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The Best Time to Visit Botswana: A Seasonal Guide to the Okavango Delta

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Antoinette van Heerden

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Antoinette van Heerden

Author: Antoinette van Heerden - 15 November 2016

Last Update: 13 June 2024

The Okavango Delta is the jewel in Botswana’s safari crown.  Each year, floodwaters flow from the central African highlands, over 1,000 kilometres away from the Delta, to create this wondrous wetland within a desert.

Established as the 1000th UNESCO World Heritage Site, it’s one of the most visited destinations in Southern Africa, with its 15,000 square kilometres of water channels, lagoons and islands drawing visitors from across the globe.

If you’ve been dreaming about a Botswana safari, let this month-by-month seasonal guide help you plan the ultimate experience in the Delta.

About the Okavango Delta

Created by the seasonal spilling of the Okavango River into the landscape of the Kalahari between March and August, it creates a massive inland sea, which is dotted with islands brimming with wildlife.

The Okavango Delta is a haven for wildlife. It’s home to all the species, perfect for a Big Five safari and over 450 species of birds, perfect for keen birders.

Its seasonal flooding creates a dynamic landscape that only amplifies its wildlife diversity, offering visitors unparalleled safari experiences unlike anywhere else in Africa, with sightings of sitatunga, wild dog and wattled crane. Mokoro (hand-carved wooden boats) excursions  are regarded as an authentic and unobtrusive insight into this special wetland paradise. 

The Seasons of the Okavango Delta: When is the Best Time to Go?

To make the most of your visit to the Okavango Delta, understanding its seasonal changes is essential.  The months of May to September are considered the best times to visit the Okavango Delta. This is the dry season, which means there is little vegetation to obscure game viewing opportunities, as the wildlife will gather around water resources to refresh themselves.

Understanding the Flooding Cycle

The Okavango Delta’s unique flooding cycle is driven by seasonal rains in the Angolan highlands. These rains start in November, with the floodwaters gradually making their way down to the delta over the following months. This journey takes several months, peaking in the delta around June to August, creating a lush and vibrant environment teeming with life.

This year, the seasonal floods have been late, with safari operators in the area signaling floodwaters only started to arrive at the end of May, after lower than expected rainfall and late rains in Botswana and the Angolan catchment area. However, most boating excursions are now operating as normal. 

There are pros and cons to each season when planning your Botswana Okavango Safari  each season, as outlined in this seasonal calendar.

Aerial view of Elephants - Okavango Delta - Botswana
Aerial view of African Elephants in the Okavango Delta in Botswana

July to October: Peak Flood Season

 The delta is at its most spectacular during this time. Floodwaters have fully arrived, creating a maze of waterways, islands, and lagoons. Wildlife is concentrated in smaller areas, providing some of the best game-viewing opportunities.

Pros: Prime time for game viewing. Activities like mokoro (dugout canoe) trips and boat safaris are at their best, offering unique perspectives of the delta’s wildlife and scenery.

Cons: Higher rates and more tourists. Advanced bookings are essential.

Top Activities to Plan: Best for mokoro trips, boat safaris, and concentrated wildlife viewing. This is also the time for spectacular sunsets and scenic flights over the delta.

READ: Exploring the Wildlife of Botswana’s Okavango Delta by Canoe and Boat

November to April: The Green Season

The annual green season takes place between late-October to April each year and is called such due to the high levels of rainfall the region experiences. These rains are vital in sustaining the delicate ecosystem of the country.

begins with the onset of rains, transforming the delta into a verdant paradise. The landscape is lush, and water levels are at their lowest. This is the time of year when the delta sees the birth of many young animals, making it an excellent period for witnessing the beginning of life cycles and predator-prey interactions.

The green season is considered the ‘low season’ for a Botswana safari, which means substantial reductions in safari package prices; great news for travellers on a budget.

Pros: Lower rates and fewer tourists, making for a more exclusive experience. Excellent birdwatching as migratory birds arrive.

Cons: Wildlife can be more dispersed due to the abundance of water and vegetation. Some areas may be inaccessible due to muddy conditions. 

Top Activities to Plan: Ideal for birdwatching, photography, and enjoying the lush landscapes. It’s also a good time for witnessing new life, with many animals giving birth.

May to June: The Shoulder Season

As the rains subside, water levels start to rise with the incoming floodwaters from Angola. The shoulder Season is characterized by the transformation from the lush green landscape to the floodplains. Wildlife begins to congregate around permanent water sources.

Pros: A great balance between weather, wildlife sightings, and accessibility. Increasing numbers of animals gather near water sources, making wildlife spotting easier.

Cons: Rising water levels can make some areas difficult to navigate. 

Top Activities to Plan: Perfect for a mix of water-based and land-based activities. Wildlife viewing is excellent as animals start to gather around water sources.

Planning Your Visit

To fully experience the Okavango Delta, it’s important to consider the type of safari you want. The Okavango Delta is a destination that changes dramatically with the seasons, each offering unique experiences. By understanding the flooding cycle and the seasonal variations, you can choose the best time to visit based on your interests and expectations. Whether it’s the lush green season or the vibrant peak flood season, the Okavango Delta promises an unforgettable adventure in one of Africa’s most extraordinary landscapes. 

If you’re keen on birdwatching and avoiding crowds, the green season might be your best bet. For those looking for the quintessential delta experience with high concentrations of wildlife and water-based activities, the peak flood season is ideal. The shoulder season offers a balanced experience, combining good wildlife sightings with fewer tourists and lower rates than the peak season. 

Where to stay in the Okavango Delta

Xaranna Okavango Delta Camp

Situated on it’s own island within the Okavango Delta, Xaranna boasts nine en-suite safari camps made of canvas and bleached timber.

The safari tents are organic in design and are delicately decorated in shade of khaki and soft lily pink. Each tent boasts a romantic outdoor sala, private plunge pool, indoor bathtub and al fresco shower. The guest areas are all carefully positioned to maximise the sweeping views out across the channels, with classic Delta tree-line silhouettes.

Tau Pan Camp, Central Kalahari Game Reserve

Tau Pan Camp in Botswana | Photo credits: Tau Pan Camp
Tau Pan Camp in Botswana | Photo credits: Tau Pan Camp

You’ll be exploring this incredible area from the Tau Pan Camp, a rustic and isolated semi-mobile camp with luxury facilities and rooms. Spend your two days between exhilarating game drives and cultural walking tours with San Bushmen guides who know the Central Kalahari Game Reserve by heart. Learn about their fascinating culture and spend your evenings under the clear and starry African sky.

Kwando Kwara Camp, Okavango Delta

Kwando Kwara Camp in Botswana | Photo credits: Kwando Kwara Camp
Kwando Kwara Camp in Botswana | Photo credits: Kwando Kwara Camp

Located next to a tranquil lagoon on the Okavango river is Kwando Kwara Camp. The prime positioning of this wooden wonder means panoramic views that stretch over the river. Expect to see plenty of elephants and hippos as you relax on the wooden deck. The stilted rooms are ideal ‘glamping’ spots and visitors rave over the delicious food on offer at the camp.

Kwando Lagoon Lodge, Linyanti Wetlands

Kwando Lagoon Lodge in Botswana | Photo credits: Kwando Lagoon Lodge
Kwando Lagoon Lodge in Botswana | Photo credits: Kwando Lagoon Lodge

The Kwando Lagoon Lodge lies at on the banks of the vibrant Kwando river, a hotspot that draws wildlife from the surrounding bush. Cape buffalo are a common sight, as well as lion and other apex predators. The lodge itself is the picture of luxury with stunning wrap-around views of the area. Comfortable and cosy, this thatch and canvas lodge offers suites all with exquisite views over the lagoon.

Must-do activities in the Okavango Delta

Photographic safaris

This is best during the green season for good reason. Lighting is favourable and the opportunity to witness the interaction between predator and prey is a thrilling although often bittersweet.

Mokoro rides

Riding a mokoro (a dugout canoe) through the many waterways of the Okavango Delta is one of the best ways to explore Botswana, if you’re looking for that authentic African safari experience.

Bird watching

Home to over 450 different species of birds, the Okavango Delta is a passionate twitcher’s dream.

Game drives

Get close to the countless variety of wildlife in the Okavango Delta by experiencing a game drive led by an experienced Botswana safari guide, who will provide you with information you just cannot find anywhere else.

For more detailed itineraries and personalized safari planning, visit Discover Africa Safaris and let us help you create the perfect Okavango Delta experience. 

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