Best time to visit the Okavango Delta

The Okavango is one of the most dynamic safari destinations in Africa, making it all the more alluring. Every season is different and indeed the each year is different too. This can make deciding when to visit the Okavango delta quite challenging.

While every year will be different depending on the rains received locally and in the catchment area – the Okavango Delta has a distinct cyclical rhythm which can be studied to decide when is the best time to visit the Okavango Delta. With careful planning based on a deep understanding of this complex environment you can enjoy an excellent safari at any time of year.

When is the best time to visit the Okavango Delta?

The best time to visit the Okavango Delta is during the dry season from June-October when the rains have stopped and the flood waters have usually arrived. Although called the ‘dry season’ this is in fact when the Okavango waters are highest as the flood waters arrive from Angola, with the animals flocking to the waters from the dry hinterland. This is also when many camps can offer water activities. However there are exceptions, October for example is the driest and hottest month and delivers superb game viewing but usually has low water levels.

It is important to note that the best time to visit the Okavango Delta will depending on your particular interests.

If you are a birder the best time to visit the Okavango Delta is generally during the summer months when the Okavango is bursting with resident and migratory birds – the air full of song and flashes of colour. That said, some of the heronries are best visited later in the year, so this too will depend on your personal preference. Excellent game viewing can be enjoyed in the summer months too, in the right areas with good resident game and permanent water channels. These months also see the longest migration in Africa as tens of thousands of zebra migrate to the salt pans, a stunning sight.

The shoulder months (mid-season) have much to recommend them too. November brings the first life giving rains and the land springs to life, a bright green carpet over the plains appears and the calving season for many antelope, such as impala, begins.

Every month delivers a different experience and with careful planning you can have a superb safari in the Okavango at any time of year. Alternatively, speak to us about the kind of safari you have in mind and we can advise you accordingly and plan your safari to your particular interests.

Seasons

When it comes to safari planning it helps to consider the seasonal rate differences the camps apply to their rates. This will to some extent reflect the safari experience you can expect during these months but it is important to remember that with careful planning to the right areas a great safari can be had at any time of year. See our guide on what to expect from a low season safari.

The below are the most widespread seasonal categories but these vary from camp to camp. (Some camps classify June as peak season)

  • Low Season – December to March
  • Mid-Season – April-June and November
  • Peak Season – July October

Winter

In the Okavango Delta winter occurs from April to September. Days are generally dry, sunny, clear and cool to warm whilst in the evening temperatures can drop sharply. During the day temperatures generally reach 25 degrees Celsius and evening temperatures can be as low as 2 degrees Celsius and, in some dry areas, can plummet below freezing. Virtually no rainfall occurs during the winter months. As the land surrounding the delta dries up the animals begin to concentrate on around flood waters which arrive between April-June.

The dry winter months are the best time to visit the Okavango Delta for big game viewing due to the concentration of animals around the Okavango waters and the thin vegetation allowing good visibility.

Summer

The Okavango Delta summer starts with temperatures building in September, usually reaching a peak in October until the rains in November bring some relief. Summer rains begin to end in April with the onset of the dry season.

October sees the hottest dry temperatures soaring up to 40 degrees Celsius or more. Cloud cover, coinciding with the arrival of the first rains towards the end of November or in early December, reduce the temperature considerably, albeit only for a short period. During the rainy season, which lasts until the end of February or early March, the days are hot and sunny in the mornings with afternoon thunderstorms, usually in short, torrential downpours during the late afternoon. Temperatures during the day can rise to 38 degrees Celsius and night time temperatures can drop to around 20 degrees Celsius. Rainfall is erratic, unpredictable and highly regional. Heavy downpours 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.

Summer is the best time to visit the Okavango Delta for birding and to see the landscape at its most green and beautiful. The early summer months from late September to October/November deliver superb game viewing opportunities. with animals focussed on the permanent water sources. Those that can withstand the heat of October, when the earth is parched, will be rewarded with explosive and very dramatic game viewing around the remaining water sources. Some consider this the best time to visit the Okavango Delta – though the heat and dust should not be underestimated.

Overview of the Okavango Delta seasons

A brief overview of the weather to expect in Botswana over the year. Please always remember how inherently unpredictable the weather is, increasingly so nowadays.

Dry season – May to October 

  • There is little to no rain during winter and humidity is low, typically 20-40%.
  • May – A lovely month. The temperatures are relatively cool, typically 10°C/50°F in the morning and 28°C/80°F in the afternoon.
  • June, July & August – The average morning temperature is 6°C/42°F. Night temperatures can drop below freezing, especially in the dryer Kalahari areas. Afternoons will be more pleasant with temperatures around 25°C/78°F. Be sure to pack winter clothing because morning game drives in open vehicles will be cold.
  • September & October – The heat gradually builds and it can get very hot in October (38°C/100°F), but the average temperature remains around 34°C/93°F in the afternoon.

Wet season – November to April 

  • November & December – Clouds start to appear, bringing cooler temperatures and an occasional late afternoon shower. This pattern of change continues in December, with typical temperatures between 20°C/69°F in the morning and 33°C/91°F in the afternoon. The more extreme Kalahari areas can still have very hot days, and cold mornings. Humidity is typically between 50-60%.
  • January & February – These are the wettest months, characterized by heavy downpours in the afternoon and sometimes continuous rainfall for days. Daytime temperatures are around 32°C/90°F and the humidity is between 50-80%.
  • March & April – Rainfall decreases and it steadily cools. This trend continues through April, which has lovely, clear weather and few clouds. The nights tend to be cooler but the days are very temperate at 30°C/87°F.

 

When to visit the Okavango Delta

A month by month guide to the Okavango Delta

January

In the Okavango Delta bird viewing is excellent during January as it is peak breeding time for many of the migrant bird species. This coincides with excellent wild flowers, brilliant green foliage and constant sounds day and night – from insects and birds. As January is in the middle of the rainy season it experiences spectacular afternoon thunderstorms, with high humidity and warm days (average 30 degrees Celsius plus) and nights (20 degrees Celsius plus).

Game viewing is reasonable with predators chasing the fast developing young of their prey species, although the thick bush can make viewing a little harder. January is an ideal month for photography in the Okavango Delta due to the vivid colours, spectacular skies and excellent air clarity.

The contrast of the predators natural winter camouflage with the summer colours makes for extremely dramatic photographs. More easily visible to their prey, the predators, such as lions, leopards and hyenas, have to work harder while the prey species experience a time of plenty with lush bush and good quality grasses.

January Okavango weather summary:

Average low and high in Celsius = 19°/32°

Average low and high in Fahrenheit =  66°/89°

Rainfall 94 mm

February 

The ripening of figs eaten by many species occurs during this period . Fruit bats are included and  make for interesting night sounds as these creatures feed. This is the peak flowering season of the water lilies, the reed frogs are colourful and clearly audible and the whole Okavango Delta is brilliantly noisy and alive. Due to the rainfall, plants grow rapidly and all the smaller creatures such as  butterflies, birds and frogs experience a time of plenty.

The rains  continue with mid – to late- afternoon thunderstorms leading to dramatic skies and sounds.  February is hot within the Okavango, daytime temperatures averaging above 30 degrees Celsius and warm nights average at 20 degrees Celsius plus. As the rains taper off there may be both wet and very dry spells within February.

Resident game does not have go far for water and the rapidly growing young are almost as tall as the mature adults. Birding continues to be excellent.

February Okavango weather summary:

Average low and high in Celsius = 19°/31°

Average low and high in Fahrenheit =  66°/87°

Rainfall 81 mm

March

Within the Okavango Delta bull elephants are attracted to the fruit of the Marula trees and wander from tree to tree in search of their favourite meal often moving into the camps and lodges in search of fruit. This is an ideal time to see elephants as they move from one Marula to another. The beginning of the rutting season sees sleek and fat impala males cavorting to attract suitable females. Temperatures remain warm both day and night but the air is drier and the rains less frequent. The bush is lush and green with a multitude of flowers.

March Okavango weather summary:

Average low and high in Celsius = 18°/31°

Average low and high in Fahrenheit =  64°/87°

Rainfall 56 mm

April

The first signs of changing times in the Okavango Delta is when night temperatures drop to below 20 degrees Celsius on average in the Okavango Delta but day time temperatures continue to rise to 40 degrees Celsius on occasion. Temperatures are generally very pleasant with cooler mornings with high relative humidity leading to wonderful early morning mist over the water. Impala rutting is in full swing with dramatic clashes between rival males. Baboon and impala are often seen together as baboons act as sentries protecting the busy impala. Trees have completed their flowering and fruit is ripening, with massive sausages hanging from the Sausage trees. During April reptiles are actively breeding and feeding in anticipation of the dry season, which is beginning.

April Okavango weather summary:

Average low and high in Celsius = 14°/31°

Average low and high in Fahrenheit =  57°/87°

Rainfall 44 mm

May

May is a critical period for the Okavango Delta with the floodwaters from the Angolan highlands reaching the head of the Okavango Delta panhandle and to begin their slow progress through the Okavango Delta. Night temperatures have begun to drop with temperatures averaging 15 degrees Celsius. The rain has stopped and days are still warm with temperatures of up to 35 degrees Celsius.

As seasonal pans begin to dry the Buffalo begin to group into large herds and visit the river areas more often. Breeding herds of elephant start to increase in density daily as they visit the permanent waters to drink. As the landscape starts to dry the once vivid green bush starts to fade to the duller dry seasonal colours and the predators begin to take advantage of their colours blending in with their surroundings once again.

Migratory birds have started to leave the Okavango Delta and begin their flights to winter-feeding and breeding grounds in often as far away as Europe.

May Okavango weather summary:

Average low and high in Celsius = 9°/28°

Average low and high in Fahrenheit =  48°/82°

Rainfall 11 mm

June

An excellent month to visit the Okavango Delta, June sees the dry season start in earnest. Sightings of African wild dogs improve as they begin to search for dens for their puppies. Temperatures drop to their coldest by the end of June with night temperatures reaching as low as 2 degrees Celsius, this means that morning and evening game drives are very cold due to wind chill factor. During the day temperatures rise up to a very comfortable 25 degrees Celsius in the Okavango Delta.

Some green bushes and trees persist but generally the bushveld is becoming browner, leaf drop has started and non permanent pans dry up. Visibility is good, grasses are dropping back. The inner Okavango Delta begins to flood. Animals focus on the main rivers and lagoons for water.

May is the last month before the peak season rates apply and can be the best time to visit the Okavango Delta for those looking for the most productive game viewing without the peak season rates.

June Okavango weather summary:

Average low and high in Celsius = 6°/25°

Average low and high in Fahrenheit =  43°/77°

Rainfall 4 mm

July

Within the Okavango Delta July represents the height of the flood, the waters of which have arrived after a slow journey from the wet Angolan highlands many thousands of kilometres away. The flood arrives when dust and dryness has started to pervade and the rains have gone. Skies are a clear blue. Game viewing is fantastic.

The leaves are falling off the trees, grasses are getting shorter every day and visibility is excellent. Nights remain cold but the days are slightly warmer and within the Okavango Delta are sunny and clear with brilliant blue skies. Water creeps into long dry areas and Mekoro (canoe) and boat trips become access more and more of the Okavango Delta. Soft early morning and evening light combined with dust provides the opportunity for many dramatic photo settings.

July Okavango weather summary:

Average low and high in Celsius = 6°/25°

Average low and high in Fahrenheit =  43°/77°

Rainfall 3 mm

August

By August the floods have traditionally passed through the Okavango Delta and now reach Maun. There will be much speculation in town as to when it will peak and how high? The temperature continues to warm with daytime peaks averaging closer to 30 degrees Celsius and night time averages rising to around 10 degrees Celsius. The Okavango Delta experience its peak visitor period in August.

Game viewing is excellent – with good visibility due to the thinning vegetation – ensuring game drives are very productive. With the grasses lower walking is good too.

Birding continues to evolve with the herons, storks and other birds start to congregate at the heronries.

August Okavango weather summary:

Average low and high in Celsius = 9°/28°

Average low and high in Fahrenheit =  48° /82°

Rainfall 2 mm

September

The dramatic climatic change in the Okavango Delta continues with winter coming to an end. Temperatures at night rise rapidly and day temperatures start to soar well and will reach well into the thirties. The skies are clear and brilliant sun shine is experienced. The air is full of colour as the carmine bee-eaters return for the summer and the first migrants return and storks begin nesting. Water levels in the Okavango Delta have slowly started to drop.

September Okavango weather summary:

Average low and high in Celsius = 13°/33°

Average low and high in Fahrenheit =  55° /91°

Rainfall 14 mm

October

October is very hot in the Okavango Delta with great game viewing as the animals concentrate on the remaining water sources. October often seems some of the most dramatic game viewing of the year. Elephants descend on the rivers and waterholes in huge numbers, particularly in the Chobe region. Day times temperatures rise regularly above 40 degrees Celsius and nights are warm with averages in twenties. Fishing frenzies, with the annual catfish (barbell) runs in the rivers. The heronries are full of activity with hundreds of birds breeding and nesting leading to excellent bird viewing.

October Okavango weather summary:

Average low and high in Celsius = 18°/37°

Average low and high in Fahrenheit =  64/98°

Rainfall 40 mm

November

Temperatures remain high both during the day and night until the day of the first rains normally around mid November. The rains arrive often with a dramatic thunderstorm leading the animals to disperse to eat on new vegetation and drink from the seasonal pans. This is the birthing season which begins with the tsessebe, followed by impala and Lechwe. Predators seek out these vulnerable young. With much action, great visibility and colour with big clusters of cloud, fresh sprouting grass and trees bursting into life – many consider this to be the best time to visit the Okavango Delta for photographers.

November Okavango weather summary:

Average low and high in Celsius = 19°/34°

Average low and high in Fahrenheit =  66/93°

Rainfall = 69 mm

December

Lambs and calves grow at astounding speed fed by their mothers rich milk. The rains have become more regular with thunderstorms every few days filling the remaining pans. While the grazers enjoy the plenty the rains have brought , predators are ever watching and stalking, their winter camouflage letting them down although the bush is dense allowing more hiding places for them to observe their prey.

Migrant birds have all arrived and the birding is excellent. Temperatures have cooled on average but hot days still occur and nights are still warm and humidity can rise after rain. Great colours, dramatic skies make for excellent photography within the Okavango Delta.

December Okavango weather summary:

Average low and high in Celsius = 19°/32°

Average low and high in Fahrenheit =  66/89°

Rainfall = 82 mm

Botswana weather overview

 

Botswana Temperatures – average lows, highs and rainfall

  • January – 19/32° Celsius or  66/89° Fahrenheit.  Rainfall = 94 mm
  • February – 19/31° Celsius or  66/87° Fahrenheit.  Rainfall = 81 mm
  • March – 18/31° Celsius or  64/87° Fahrenheit. Rainfall = 56 mm
  • April – 14/31° Celsius or  57/87° Fahrenheit. Rainfall = 44 mm
  • May –  9/28° Celsius or  48/82° Fahrenheit. Rainfall = 11 mm
  • June – 6/25° Celsius or  43/77° Fahrenheit. Rainfall = 4 mm
  • July- 6/25° Celsius or  43/77° Fahrenheit. Rainfall = 3 mm
  • August – 9/28° Celsius or  48/82° Fahrenheit. Rainfall = 2 mm
  • September – 13/33° Celsius or  55/91° Fahrenheit. Rainfall = 14 mm
  • October – 18/37° Celsius or  64/98° Fahrenheit. Rainfall 40 mm
  • November –  19/34° Celsius or  66/93° Fahrenheit. Rainfall 69 mm
  • December – 19/32° Celsius or  66/89° Fahrenheit. Rainfall = 82 mm

Botswana Meteorological Services

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