By Marsea Nelson, Guest Blogger
Botswana’s dry season—occurring June through September—is traditionally the most popular time to visit the southern Africa nation. Animals are plentiful and easily seen, and the weather is usually pleasant. But the wetter “green season”—generally from December through March—offers a different side of Africa, when breeding and hunting occurs amidst rich vegetation.
Climate: During the dry season, evenings are cool or even cold, so layering is a must. Afternoon temperatures range from warm to hot (particularly in October). The low humidity at this time of year attracts fewer bugs, including mosquitoes.
In Botswana’s green season, though you’ll certainly encounter more rain, showers won’t occur every day and, when they do, they’ll likely be sporadic. Spectacular lightning and thunderstorms are an added bonus. Afternoon temperatures are hot and humidity is often high. Mosquitoes, while more prevalent, can be easily managed with proper insect repellent and shouldn’t detract from your safari.
Crowds: The country’s commitment to small-scale eco-tourism means you won’t see many tourists compared with many other safari destinations, regardless of the time of year. However, more people do travel to Botswana during the dry season, particularly during school summer breaks in July and August. During the green season, you may find you have lodges, roads and watering holes largely to yourself.
Birding: Botswana has an impressive population of birds year-round—Pel’s fishing-owl, slaty egrets and wattled cranes among them. But for the avid birder, the green season is unquestionably the best time to visit as additional species migrate to the country to breed and nest. Northern Botswana in particular, where our tours normally run, is known for its high number of birds.
Wildlife viewing: The dry season’s grass is low and sparse and trees are leafless, allowing visitors to easily spot wildlife, even from far away. There are also fewer watering holes, so it’s less difficult to predict where animals will congregate. For these reasons, you’ll see more animals, and in greater variety, during this time of year. Chobe National Park’s famous elephant herds are in full force during the dry season.
The abundance of wildlife wasn’t lost on Matt Lewis, a senior program officer for WWF, “Viewing elephants from a boat on the Chobe River was a moment of a lifetime. It’s such a surreal experience to see elephants wading and swimming in the river, using their trunks as snorkels, alongside hippos plunging loudly into the river and crocodiles sunning themselves on the river banks.”
The green season is when grazing animals give birth, so you’ll likely spot young impala, springbok and zebra trailing behind their mothers. In turn, the area’s predators—leopard, lion, cheetah, spotted hyena and wild dog—target the vulnerable babies, and dramatic hunting scenes may unfold in front of you. Large herds can be found grazing on the plentiful grass in the Kalahari at this time of year, too.
Scenery: During the dry season, Botswana’s sparse plains stretch far into the distance. The driest months, June through August, bring conditions dustier than normal.
The lush foliage of the green season—contrasted with the stunningly blue African sky—creates a breathtaking backdrop for photographers. And an afternoon storm may reward you with a rainbow or two streaking across the sky.
The landscape of the Okavango Delta can change dramatically depending on the water level, which is affected less by the seasonal rainfall and more by water traveling from the Angola highlands. Therefore, somewhat counterintuitively, the highest water levels occur from June to August, when many snaking waterways become small lakes. Regardless of the time of year, the ever-changing floodplain can be explored by mokoro (traditional dugout canoe).