Having worked throughout Southern Africa in the safari industry over the last 16 years, I have often been asked when the best season to travel to Africa is… My passion for my home continent lies so deep that it would be like asking a mother to choose between her children – I love them all for their own uniqueness and I really cannot say that one season is better than the other! I am though going to tell you about one of my favourite seasons and destinations – summer in Botswana!
The Emerald Season in Botswana
Summertime in Africa, or the ‘emerald season’ as we refer to it, is spectacular for many reasons and should be scheduled into anyone’s travel diary.
The iconic floodplains and lush waterways of the Okavango Delta are often wrongly associated with summer months and the resulting rainfall. This though is not entirely true as the flood waters are actually a winter occurrence. The channels and floodplains are not filled from direct rainfall in the area but rather these waters travel approximately 1200 km’s from the highlands of Angola, a bordering country to the north-west of Botswana. Heavy rain falls in the highlands in January and February and then the long journey down the Okavango River begins, resulting in approximately 11 cubic kilometres of water spreading over an area of 250 x 150km’s over the next four months! Though there is an abundance of surface water around, the surrounding grasses and plains dry up, leaving grazing that is eventually low in nutrition.
Come summertime, the waters have long receded and the dry and dusty bushveld is in desperate need of relief. Great big thunderclouds roll into the sky and the first fat droplets of rain fall onto the dusty plains. New life bursts forth from the ground and the dazzling array of new green leaves and vibrant floral displays are astounding. Many antelope and mammal species such as the impala, wildebeest, warthog, zebra and even mongoose give birth once the first good rains have fallen as now there is guaranteed grazing and food sources to sustain and energise the new lactating mothers. Babies abound and witnessing their first tentative steps into the world is an overwhelmingly beautiful experience. With the explosion of new life all around, predator sightings such as leopard, lion and wild dog are frequent as they take full advantage of the abundance of the inexperienced younger prey.
The drier surroundings make for opportunities to walk and explore the islands and floodplains that are not possible to access during the winter months. Weather is exceptional; especially in the early mornings when the air is bright and clear and the late afternoons with their dramatic sunsets and almighty cloud formations that make ideal settings for both professional and amateur photographers! Migrant birds arrive from afar, several species such as the kingfishers, cuckoos and colourful bee-eaters display their impressive breeding plumage and paint the sky with pops of vibrant colour.
The excellent prices and huge discounts offered (sometimes as much as 50%) combined with typically lower tourist volumes, translate to good overall availability in the camps allowing one to take a spur of the moment trip to Africa! Contact me for a customized tour including some of these amazing specials for your summer safari!