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Wondering if May is a good time for Botswana

New York City, New...
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Wondering if May is a good time for Botswana

Hello,

I am considering Botswana for May 2015. For the two week trip, I would like to visit Vic Falls, Chobe, Moremi/Okavango Delta and Makgadikgadi Pans/kalahari desert area.

I know May is a transitional period, would the time frame be ideal enough to cover all the areas above?

As a first time visitor, is going so far as the Makgadigadi/desert area worth it during May?

All comments appreciated.

Thanks.

Wayzata, Minnesota
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1. Re: Wondering if May is a good time for Botswana

Hello Tardykat from NY! Sounds like a super trip that you are planning and I am always delighted when a travelers mentions places like the Makgadikgadi - this is the place where I fell in love with Africa way back in October of 2001 (my first trip to Botswana). It is truly a hauntingly beautiful place and one that will stay with you long after you leave.

Botswana is considered to be a “year around” destination and May is certainly a good time to go. Most safari camps will go into “peak season” rates sometime in June – this means that May will certainly drive better value. My recommendation is to travel as close to the “peak season” transition time as possible.

Let me address your itinerary one segment at a time.

Victoria Falls: whether you choose to go on the Zambia or Zimbabwe side, May/June timeframe is a superb time to see the falls. The water level is pumping, but typically not so much so that you can’t see anything. If you opt to go to the Zimbabwe side, I recommend you take a peek at the new Victoria Falls River Lodge – the service level and accommodations here will be very much aligned with your safari experience. On the Zambian side, I really like Islands of Siankaba (for similar reasons). One of the things you may wish to consider if you opt to stay in a larger hotel facility is that Vic Falls is a very transient place where people often spend only 1-2 nights. With limited flight service in/out of LVI or VFA in that arrive/depart fairly close in timing, the hotel check in/check out process can be hectic. This is why I’ve historically always preferred staying in a smaller “safari camp” style accommodations in Vic Falls to keep the service level consistent. With that said, I just met with the rep from Victoria Falls Hotel – if you book the Sable Wing (deluxe rooms), you have your own separate check-in/check-out service from the remainder of the hotel.

Chobe: May is certainly a good time to visit, albeit not the very best. Unless you had the opportunity to compare side by side with, say, August/September, I think you will walk away in May as a happy camper. The elephant population (which Chobe is famous for), really start making appearances is huge numbers later into the season. Note that Chobe can be fairly crowded as well, even in May, relative to places in the Delta (or especially the Makgadikgadi) so just be mentally prepared for a more commercial scene in Chobe. Shall your budget permit, you may wish to head into the Linyanti/Lebala/Selinda area. You’ve got some really good operators that run quality camps to include Wilderness Safaris, Kwando, African Bushcamps, Great Plains etc – this will ensure an exclusive safari experience away from the crowds. If budget is driving Chobe proper, Muchenje drives good value.

Okavango Delta/Moremi: Typically, the Delta will begin to flood when the dry season commences (May). As a general rule of thumb, you will have more water in the northern sector of the Delta than the south (as the waters arrive from the highlands of Angola to the north). Again, May isn’t the peak of the peak in the Delta, but still really good quality game viewing. One thing to note: in May 2014, a friend of mine pitched Tubu Tree to a client, and as it turns out, they weren’t offering water activities even through it was advertised online – pick your camps carefully to ensure that you get to experience mekoro/boating in the Delta (if you choose a good operator, they will know the differences of these camps and what activities are offered and when). If you only pick one camp in the Delta/Moremi to visit, I encourage you to pick one that offers both land and water based activities (albeit this may be a bit tricky to do in May).

Makgadikgadi: I don’t know what your intentions are for visiting this area – if it is simply the landscape, the habituated meerkats with Uncharted Africa (Jack’s, San or Camp Kalahari) or for the bushman experience, but this may dictate my feedback for May. You can still do the meerkats, bushman activities and get a good sense of the landscape in May, but I am fairly certain that you cannot go exploring deep into the Pans this time of year (even on quads). The earth is simply too saturated in May and the top layer of salt is too thin to support quads going through. For me, the real magic of the Pans is going deep within and experiencing a void of light, sound, and life. May isn’t ideal for this – in fact, Uncharted Africa’s Kubu Island expedition doesn’t operate this time of year for this very reason. With that said, I still feel that this area is worthy of a visit and complements the rest of your trip very well. You may also wish to check out Meno a Kwena along the Boteti River – could be a great alternative in May and a superb product. So is going to this area in May worth it for a first timer? Hard to say without going over expectations of the area.

Good luck in your trip planning!

-Kota Tabuchi, Managing Director: Africa, Travel Beyond

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2. Re: Wondering if May is a good time for Botswana

Kota,

Thanks for such an in-depth reply.

I included the Makgadikgadi pans because I felt I might have enough time to venture further and to see a different landscape, I'm not expecting lots of game viewing. I wanted to see and feel the vastness but if I can't venture too far into the pans, maybe I shouldn't look to visit there?

Are the Linyanti/Lebala/Selinda areas less crowded therefore more costly to visit?

In terms of Okavango/Moremi in May, it sounds like where I stay should be the driving factor to have any water based activities.

South Africa
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3. Re: Wondering if May is a good time for Botswana

Hi Tardykat, you can certainly visit all those areas in May. As Kota pointed out, May is not the best time but also not the worst. You will benefit from lower mid-season or shoulder season rates, it is the beginning of the dry season and the start of the flood season in the Delta.

The Linyanti/Lebala/Selinda areas are private concessions, not necessarily more expensive than other areas of Botswana. Most upmarket camps in private concession areas within Botswana are quite costly. In fact the Kwando Lebala / Lagoon camps, along with Kwara and Little Kwara on the northern edge of the Delta, are comparatively well priced for private concession camps. Most Wilderness camps will be a lot more expensive.

Yes, the choice of lodge in the Delta is important. Some are exclusively water-based lodges and do not offer any game drives. Others offer both, but can only offer certain water activities when the water is high enough. So Kota makes a good point to speak to a knowledgeable operator who knows the Delta, the seasons and the lodges, and can give accurate advice on activities on offer during that time of year.

A fantastic circuit to have a look at is the Kwando circuit - you can include Nxai Pan or Tau Pan for the wide open spaces, see the delta at Kwara or Little Kwara (they offer both land and water based activities) and then continue to Lagoon or Lebala Camp along the Kwando river to see a different area of Botswana. Good chance of finding wild dogs on an itinerary like that. To add Vic Falls and Chobe to the beginning or end of your trip will not be a problem. Although the month of May is not the best time for Chobe as there is still plenty of water available in the bush so the animals will not congregate much at the river yet.

Have fun planning and enjoy your safari to Botswana!

Onne from Wild Wings Safaris

Brisbane, Australia
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4. Re: Wondering if May is a good time for Botswana

Hello Tardykat, We did pretty much the areas you mentioned in mid May 2013 & it was AMAZING. The Makgadikgadi was actually our favourite adventure (so much so that we are returning next year in the green season to see the differences) and we stayed at Camp Kalahari. We did go out onto the pans, silence, stars etc saw the meerkats & just loved the whole experience. Saw Vic Falls from both the Zambian side & Zimbabwe side (Zim side was very wet & too difficult to see much, preferred Zam side) Chobe was busier but really pumping with wildlife. Then onto the camps-3 Wilderness Camps, all were good, 2 were great, lots of game drives, lots of game-loved the trip & can't wait to go back again! Being first time safari goers our experiences in May exceeded all our expectations :)

Chicago, Illinois
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5. Re: Wondering if May is a good time for Botswana

we also went in may 2014 to the areas you want to visit. definitely green but we saw a lot! even wild dogs. what a thrill! yes, the pans were wet (and the mosquitoes were just plain awful!), but the scenery was surreal. the activities we did there, tho, made up for the fact that we couldn't camp or quad bike. (we stayed at camp kalahari) we saw the meerkats twice, did a walk with the bushmen, did a walk on the pans at dusk to observe the silence and had a great game drive where we sat with two lionesses and their zebra kill for over an hour. definitely go if that is the only time you can!

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6. Re: Wondering if May is a good time for Botswana

Kittyhead, which company did you travel with? I hadn't thought there would be mosquitoes during that time!

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7. Re: Wondering if May is a good time for Botswana

Wez1959, which company did you travel with?

Brisbane, Australia
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8. Re: Wondering if May is a good time for Botswana

Sent you PM Tardykat

Chicago, Illinois
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9. Re: Wondering if May is a good time for Botswana

Tardykat, I used Africa Adventure Consultants out of Denver. They were great and really helpful. http://adventuresinafrica.com/our-safaris/

The mosquitoes were awful because the area had a very wet winter. The guides called them vampires... but honestly it was only bad at the Makgadikgadi pans. It wasn't nearly that bad anywhere else.

10. Re: Wondering if May is a good time for Botswana

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