Botswana and Zimbabwe have both been voted the best into the list of Top Safari countries in a poll taken by both safari experts and safari-goers. While Botswana received the number one spot by experts (industry members) Zimbabwe rated tops with safari-goers, as interest in the country continues to increase. At Jenman African Safaris we must say we agree, both countries are fantastic safari destinations and many of our tours are feature both these countries. In fact, the Intimate Botswana & Zimbabwe Encounter, is one of our best sellers.
When planning a safari trip, in Southern Africa it is helpful to keep factors like season and availability in mind. Some lodges are seasonal and close for a few months and others are fully booked far in advance during the high season. Rainfall and vegetation also have an impact on your safari experience. In the dry season, animals gather around permanent watering holes and the bush is sparse giving great visibility, on the other hand in the green season the landscape is lush and newborns are taking their first cautious steps.
So how would you know when to go? Take a look at our seasonal guide to Botswana and Zimbabwe and let that guide your decision:
January/February: Peak of the rainy season ranging from occasional afternoon thunderstorms to a few days of regular rain. Animals are spread out through the bush and do not need to congregate at permanent waterholes. Some lodges close during this season if their roads become inaccessible due to muddy road conditions.
March: Rains start to let up and animals start emerging from the hinterland. This is the beginning of the massive zebra migration in Botswana. The rains have increased water levels in the Zambezi River and the spray from Victoria Falls is particularly impressive from the high volume of water barreling down into the chasm.
April/May: A sweet spot in the safari calendar, not as busy as peak season but the rains have mostly subsided and animals start looking for water at permanent sources such as the Chobe River, the Okavango Delta, the Zambezi River and the pumped pans of Hwange National Park. Temperatures are high in the day but cool at night.
June/July: Winter has started and it can be very cold in the evenings and on early morning game drives. Midday weather is mild so don’t forget to pack a t-shirt with your warm jacket. Trees are mostly bare and it’s easier to spot big game. The safari crowds usually haven’t arrived yet and rates might even be more favourable.
August: We’ve entered peak season, the bush vegetation is sparse and game viewing is excellent. There is no rain and animals travel from far to reach water sources. Some popular areas are more crowded and availability can be a challenge in Botswana with lodges being booked up far in advance, Zimbabwe will still have space.
September/October: The heat has arrived. The bush is dry and dusty, the high temperatures are intense for some travellers but if you can handle it the game viewing is phenomenal. Animals gather around what scarce vegetation and water they can find and predators become more brazen. Victoria Falls water levels start to decrease which is great for White Water Rafting and swimming in the Devil’s Pool at the edge of the Falls.
November/December: Rains are slowly starting again and greenery is peeping out. November is still very hot while December is cooler with more rain. December rain isn’t all day, every day like it can be from January, it’s mostly a quick afternoon thunderstorm that announces itself hours in advance with dramatic clouds forming in the sky. Do pack some waterproof shoes and perhaps a light windbreaker but the rest of the day is usually clear. It’s also known as Green Season as everything is lush and green.