Weather in Botswana
The landlocked country of Botswana, in the centre of the African sub-continent, has a semi-arid climate, meaning it is hot and dry for most of the year – ideal conditions for the game viewing for which the country is famous.
An illustration of how scarce and prized rainfall is in Botswana is to be found in the fact that the country’s currency is called “pula”, which is also the Setswana word meaning “rain”.
Most of the rain that does fall in Botswana comes during the summer months, between November and March, but showers are unpredictable and localized, and of varying duration and intensity. The rain has the advantage of mitigating, albeit only for short periods, the intense summer heat. The wettest part of the country is in the north, with the precipitation peaking in January and February. The amount of rainfall decreases the further south one travels.
Winter (May to August) throughout Botswana is almost totally dry, with sunny, warm days and very cold nights (below freezing in some areas). Humidity levels are also very low in the winter months, adding to the pleasant conditions, resulting in crisp, clear weather.
The transitional seasons between summer and winter are pleasant and mostly dry, too, without the extreme cold nights of the winter period.
When is the best time to go to Botswana?The dry, relatively cool winter months (May to August) are the best time to go on safari in Botswana. Game tends to congregate at watercourses during the dry months, making viewing easier. Surprisingly the rivers and the famous Okavango Delta are at peak water levels in the heart of the dry season because the water has travelled down from the highlands of Angola, so winter in Botswana is an excellent time to make a mokoro (canoe) safari. Bird-fanciers may find it worth braving the muddy, humid heat of summer in the game parks to indulge their passion for bird-watching, which is best during the hot months.
What to pack for a holiday in Botswana?
Most people travel to Botswana for a safari holiday at the Okavango Delta during summer, when shorts, short-sleeved shirts and good walking shoes are almost all that is needed– keep to neutral colours on safari. In addition, take long sleeved shirts for protection from the sun and a light covering for cool evenings and windy days, as well as sunglasses, sunhats and plenty of sunscreen (bring something warm just in case). It's a good idea to wear long pyjamas or full length clothing at night as mosquito protection.
Winter months are similar in the day – pack for sun and practicality – but beware of the biting winter wind, so bring windbreakers or warm coats and jerseys because nights also drop close to zero (0°C, 32°F). Take a small medical pack and insect repellent is essential, and carry a water bottle with enough fresh water for the day.
Average temperature in Botswana in January: 25C, 77°F
Weather in Botswana in January
Relative humidity in Botswana in January: 41%
Average rainfall in Botswana in January: 85mm, 3.3in
Note: January is one of the wettest months in Botswana, but this does not mean continual downpours, rather a few days with heavy, relatively short showers. Being the height of summer it is also one of the hottest months of the year, making it uncomfortable for most visitors. The landscape is likely to be lush and green, and thus game viewing may be impeded by the vegetation.
Weather in Botswana in FebruaryAverage temperature in Botswana in February: 25C, 77°F
Relative humidity in Botswana in February: 44%
Average rainfall in Botswana in February: 80mm, 3.1in
Note: It is the rainy season in Botswana in February, so there will be heavy afternoon showers and some grey days, but overall the weather remains sultry and hot. It is a good month for bird-watching, but the bush is lush and thick due to the rain so spotting wildlife is difficult. The central Kalahari and Makgadikgadi are the best safari destinations at this time.
Weather in Botswana in MarchAverage temperature in Botswana in March: 24C, 74°F
Relative humidity in Botswana in March: 40%
Average rainfall in Botswana in March: 50mm, 2in
Note: As the rainy season comes to an end in Botswana during March, the bush remains verdant and thick, and the wildlife is calving. Rain showers lose their potency and become less frequent, though temperatures remain high and the weather is sticky.
Weather in Botswana in AprilAverage temperature in Botswana in April: 22C, 71°F
Relative humidity in Botswana in April: 39%
Average rainfall in Botswana in April: 23mm, 0.9in
Note: April ushers in the dry season in Botswana, with rain ceasing to impact on a safari holiday beyond the odd thunderstorm. Humidity and lush vegetation after the rainy season keep conditions moist, and temperature-wise it is hot, with cool evenings.
Weather in Botswana in MayAverage temperature in Botswana in May: 18C, 64°F
Relative humidity in Botswana in May: 29%
Average rainfall in Botswana in May: 7mm, 0.3in
Note: Winter arrives in Botswana during May, meaning that temperatures – and more importantly, humidity levels – drop somewhat and there is a negligible amount of rain. This is the start of the busy safari season, especially in the Okavango Delta to the north.
Weather in Botswana in JuneAverage temperature in Botswana in June: 15C, 58°F
Relative humidity in Botswana in June: 31%
Average rainfall in Botswana in June: 3mm, 0.1in
Note: From June through the next two months it is peak safari season in Botswana, with the winter bringing warm to hot days with clear blue skies, although at night temperatures plummet to near freezing. Wildlife congregate around the water sources, making this a great time for game viewing.
Weather in Botswana in JulyAverage temperature in Botswana in July: 15C, 59°F
Relative humidity in Botswana in July: 29%
Average rainfall in Botswana in July: 1mm, 0in
Note: The dry, warm, sunny days in Botswana in July are perfect safari weather, but be prepared to wrap up warm after dark and in the early mornings, when the clear, starry winter skies send temperatures plummeting to freezing or below.
Weather in Botswana in AugustAverage temperature in Botswana in August: 17C, 63°F
Relative humidity in Botswana in August: 25%
Average rainfall in Botswana in August: 1mm, 0in
Note: By August Botswana has experienced a long period of dry weather, and the bush has died back to dramatically improve wildlife viewing. Daytime temperatures are warm to hot, with relatively low humidity, making this supreme safari weather, but bring along a fleece and wrap up warm outdoors after dark.
Weather in Botswana in SeptemberAverage temperature in Botswana in September: 22C, 71°F
Relative humidity in Botswana in September: 25%
Average rainfall in Botswana in September: 3mm, 0.1in
Note: With the dry winter season now having its full impact in September, the wildlife of the Botswana National Parks are drawn in increasing numbers to waterholes and rivers, making for great safari spectacles. Soon the rains will come, but in September the weather in Botswana remains warm and sunny by day, cool by night.
Weather in Botswana in OctoberAverage temperature in Botswana in October: 24C, 75°F
Relative humidity in Botswana in October: 29%
Average rainfall in Botswana in October: 23mm, 0.9in
Note: There may be some short, sharp afternoon thundershowers in Botswana in October as the rainy season gears up, but this is essentially the last month of the dry, cool winter safari season in the country’s legendary National Parks. Temperatures and humidity levels creep up during October, ahead of the onset of the sultry summer.
Weather in Botswana in NovemberAverage temperature in Botswana in November: 25C, 77°F
Relative humidity in Botswana in November: 37%
Average rainfall in Botswana in November: 51mm, 2in
Note: November is an unpredictable month weather-wise in Botswana as the wet summer season officially arrives. If the rainy season sets in early the game parks could be swamped with showers, but it could just as easily remain dry for a little longer. Conditions are likely to be hot and humid, however, but the temperature transition between night and day is less apparent.
Weather in Botswana in DecemberAverage temperature in Botswana in December: 25C, 77°F
Relative humidity in Botswana in December: 44%
Average rainfall in Botswana in December: 88mm, 3.5in
Note: Although December is one of the wettest months statistically in Botswana, the weather can vary. In one day it can be hot and sunny, then drenched with rain. An advantage to visiting Botswana in December is that one can find good off-season rates in the game parks, which are far less busy this time of year. It is known as a good month for viewing predatory animals and birdlife.