Key Facts | Geography & Climate | Tourism Regions | What To See & Do | Culture & History | The Safari Experience | FAQ

Geography & Climate

Geography

Botswana is a land-locked country about the size of Texas. Situated in the southern African region, it is bordered by Zambia and Zimbabwe to the northeast, Namibia to the north and west, and South Africa to the south and southeast. At Kazungula in the extreme northeast, four countries - Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Namibia - meet at a single point mid-stream in the Zambezi River.

About two-thirds of Botswana lies within the Tropics; bisected by the Tropic of Capricorn just south of the town of Mahalapye. It is dominated in geographical terms by the Kalahari Desert [hyperlink to Kalahari Desert landing page] which covers approximately 80% of Botswana's landmass.

Most of the Kalahari (or Kgalagadi, which is its Setswana name) is covered with vegetation including stunted thorn and scrub bush, trees and grasslands. The largely unchanging flat terrain is occasionally interrupted by gently descending valleys, sand dunes, large numbers of pans and, in the extreme northwest, isolated hills, such as Aha, Tsodilo, Koanaka and Gcwihaba. Many of the pans have dune systems on the southwest side, which vary in size and complexity. The pans fill with water during the rainy season and their hard surface layer ensures that the water remains in the pans and is not immediately absorbed. These pans are of great importance to wildlife, which obtain valuable nutrients from the salts and the grasses of the pans.

In the north-west, the Okavango River flows in from the highlands of Angola and soaks into the sands, forming the 15,000 sq. km (5,791 sq. mi.) network of water channels, lagoons, swamps and islands known as The Okavango Delta.

The Okavango is the largest inland delta system in the world, just a bit smaller than Israel or half of Switzerland. The northeastern region of the Kalahari Basin contains the Makgadikgadi Pans [link to the Makgadikgadi Pans landing page] - an extensive network of salt pans and ephemeral lakes, an area so vast it is visible from space.

The Tuli Block, in the easternmost part of Botswana, is hilly and has dramatic rocky outcrops throughout the area. Although Botswana has no mountain ranges to speak of, the landscape is punctuated occasionally by low hills, especially along the southeastern boundary and in the far northwest. Botswana's highest point is 1,491m (4,892 ft) Otse Mountain near Lobatse, but the three major peaks of the Tsodilo Hills, in the country's northwestern corner, are more dramatic.


Climate

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. 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 that a good deal of the rainfall does not penetrate the ground but is lost to evaporation and transpiration.

'Pula', one of the most frequently heard words in Botswana, 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.

Seasons
The summer season begins in November and ends in March. It usually brings very high temperatures. However, summer is also the rainy season, and cloud coverage and rain can cool things down considerably, although only usually for a short period of time. The winter season begins in May and ends in August. This is also the dry season when virtually no rainfall occurs. 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 south-west. The in-between periods - April/early May and September/October - still tend to be dry, but the days are cooler than in summer and the nights are warmer than in winter.

Rainfall
The rainy season is in the summer, with October and April being transitional months. January and February are generally regarded as the peak months for rain. The mean annual rainfall varies from a maximum of over 650mm in the extreme north-east area of the Chobe District to a minimum of less than 250mm in the extreme south-west part of Kgalagadi District. Almost all rainfall occurs during the summer months while the winter period accounts for less than 10 percent of the annual rainfall. Generally, rainfall decreases in amount and increases in variability the further west and south you go.

Temperatures
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. Winters are clear-skied and bone-dry, the air seductively warm during the daylight hours but, because there is no cloud cover, cold at night and in the early mornings. Sometimes bitterly so - frost is common and small quantities of water can freeze.

Humidity
In summer during the morning period humidity ranges from 60 to 80% and drops to between 30 and 40% in the afternoon. In winter humidity is considerably less and can vary between 40 and 70% during the morning and fall to between 20 and 30% in the afternoon.


literature request
space
enews
gray
button
space
sample
gray
tips
a
Home | About Us | Contact Us | Site Map | Privacy Policy | Terms of Use | Copyright © 2012 Botswana Tourism Organization. All rights reserved.