Botswana is the ultimate self-drive safari destination in Africa, with remote areas and spectacular wildlife. Botswana provides the best in adventure and experiencing it in your own vehicle adds to the intrigue – but there are a number of factors to be taken into account, with none more important than how the seasons affect the conditions of travel.
by Leigh Kemp
As with other countries in Southern Africa, Botswana has a rainy season and a dry season which affects the conditions of the roads. However unlike anywhere else in Africa the northern wilderness of Botswana is controlled by a unique phenomenon that affects the conditions of travel. This phenomenon is the annual flooding of the Okavango Delta.
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Roads in the Rain… Not Really
The northern wilderness of Botswana is generally a flat area within the great sand deposit of the Kalahari Desert, making the roads very sandy in places, but within this great expanse clay deposits are found.
The sandy areas during the rainy season are usually easily negotiated as they are compacted by the rains, but the clay areas can be a nightmare for driving as the vehicles can slide out of control. Areas of black cotton soil become treacherous in the rainy season with many vehicles sticking for hours in places.
Another thing to bear in mind on a self drive safari in northern Botswana during the rainy season is that the holes in the road lie in wait for unsuspecting drivers. The depths of the holes vary and when full of water negotiating these holes can be nothing short of hair raising. It is best to follow the tracks of vehicles that have gone before and not try making your own path.
General Rule for Driving in the Rains Season: Don’t!
Dangers During the Dry Season
The dry season is when most visitors choose to travel to Botswana on a self drive safari as the roads are dry and the weather is mild, but here are things to take into account when it comes to travelling conditions.
As there is so much sand, the roads are slow going and many inexperienced drivers get bogged down in the loose sand. The best advice is to keep your vehicle in four wheel drive all the time whilst in the parks.
The dry season can also be a time when certain roads are closed due to flooding. Strange but true, this is based on the phenomenon mentioned in the beginning of the article. The Okavango Delta floods at the height of the dry season when the water from the highlands of Angola arrives on the Okavango floodplains.
During some years the water is so high that roads are under water, and do not allow for vehicles to pass.
It is not possible to predict road conditions too far in advance as the rains and the floods vary from year to year, but updated information can be given closer to time of departure.