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Driving in Botswana

To drive in Botswana’s parks and roads, you need to drive or rent a 4x4 vehicle. Without one, you may be limited to places you can go! Driving is done on the left hand side of the road.

The Botswana police require you to apply for a Botswana driving license if your stay is over 90 days.

When to visit

Summer | Winter | January | February | March | April | May | June | July | August | September | October | November | December

Botswana's climate is semi-arid. Though it is hot and dry for much of the year, there is a rainy season which runs through the summer months.

Botswana is a huge country and extends through 9 degrees of latitude. This suggests considerable variation in climate. It is landlocked and on an elevated plateau of approximately 1000 metres. All these factors tend to cause low annual rainfall.

'Pula' is not only the name of Botswana's currency, but also the Setswana word for rain. So much of what takes place in Botswana relies on this essential, frequently scarce commodity.

Summer (wet season) - October to March.
Summer days are hot, especially in the weeks that precede the coming of the cooling rains, and shade temperatures rise to the 38°C mark and higher, reaching a blistering 44°C on rare occasions. Cloud coverage and the arrival of the first rains, towards the end of November or early December, cool things down considerably.

During the rainy period, which lasts until the end of February or early March, the days are hot and generally sunny in the morning with afternoon thunderstorms usually in short, torrential downpours during the late afternoon. Day time temperatures can rise to 38°C and night time temperatures drop to around 20°C - 25°C. Northern areas receive up to 700mm of rain per annum while the Kalahari Desert area averages as low as 225mm per annum.

Rainfall tends to be erratic, unpredictable and highly regional. Often a heavy downpour may occur in one area while 10 or 15 kilometres away there is no rain at all. Showers are often followed by strong sunshine so a good deal of the rainfall does not penetrate the ground, as it is lost to evaporation and transpiration. In summer, morning humidity ranges from 60 to 80% and drops to between 30 and 40% in the afternoon.

Winter (dry season) - April to September.
Winter days are invariably sunny and cool to warm; however, evening and night temperatures can drop below freezing point in some areas, especially in the southwest. Day time temperatures generally reach 20° C and evening temperatures can be as low as 5°C. Virtually no rainfall occurs during the winter months. In winter humidity can vary between 40 and 70% during the morning and fall to between 20 and 30% in the afternoon.

For tourists, the best months to visit are from April through to October - in terms of both weather and game viewing. It is during this period that the wildlife gather around the natural waterholes and the borehole-fed dams - and are at their most visible.

Botswana is a year round wildlife destination. However, there are certain seasons that are more suitable for special interests than others. We are often asked "which is the best time of the year to travel?" and to answer this question properly, we would need to know what you wish to experience on your safari.

The following information is to be treated as a guideline as weather patterns and wildlife rhythms are never predictable and can never be guaranteed at a specific time or in a specific area.

Month By Month Synopis

The middle of the rainy season with spectacular afternoon thunderstorms. Daytime temperatures are warm, averaging 86°F (30°C) Night time averages 68°F (20°c). This is the peak breeding time for many of the colourful migrant bird species, so bird viewing is excellent. Beautiful wild flowers, brilliant green foliage and constant sounds from insects and birds make the bush vibrant and alive. Game viewing is reasonable with active predators still chasing the fast developing young of their prey species. January is an ideal month for photography due to all the vivid colours, spectacular skies and unparalleled air clarity. The contrast of the predators' natural winter camouflage with the summer colours makes for dramatic photos.

This is peak flowering time for water lilies and the reed frogs are colourful and very vocal - the Okavango Delta is beautiful and noisy. The rains continue in the form of mid to late afternoon thunderstorms with dramatic skies and sounds. It is hot with daytime temperatures averaging above 30°C and warm nights at 20°C plus. There may be both wet and very dry spells within the month. The giant bullfrog emerges from months and sometimes years of hibernation to indulge in nocturnal feeding frenzies. The resident game species do not have far to go for water and the young are almost as tall as the adults. Birding is still excellent.

The fruit of the Marula trees attract elephants that wander from tree to tree in search of their favourite meal. At this time of year elephant are often encountered on walks in the Okavango as they feed from one Marula tree to another. This is the start of the rutting season and impala males snort and cavort to attract females. Temperatures are still warm both day and night but the air is drier and the rains less frequent. The bush is lush and green and there are lots of flowers.

There are the first signs that the season is changing - night temperatures drop to below 20°C on average, but day temperatures continue to rise up to 40°C on some days. Generally the temperatures are very pleasant. The cooler mornings with high relative humidity lead to wonderful early morning mist – which is spectacular over water. The impala rut is in full swing and the impala noises continue right through the night with dramatic clashes between rival males. Baboon and impala are often seen together as the baboon act as sentries protecting the busy impala. The trees have completed flowering and fruit is ripening, with massive sausages hanging from the Sausage trees. Reptiles are actively breeding and feeding in anticipation of the dry season.

Floodwaters from the Angolan highlands should reach the top of the Okavango Delta panhandle and begin their slow and deliberate progress through the Delta. The rains are over and the nights are cooler with temperatures averaging 15°C. The days are still warm with temperatures up to 35°C. Buffalo begin to group into large herds and visit the river areas more often as the seasonal pans begin to dry. Breeding herds of elephant increase in density daily as they visit the permanent waters. The vivid green bush starts fading to duller dry season colours and the predators begin to enjoy themselves as their colours blend in with their surroundings once again. The migratory birds begin their flights to winter-feeding and breeding grounds overseas.

In June the African wild dogs begin to search for dens, which makes them easy to find for the next three or four months as they operate from their dens. Temperatures have dropped to their coldest by the end of June with night temperatures reaching as low as 5°C (very cold on night drives due to wind chill factor). Daytime temperatures rise up to a very comfortable 25°C and dusty dry conditions begin to dominate. Some green bushes and trees persist but leaf drop commences and pans dry up. Animals concentrate at permanent water sources, as do their predators. The inner Delta starts to flood.

July sees the height of the floods for the Okavango Delta. The Okavango receives water from two different sources at two different times of the year. The first is the annual seasonal flood whereby rainwater in the Angolan highlands falls in December and slowly makes its way down to the Delta a couple of months later. The second rush of water comes with the local seasonal rains that fall over the Delta in the summer months. The paradox is obvious - the flood arrives when dust and dryness pervade and the rains have long gone. The leaves are falling off the trees, grasses are getting shorter every day and visibility is excellent. The nights are still cold but the days are marginally warmer and the weather typical of Botswana - sunny and clear with brilliant cobalt blue skies. More and more animals congregate near the water and flood plains. Water seeps into areas where there was none the day before and the mokoro (dug-out canoe) and boat trips become more exciting as new channels and waterways can be accessed. Soft early morning and evening light combined with dust provides the opportunity for many dramatic photo settings.

The floods have passed through the Delta and now reach Maun - leading to excitement for the locals in town as water related speculation is at a peak - how high? When will it stop? How far will the water go? The weather is warming up with daytime temperatures averaging closer to 30°C and night time averages rising to around 10°C. August is peak visitor season in Botswana. The herons, storks and other birds start to congregate at the Gadikwe heronry. The elephant herds are getting larger. As they jostle for space near the water, tension rises between the breeding herds. The bush is bare and the dust pervades but there is plenty of wildlife action.

The carmine bee-eaters return for the summer and the first migrants arrive and storks start nesting. Water levels have slowly started to drop. Certain trees start to produce their first green shoots - fed by the floodwaters and temperatures and not by any rain, as the first rains are still about six weeks away. The climate has changed and winter is over. Night temperatures rise rapidly within the month and by month end the average reaches 15°C plus and day temperatures soar well into the 30°C. There is brilliant sunshine, the skies are clear and it is dry. The elephants concentrate in still greater numbers as do the buffalo and this keeps the predators busy. It is a time of plenty for the lions.

October is very hot. Day temperatures rise regularly above 40°C and nights are warm with averages in the 20°C. October is also a great game viewing month - well worth the sweat! This is the time of year when the herbivores are at their weakest because of a lack of food and the lions are at their strongest. There is no place to hide, everything is bare and the grasses have been eaten or trampled. Predator chases erupt into clouds of dust on the open plains. From late September through early November an amazing phenomenon takes place - the "catfish run". The falling water levels send millions of catfish on noisy upstream breeding migrations, during which they prey on smaller fish and literally flatten the papyrus with their numbers. The Gadikwe heronry is full of activity with hundreds of birds breeding and nesting – bird viewing is excellent. At night Savute becomes alive with nocturnal sounds – elephants screeching impatiently at the water holes and earth trembling roars of lion are heard.

The expectation - in fact - desperation for rain dominates all discussions - the residents and the animals all seek an end to the dryness and dust. Temperatures remain high both day and night and game viewing is excellent. The first rains normally fall around mid November. The rains come and the animals disperse to eat on new vegetation and drink from the seasonal pans. The birthing season begins with the tsessebe, followed by impala and lechwe. The predators seek out the vulnerable young and kill many times a day to get their fill. It is a time of action, great visibility and colour with big clusters of cloud, new sprouting grass and trees bursting into life - a wonderful time for the photographer.

Protein rich grass feed the mother antelope while the lambs and calves grow at astounding speed. The impala complete their lambing, the wildebeest start and complete their lambing in a few weeks. The rains become more regular with thunderstorms every few days. The pans remain full and the colours shine in brilliant green. While the grazers enjoy the green tender shoots the predators are ever watching and stalking. Their winter camouflage lets them down and they have to work harder, however, the bush is dense allowing more hiding places for them to observe their prey. All the migrant birds have arrived and the birding is excellent. Temperatures have cooled on average but hot days still occur and nights are still warm and humidity can rise after rain. Great colours, dramatic skies and lightning at night all add to the magic of December.

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