January is the heart of Botswana’s summer ‘green season’, the height of the rains when afternoon thunderstorms and heavy downpours are common. That’s not to say it’ll rain every day – it rarely rains for two days straight – but some rainfall is more or less guaranteed so be sure to pack accordingly.
Botswana’s climate is fairly regular and consistent, with hot, wet summers and mild, dry winters. The north gets the most rain, and precipitation decreases steadily as you head south. December and January are the wettest months, with average daily temperatures between 30°C and 35°C, and hot days approaching 40°C. The most extreme conditions are in the Central Kalahari, but even there nights seldom drop below 15°C.
The summer rains attract large grazing herds to the suddenly verdant grasslands of the Central Kalahari, Makgadikgadi Pans and the Savuti plains. Wildlife viewing in these areas can be spectacular, with plenty of predator activity against a stunning backdrop of glassy, water-filled pans and towering thunderclouds. The only negative is the state of the roads, which can get extremely muddy and in some places, impassable. A 4×4 is essential and it’s a good idea to travel in convoy.
This is especially true in Moremi Game Reserve and around the Okavango Delta. Counterintuitively, water levels in the delta are at their lowest during the rainy season and instead only begin to rise in late April and May when the flood waters arrive from the distant Angolan highlands. The local rains don’t have much effect on the water levels in the delta, but they do have a huge impact on the surrounding roads. Moremi’s roads are infamous, particularly from December to March when they’re extremely waterlogged and muddy.