October is the hottest time of the year in Botswana, and many visitors stay away because of this, but it arguably the best time, with the most dramatic wildlife interactions... a time when the scarcity of water ensures great gatherings of wildlife.
© Sunset over the Okavango
When the herds gather
The northern wilderness of Botswana is a place of plenty during the rainy season but as the dry season takes hold the vast interior begins to dry up, with the pans that were overflowing with the rains quickly drying to caked mud. With no water for hundreds of miles the animals have to move towards the permanent water sources such as the Chobe and Linyanti rivers, the Savute Channel and the Okavango Delta.
Although there may be food in the interior the lack of water forces all water dependent animals towards the rivers and delta - and as the season wears on the herds gather in ever-greater numbers.
A time of heat
As the end of the dry approaches the heat reaches its most intense, with daytime temperatures soaring into the mid-forties. Coinciding with the driest part of the year this is a time of torture for all wilderness denizens, and the urge for water increases.
October is the hottest time of the year in northern Botswana - and is also the time before the first rains of the season fall. Animals gather along the rivers or can be seen standing helplessly in the little shade available. The vegetation along the waterways takes a beating during the dry season as more and more animals gather but this ensures better game viewing as there is less vegetation for the animals to use as hideouts.
A promise in the sky
Despite the heat and suffering there is a promise in the sky, which grows with each passing day. Clouds begin to gather and as the days wear on the intensity builds, the heat is still suffocating but there is a feeling of hope in the air.
When the rains are late
There are seasons when the rains are late, and the creatures of the wilderness have to adapt accordingly. The heat persists, but there is a feeling of desperation in the air. Some species of antelope such as Impala give birth with the first rains but when the rains are late they have the ability to withhold the birth to coincide with the first rains.
The time to travel
Information from travel companies is that this is not a good time to travel due to the heat, and although the heat can be unbearable at this time it is when some of the most dramatic animal interactions can be seen. It is the time when the greatest concentrations of animals happen along the waterways and the dramas that come with this can be breathtaking.