Safari to Botswana: The Ultimate Guide
Image by Trevorplatt: Elephant in the Chobe River
A safari to Botswana can best be described as being a witness to a natural spectacle of epic proportions. A variety of characters engage daily in wildlife dramas on stages of floodplains, swamps, savannahs and deserts. Those venturing to these shores should be prepared for a second, third and fourth act.
Almost 40% of this land-locked African country is devoted to national parks, reserves and wildlife management areas. Animals roam wild and free in the largely unfenced wilderness areas—from the Okavango Delta to the Kalahari Desert and everything in between.
Fauna and Flora of Botswana
Image by Simoneeman Photography: Lilac-Breasted Rollers in Chobe
The first impressions of a safari to Botswana will be lasting impressions. This is truly a country without parallel on the African continent, especially when it comes to uninhabited wilderness and the awareness of limitless space. From horizon to horizon, from sunset to sundown, the landscape is littered with an astonishing number of wild fauna and flora. And amid this myriad of species, a great number of endangered animals have found a safe refuge—black and white rhinos, cheetahs, wild dogs, and brown hyenas.
Almost 600 bird species can be observed in the skies of Botswana making the country a superb birding destination. Safari goers will be enthralled by fluttering feathers such as hawks, eagles and kites; ducks, geese and waterfowl; sunbirds and spider hunters; kingfishers and bee-eaters; owls and hornbills.
Safari Destinations in Botswana
Image by kivram: Chobe National Park
It is the extraordinary biodiversity that lures safari-goers to Botswana. The Chobe National Park and Moremi Game Reserve—both found in the Okavango Delta—are major tourist destinations. Both offer an amazing array of activities for the outdoor enthusiast. Among other reserves and national parks are the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, Makgadikgadi Pans National Park, and Nxai Pan National Park.
A safari to Botswana will most certainly not be complete without an extended stay in the Okavango Delta. This water oasis is rightly regarded as the “Jewel of the Kalahari”. Endless stretches of water, swaying grasslands and the quintessential palm trees make the Delta instantly recognisable. It is one of the best places to observe elephants and come face to face with these majestic giants, as well as other large mammals like buffalo. And where there is prey, there are predators. Watching lions in stalking mode, a stealthy leopard or opportunistic hyenas are daily occurrences.
On the other end of the spectrum is the largest, unbroken stretch of sand on earth—the Kalahari Desert. And dispersed in between are the salt pans of Makgadikgadi, the baobabs of Nxai Pans and the indigenous San people of the Central Kalahari.
Outside the national parks and wildlife management areas, there is a considerable network of private reserves that will make a safari to Botswana even more memorable. These include destinations around the waterways of the Kwando and Linyanti Rivers, as well as the Selinda Spillway.
A Typical Safari
Image by kivram: Chobe National Park
This dazzling wildlife destination offers ample safari and activity choices. Visitors can either make their way across the incredible landscape or be guided by experts who will point out the intricacies of the natural world. A trip should include some, if not all, of these captivating experiences—drifting in a mokoro, exploring on horseback, meandering on foot, star-gazing the night sky, or soaring in a hot air balloon. Photographers and birdwatchers can also expect a front row seat to the natural wonders.
A typical safari to Botswana usually starts at the crack of dawn with a morning chorus of wild and wonderful sounds. After a simmering cup of coffee or tea to invigorate the system, it is out to discover the natural world and it’s inhabitants for up to four hours. Upon return, it is time for a scrumptious breakfast, followed by a midday siesta. In the early afternoon, the body is refuelled for a couple of hours. As the day makes way for the night, safari-goers return to camp to huddle around a bush fire and reminisce about the glorious day just passed.
There is a wide range of accommodation to suit all tastes and budgets when embarking on a safari to Botswana. If looking to lap it up in luxury, the choices are endless. A stay at a 5-star lodge will most likely include all meals and drinks, activities and park fees. Opting for a safari of this nature will give visitors a greater opportunity to marvel at the wonders of African wildlife. The local guides and trackers have a vast knowledge of the fauna and flora in their area and are acutely aware of the animals’ movements and special spots.
Essence of Africa
Image by Antenore: A luxruious safari tent in Botswana
Experience the true essence of Africa and fulfil the soul with an enriching mobile tented safari. When choosing to go on a mobile-tented safari, there are a variety of experienced operators to consider. All have access to exclusive areas with the right infrastructure to conduct this type of excursion in the best way possible. While some opt to set-up and break-down camp every day while crisscrossing the landscape, others have permanent structures unobtrusively scattered around the bush.
For those preparing to go it alone, self-drive and camping will provide a different perspective. To become one with and share in the spoils of the natural world on a self-drive safari, is part and parcel of coming to Africa. There are a handful of positives when visitors to these shores should choose to go it alone. It is less expensive and will suit the budget traveller while there is also more freedom to explore at a self-set pace and go where and when it is most suitable.
The Essentials for a Safari to Botswana
Image by seb_ra: Travel Concept
Botswana caters for all safari-goers, whether solo, on honeymoon or travelling as a family. Travellers should, however, be aware that there are age restrictions in place at some of the lodges. This includes only accepting children six years and older and establishments that only cater to adults.
Travellers intent on arranging a safari to Botswana need to make sure about visa requirements in their country of origin. Passports need to be valid for at least six months from the planned date of departure, and there should also be enough blank pages for the necessary visas and stamps to be applied.
There are a few essentials and must-have’s to pack when taking the long road to Botswana for a safari. Visitors should take note that there are restrictions on the type of suitcase and weight allowance when making use of smaller planes to travel to remote areas. Essential items include neutral coloured clothing in a light fabric, a waterproof jacket, a good pair of closed-toe walking shoes, sunscreen and insect and malaria repellant.
The Best Time to Visit Botswana
The best time to plan a safari to Botswana is in the dry season, between May and October. The days are warm and sunny (22°C-35°C). The nights, however, tend to be on the chilly side. Water levels in the Okavango Delta are at their highest, which makes for an alluring safari experience.
Embarking on a safari to Botswana couldn’t be easier. Gaborone is the capital of the country and boasts a busy international airport—Sir Seretse Khama International Airport—which is approximately 15 kilometres from downtown Gaborone. The international airport connects flights to various parts of the country and many international destinations.
Pristine wilderness areas teeming with wildlife and crisscrossing the plains and waterways of this African paradise, both have a certain allure. A safari to Botswana, therefore, must count as one of the most memorable experiences.