There is no such thing as a stupid question. As a premium safari company, we receive plenty of FAQs each month, either based on the destinations we offer, or some key safari tips that travellers can use. These can vary from what to pack on safari, which destinations require anti-malaria medication or whether there are vegetarian options at any of the lodges or camps included in your itinerary.
To create some order in all of this, we’ve selected seven FAQs that we hope will shed some light on what you can expect from a Botswana safari:
1. Is the zebra migration in Botswana worth the hype?
Credit: San Camps
People often compare the annual zebra migration in Botswana to the famous Wildebeest Migration in Tanzania and southern Kenya. However, these spectacles really can’t be compared. Let’s start with a brief overview of the zebra migration.
Little researched, and almost unnoticed for decades, the zebra migration was only quite recently declared as a second African migration due to the fact that the pathways these animals take were historically inaccessible to people. However, recent studies have established that the Botswana zebra migration is the longest African migration, while the Great Migration involves the most animals (wildebeest). Scientists measured the zebra migration to span a distance of 10 000 kms, a much further distance for these zebra and accompanying plains game travel compared to the wildebeest in Serengeti migration.
Credit: GioRetti on Flickr
Seasonal movements involve three distinct groups of animals. During the dry months, these groups begin their journey from the Chobe River, Moremi Game Reserve and the Kwando-Linyanti wetlands respectively. These groups then move towards the Nxai and Makgadikgadi Pans during the wetter season.
The first study conducted about this migration involved the group that moved from the Chobe to the Nxai pans. Taking about 80 days in total, this herd begins their journey during the dry season of July to October. The return journey begins during the wetter season from November to March. The Makgadikgadi zebra migration also follows the same seasonal pattern, although they take a different route.
So is this migration worth travelling to Botswana for? This depends on the season you’d like to travel in. The green season between November and end of March offers lower rates and less crowds compared to the high season. Knowing this, it is easier to plan your trip to a particular park or reserve that you’d be most likely to witness this spectacle that offers great wildlife interaction during the low season. Take a look at this affordable green season Botswana safari:
2. What activities can I expect to experience on safari in Botswana and will I have to pay for extra activities?
Credit: Tourette Fishing
Botswana is made up of intriguing landscapes that offer unique experience depending on the region you visit. Most safari lodges and camps offer two safari activities per day, either day or night game drives or walking safaris (this will depend on whether you are staying in a private game reserve or a national park). Cultural and historical excursions are also available in heritage-rich areas like the Central Kalahari Game Reserve.
The waterways, rivers and marshlands of the Okavango Delta, Chobe river and Kwando-Linyanti wetlands offer a variety of water-based activities such as:
This is a relaxing way to view the intricate watery wilderness of Botswana. A traditional, dugout canoe is paddled by a professional safari guide.
Sunset boat cruises
This is a great, relaxing and somewhat whimsical way to enjoy the unique sunsets in Botswana, with a cocktail or glass of wine at hand.
Boating on the Chobe river
Some lodges offer this activity during certain times of the year. Many reserves limit this activity to prevent overfishing and disrupting the breeding cycle of the fish. However, this is a highly recommended activity, both for the thrill of a big catch and for the game viewing from the vantage point of the river.
Activities that fall outside your itinerary will carry an additional cost (such as horseback riding, hot air ballooning, etc). However, many lodges and camps allow you to ‘swap out’ one activity for another. Contact our safari experts should you wish to include or exclude an activity based on your itinerary.
3. I want to visit Botswana and another African country. Which one do you recommend?
There are a variety of safari packages available that transverse up to three countries, but this will be determined by the season you travel in, as well as your budget. You can tailor-make your safari to include any destination, or view ones that are already on offer:
We recommend sticking to surrounding countries of Botswana like Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe. One comment we often hear is the regret that one didn’t travel to Victoria Falls after their Botswana safari.
4. Where is it safe to go for malaria-free safaris in Botswana?
While southern Botswana has a lower risk of malaria, it is still recommended that you take anti-malaria medication no matter where you visit. This map from Fit for Travel shows you high to low risk malaria areas in Botswana to give you some context:
You can opt for a malaria-free safari here:
5. Will an international SIM card work in Botswana?
Mobile SIM cards will work anywhere in the world provided that you have an international roaming contract. This will be costly, however. We recommend using a local service provider to reduce roaming costs.
There are three main service providers in Botswana, all of which offer similar services, with the only difference being the coverage range. You only require a passport to purchase a SIM and there are outlets available everywhere, from retail stores to corner shops. Please make sure that you test your new SIM card before leaving the store as some dealers sell fake SIM cards. Finder.com has an extensive breakdown of each mobile service provider’s pros and cons and is worth a read. Find this information here.
Please note that some remote areas in Botswana have no coverage ranges. Please check with your safari expert to find out whether you will have access to wireless or roaming services at your camp or lodge.
6. How long are transfer flights in Botswana?
Botswana is a big country (similar in size to Madagascar or France). In addition, vast expanses of terrain such as desert, rivers and their surrounding waterways and marshes, as well as and savanna plains that seem to stretch endlessly into the horizon. Good to know is that Botswana has a very low population density, which means that there is plenty of space but not many people. A focus on sustainable and low-impact tourism has meant that infrastructure has been minimal and somewhat slow. The major tourist towns of Gaborone, Maun and Kasane have better developed roads and infrastructure in comparison to the rest of the country. It is for this reason that short flights between areas are more frequent in Botswana than say, South Africa.
Your flight time depends on the distance between camps and destinations. Have a look at the Desert & Delta Safari’s connection schedule:
Please note that these times can vary, especially if you are travelling with another group who will be disembarking along the journey. Talk to one of our safari consultants to find out about your personal flight schedule.
7. Which time of the year should I visit Botswana?
The best time of year to visit Botswana depends on the weather. Here is a breakdown of the two periods of interest:
May-October: This is the dry season when wildlife are forced to seek waterholes for refreshment, drawing them out of the bush which makes for high quality game-viewing. Expect very warm weather.
December-April: The green season refers to the heavy rainfalls that occur during January/February. While this is considered the low season due to the lush vegetation that often hides wildlife, this is the best season for photography and bird watching. Many baby animals are born during this period, and the predators that stalk them makes for interesting game viewing. Being the low season, safari package prices are much more affordable.
8. Is Botswana more expensive than other African countries?
Botswana has a strong economy in relation to many other African countries but the favourable exchange rate between the Botswana pula, US dollar, British pound and Euro makes Botswana an affordable destination for those using these currencies.
The cost of a Botswana safari will be determined by which season you travel in. We can tailor your safari to suit your budget at any time so it’s worth finding out how you can maximise your experience to save bucks.
9. Is there anything besides the obvious that I should pack?
Your safari experience will be so much better if you pack comfortable rather than fashionable clothing. You will spend a lot of your time outdoors so pack sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat as the African sun can be very harsh, even when there is cloud cover. Sturdy and comfortable shoes are a must.
We suggest investing in a good pair of binoculars so that you don’t miss out on the action.
10. Will I be able to enjoy an African safari if I don’t speak English?
English is the language spoken in all reserves, lodges and camps. Should you not be an English speaker, a foreign language guide can be arranged upon request. One of our safari consultants will be able to check this for you and make arrangements so that your safari is one to remember.
11. Do I have to tip staff at camps and lodges?
Tipping is not compulsory, but if you have received excellent service you are more than welcome to express your gratitude in the form of a tip, which will be very much appreciated. This is entirely at your discretion and applies if you have a personal butler as part of your package, or if you receive spa treatments from professionals during your stay. Some guests are so impressed with their knowledgeable game rangers that they may tip them. Outside the camps, it is customary to tip your restaurant waitron 10% of your total bill if you are satisfied with the quality and service you have received from the establishment.
Always check with your safari consultant if you have any questions about tipping.
12. Can I take my drone on safari to Botswana?
Each country has rules and regulations regarding drone usage in game reserves and parks. You need to request permission from the Civil Aviation Authority of Botswana (CAAB) in the form of writing, at least one week prior to your departure.
Please note that some international airlines have rules and regulations regarding LiPo batteries used in drones, so check with them prior to your departure.