If you know much about the Okavango Delta, you’ll know that seasonality plays a huge role in the experience you can expect when you visit, so below, I’m sharing all of the details — when to go, what to expect, and some of the elements other than the weather that can impact your overall Okavango Delta experience.
FIRST, WHAT IS THE OKAVANGO DELTA?
The wildlife-rich Okavango Delta in the northwest of Botswana is one of its greatest landforms and a huge draw for tourists. One of the world’s largest wetlands, the Delta gets most of its water from the Angola Highlands, but as a rare endorheic basin — which means it has no outlet to the ocean — the land floods with the waters and creates a rich and diverse ecosystem.
Nearly all of the Okavango is protected within the confines of national parks and game reserves. Depending on which time of year you visit (the green season or the dry season), the best way to explore the park and eyeball the prolific wildlife is boat, airplane or 4×4.
Some of the best safari lodges and camps in all of Africa are scattered around the Okavango. In addition to wildlife drives and boat trips, many of the lodges arrange visits with the indigenous people who still dwell in the swamps.
SEASONALITY IN THE OKAVANGO
As you can see in the pictures above, the Delta differs drastically depending on the season. There are two seasons in the Okavango Delta — the dry season and the green season. But, confusingly, the dry season is actually when the Delta is wettest. Huh?
The reason for this is the unique ecosystem of the Delta. While it’s not raining in the Delta during the dry season of April to early October, that timeframe is when the floodwaters arrive from Angola and transform the Delta into the flooded landscape that is so iconic. Animals flock to the floodplains, and camps are able to offer water activities — like mokoro rides and boat cruises.
During the wet season of October through March, the days are hot and humid and there are frequent, powerful afternoon thunderstorms. Rainfall peaks in January and February. Daytime temperatures are at their highest (around 100 degrees Fahrenheit) in October.
WHAT TO EXPECT IN THE DRY SEASON
During the Okavango Delta’s dry season (April through early October), you can expect to see sunny, clear skies and mild temperatures. Starting in April (depending on the year), the floodwaters will begin to make their way from the highlands of Angola and will fill the floodplains that surround most camps in the Delta. Flood levels usually peak around July or August before starting to recede and starting the cycle over again.
Reasons to visit during the dry season:
- Ideal time for wildlife sightings as sparse vegetation increases visibility and it is peak migration for animals into the Delta.
- Water levels are at their peak, meaning this is the time to explore the Okavango Delta in a mokoro (dugout canoe) or motorboat.
- Mild temperatures and almost no rain make for comfortable game drives.
Note: July to October are considered high season in the Delta, and you will pay the highest rates during this time.
WHAT TO EXPECT IN THE WET SEASON
During the Okavango Delta’s wet season (October through March), you will find hot, humid days and powerful afternoon thunderstorms. Early mornings remain cool, making them the ideal time for game drives and exploration. October is the hottest month, with temperatures over 100 degrees and no respite as it is before the summer rain truly starts. Rain peaks in January and February, and some lodges actually close January through March.
Reasons to visit during the wet season:
- Lush greenery emerges once the summer rains begin, making for beautiful vistas and excellent photos.
- Newborn wildlife are abundant, as birthing season begins with tsessebe, impala and lechwe, with other species close behind.
- Young animals draw predators, and the wet season in the Delta is prime time for predators, as they have increased hiding places and less water to navigate.
- Bird watching is at a peak, as the we season is peak breeding season for many migrant bird species.
THE IMPORTANCE OF CAMP LOCATION
In the Delta, there are camps that are considered “water camps” and camps that are considered “land camps.” While water-based safari activities are offered most anywhere, some camps in seasonally flooded areas may not offer water activities when the water is lower. Others are surrounded by permanent water sources and can offer water activities year-round. Location and season also impacts a camp’s ability to offer walking safaris and other land-based activities. So keep in mind your wants when reaching out to us, and we can advise the best camps to make your dreams a reality during specific times of year.
I hope this helps give you some of the big picture considerations when it comes to understanding the Okavango Delta. It is a gorgeous destination unlike any other, and we can’t wait to craft the perfect itinerary for you!
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