Botswana: July/August vs December

Dec 1st, 2010, 11:59 AM
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Botswana: July/August vs December

We're planning a trip to Botswana for 2011 (Vic Falls, Okavango, and Central Kalahari) and had originally been looking to travel in the summer, but have more recently also been considering travel in December over the Christmas holiday, mostly for financial reasons. My husband is a teacher, so because he has a set schedule, we really must travel during one of those times. Any advice about the differences that we could expect in terms of wildlife viewing between those those seasons?
AlisaAAM is offline  
Dec 1st, 2010, 12:58 PM
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The holiday season is high season, so you won't see any savings. Airfare is high, too.

December is summer and will (likely) be hot and wet. July is dry and can get darned cold at night. Prime wildlife viewing in northern Bots is winter - June-Sept. But it's pretty when it's green. Hopefully someone will chime in with water level issues in the Delta. Since we were there in 2006, things have changed dramatically, and I have not kept up with it.

For me, June-Sept is the best time for safari in southern Africa.
christabir is offline  
Dec 1st, 2010, 05:49 PM
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Since your Dec timeframe is Christmas, which offers no savings, I'd go during the better wildlife viewing time of July/Aug. It's better due to drier conditions meaning shorter grass for easier viewing. Green season rates are generally lower to compensate, but not at Christmas.

You mention "financial reasons." Your own finances may result in Dec being a lot more favorable than July/Aug, but holiday pricing means you'll pay more for a Dec trip. So Christabir and I are in agreement on that.

For more specifics on wildlife, check out this chart. As weather patterns become less predictable, any chart becomes less useful. But it's a start.

One other advantage of July/Aug is if you choose a mobile safari, which is a more economical way to experience Botswana, you'll be more flexible with dates. In Dec, you probably have 2, 3 weeks max to play with. July/Aug gives more time for more options.

July/Aug is an especially nice time if you go to Chobe in Botswana. Huge herds of elephants congregate along the river in July/Aug.

In deciding July vs. Aug, Aug is further into the dry season so conditions are a little better. But Aug can get windy and Aug tends to be vacation month in Europe so airfare can be higher and vacancy can be tighter.

I've seen great stuff in Botswana in both July and Aug. Never been in Dec, to put my green season remarks in perspective.

The water level issues in the delta have been extreme the last few years. This last June-Sept the annual floods were especially high. Check out reports from 2010 (or any year)and you'll see people had a great time and posted excellent pictures regardless of water levels.

A good place to keep tabs on the Okavango floods that flow in from Angola is:

A Botswana trip will be one more reason for your husband to look forward to the end of the school year.
atravelynn is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2010, 06:03 AM
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Thank you! I hadn't realized that prices spike over the holidays, so that settles that question.
AlisaAAM is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2010, 02:59 AM
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Based on where you would like to go, in my experience the Okavango and Kalahri as a combination provide the best experience between December and March.

As a regular vistor to Botswana, who has experienced both high and low floods, I can reassure you that the high floods and rainfall of the previous two years have really reduced the quality of wildlife sightings.

During your selected time period of July/Aug, in some areas the water is still reaching its peak. A lot of flood plains will be inundated, areas not accessible and roads not useable.

Combined with the high rainfall, it has pushed a lot of the game viewing into the thickets, as there is still available water. This has meant the large herds have not moved back to permenant water until September/October time.

The high water levels has also pushed water into ancient channels that many did not realise still existed. It has allowed wildlife to remain in the woodlands with a water source.

If you were doing a safari in a National Park, where you can not offroad, you will really be struggling at times.

If you are looking at December and cost is an issue, the month can be around 50% cheaper than high season. This includes over the Christmas period, when most additional costs are not more than 10% on top.

As the rains have started, you have to more careful in the camps you select for the Okavango, and Chobe would pretty much be a write off.

Choosing one of the private concessions becomes far more cost efficient. A number of areas actually experience better game viewing during this time of year. As the flood waters recede, and the Okavango is at its lowest level, more areas become accessible.

Large herds of wildlife are also attracted to the short palatable grasses the receding waters. The only negative is that in some areas large buffalo and elephant herds may have moved into the woodlands.

It is all about picking your camps carefully.

The Kalahari would just be coming into the start of its seasons, and with a good amount of early rain, they should be congregating on the Pans in huge herds.
lbj2 is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2010, 04:20 PM
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Here are some of the Botswana reports.

Lbj2 has a great blog at this link with photos and videos. You can really get a feel and view of the extremely high water levels.

time frame is earlier than July/Aug but this is one of the mobiles I mentioned earlier

You can get mobiles that concentrate on the Kalahari, as lbj2 recommends for Dec. Wilderness has a mobile in this region and so do other companies.
atravelynn is offline  
Dec 5th, 2010, 09:15 AM
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Yes, as lbj2 says, it is still considerably cheaper at Christmas than in July or August.
kimburu is offline  
Dec 5th, 2010, 01:07 PM
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Here are some rates from

In the past, I was restricted to travel dates between Christmas and New Years and some of the North American summer weeks like you. I had found the holiday travel times to be similar in cost to high season, but without the quality of wildlife viewing.

However, looking at these three sample camps, all managed by different companies, holiday premiums are much LOWER than high season rates. Check out the e-gnu site for a lot more rates. Now, factoring in the higher air fare that you would expect to pay around the holidays may make a difference. But you often pay a premium for Aug airfare anyway.

Dec 1 to March 31 $508
July 1 to Oct 31 $961

Chitabe Camp
Dec 20 to Jan 5 $965
June 15 to Oct 31 $1220

Nov 1 to Dec 31 $997
Jan 1 to March 31 $945
June 16-Oct 31 $1577

Using Eyes on Africa

Here is the cost for one of the Botswana mobiles, “Great Wilderness Journey.” There are many companies that do mobiles and many itineraries.

06-Jan to 31-May: $7,600 per person sharing
01-Jun to 31-Oct: $8,000 per person sharing
01-Nov to 10-Dec: $7,600 per person sharing

So Christabir, what camp in Africa are we meeting at next Christmas? Maybe Lbj2 and Kimburu can suggest some and with the money we save, we'll buy them a New Years drink!
atravelynn is offline  
Dec 5th, 2010, 04:29 PM
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atravelynn - we stand corrected! You choose the camp - I'll meet you anywhere!
christabir is offline  
Dec 5th, 2010, 04:39 PM
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If only it were so simple Christabir! But who knows, we may indeed cross paths and have that drink.
atravelynn is offline  
Dec 5th, 2010, 04:55 PM
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question about e-gnu dot com. I went there and looks like you have to email them to get rates? Or did I miss their listing of camps and rates?

regards - tom
cary999 is offline  
Dec 5th, 2010, 08:22 PM
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Lynn, if you are selecting Chief's and Chitabe as examples I am not sure how to suggest further savings! For singles (for whom a private mobile is considered 'out') you can save a lot by selecting camps carefully based on Christmas rates (Kwara good, Mombo bad) and single supplements. You can also try to negotiate over the single supplements, especially with independents, provided you book 4 nights or 6 nights at two of their camps or similar (just in my very limited experience booking for my mother). My impression from changing bookings at the last minute is that few places are full at that time of year. Last minute through someone based in Maun (namedropping would help, so cosy up to a regular traveler in the meantime) might be a good strategy.

(Smallprint: Kimburu & Mrs K (x2) Inc. take absolutely no responsibility for the consequences of anyone following this so-called "advice".... etc.)
kimburu is offline  
Dec 5th, 2010, 09:25 PM
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atravelynn - I hear that!
christabir is offline  
Dec 5th, 2010, 09:58 PM
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I checked another site - "surcharges apply between Christmas and New Years" at most camps i looked at. So, I don't know.
christabir is offline  
Dec 6th, 2010, 08:20 AM
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The mystery surcharges!

I just selected a variety of camps where I could find published prices easily to note a trend, I'm not recommending those camps in particular. I believe Alissa is not concerned with the single supplement. But I agree that is something that can be negotiable if the places are not full and I've gotten it reduced or eliminated in the past.

Some more that look enticing:

A 6 nt Classic Kalahari packages at Footsteps in Africa:
US$ 3360 per person sharing Rack.
1 Dec’10 - 31 Mar’11 (Green Season)

US$ 4340 per person sharing Rack.
1 Apr - 31 May & Nov’11

Mapula shared pricing:
Dec 1 09 to Apr 30 10 - $375
May 1 to May 31 and Nov = $525
June 1 to Oct 31 = $650

Thanks for the suggestion of further savings offered by independents. Any camp names you could share would be great. I'd love to know whose name I could drop for even more savings. Does Kimburu work? I'll cozy up to regular or even irregular travelers to save money.

Your suggestion of booking in Maun or upon arrival is a good one and something I'd like to try out some day. I think that has a lot of potential for reducing costs.

Alissa, I'd be interested in knowing what you decide and what you've discovered.

Here's a barely related question/topic: I've seen maybe one account of Mapula during the rainy season that did not have a lot going on, though good sightings in drier times. Any comments or insights on this camp during Christmas or the more general green season? Or if one of the other Footsteps camps is a better bet than Mapula during green season? Thanks!
atravelynn is offline  
Dec 8th, 2010, 12:19 AM
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I'm not regular enough, Lynn. Save your sweettalk for wise lbj (among others). I didn't really mean to suggest you go there and book on the spot - although that is an even better idea. I meant to mail them December 1st.

I know The Booking Company are the booking company in Maun and they are not alone. And the Massons and other mobile operators can also book lodges.

As you know there are the various groups (footstepss, islands, etc.) offering free nights and more - and not because they are full 365. Camp Kalahari (Jack's little sister) has no single supplement and rack rates of $408 per night for 2011, except for the June-September peak. This is before we even ask.

My "success" rate asking for Mum was 40-50%, but I didn't try very hard because in most cases we are of course staying at the same places as her so there were other considerations (like we could share plane costs for which there would otherwise be another single supplement, or we had already decided to go somewhere before she decided to come along too). I think we should never be shy to say a variation on "I really want to save money..... (boooooo!)... so I can stay longer.... *(hooraaaaay!). Do you think you can help me?"

By the way, you can get land transport around Botswana and it is probably cheaper in many cases, even for a single and without negotiation. I've not seen anyone try this but I guess the thought we all have is that when you're spending $400 a night already, what's another $100-200 every three days anyway. I think the driving will be fun.

I am also hoping that spots that purists may turn their noses up at during the northern summer (like Moremi) might be quieter and much appealing.

I will be keeping a count for you.

I will answer your last question next month.... and if you don't hear from me it means the answer to that one is "anywhere is better" and I am feeding the fishes somewhere out in the Delta as a consequence.
kimburu is offline  
Dec 8th, 2010, 06:41 PM
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Thanks for the info Kimburu! We don't want you feeding the fishes or the crocs.
atravelynn is offline  
Dec 9th, 2010, 12:19 PM
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I gave up on the December thought anyway. It became too involved and stressful from our end (taking personal days and possibly "sick" days to get the right number of days off).
AlisaAAM is offline  
Dec 9th, 2010, 05:28 PM
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So July/Aug it is! The when is solved, just the what is needed.
atravelynn is offline  

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