Botswana remains one of the prize locations on the continent of Africa for wildlife photography. Here lion, leopard, zebra, giraffe and vast herds of African elephant roam wildly across the vast expansive plains.
Botswana is likely marked “MUST” on nearly every wildlife photographers’ bucket list, and with good reason! Exceptional photography awaits visitors to Botswana, regardless of which season you choose to visit. The ‘Green’ season falls between November and March, while the ‘Dry’ season is April through October.
Botswana is terrific no matter which season you chose to visit, however, there are a few things that are different depending on the season. These include climate, wildlife, delta floodwaters, scenery, birds, and crowds. The following will attempt to highlight some of these so that choosing which season to visit should make sense and provide for no surprises.
If you visit Botswana during the dry season expect warm to hot days with chilly evenings (becoming hotter towards October). The dry season will be the hotter season. Those expecting to battle mosquitos while in Africa can relax a bit during the dry season as the lower humidity attracts fewer bugs in general. If walking about looking for wildlife is on your “to-do” list, the dry season is the only time where that is acceptable to do because of the lack of long grasses. Just remember, it will be HOT.
The green season, meanwhile, will provide for hot and humid afternoons. Those visiting Botswana during this timeframe should expect more rain, yet showers typically do not take away from the overall safari adventure as the rains here are fickle and typically end for the day following a single afternoon downpour. It is also important to note that it is quite rare to have two consecutive days of rain. As one would assume, with more rain and humidity comes more bugs and mosquitoes.
Wildlife is easier to spot during the dry season in Botswana. It’s true. The grass is low, sparse and trees lack leaves lessening the clutter that can get in the way of seeing a lion sleeping off in the distance, or an elephant taking a drink at a watering hole. Additionally, there are fewer watering holes from which these animals can choose, making it easier to narrow down where they might be, to begin with. Remember, water is life. The elephants of Chobe National Park are more active this time of year, as well.
However, what is more, “safari” than watching (and photographing) a lion, leopard or cheetah chase down a vulnerable young impala, or zebra? Oh, the drama! The green season is when “prey” animals give birth. The antelope seemingly wait until the very moment the rains begin before giving birth. Action, such as the one described above, or, capturing an image of a delicate moment between mother and newborn are available during the green season.
High water in the Okavango Delta does not happen in the green season. In fact, it happens during the dry season because the floods come from Angola, which takes a few months to reach Botswana. May through October is the peak season in terms of the Okavango Delta waters.
We’ve touched on the background scenery a bit already, but it is important to note what backgrounds will look like when considering photography. This is important for images (depending on framing choices), as well as for other considerations. If one visits during the dry season, desert-like, dry, dusty conditions should be expected. Do these conditions take away from the beauty of your images? Not necessarily. Many images will likely be shot with an up-close perspective, using larger apertures to blur the background. Yet, other images will be certainly nice with the inclusion of background, allowing a greater story to be told.
Within a few short days and weeks of rainfall, the parched dry landscapes here transform themselves with green grasses and blooming flowers. This lush foliage of the green season, in addition to a clearer atmosphere, dramatic skies, and sparkle from the fallen rains, creates breathtaking backdrops for photographers to place artfully behind animals in their natural habitats. Rain might be considered a bother at first thought. Yet, think about what a spectacular afternoon thunderstorm, complete with a lightning display, can do for an otherwise good image!
Photographing birds in Botswana is good year-round. A birder’s “paradise,” really. Choose either season and you’ll likely be happy. However…
The very best time is during the green season. This is due to the return of migrant birds. Birders who visit during the green season will delight in strong populations of flamingos, wattled cranes, kingfishers, kites, bee-eaters, swallows and more.
We often like to visit places and not be overwhelmed by too many other visitors of similar species (other humans). Botswana is somewhat unique, especially when compared to other safari locations in Africa, in that tourism is regulated to control crowds. You’ll likely see more wildlife of the critter variety than wild humans regardless of which season you choose to visit.
This being said, the traditional timeframe in which most folks across the globe travel happens to fall during Botswana’s dry season, and conventional thought is that there is more wildlife during the dry season, so dry season does see a bit more visitation than does green season. If you want to explore Botswana and feel as if you have the place (almost) to yourself, the green season is your choice.
Explore the wilds of an Africa that seems stuck in a time forgotten, in whichever season feels best for you. If wildlife photography is your passion then a trip to Botswana with Backcountry Journeys needs to be on your list. No matter which season you pick to visit, you’ll be rewarded in Botswana.
Kenton Krueger grew up and spent the first 33 years of his life in the corn country of Omaha, Nebraska. After studying aviation at the University of Nebraska Omaha’s Aviation Institute, he “conned” his way into the newsroom at the award-winning Omaha World-Herald were for 3+ years he wrote and photographed news articles on a variety of topics such as community events, travel, and even mixed martial arts for the sports department. Yet something was missing. While on backpacking trips to Grand Teton and Grand Canyon National Parks in the mid-2000’s he was quick to realize that the wildlands of the western United States stoked a fire in his heart as nothing else could. This realization led to relocation to Flagstaff, Arizona, and he hasn’t looked back. He has spent the past several years guiding backpackers, hikers, and photographers into the wild places of the American West such as Havasu Falls, Grand Canyon, and Yellowstone National Parks as well as in the Grand Staircase Escalante in southern Utah. In addition to backpacking and camping, his adventures include rock climbing, exploring the slot canyons of southern Utah, mountain biking, and bagging 14ers in Colorado’s San Juan Mountain Mountain Range. Kenton is a trail runner, former pilot, newspaper photographer, and writer. Kenton looks forward to utilizing his years of guiding experience, combined with his passion and experience behind the lens to provide memorable and unforgettable experiences at the wild places we will visit together.
Don’t Miss the Next Session of BCJ “Live”
Night Sky Post-Processing
with Ben Blankenship
Tuesday, May 18th, 2021 at 11 am (Mountain)