WHEN TO VISIT THE OKAVANGO
The longest day (December 21st) is almost 3 hours longer than the shortest day (June 21st) and those 3 hours are contributing directly to the longer duration of your game drives, because the time you spend in camp between your two daily drives is typically the same all year round. This means that wake-up calls are at 5AM during the Botswana summer months and at 6AM during the winter months (and at 5:30AM during the transition months). Also, in the summer months, you will return to camp at 7PM, in the winter months at 6PM (unless the camp is allowing night safaris, i.e. not located inside the Moremi Game Reserve).
The highest temperatures occur in October, when maximum temperatures can easily exceed 40 degrees Celsius (105 Fahrenheit). The coldest months are June/July, when the mornings can be as cold as 5 degrees Celsius (40 Fahrenheit), and the maximum daytime temperatures are around 25 degrees Celsius (75 Fahrenheit).
With the start of summer during the month of November, it is quite common to experience mid-afternoon thunderstorms. Some of those storms can be severe, but in many cases they are local and don't last more than 30 minutes at a time. From mid-January until late March you can expect many days with steady rainfall. From mid-May until late-October most days will be sunny, in many cases without a single cloud in the sky.
Another major seasonal difference is the green, lush scenery that you will find from November until the end of March, as opposed to the yellow-brown scenery that you will experience from April until October. Especially during the month of February the grass will be very high and there will be incredible amounts of pollen and seeds in the air.
Starting in November, lots of newborn animals will be around, which also attracts the predators in the area. During the summer months (November-March) the migratory birds will be around; you will not see those from April until October; this includes real nice species like the carmine bee-eater and the woodland kingfisher. From May until October it will be easier to spot the animals, because the grass is low and the animals are concentrated in smaller areas because of the flood. One exception is the Mombo concession, however, where you will be able to see lots of wildlife all year round.
High season is from May until October, which is mostly driven by vacation schedules in Europe and the US, as well as the higher probability of seeing animals. This means that the daily rates are higher in most camps during those months. The week between Christmas and New Year is also considered high season in most camps.
Mosquitoes and Other Insects
Mosquitoes are more active during the Botswana summer than during the winter months. Because of the cold nights, you will rarely see mosquitoes between May and August. In general, the number of mosquitoes is quite low, even during the summer months.
When the first thunderstorms indicate the start of summer in November/December, there will be a period of time when termites will be extremely active. Especially during the evening/night, they will be attracted by any light, which will impact dinner, as the termites will be flying around in large numbers.
When you approach large buffalo herds, (e.g. in Duba Plains), you will experience large numbers of flies. If you are uncomfortable with it, all you can do is leave the area.
During the first months of summer (November-January), the thunderstorms and the green vegetation provide the nicest conditions for beautiful pictures. Only the sunsets tend to be nicer from May-October. The main inconvenience for photographers during the Botswana summer months is the possibility of severe thunderstorms (November to mid-January) or long lasting rain (mid-January to late March); during the dry winter months (May-October) the main inconvenience is the dust in the air, especially on windy days.
Last but not least, the annual flood which peaks during the early winter months (April-June), gives the area an entirely different look-and-feel when the large floodplains are completely covered with water.
Our Personal Opinion
Our favorite time of year is between mid-December and mid-January (assuming this includes at least some time in Mombo). The other time of year we like is the first half of May.