© The Pool Pavilion at Jack's Camp Makgadikgadi
Botswana is a year round wildlife destination, but there are certain seasons that are more suitable for special interests than others are.
The following information is offered as a guideline, as weather patterns and wildlife rhythms are never predictable and can never be guaranteed at a specific time or in a specific area.
For Birding: October to March
The first migrants arrive from the Northern Hemisphere during September. By December all the migrants have arrived which means there are 20% more birds in Botswana
during the summer months, compared to the winter months.
The Okavango Delta is a veritable birders dream
with scope for the experienced ornithologist as well as the eager amateur. One of the highlights of the birding calendar takes place during September / October when the carmine bee-eaters arrive from Central Africa. They are frequently seen in their hundreds on the Savute Marsh.
Another highlight is the heronry at Gadikwe Lagoon, which provides nesting sites for hundreds of birds
. The Gadikwe lagoon is situated between Camps Moremi and Okavango and/or Xugana Island Lodge, and is a highlight on the boat transfer between the lodges.
Due to the heronry being shared by a variety of species, it is active from July to March and is at its busiest from September to December when breeding colonies of herons
are joined in the shallows, and among the low trees and swamp-fig thickets, by Marabou, Yellow and Saddle-billed storks, sacred Ibis and Egrets. Flapping, noisy, colourful breeding displays can be enjoyed at close quarters.
During the rainy season, the desolate landscape of the Makgadikgadi Pans is transformed into a magical wildfowl habitat
as a sheet of water a few centimetres deep covers it.
An amazing extravaganza of reflected pink and white unfolds
as flocks of Flamingo, Pelicans, ducks, geese and other migratory birds arrive in their thousands to feed on the algae and minute crustaceans that the rains have enticed out of their underground nursery.
For Botany: December to May
The vegetation is lush and green
and most of the plants are in bloom. February is peak flowering time for water lilies and the landscape is decorated with wild flowers.
When the summer rains start towards the end of November the barren looking earth of Savute comes alive. Its rich new grasses are a magnet for herds of Burchell's Zebra and Wildebeest
, which can be found on the Savute marsh where they foal before making for the lush grazing grounds of the Mababe Depression further south.
As the rains cease towards the end of February and the pans vaporise as the dry season looms the herds gather once again. Closely followed by predators, they make their annual journey from Savute to the Linyanti and Kwando rivers to arrive around April.
During the winter months, the banks of the Chobe, Kwando and Linyanti rivers become the lifeblood of the wildlife
, as there is no surface water in the surrounding bush. Elephant and Buffalo are also migratory, making seasonal movements of up to 200km from the Chobe, Kwando and Linyanti Rivers, as they concentrate in the pans in the Mopane woodlands to the south, where there is a sufficient food.
Makgadikgadi and Nxai Pan National Park:
As the food and water source of the rolling grasslands west of Ntwetwe Pan begins to diminish during the winter months herds of Blue Wildebeest, Burchell's Zebra and other antelope gravitate in their hundreds
to the perennial pools of the Boteti River, on the western boundary to the park.
Depending on the rains, the build up takes place gradually from about mid March to May and over the next few months visitors could be lucky enough to witness the congregation of thousands of animals
, along with the ever-opportunistic predators that follow them (September and October are the best months).
As soon as the summer rains arrive, the herds are no longer dependent on the river and they begin to disperse north and south before returning to the Boteti River once again when the rains diminish.
There are excellent opportunities all year round
. November to March are exceptional months as the air clarity is unparalleled, trees begin to burst into life, the new grass is green and lush, skies are dramatic as big clusters of clouds precede the rains and babies are being born. It's a wonderful time for the photographer as there is action, colour and visibility.
April to October bring about cooler mornings with high relative humidity that leads to wonderful early morning misty magic
especially over the water. The Buffalo begin to group into large herds and visit the River areas more frequently, as the seasonal pans begin to dry. Breeding herds of Elephant increase in density daily as they visit the rivers and pans with permanent waters.
African Wild Dogs den in June and it is possible to witness exciting hunts and playful puppies. Animals begin to concentrate at the permanent water sources, as do their predators. Soft early morning and evening light combined with dust provides the opportunity for many dramatic photo settings. In July, the bush is bare and the dust pervades but there is plenty of action
and with patience and perseverance, the rewards are great.
October to March. In October, the weeks preceding the coming of the rains tend to be the hottest with temperatures soaring up to 40ºc
or more. Cloud coverage and the arrival of the first rains towards the end of November or in early December cool things down considerably, although usually only for a short period.
During the rainy period, which lasts until the end of February or early March, the days are hot and generally sunny in the morning with afternoon thunderstorms - usually in short, torrential downpours
during the late afternoon. Daytime temperatures can rise to 38ºC and nighttime temperatures drop to around 20ºC - 25ºC.
Northern areas receive up to 700mm of rain per annum
while the Kalahari Desert area averages as low as 225mm per annum. Rainfall tends to be erratic, unpredictable and regional. Often a heavy downpour may occur in one area while 10 or 15 kilometres away there is no rain at all. Showers are often followed by strong sunshine so a good deal of the rainfall does not penetrate the ground, as it is lost to evaporation and transpiration.Winter:
April to September. The days are dry, sunny, clear, and range from cool to seductively warm, while evening temperatures drop sharply
. Daytime temperatures generally reach 20º C and evening temperatures can be as low as 5ºC and in some areas can plummet below freezing. Virtually no rainfall occurs during the winter months.Read a more detailed Climate Account of Botswana's Seasons