Activities and Seasonal Considerations

When planning your safari you will want to take into account the seasonal effects on certain activities and experiences. Some areas are affected more than others within the region. This guide outlines the areas most significantly affected by the seasons however this is not set in stone and it should always be remembered that the weather is innately unpredictable, increasingly so in recent years.

This guide covers the Okavango Delta, Makgadikgadi Salt Pans and Victoria Falls. Low water levels may affect the possibility of enjoying mokoro or boating safaris at some camps while high water levels will mean some camps can offer limited game drives. Beyond the Okavango, when the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans are wet, quad biking and sleepouts are not possible. If Victoria Falls is also included in your itinerary you will want to take water levels into account too.

The Okavango Delta

The Okavango Delta is constantly changing with water levels varying by several metres throughout the year. The arrival of the annual flood waters from Angola around April/May sees the Okavango begin to expand up to three times in size. As the waters recede- with transpiration by plants and evaporation, the Okavango begins to shrink usually in September.

The Okavango can be generally explained to have two distinct areas, the permanent swamp which is inundated with water all year round and the seasonal swamp which is flooded annually and dries up gradually with the onset of summer.

Those camps in the permanent swamp will offer year round activities. Those set in the seasonal swamp areas may only offer water activities when the water levels permit, usually from May-September. This is for reasons of safety- while the water may be there it may be too shallow or too densely populated with hippos to run activities safely.

Conversely, those camps which are surrounded by floodplains which are inundated with the arrival of the flood can only offer limited game drives on shorter routes.

Importantly, there are a number of camps set in areas with permanent deep flowing channels as well as on higher ground and these camps are therefore able to offer year- round water activities as well as game drives.

In order to understand which camps offer the best chance of conducting your preferred mix of activities at any particular time of year ,please speak to us for more information.

Trans-Okavango Safaris- One of the most special and unique safari experiences is a boating safari from the Okavango Panhandle to Maun, camping along the way in simple fly camps. This safari can only be conducted in years of very high water levels to ensure safe passage through the river systems and will vary from year to year. These safaris can only be 100% confirmed closer to the time of departure.

Hot air Balloon safaris – Due to weather conditions, hot air balloon safaris are only conducted from mid-April to the end of August.

Walking safaris – Whether a short bush walk or longer walking safari – these activities will only be conducted when the conditions allow the walks to be conducted as safely as possible. For this reason the best time for walking is in the dry season (from May-October) when the grass is low and general vegetation thin allowing for better visibility. In area of large elephant populations walking may still not be possible during this season.

Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana

Lying just south of the Okavango Delta, the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans offers superb diversity to your safari itinerary and really showcases the amazingly varied landscapes of Northern Botswana. The salt pans offer an array of unique safari experiences including quad biking and sleep-outs on the salt pans. These activities cease with the arrival of the rains, usually around November as the pans become unreachable, and will only resume when the pans dry out around April/May. During this time vehicles cannot drive on the pans and will instead focus on the rich grasslands which surround the pans. This is a fantastic time to experience the zebra migration, the longest in Africa, which transforms the pans with tens of thousands of Zebra. The meerkat and bushman activities will be offered year round.

Victoria Falls

As the Zambezi River tumbles down 100 metres from a vertical chasm, the Victoria Falls is formed. The Zambezi River marks the natural border between Zambia and Zimbabwe, so visitors have the option of staying either in Livingstone (on the Zambian side) or Victoria Falls (on the Zimbabwe side).

When to visit Victoria Falls? The experience at the falls will all depend on the amount of rain received in the areas upstream and this rainfall fluctuates.

The Zambezi River is fed by the rains which fall from November-March, with the flood season from February to May, peaking around March/April. The spray at this time is immense, rising almost 1km into the sky and visible from 45 kms away. It is worth noting that at its peak the spray is so strong that visibility is restricted though the power of the falls is hugely impressive. During the drier months, from September to January, the rocky face of the falls begins to show again and the formation of the falls can be better appreciated in terms of the length and breadth of the falls. October is traditionally the driest month. The experience varies greatly across the seasons but certainly each month will offer something very different for everyone.

When the water levels are lowest the falls are best seen from the Zimbabwean side of the falls, while visits to Livingstone Island, on the Zambian side, are only possible during the low water periods.

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