The suicide month, and rightfully named so – there is no escaping the heat! October is said to be the hottest and driest month of the year in Botswana. It is not uncommon to have multiple days above 40 degree and without the slightest hint of relief from rain. I’d heard much about coming to Botswana for safari at this time of the year but I always wondered if it was really worth the heat?
We recently completed an exploratory trip through northern Botswana, visiting new lodges and operators with whom we would like to work with and send clients on their dream safari. We were heading South-bound from Victoria falls making our way to Maun and the first stop along the way was Kasane.
Over the years everyone in Kasane had raved about the incredible animal densities that congregate along the Chobe river at this time of the year. Seeing as a sunset boat cruise along the Chobe river is an absolute MUST DO and October is the best time to do it, I just had to get out on the water. But what we found in terms of densities wasn’t as much as what I had been expecting…in fact it was just about the same as when I visited the area during the rainy season. But surely this couldn’t be it?
The sightings we had and animals we encountered were still very impressive and nothing to complain about. It wasn’t until the next day when we decided to drive along the river in the Chobe National Park the next day when we were left with jaws hanging open…
We entered at about mid day, which is not exactly considered the best time for a game drive, but the best part about it was that we were the only ones out there. The gauge on my vehicle indicated that it was around 42 degrees however I personally think it was much higher. It just so happens that we timed it very well! In the 3 hour drive we saw well over 1000 elephants, some herds joining together in what seemed like a few hundred individuals all in one spot! Many elephants swimming to cool off and others standing under densely shaded trees. We could hardly drive in some areas as it seemed there was an elephants behind and under every bush. Incredible! This was the Chobe I had heard so much about.
But not just the elephant numbers were impressive…we saw a herd of buffaloes that we guessed was about 1000 individuals, many small herds of zebras and one shady bush that had at least 12 lions under it panting in the soaring heat!
So what lesson must we learn from this ordeal? It isn’t necessarily that you must visit Kasane in October, but rather put your own comforts aside and pick the time of the year according to what you would like to experience and see while out on safari. For some people a safari is a once in a lifetime trip, make sure you time it according to your wildlife expectations! After all, isn’t the wildlife what draws you to visit Africa in the first place?
Our next adventure will be timed so that we see the 2nd largest wildebeast migration in the world followed by the largest mammal (bat) migration in the world and I expect it to be very hot some days and raining the next. But its going to be worth it !!!