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Botswana - When to Go

Unfortunately, weather prediction is not an exact science, and has become even less exact in recent years. Please view the information here as a rough guide to what you can expect, and remember that yearly fluctuations in rainfall and flood levels can affect your experience.

General Trends Northern Botswana, where the country's game-viewing regions are located, follows a typical southern African weather pattern. Seasons in the southern hemisphere are opposite to those in the United States and Europe. Spring takes place in November, and summer (the rainy season) stretches from December to March, with January and February usually the wettest months. Autumn takes place in April, and winter (the dry season) runs from May to October, with June and July the coolest months.

A burning sunset lights up the sky over watery pans in the Makgadikgadi Pans, Botswana.
© Wilderness Safaris larger image
January and February are the heart of the rainy season, with many areas experiencing regular afternoon downpours. Daytime highs average in the mid to high 30s°C (mid-90s - 100°F) and may rise to 40°C (104°F), though there is normally some afternoon cloud cover which keeps temperatures around 30°C (86°F). Nighttime lows average more than 20°C (68°F). Humidity is high, fluctuating between 50 - 80%. The bush is at its greenest and most lush, which can make game-viewing challenging. Frogs and insects are at their most active, and the night is alive with bird and insect sounds. It's a time of plenty for the herbivores, which are in splendid condition - a sharp contrast to their slightly ragged state during the dry season - and many young antelope born during November and December can be seen. Birding is at its best, with many migrants and resident species sporting their breeding plumage. Intense colours and dramatic skies make for excellent photography.

March sees both temperatures and rainfall decreasing, though afternoon showers are still common. Daytime highs average in the mid-30s° C (mid to high 90s°F). Nighttime lows average around 20° C (68°F), though a few nights may drop below 10°C (50°F). Mornings and early afternoons are often cloudless, and humidity drops a bit as well.

The brief but lovely bushveld autumn takes place in April, where you may catch the odd afternoon shower but most days are clear and cloudless. Daytime highs average in the low to mid-30s°C (mid-80s to mid-90s°F), occasionally climbing back to 40°C (104°F). Nighttime lows average about 15°C (59°C), though some parts of the Kalahari may drop below freezing. The combination of cooler mornings and relatively high humidity can lead to the formation of low-lying mists, particularly over the water.

A shaft of sunlight pierces gathering clouds in the Okavango Delta, Botswana.
© Botswana Tourism UK larger image
By May the afternoon showers have essentially disappeared, and days are clear and dry. Daytime highs rarely exceed the low 30s°C (mid-80s°F). Nighttime lows average between 10 - 15°C (50 to 59°F). The floods normally reach the northern edge of the Okavango Delta during this month, beginning their gradual progress through the Delta. The intense greens of the wet season start to fade into the more muted colours of the dry season. As seasonal pans begin to dry out, buffalo and elephant herds start to grow larger. Summer migrant birds begin their exodus to winter feeding and breeding grounds.

June and July are the coolest part of the year. Daytime highs average around 25°C (77°F). Nighttime lows average about 5°C (41°F) at the end of June (the coldest time of the year), and during cold spells temperatures in the Kalahari can drop below freezing. The annual flood arrives in force in the Okavango, and most camps with seasonal water access can now offer water activities. Some green persists in the bush, but leaves begin to drop and pans dry up. Game-viewing is excellent as the bush thins out, improving visibility, and animals begin to congregate around areas of permanent water. Leopards are more frequently seen as cooler temperatures mean that they become active earlier in the evening. Rare African wild dogs normally den during June, and once they have denned these normally far-ranging predators will be relatively easy to locate for the next 3-4 months as they base themselves the den site.

August is quite similar, with increasing dryness and brownness. The weather begins to warm, with daytime highs averaging around 30°C (86°F). Nighttime lows average around 10°C (50°F), very rarely dropping below freezing. The bush is now very dry and sparse, and dust becomes quite noticeable. As the dry season continues, more and more animals congregate around areas of permanent water, followed by their predators. Elephant herds continue to grow in size and begin to compete for space close to the water. Herons and other birds begin to gather at the Gcodikwe heronry in the Delta.

Reflections of clouds on water in the Vumbura Reserve, Okavango Delta, Botswana.
© Michael Poliza larger image
September and October are the heart of the dry season. The heat builds over the course of these months, with daytime highs averaging in the mid to high 30s°C (mid-90s - 100°F) by the end of September, and regularly rising above 40°C (104°F) in October. The high temperatures typical of the end of October (which can reach 40°C or 104°F in the shade) have earned it the nickname of 'suicide month.' Nighttime lows average around 15°C (59°F) in September and in the 20s°C (high 60s to low 80s°F) in October. Days are clear and sunny, and humidity is very low (20 - 40%). Water levels in the Delta begin to drop. There is no denying that it's very dusty and bloody hot, but the bareness of the terrain can create excellent game-viewing opportunities as enormous herds of elephants and buffalo concentrate near permanent water sources, joined by herds of antelope. It is a time of plenty for predators as the dry season begins to takes its toll on the herbivores. Migrant birds begin to arrive from their winter homes, and activity at the Gcodikwe heronry is intense with thousands of birds breeding and nesting.

November, the bushveld spring, is an unpredictable month. Daytime highs average in the mid-30s°C (mid to high-90s°F) and nighttime lows average around 13°C (55°F). It begins with a continuation of October's heat and dryness, but humidity begins to build and clouds start appearing during the afternoon. Around mid-November the skies open and the rains arrive at last, bringing with them relief from the dust and dryness. Mornings remain clear and hot with blue skies, while afternoon showers occur with increasing frequency. With the coming of the rains, animals disperse from permanent water sources to dine on new vegetation and drink from seasonal pans. It's a time of births, as the tsessebe calve, followed by the impala and lechwe. Good visibility with short green grass and plenty of action as predators target the calves makes for excellent photographic opportunities.

Average temperatures in December usually stay between 20 - 30°C (68 - 86°F) both day and night, with afternoon thunderstorms an increasingly regular occurrence. Daytime highs may reach 40°C (104°F), and nighttime lows rarely go below 10°C (50°F). Humidity is usually around 50-60%, rising after the rains. The bush recovers swiftly from the dryness of winter and thickens rapidly, providing cover for predators whose winter camouflage no longer serves them. Protein rich grasses feed both adult and young antelope, and the lambs and calves grow at astounding speed. Migrant birds are arriving in force, and both they and the local residents are beginning to show breeding plumage.