Botswana’s zebra migration is a wildlife spectacle that occurs annually between December – March. This period is known as the green season and is infamous for its life-giving summer rains. Usually, the heavy rains fall over January and February each year, but they don’t last long and you can expect to find the landscape lush and beautifully green until about April.
The green season is not only a popular time for travellers to visit the lush green plains of Botswana, but zebra find the green season quite enticing too. This can be attributed to the great nourishment this season offers.
The zebra migration is the longest single migration of animals that has ever been recorded in Africa; they cover a distance of 500 km in total (311 miles). Every year, tons of travellers flock to Botswana to bear witness to this natural phenomenon.
We’ve compiled this blog, to give you some in-depth insight into the zebra migration, our Migrations Expeditions camp, and why you should travel to Botswana to experience it.
The Migration is characterized by three movements, from Chobe Enclave towards Nxai Pan National Park and three movements back to the Chobe Enclave.
We’ve highlighted the three most important movements of the zebra migration below and where you’ll see all the action.
Chobe Enclave > Linyanti Reserve > Savuti Marsh
The first rains govern this period as it dictates the timing of the zebras’ journey. They follow the sweet and abundant grass plains towards Nxai Pan National Park. The moist floodplains of the Chobe River in the northern region of the Chobe National Park are where the zebras start their journey. They are based here as it’s always moist in Chobe and therefore it provides consistent grass that are low in nutrition but reliable. From the first indication of rain, zebras start their journey south during November/December.
In the Chobe, they will pass through various cattle farming areas on the outskirts of the Chobe Enclave, including:
In this movement, they travel from floodplains to the desert. From the Linyanti Wetlands, through the Savannah Plains, Savuti Marsh, Seloko Plains, and Mababe Depression, which can be characterized by its dry, mopane woodlands. From there, they travel across a large stretch of the deep Kalahari Sandveld. Mopane woodland & Terminalia woodland – although the grass here is not as nutritious as in the Nxai Pan. There are scattered water holes, but they are few and far between.
Savuti Marsh > Mababe Depression
The herd journeys towards Savuti. This is the hardest part of the journey towards the desert. There is a permanent waterhole at the end of the Savuti River, including pod-bearing trees, predominantly acacias, which are attractive elements and very integral to the migration. These trees can convert atmospheric nitrogen into solar nitrogen, helping other animal species subsidize their diet in the absence of food sources.The zebra then continue south and takes advantage of the natural waterholes and water points along the way.
Mababe Depression > Nxai Pan > Makgadikgadi
Here, the zebra will be rewarded after their long and arduous journey with the taste of the sweet and nutritious grasses. They spend 2 months here and stay until March. Some drop their calves in the wet season. They have the incredible ability to hold off on birthing foals for four weeks, depending on the weather.
We have setup a special camp to help you see the longest single migration in Africa, among other experiences. The Migration Expedition camp is a world of wonder and makes the perfect, African safari experience.
In a life filled with deadlines, the new source of luxury is a break away from the bustling city life in the serene African bush. Now you can relax and unwind, all while experience the very best of Africa. At Migration Expeditions in Nxai Pan National Park, we offer just that – the unbelievable calm that comes from gazing at the horizon.
Migration Expeditions’ eco-sensitive design facilitates a seamless flow between its pristine desert environment and our stylish bush camp. The main area has two canvas-covered hubs; one side housing a dining area with an open kitchen and opposite, a cosy lounge area. Solar-powered charging points are available for those all-important cameras. The fire circle is at the heart of our bush camp offering and is an extension of the shared lounge area. Its magnetic quality beckons, inviting guests to share an authentic, warm African safari experience with us.
We’ve listed a few more reasons you should visit our Migration Expeditions camp. Bear in mind that this camp is best experienced in the green season.
Botswana also becomes a photographer’s paradise in the green season. The rains wash away the brown winter landscape into a shimmering green, summer wonderland. You will be able to photograph the full-leafed acacia trees in all their splendor. The crusty salt pans transform into startling wetlands full of birdlife and migratory species. Another great aspect is the phenomenal lighting that can be found in the area. You really don’t have to do much to capture the perfect photograph on your Botswana safari.
The zebra migration also brings with, the birthing season. The lush green plains provide the perfect nourishment and environment for these long-distance travellers to give birth to you their young. In fact, ant elope such as impala and springbok use the greenery to give birth as well. With the floodplains sprouting fresh grass cover, the first ungulate calves begin dropping. The grass cover provides both, great nourishment and much-needed protection from predators, who seem to regard this period as an open invitation.
If you want a once-in-a-lifetime experience of nature unfolding right before you, there is no better time. All you need to do is watch from your game vehicle how the circle of life unfolds before you.
When you look at Baines’ Baobab trees from a distance, they look like beacons rising in Nxia Pan National Park. Baines’ Baobab, also know as the Seven Sisters, is located in the Nxai Pan national park, Nxai Pan is in north-eastern Botswana, and forms part of the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans
The Baines’ Baobabs are absolutely spectacular. They have been around for approximately a thousand years and was first documented by the famous explorer and artist, Thomas Baines, on his trek with James Chapman in 1862 across Botswana in search of Victoria Falls. The baobabs were the subject of the iconic painting, which captured the lure and fascination of these unusual trees as well as the beauty and authenticity of Botswana.
The Baines’ Baobabs have fascinated travellers for years, even capturing the attention of Prince Charles of England, who frequently visits them. The area around these gigantic trees has a particular significance, especially from an archaeological point of view. Over the years, several artefacts have been found in the area, including ostrich egg shells, stone tools, zebra teeth, and fossilised hippos, dating back to between 105,000 and 128,000 years ago. At that time, there was also a huge lake, named the “super lake” by geoligists.
The Makgadikgadi Salt Pans “super lake” covers an area of 80,000 sq. km. There is now a white layer of salt on the bed of this lake, which is almost always dry. The Triassic sand that was on the lake’s ancient backdrop is now covered by this layer of salt. This sand deposit dates back to 300 million years ago, and is made up of basalt, clay, and sandstone. It is also rich in minerals, including copper, gold, and even silver, and nickel.
It is believed that the first telluric activity caused the rivers that flowed into the region to stop flowing into the ocean and instead form other bigger rivers, believed to be the mighty Zambezi and the Okavango river (in the Okavango Delta) , including their many tributaries. Geologists estimate that the super lake might’ve dried up 10,000 years ago due to telluric activity, which caused a great diversion and elevated soil.
The exposed rocks are now what we call “pans.” You may even find some granite outcrops in the Kubu and Kukome Islands, in the Sua Pan. On these islands, you will still find millenary baobabs.