botswana.
High season (June to October) is the best time to see wildlife
Spectacular wildlife, dry weather and school holidays in the Northern Hemisphere combine to make July and August the busiest months in Botswana. In June and July, meanwhile, camp sites are filled with safari-loving South Africans.
The dry winter season runs roughly from April to October, with endless blue skies and warm days and cool nights. June to August are the coldest months (around 25°C/77°F), and temperatures can dip below zero at night, with stargazing at Makgadikgadi Pan. From September onwards, the heat builds up gradually, reaching a peak in October when the mercury reaches 40°C (104°F).
At the height of the dry season, wildlife congregates around the seasonal high waters of the Okavango Delta and permanent water sources such as the Chobe River; Roads and paths around the country are easier to navigate. There are no mosquitoes, so it is a good time for family adventures.
Enjoy spotting animals for a fraction of the cost during shoulder season (April, May and November)
The shoulder season months are a transitional period between the wet and dry seasons, which means the weather can be unpredictable. However, Botswana never has a shortage of wildlife activities, and lodges often lower their prices, making treks in this period great value for money.
Low season (December to March) is best for lush landscapes, birders and budget-conscious travelers
From December to March, the summer rains – known as the green season – bring high temperatures and torrential rains, and January and February are usually the wettest months. It’s the cheapest time to visit, although there are fewer travelers, some hostels and campgrounds close, campgrounds get muddy and many roads and trails become impassable.
Abundant vegetation and abundant water mean the animals can feed on a wide range, making them difficult to detect. But photographers will love the moody skies and lush landscapes of the season. The annual migration of zebra is an unforgettable sight, and with so many small herbivores around, the probability of prey versus predator is high. Birders should flock to Botswana in December or March to see the amazing summer immigrants.
Thunderstorms in January are exciting
Expect high temperatures and frequent short bursts of torrential rain, with dramatic thunderstorms best emerging from under the cloth with a drink in hand. Chobe National Park is exceptionally humid, while the Kalahari Desert is extremely hot but green, with the chance to spot newborn herbivores as well as countless migratory birds.
Kalahari comes to life in February
February is usually the rainiest month, with the longest and most constant rains. Temperatures rise, but Kalahari comes alive, as barren salt pans transform into nutritious pastures that entice herbivores. Don’t miss seeing thousands of Burchell’s zebras migrate from the Boteti River to Makgadikgadi and the Nxai Pans.
The main event: World Wetlands Day
Watch out for mosquitoes in March
With the end of summer, showers are usually limited to afternoon refreshing bursts. Elephants feed in the Okavango Delta as they unload fallen fruit. Water levels may be too low Mukuru Canoe trips, but there are still big dazzles of zebras at Makgadikgadi, which also means good lion watching. March is still hot and humid, and it’s a favorite month for mosquitoes, especially around lakes and rivers.
The main event: Easter (date varies)
Nights get colder in April
Dry, sunny weather begins to replace the shower, though you’ll need to layer up for driving games in the early mornings and evenings around a campfire. Wildlife viewing begins to improve as rainfall returns from the highlands of Angola to the delta. Antelope mating season is underway, so watch out for males who strut and close horns to impress the females.
The main event: Easter (date varies)
Clear skies arrive in May
Winter brings clear skies and milder temperatures, although you should be prepared for some cool nights, especially in the Kalahari. With wildlife in search of permanent sources of water, it’s a perfect time to head to Moremi Game Reserve, which covers a third of the Okavango and Savuti deltas in Chobe National Park. May is also a good time to hook up on a trip to nearby Victoria Falls, which will be at their best.
Visit in June to see rare African wild dogs
By mid-June, visitor numbers are starting to rise – and so are prices. Days are generally warm and sunny, followed by cool nights. If you’re desperate to see African wild dogs, bell season runs from June to September, when these endangered predators stay close to home to keep an eye on the pups.
July is the height of the high season
Wildlife is centered around the water holes, although you’ll share sights with more vehicles. On the private reserves, it’s also a great time to enjoy a guided safari to spot the smaller flora and fauna. Between July and September is the best time to hang out with the meerkat gangs in Makgadikgadi.
main events: President’s Day, Tour de Tolly
The Okavango Delta is full of wildlife in August
During the day, the sky is clear and temperatures are high, but the nights are cool, often dropping below freezing. Water levels are at their highest in the delta, attracting wildlife in droves making this an ideal time for water skiing. Mukuru Herds of elephants last thirst. Note that peak wildlife viewing also means peak prices.
September means dry weather and excellent wildlife spotting
September is dry, hot and dusty, but clear skies and scattered vegetation mean excellent visibility as wildlife gathers in rapidly shrinking water wells. Evenings start to warm up too, perfect for enjoying the sunset around the campfire.
The main event: Botswana Day
The heat is burning in October
If you can stand the October heat in Botswana, the wildlife is easy to spot, especially in the early mornings and evenings: huge herds of elephants circulate around the Chobe River, hippos squabble over a bustling area, and predators chase abundant prey around water holes. Prices are still high but start to fall towards the end of the month.
The sky opens in November
The rainy summer season (although not always on schedule) kicks off with short, heavy showers throughout the day that begin to turn thirsty landscapes a vibrant green. November is when many herbivores give birth, attracting the attention of the resident big cats. The temperatures drop a bit – but it’s still hot, so look for lions that feed well and sleep in the shade and tigers that lie in trees. Also, prices are going down.
The main eventMaun International Arts Festival
Migratory birds arrive in December
Wet mornings bring afternoon thunderstorms that briefly lower temperatures. With the rains, the desert explodes, feeding the young antelopes and giving them a chance to fight against the lions, tigers and leopards that roam around. Migratory birds arrive, including colorful fishermen, roaring cuckoos, and shiny bee-eaters.
main events: Christmas, New Year’s Eve