Green Season Rates
It is less popular to safari in our wetter months, although we will explain why this should not necessarily be to the detriment of your safari. Rather, you should get clever on where to locate yourself, align what your expectations should be and take advantage of there being fewer other people around and lower rates!
Botswana lodges DO significantly drop their prices in this so called “off season,” simply to fill beds rather than have their lodges near empty. You can book for half the price of peak season rates in some cases, and still get the same services and experiences!
Green Season…..when is it?
Rains start in November and usually subside by the end of March – dry conditions turn to lush and green. You will get told time and again that to safari at this time will mean bad weather and scarcity of game: You must however note that these rate reductions are rather to encourage more bookings since these months are outside of the traditional long Northern hemisphere “summer holidays.”
Animal sightings and movements in the Green Season
So what is all the fuss about? Where do the animals go when the rains come and are they really that much harder to find. The answer is yes and no:
Basically, the onset of rain does indeed disperse the general game. Most animals have a daily requirement to drink, coupled with need to access good forage and grazing. At the end of the dry season (October), these animals are restricted to permanent water sources, where they would have literally eaten themselves out-of-house-and-home. The onset of the first heavy rains instantly allows the animals to move to new grazing areas where rain would have filled the many depressions (“seasonal pans”) that hold water. So the elephants, buffalo, zebra and other general game DO move to their “wet season” ranges, leaving the more traditional game drive areas near rivers with less animals. Remember that not ALL animals will disperse (some stay behind), especially predators, that need to stay put to maintain their territories. Further, it can become harder to find animals, but not necessarily in every park: The Okanavgo, Linyanti, Kwando and Chobe ecosystems will become more thickly vegetated. Significantly, the grass will be longer, giving predators more places to hide. This is not however, too much of a factor in the Kalahari parks, where grass length and thick vegetation is seldom an influence on spotting animals.
So what are our favourite green season sightings and experiences:
- Rain brings new shoots of grass……triggering the birth of thousands of impala lambs, born simultaneously in early November
- Many other antelope species also drop young
- Zebra migrations start – so we locate our lodge choice to the zebra wet season ranges
- Migrant birds from the Northern hemisphere arrive in large numbers
- Termite eruptions – flying termite “alates” attract a frenzy of feeding birds
- Insect life explodes, spurring breeding among many bird and animal species
- Newborns – it can seem like every adult antelope has a young calf in tow
- Striking thunderstorms adding to dramatic landscapes and vistas.
- Dark grey contrasting clouds, rainbows and soft lighting make for great photography
- Warm and moist conditions bring out the reptiles – lizards, chameleons, tortoises, terrapins and even interesting snakes (Don’t worry, the snakes still keep out of our way)
If you have done a few dry season safaris, why not book “off season” to see a new dynamic of the African bush?
What parks to visit then in this “OFF” season……
Let it be said that ALL of Botswana’s parks’ are worth visiting at all times of year and you should try to include a genuine Okavango lodge on any itinerary! However, it is the “Kalahari” parks, or those located in the drier desert regions that class the wet months as “THE” season to visit. You see, the rains bring new growth to the grasslands, which in turn attracts grazing animals, which in turn means that the predators have to be there! The whole landscape of these desert parks change:
Nxai Pan: The pan itself offers excellent grazing so herds of zebra arrive from as far as Moremi, Chobe and even from Zimbabwe. Lions, cheetah and leopard still hunt the plains. The huge Baobabs on the edge of the flooded salt-pans in this park really look good when the pans are full of water!
Greater Makgadikgadi: Same thing applies here – zebra, zebra, zebra…..oh and wildebeest! Just locate to lodges further East, where the zebra have access to new fresh grass and water in the salt-pans. If lucky, you may even get to see them actually migrating! Some of the bigger pans become a complete sheet of water, spreading for tens of square kilometers. This attracts flocks of flamingos and various water birds in huge numbers.
Central Kalahari Game Reserve: We absolutely love the Kalahari in the wet season. It is so refreshing to see the animals fat and healthy on the green plains of the ancient pans and river valleys. If it rains enough, we sometimes even find waterbirds in this desert park – even flamingos some years! There have been years of unprecedented rainfall where this park gets quite tricky to drive through, but generally, contrary to logic, the roads are far better in the desert parks compared to the Okavango, Savuti and Chobe regions.
(TAKE NOTE: Drought and complete rain failures sometimes happen, and it is almost impossible to predict what kind of rain year we are going to get. Therefore, one sometimes finds dry conditions in all these “Kalahari” areas. even in what should be the middle of the rain season!)