If you ask us, there's never a wrong time to go on holiday, but if you are specifically travelling for best game viewing, to get the best photographs or to enjoy mostly sunny days then this guide will help you decide when you should travel.
Botswana's ideal game viewing opportunities have taken aeons to evolve into the near perfect conditions available today.
The delta is fed by rain from Angola which arrives in time to feed the parched animals at the peak of the dry season in Botswana's dry months between April and November. Game viewing in Chobe is also best during the dry months and daytime temperatures are not excessive.
Take a deeper look:
The rains from January to March is the best time for birding, especially in the Delta though many roads become impassable forcing camps to close and making fly-in safaris the only option.
November and December are calving months though temperatures hit extremes before the rains arrive. The rainy season – variously known as the “green” or “emerald” season – also sees vast migrations of Zebra and other plains herds south from Chobe through Savuti to the Makgadikgadi Pans and the Central Kalahari Game Reserve.
Winter (May – August) evenings are cool to cold with frost and sub-zero temperatures in the Kalahari. Winter days are warm, dry and clear.
Summer (November – March) evenings are warm and balmy bringing an army of bugs (see Health and Safety for malaria information). Summer days are hot to very hot and humidity rises in the northern areas.
The shoulder seasons are mostly dry; evenings are warmer than in winter and days are cooler than in summer.
With such a variety of attractions and things to do, Namibia is a year-round destination. The best time depends mostly on what you want to see and do during your visit:
Winter, from May to September, is the best time for general game viewing. Water is scarce, the bush is thin and the waterholes are packed with thirsty animals. By comparison to other game parks in southern Africa, Etosha is an excellent wildlife destination all year round due to its natural waterholes and wide open spaces.
The rainy season, from January to April is good for migrant birds, calving wildlife, dramatic thunderstorms and beautiful landscapes.
Hiking and cycling adventures are best done in autumn, from March to May, when the rains have increased the natural water supplies, the days are mild and night-time temperatures in the desert haven't reached their coldest.
In more detail:
The interior is warm to hot during the day most of the year round. Summer evenings are warm and moist, winter evenings are cold and dry. The coast stays cool and moist all year round thanks to the prevailing south-westerly winds that rise over the icy Benquela Current.
If weather is a determining factor for your holiday plans and when to travel: Best Time for Weather
When planning your trip, let us know what you want to do and we'll give you the best advice on when to visit.
Victoria Falls is governed by the water level of the Zambezi River. The water level of the Zambezi is governed by rainfall many hundreds of kilometres upstream and thus its peaks and lows are at odds with the local weather patterns.
Though spectacular all year round, Victoria Falls is best experienced in medium to high water when the flood is at its most dramatic. We have a prepared a detailed guide on when to visit Victoria Falls and here is an abbreviated version of the water levels:
Peak: March, April, May
High: February, June
Medium: January, July, August
Low: September to December
Another common question we've answered about Vic Falls is "Which side of Victoria Falls is better? Zambia or Zimbabwe" and here we give you a detailed, impartial appraisal of your Victoria Falls viewing experience from both countries.
Zambia has the classic dry winter ideal for general game viewing and the rainy summer is equally exciting and certainly more picturesque.
General game viewing in the South Luangwa and Kafue National Parks is best from June to October when the vegetation thins out, water sources become scarce and the dry weather allows for extended game drives.
The central parts of the South Luangwa are open all year round while the outer regions must wait for the river and rains to subside in May and remain open until November when the rain returns and only a few camps can remain open.
The Kafue National Park is accessible from June to October and few safari lodges and remote camps in the central region remain open all year round.
The Lower Zambezi National Park is open from April to November and, with the Zambezi as it's centrepiece, offers excellent game viewing throughout this period.
The rainy season in Zambia, from November to March, is a magical time to visit Africa. A verdant wonderland of lush abundance, birding, game viewing, scenery, moths and butterflies and very few visitors make summer in Zambia an attractive option.
For the off-the-beaten-track safari gurus, combine the rainy season in Zambia with a green-season safari in the Central Kalahari and Makgadikgadi Pans of Botswana. Here too, the land comes to life during the rainy season when massive migrations, migratory birds, active predators and beautiful scenery are cause for local celebration.
And Victoria Falls starts to rise from December onwards improving the drama and playing havoc with your camera.
Zambia is hotter and wetter than Botswana and Namibia. The winter lows from May to August average 11°C (that's about 52°F); days are warm, clear and dry with average highs around 30°C (86°F).
From August to October, life begins to swelter under the African sun with lows of around 18°C (65°F) and highs up to 40°C (104°F).
Summer rains from November to March arrive to cool off the dry heat; humidity rises and the average temperature range is between 20°C and 35°C (68 - 95°F).