Botswana Safari

The ultimate guide to your next Botswana safari

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    Your definitive guide to Botswana

    Welcome to Botswana. What you will encounter is a comprehensive and insightful journey through Botswana’s most memorable attractions; a country brimming with prolific wildlife and lush landscapes. Botswana is a gem in the crown jewel of Africa’s safari circuit. Curate your experience and allow us to do the rest for you.

    Two weeks in Botswana - a luxury safari itinerary

    Two weeks in Botswana - a luxury safari itinerary

    The ideal safari to capture Botswana’s unrivalled beauty and abundance of flora and fauna through the lens

    9-day Epic Botswana Adventure

    9-day Epic Botswana Adventure

    A tour de force of the Chobe, Okavango Delta and Makgadikgadi Pans in only nine days

    Botswana Okavango Delta safari adventure

    Botswana Okavango Delta safari adventure

    Experience the jewel in Botswana’s safari crown - the Okavango Delta.

    8-day Botswana premier safari collection

    8-day Botswana premier safari collection

    Choose our Botswana premier collection and experience a traditional big game wildlife safari in one of Africa’s top destinations.

    View More Botswana Safaris

    Highlights of Botswana

    Highlights of Botswana

      • aerial view okavango delta

        Flight over the Okavango Delta

        There is no better way to grasp the remoteness of the Okavango Delta region than by flying over it in a light aircraft/helicopter … From the air, the wetland landscape is woven together with great intricacy: serpentine channels cut through emerald carpets of marsh, spilling into lagoons with pods of hippos. Winding streams twist and loop, diverging into lazy pools and vast plains scattered with islands. Palm trees hug the outer banks of the islands encircling white-sandy grazing grounds speckled with impala, zebra, wildebeest and buffalo. Animal tracks criss cross through dry wooded areas, and continue through shallow waters where black and orange silt marble the sand. It’s common to see lechwe splashing over swampy ground and large herds of elephant. Sometimes giraffes gallop awkwardly across savanna plains with their characteristic slow-motion gait, or families of zebra frolic in patches of sand. A flight from Maun is mandatory to reach most of the Delta’s luxury camps and lodges, but many travellers also book additional scenic flights. Most flights leave from Maun (the small tourist town known as the “gateway to the Okavango”). After taking off, there is an expanse of mopane veld littered with homesteads and cattle before the plane reaches the buffalo fence, and then finally, the Okavango Delta in its full splendor. Once the plane crosses the buffalo fence, there is more chance of spotting wild animals and slowly but surely the landscape transforms into a watery wonderland. Winter, when the Okavango is at its peak water level, is the best time for a scenic flight.
      • Birding in Moremi Game Reserve

        Moremi Game Reserve in Botswana

        Moremi Game Reserve was proclaimed in 1963, and incorporates a large proportion of the Okavango Delta … The idea to create a reserve in the Okavango region came from Robert Kay (a crocodile-hunter turned conservationist) and his wife June (a writer). Yet it was the local BaTawana people (with help from the San/BaSarwa) who spearheaded the project, most notably Mohumagadi Pulane Moremi, the wife of deceased Chief Moremi II and the BaTawana’s Queen Regent. The reserve was named after the BaTawana Royal title, “Moremi”. Moremi Game Reserve is 5,000km2 and made up of floodplains, woodlands, thick forests, savanna grasslands and myriad waterways surrounding thousands of islands. The smaller islands were formed through a process of termite bioengineering while larger ones, like the famous Chief’s Island, are an effect of wrinkled fault lines deep below the Kalahari. Nighttime in the Okavango Delta is characterized by deeply evocative sounds: the bell-like “pings” of painted reed frogs, the hum of cicada beetles, the explosive grunts of hippos, and the deep roars of lions making you grateful to be tucked up safely in bed! The most popular time to visit the Delta is in winter when large herds of animals congregate around flooded marshes and rivers. In Moremi Game Reserve you are driving on the mainland (primarily through mopane and acacia woodland with patches of open savanna), so your experience of the Okavango is limited to seasonally inundated plains of water and the outskirts of papyrus-fringed lagoons. These are fantastic game viewing areas and there are several great camping sites and lodges within the park (and also on nearby community concessions like Khwai) from which to explore. When the floodwaters recede and the first rains arrive in November/ December, wildlife disperses, especially breeding herds of elephant that move into the mopane forests where natural water holes fill up with rain. Summertime brings its own unique allure, turning the russet veld a vibrant green to be gorged upon by grazers like zebra, wildebeest and impala antelopes. This is the height of baby season and the plains abound with newborn plains game, tottering alongside their parents on unsteady legs. This makes for beautiful photo opportunities, and plenty of easy prey for wild dog packs and leopards. It may be more challenging to spot predators in the newly sprouted grass, but the spectacular display of migrant bird species is enough to inspire any nature lover, filling the air with brilliant trills and hues. To experience the Okavango’s innermost secrets, however, a traveller needs to visit one of the remote island camps tucked away in the water-rich inner regions of the Delta, only accessed by light aircraft.
      • lions in chief's island

        Chief's Island

        Chief’s Island, in the heart of Moremi Game Reserve, is a massive sand island or “sandveld tongue” that covers 1,000 km2 of the central Delta region. … On the northwestern tip of Chief’s Island lies one of the Okavango’s most famous game viewing areas, the Mombo Concession. Mombo is known to BaYei locals as “the place of plenty” and arguably the most fertile land of the Okavango. Mombo is located just below where the Okavango River splits into three primary channels and supports a diversity of wildlife hard to find anywhere When the water levels of the Okavango rise during winter floods, many animals move to find dry land on the island. Chief’s Island is particularly famous for its predators. Its far-reaching floodplains and diverse habitats attract high concentrations of prime prey species including buffalo, lechwe, impala, wildebeest, zebra, giraffe, tsessebe and warthog. In the nineties wild dogs ruled the Mombo Concession with the largest pack having as many 40 dogs. Their presence inspired the book Running Wild by Dave and Helene Hamman, which played an important role in raising awareness of the behavior and vulnerable status of these lesser-known carnivores. Nowadays, Mombo is famous for its large lion population and very relaxed leopards.
      • mekoro safari

        Mekoro safari

        The most intimate way to explore the Okavango’s meandering channels and hidden lagoons is on a guided mekoro (singlular: mokoro) trip … These traditional wooden dugouts are still used extensively in the region for The thought of slinking through the wild territory of hippos and crocodiles may seem have spent a lifetime navigating these waters and really do know what they’re doing. Mekoro guides commonly choose shallow areas where there is less chance of encountering hippos, and always have a scout polling ahead to keep a good look out. The first people to introduce the mekoro to the Okavango were the BaYei (singular: MoYei), a tribal group that originated from the Barotse floodplains of the Zambezi. According to local legend, the leader of the BaYei tribe, a man called Sankuzi, awoke one morning after dreaming of a tall jackal-berry tree (plentiful in the Delta). Inspired by the dream, he instructed his men to find the tree and cut it down, then to carve out its middle with their axes and put it in the water – and so the mokoro came to be! Historically, BaYei fisherman and hunters ventured into the waterways of the Delta for many days at a time, camping on islands or even spending the night inside their mekoros where they would light a small fire for warmth, favoring this to the dry land where there were prowling lions. Today, the mekoros used in safari camps are made of plastic to preserve the beautiful old trees. A mekoro trip gives you the best possible chance to catch a glimpse of the rare and secretive sitatunga antelope. Sitatunga love quiet backwaters with floating papyrus islands and usually feed while being partially submerged in water. They are expertly designed for swamp life with splayed, elongated hooves that enable them to tread soft marshlands with ease. When a mokoro approaches, these shy ungulates will commonly swim away, with only their nuzzle sticking out of the water. Other interesting creatures to look out for are colourful Painted Reed frogs and tiny Long Reed frogs (usually hugging onto reeds), malachite and pied kingfishers, pygmy geese, African and lesser jacanas and day and night water lilies. Sometimes guides will surprise their guests with a delta special – a water lily necklace, or show you how to make a refreshing Okavango-style “hat” from a lily pad. Mokoro trips are available at many of the water-based camps and lodges in the Okavango and in Maun for self-drivers. It’s a good idea to check with the safari operator you booking through beforehand because in many places mokoro safaris are seasonal and water level dependent.
      • san bushmen woman

        People and culture of the Okavango

        Another highlight of Botswana is its people. Batswana are a mesh of many different tribes with unique origins and beliefs … … The dominant group is Tswana (79%) whose language Setswana (or Tswana) is the spoken by 90 % of Batswana. The Tswana have a deeply entrenched system of chieftainship and a rich cultural heritage rooted in deep traditional values, reflected in proverbs such as “we are people because of other people”. The first inhabitants of Botswana were the Basarwa (3%) (Often know as San Bushmen). The traditional Basarwa lifestyle of hunter gathering has sadly diminished over the years with the historic homelands of the Basarwa replaced by National Parks and towns. Basarwa people, who can further be divided into several groups with distinct ‘click’ languages, are no longer able to live the traditional nomadic life of their ancestors. Walking with bushmen is a fascinating activity that attracts visitors over and again to regions like the Central Kalahari and the Makgadikgadi salt pans. The baYei are another very interesting tribal group who arrived in the Okavango region from the Barostse floodlands of the Zambezi and lived in harmony with the Basarwa (known as Bukakhwe in the area). The baYei introduced the ‘mokoro’ dugout canoe, still used widely today as a way of transport and for fishing along the delta channels from village to village.
        • chobe river boat cruise

          Boat cruise in Chobe

          The Chobe Riverfront is Africa dressed to her fullest splendor. The broad life-giving waters of the river, bounded by expansive floodplains, are best seen by boat … Cruising or drifting along at eye-level offers unbeatable photographic opportunities for wildlife and birds: African skimmers (that arrive any time from the month of May and lay their eggs on exposed sandbanks) carve out silver lines in the water as they skim metres from the boats edge, while hippos yawn and humph, rising out of the water adorned with lavish aquatic headdresses. In dry season elephants gather in great numbers and some spend hours submerged on the grassy isles in the middle of the river. For small motorboats it’s easy to negotiate the floating vegetation and beds of reeds and get within metres of them. Guests can also get an up-close look at enormous crocodiles lazing on the white shores of islands and riverbanks, and it’s not unusual to see lions dozing in the shade of riverside woodlands. As evening approaches, breeding herds of elephants cross the river (babies included) using their trunks as snorkels, while others stir up dust as they drink and bathe by the waters edges, silhouetted against a fiery backdrop. Boat cruises can be organized by one of the many riverside safari operators. There are also houseboats, and boats fitted with the latest photographic equipment operated by Pangolin Safaris. The Chobe waterfront is the most commercial part of Chobe National Park, close to the town of Kasane. There are a number of large hotels and lodges along the river, although Chobe Game Lodge is the only lodge along the river that falls within the park’s boundaries. The public campsite along the river is called Ihaha.
        • camping in Linyanti

          Wild Camping

          There are three campsites within Chobe National Park, all unfenced and overlooking beautiful wild areas while still having basic ablution facilities (flush toilets and warm showers) … Ihaha (GPS: S 17 50.484′; E 24 52.748) is on the Chobe Riverfront and has ten spacious campsites. The large trees and expansive views over the river is what makes Ihaha a firm favorite for Botswana regulars. In dry season there is a good chance you will have large herds of elephant and buffalo coming down to drink close to your camp. Savuti (GPS: S 18 34.014, E 24 03.905) is a campsite suited to hardy campers, with thick sand and limited shade. There are 14 campsites and the best sites are under the shady trees along the Savuti channel (you can request one of these when you make your booking). The barricaded ablution blocks are to ward off thirsty elephants trying to access water during dry season. Savuti is known as one of the noisier choices of camp (both human and animal noise) but it’s also one of the most exciting, with a good chance of lions, elephants and hyenas wandering into camp at night. Campers must be on guard against these dangers, especially with small children. It’s important to stay in your campsite after dark and drive rather than walk to the bathroom. There is also a small tuckshop with a limited selection of snacks. Linyanti (GPS: S 18 16.228, E 23 56.163) is Chobe’s most peaceful and tranquil campsite with only five demarcated camping areas. The most popular sites are numbers one and two which have uninterrupted views over the Linyanti River. Linyanti has a limited road network for the public but the scenic meandering riverfront drive is one of the most beautiful stretches in the park.
        • elephants in botswana

          The elephants of Botswana

          A far cry from the photographic safari-enthusiasts that visit Chobe National Park now, the park was once the haunt of large-scale ivory hunters … It’s hard to imagine that by the second half of the 19th century ivory hunting was so rife that elephants were almost xtinct in the Chobe area. Today, “thlou” (the local Setswana term for elephant) are safe in Chobe National Park and during dry season make up the largest density of elephant in the world (60 000 – 70 000) a number that has continued to rise in recent years due to poaching pressure in Botswana’s neighboring counties. In essence, Botswana has become a safehouse for an increasing number of Southern Africa’s refugee elephants who no longer feel protected traversing through the borders of Namibia, Zimbabwe, Angola and Zambia. Despite this, research by Elephants without Borders has shown that the elephants of northern Botswana still have the largest home ranges (24,828km2) recorded for African elephants and herds continue to move between western Zimbabwe, the Caprivi Strip in Namibia, southeast Angola and southwest Zambia. However, Botswana’s elephant range has grown by 53% in the past 20 years and scientists worry about how this will affect the safety and livelihoods of local people living on the outskirts of wildlife areas. Initiatives like the Elephant and Bee Project that are building beehive fences to naturally repel elephants from raiding local farmer’s crops, are invaluable in protecting both humans and elephants. As the largest terrestrial animal on earth, elephants eat up to 300kg of food a day and play a fundamental role in shaping their environment. The large herds of Chobe have put enormous pressure on the riverine forests lining the banks of the river, and it is common to see fallen tree trunks and battered broken branches tossed about the ground. This would be devastating if it weren’t for the arrival of the summer rains when the elephants disperse, allowing the land much-needed time to recover. Elephant’s destructive habits have equally positive effects and are responsible for creating hideaways for smaller creatures and helping browsers, like kudu and bushbuck, to reach nutritious leaves. Predators like lions and leopards often choose to hide their cubs in the safety of fallen logs, and elephant’s well-worn paths through the bush are used by many species. During drought, elephant’s dig for water in dry pans, helping to form waterholes that other animals can drink from. While Chobe’s waterfront is the place to see large family herds, Savute is known as the domain of the large elephant bull. These lonely tusked giants float over the horizon or swagger around the dusty peripheries of small waterholes, drinking and moving off again. Chobe really is a “Land of Giants”, an ultimate destination for elephant-lovers.
        • marsh lion pride

          The marsh lion pride

          Throughout Africa, elephants are not thought of as lion prey, with only three exceptions; the pride manages to separate a small calf from its mother (a rare occurrence), an elephant is very sick and weak, or the lion belongs to Savuti’s notorious Marsh Pride … This fearless pride of lions, which once numbered 30 +, killed 74 elephants during a three year period (1993 – 1996), a phenomenon recorded by filmmakers Beverly and Dereck Joubert. The Joubert’s film, Ultimate Enemies (National Geographic) tells the story, as well as the more recent Planet Earth Series: Great Plains (BBC). This outrageously risqué behavior on the part of the lions happens mainly between August and November, peaking in October. According to scientist Richard John Powder, the lions may be reverting to a role they once had during the Pleistocene era as hunters of megaherbivores. The behavior could also be rooted in Savuti’s long history of drought periods where near-starved elephants were easy to bring down, helping the lions hone their elephant-killing tactics. The introduction of artificial waterholes could have also played a role by encouraging elephants to become permanent residents (rather than migrating to other regions), and so readily available to feed unusually large lion prides. Today, the lion prides of Chobe are more fragmented and lions prey on elephant less frequently, but the legacy remains.
        • slaty egret

          Bird watching in Botswana

          Chobe’s impressive diversity of habitats make it home to the highest variety of bird species (468) in Botswana … A drive or boat cruise along the Chobe River will offer plenty of opportunities to see large raptors like Bateleur Eagles, migrant Wahlberg’s Eagles, white-backed or Lapped-faced Vultures, and of course the conspicuous African Fish Eagle. Fish Eagles dominate prime river perches where they throw back their heads and punctuate the air with cries of wild grandeur. African Skimmers arrive at Chobe’s riverbanks in the beginning of winter where they nest in exposed sandbanks and skim across the silvery waters with beaks ajar to snatch up tiny fish that come to the surface looking for warmth. Small flocks of Rock Pranticoles arrive from North Africa laying eggs in the small depressions of rocks that stick out in the river. Other migrant species are Yellow-billed Kites, Woodland Kingfishers and the very striking Carmine Bee Eaters and other common water birds of the area are African Spoonbills, Squacco Herons, Open-billed Storks, Black Herons, Great Egrets, Pied Kingfishers, African Jacanas and Yellow-billed Storks. In Chobe’s forested areas, birders should look out for Schalow’s and Purple-crested Turacos, Trumpeter and Crowned hornbills, Crested Guinea fowls, Racket-tailed Rollers, Brown-necked Parrots and Narina Trogons (summer only). The Linyanti Swamps are home to the endemic Slaty Egret and a good place to see small waders such as the Lesser Jacana and African Painted Snipe. Gregarious Southern Carmine Bee Eaters nest on Linyanti’s dry floodplains, an unusual choice for a bird that usually favors riverbanks. Here, on the ground, their eggs and chicks are more vulnerable to predators like water monitors, raptors and small carnivorous mammals. Despite these dangers they’ve bred successfully in Linyanti for consecutive years and are a delight for visitors; somersaulting through the air in pink clouds and following closely beside moving game vehicles to snatch up disturbed insects. A great spectacle that occurs each year in Chobe (and all across Botswana) happens during the onset of the first rains; the rain acts as a trigger for reproductive winged termites to leave their colonies in pursuit of wet earth to begin new mounds. As they exit in their thousands, they attract birds of every plume and feather – including large raptors and vultures, that congregate around mounds to snatch these sausage-bodied insects from the air. It is a feathered frenzy of unrivaled proportions! Even leopards have been known to partake in the feast, taking advantage of the rich protein source.
        • walking safari

          Rock paintings of Gubatsaa Hills

          Bushmen rock art in the small hills surrounding Savuti was first discovered in March 1968 by Tim Liversedge who was a warden of Chobe National Park … The latest of the paintings is thought to have been done in around 1810. Although the paintings are all of a similar style and outlined in red-ochre (similar to the nearest rock paintings found at Tsodilo Hills) they seem to have been done by different groups of people. Through the years small groups of San bushmen would have moved in and out of the area following migrating game and adding their contributions to the adorned rock faces. Some of the animals depicted in the paintings are eland, giraffe, elephant, gemsbok, and hyena, with the more recent ones superimposed on older fading areas. Today visitors are permitted to get out and scramble a little way up the rocky hills to view the artworks, found on the South-east cliffs overlooking the Savuti channel. Guests can also marvel at the historic baobabs in the area and look out for the rare klipspringer antelope.
          • kubu baobabs

            Kubu Island

            Kubu Island on Ntwetwe pan is the setting for the region’s greatest cultural mystery … border The ‘island’ is nothing more than a rocky outcrop protruding from the crusty white pan, from which is sprouted several gnarly baobabs. It is beautiful in a rugged, enigmatic way, made more so by the presence of puzzling relics and ruins that litter the arid hillside. Artifacts found on the side of the lake appear to date from early Stone Age times, over 100 000 years ago, right up to recent decades. Some researchers have suggested that the island may have been used for ancient rainmaking ceremonies, with its protruding rocks being the highest point in the area. Because human settlers could not have survived out here without water, the island was most likely inhabited when it was still surrounded by a giant lake, or at least several wetter pans fed by other watercourses, reached by boat. Perhaps it would have been teeming with fish, crocodiles and hippo
          • zebra migration

            The zebra migration

            Each year, Botswana’s zebra journey between Okavango Delta and Makgadikgadi Pans in search of fresh grazing in what is known as the second largest zebra migration in the world … Scattered herds of Botswana’s national animal can be seen throughout the Makgadikgadi palm belt and near the salt pans where the mineral content of grasses is highest. The nomadic habits of the Burchell’s Zebra in Botswana weren’t properly understood until tracking devices were used in a study done by the conservation group Elephants Without Borders in 2012. The scientists were amazed to discover that some zebras were trekking from as far away as the floodplains of Chobe near the Namibia–Botswana border, arriving in the Makgadikgadi area via Savute. This is a round trip of 500km, the longest of all recorded large mammal migrations in Africa. The most popular and well known location for viewing this beautiful spectacle is from Meno a Kwena camp situated along the Boteti River on the western boundary of the Makgadikgadi Pans National Park.
          • baobab

            The historic boaobabs

            here are a number of extraordinary baobabs in the Makgadikgadi area but the ones most worth visiting are Chapman’s and Green’s baobabs in Ntwetwe Pan and Baines Baobabs in Nxai Pans National Park … Green’s baobab can be found at Gutsha Pan on the Gweta–Orapa track, 27km south of Gweta village. In the days of early European explorers, a small pan beside this baobab was filled with perennial water, giving the great old tree special significance as a beacon of hope that signaled a spot to replenish supplies after a long trek through the saltpans. The intrepid Green brothers were one of the many early traders, hunters and explorers to carve their names here, leaving “Green’s Expedition 1858–1859” scrawled into the tree’s bark and giving the tree its name. Perhaps the most intriguing mark on this baobab though is the date 1771, which is even before Livingstone’s time and was possibly left by an early Portuguese explorer. The tree is now one of Botswana’s National Monuments. Baobab trees can live for thousands of years and this one certainly bears the battle scars to prove it, gunshot wounds included. The enormous Chapman’s baobab, six km to the north of Gutsha pan, was the first landmark to be seen by travellers crossing the lonely saltpans. The tree was noted by many early explorers, including David Livingstone (who past here with George Oswell in the 1860’s on the way to Linyanti), for its astonishing size, a circumference of 25 metres. In his journal Livingstone wrote, “About 2 miles beyond the northern bank of the pan we unyoked under a fine specimen of the baobab called in the language of the Bechuanas, Morwana; it consisted of 6 branches united into one trunk.” James Chapman, after whom the tree was named, was a South African explorer and hunter and left his name on one of the trees enormous roots when he passed by with the artist Thomas Baines in the 1860s. A hollow in the tree also served as an ancient letterbox. Unfortunately, this legendary baobab fell down in January 2006 but is still a very impressive sight in its collapsed state, and travellers should visit it sooner rather than later before the tree decays. For those who don’t want to camp, Uncharted Africa have a selection of lodges nearby that offer day trips to visit the Baobab and visitors can explore it by clambering about on the giant’s collapsed limbs. Located in the south of Nxai Pans National Park are the seven baobabs known as Baines Baobabs or the Sleeping sisters. This stunted cluster of Africa’s most iconic tree was immortalized by the paintings of Thomas Baines, a British landscape artist commissioned by the Royal Geographic Society. Baines camped beneath these trees in 1862 en route to the Victoria Falls. The pans at Baines Baobabs are dry and bare for much of the year, as are the branches of the baobabs themselves, but during wet season the pans are covered in sheets of water and green canopies emerge from tree’s branches. Baines Baobabs overlook Kaudia Camp Pan on the South side of the Nxai Pan South camp. There are three allocated camping areas with very basic toilet and shower facilities requiring visitors to bring their own water.
          • bushmen culture

            Walk with bushmen

            The San bushmen of the Kalahari have long been a subject of great intrigue and fascination, admired by anthropologists, scientists, story-tellers and everyday travellers alike … Sadly, very few bushmen are able to live the same ancient nomadic lifestyle that their ancestors did, but certain elements of these traditions have been kept alive through their employment at various safari lodges. While staying at these lodges, travellers can enjoy educational bush walks, where San elders pass on their skills and knowledge. As the oldest living inhabitants of Africa, the secret of the San’s survival was their total dependence on the natural provisions of the land. To the untrained eye, however, the barren shrubs and grasslands surrounding the Makgadikgadi pans eem anything other than a suitable pantry of resources to live on. This common assumption makes walking with the San a deeply fascinating experience, a time to delve deeply into some of mankind’s most cunning tricks of survival. The walk is a tactile exploration, involving the tasting of a variety of foods including berries and fire-roasted beetles and demonstrations in fire-making, dancing, hunting and medicine-making. There are a number of camps in the Makgadikgadi region that offer a bushmen walking activity including Meno a Kwena, Jack’s Camp and San Camp.
          • meerkats

            Walking with meerkats

            The Makgadikgadi Pans offers guests the incredible chance to spend a morning with a local meerkat colony … The meerkats respond to the non-threatening presence of people by simply carrying on with their daily activities, that consist mainly of rummaging the veld for scorpions and other tasty bites to eat. The habituation of these lively little desert mammals depends very much on the dedication of a full-time ‘Meerkat man’ who follows the family group daily and helps locate them for visitors. Guests are driven to the denning area in early morning hours, just before the meerkats have left their burrows. As the sun rises, they cautiously peep out of little holes in a humble sandy mound, and, deeming it safe to come out, scuttle to the highest points to scout for predators and food. Sometimes these lookouts happen to be the shoulders and heads of guests! Eventually the whole colony, babies included, are joyfully chirping and tussling away while guests sit or crouch amongst them. It’s a truly unique and intimate experience with one of the most sociable and resourceful desert-adapted creatures on earth.
          • flamingo

            Flight over the flamingos

            The sheets of water that cover the northeastern section of the Makgadikgadi during the first few months of wetter years attract a phenomenal marvel of water birds … The arrival of this water stimulates the birth of millions of tiny shrimps and other crustaceans otherwise lying dormant below the white salt crust. Greater and Lesser flamingos arrive, even journeying from as far off as the Great Rift Valley in East Africa to partake in one of Africa’s largest avian feasts. From a helicopter, the flamingos appear as enormous pink clouds in a shimmering silver sky. Helicopter flights over the flamingos are run by Helicopter Horizons and can be organized through San Camp, Jacks Camp and other accommodation options in the area. Another place to view the flamingos is from Nata Bird Sanctuary (north east of Sua Pan), 10km from the town of Nata. There is a basic campsite near the entrance to the park and the sanctuary is open to day visitors who can gaze at the flamingos from an elevated wooden hide during wet years. The sanctuary is run by a community trust and home to 165 bird species recorded in the area, including pelicans, spoonbills, ostriches and myriad ducks and small waders.
          • horseriding

            Horseriding

            Exploring the Makgadikgadi from the saddle of a well-trained horse can be a truly marvelous escapade. It is a completely different safari experience … evocative of the adventures of Africa’s early European settlers who often chose this way of moving through the great savannas of Africa. Cantering on the remote expanses of the salt pans and surrounding coppery grasslands is to feel a giddy, soaring sense of freedom. Being on a horse is an unobtrusive way to get up close to herds of zebra and other plains game while cheetahs and lions can be gazed at from a distance. During the wet season it isn’t possible to ride on the pans themselves (the water makes the ground soft and easy to sink into) but there are still opportunities to ride on the lush plains. Horse-riding expeditions are run by Ride Botswana on Uncharted Africa’s private concessions. Two hour long trips as well as multi-day riding safaris suitable for more experienced horse riders can be arranged.
          • quad biking adventures

            Quad biking

            A Kalahari quad-biking adventure should be on the bucket list of all daring adrenalin seekers. Revving through the isolated moon-like vistas … of the Makgadikgadi gives travellers the luxury of disconnecting with time and space. On a multi-day trip, riders can sprawl out beneath the stars in the evening, blissfully cocooned in comfy bedrolls. These extended trips can also include stopovers at Kubu Island (during winter season) and Chapman’s baobab. Many safari operators in the area offer quad biking, including more budget friendly places like the wonderfully quirky Planet Baobab. If sleeping under the stars excites you but quad biking doesn’t, Meno a Kwena offers beautiful sleep out excursions.
          • jacks camp museum interior

            Museum at Jack's Camp

            Jack Bousfield was a bushwhacking crocodile hunter who arrived in Botswana from his Tanzanian homeland in the 1960’s … He was completely overtaken by the romance of the Makgadikgadi region and set up a small camp. He died in 1992 in an airplane crash and Jack’s son Ralph and his then-partner built the glamorous Jacks Camp in his father’s memory. The main dining tent at Jacks is a treasure trove of curious and eclectic items, many of them discovered by Jack himself on his endless explorations of the area and job working for a game-capture operation. The whole tent is walled with glass cabinets preserving local stone tools, fossils of extinct flora and fauna, historical maps, plentiful skulls and animal remains, bushman beadwork and other eccentricities. The room is recognized as one of Botswana’s official museums.

          Holiday and safari styles

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          • Big Five safari in Botswana

            Leopard_big_five_safari
            The most elusive of the Big Five; the leopard will drag its prey high up into the trees to escape scavengers

            Here is a quick guide for the best chance of spotting the Big Five in Botswana:

            • Chobe National Park for the highest concentration of elephants.
            • Savuti region for lion spotting.
            • Northern Okavango to see the large Cape buffalo.
            • Moremi Game Reserve will offer excellent views of rhino.
            • Mashatu Game Reserve plays host to the elusive leopard.
            Discover the Big Five in Botswana
            lion at watering hole
          • Birding safari in Botswana

            jacana
            The Lesser jacana

            Even though Botswana doesn’t have endemic bird species, it is regarded as a premier birding destination because of its protection of a number of threatened and endangered species. Coupled with an excellent seasonal variation in birding, Botswana is a good choice for bird lovers. The call of the Woodland kingfisher is one of the most noteworthy calls in Botswana’s northern region and heralds the summer birding season. Wattled cranes, storks, herons and egrets are also indications that the flood season in the Okavango is not far off.

            Five birds to watch out for on the Delta

            wattled crane
            Wattled crane
            The Okavango Delta in particular is the greatest stronghold in Africa for Wattled cranes, as well as Slaty Egrets. Other notorious species include the Pel’s fishing owl, the African skimmer and the White-backed night heron.
            pel's fishing owl
            Pel’s fishing owl
            Botswana also has the most renowned Greater Flamingo and Lesser Flamingo breeding sites in southern Africa.

          • Honeymoon in Botswana

            There are some leading safari lodges on private islands in the Okavango Delta, which are remote and inaccessible with sophisticated spas, luxury suites, exclusive service and private airstrips, which cater for honeymooners and other romantic celebrators. These world-renowned locations come at a price, but if romance in the African wilderness is what is desired, they deliver.

            romantic honeymoon
            Take a romantic tour of the Makgadikgadi Pans on horseback

            For a more laid back approach to a romantic Botswana holiday, the Makgadikgadi salt pans have some of the most impressive scenery in the country. Timing a trip with the dry season will ensure that these vast and empty pans are at their best, and simply watching the sun set over the flat, white earth and admiring an impossible number of stars is mesmerising. Further north in the Okavango Delta, in the high water season, mokoro cruises are idyllic and undeniably romantic, and private dinner on an island at the end of the cruise seals the experience. Flights over the Delta in a small 4-seater plane also rank highly in terms of romance.

            sundowners
          • Malaria free holiday in Botswana

            There is no clear-cut answer to this question. Although Botswana’s malaria-risk is lower than some other African nations, there is still a certain risk associated with travel through the beautiful Botswana bush

            game drive in botswana

            It’s therefore advised that you practice precautions before you travel to Botswana. Anti-malaria medication is a must - and you should consult your doctor in this regard. Further precautions such as long-sleeved shirts and jeans in the evenings will reduce your chances of mosquito bites. Pack some mosquito repellent, cream or spray, for applying to your hands, face and neck. This will also help keep the mosquitoes at bay.

            game drive in botswana

            The colder dry winter months have less mosquito activity. May through to October is best. Additionally, areas with less people have less risk of transmission, even if there is water – Kalahari, Okavango and Moremi concessions and the Makgadikgadi Pans are low risk areas.

          • Walking safari in Botswana

            Walking safaris in Botswana are geared towards the adventurous travellers looking to augment their safari experience by immersing themselves in nature. If you consider yourself adventurous, and would like to appreciate some of Botswana’s most pristine places on foot, then consider a walking holiday in this beautiful Southern African nation.

            walking_safari_

            Botswana is mostly flat, which means the walking need not be very taxing, but an adventurous mind is key to making the most of the experience. Walking safaris means that there is a possibility to meet some of the larger wildlife, in their natural habitat, and see Botswana through a different lens. Walking is guided by an experienced guide and done in a slow, secure manner, to avoid potentially dangerous situations.

          • A photographic safari in Botswana

            juvenile fish eagle
            A juvenile fish eagle

            Photographic safaris are very popular in Botswana due to the wildlife density and the relaxed attitude animals have around vehicles and boats. The best way to get the most out photography on safari is to book the experience with a specialised photographic safari operator. These companies have game viewing vehicles kitted out with camera mounts, swivelling seats, and equipment that will enhance a photographer’s experience. Boat cruises on the Chobe River often bring guests right up close to elephant, hippo, and buffalo, in addition to highly sought after bird species, such as the African skimmer. A photographic safari operator will have a trained guide who knows how to manage a sighting for the best photographic results. Photography can take time and patience, so it is best to hire a private guide and to book with a group aiming for the same experience.

            find photographic hides in Botswana
          • Active adventure holiday in Botswana

            canoe safari in selinda
            Canoeing expedition in Selinda

            The most adventurous experience you can have in Botswana is to do it by road. There are good road networks to cater for self-drivers, car rental is available in well-equipped 4x4, and border crossings are mostly efficient. Campsites in Botswana are basic, and they are designed to keep the element of the wild present, so sleeping in a tent while lion, hyena, elephant, or hippo walks by at night is a likely possibility.

            Learn about the mokoro
            hippo on boating adventure

            The best adventurous self-drive itineraries include Moremi and Savuti, where wildlife is abundant and public campsites have ablution blocks with running water. There is no electricity for refrigeration or charging, and there are no cooking facilities, so it is essential to pack a gas cooker, or use the fireplace provided. It is important to bring firewood from outside the park as it is forbidden to gather wood inside the park. Pack light, breathable clothing, sunglasses and sunblock, binoculars and a camera, and always have a map of game drive routes. Fuel is not available in the parks, so make sure to refuel before entering or bring extra fuel in jerry cans.

            horseback safari makgadikgadi

          Where to go

          Travelling to Botswana

          • Makgadikgadi Pans in Botswana

            The Makgadikgadi is an extraordinary region of Botswana, characterized by inhospitable salt pans stretching as far as the eye can see, rocky granite islands and open grasslands that spring to life in the wet season. Plains surrounding the saltpans are dotted with ostrich, zebra, springbok and oryx, closely pursued by dark-maned lions. There are beautiful clusters of palm trees and odd stunted baobabs that have stood for millions of years.

            Read a short guide on the Makgadikgadi
            baobabs
            Botswana’s baobab trees are a beautiful reminder of nature standing the test of time

            The Makgadikgadi pans are all that is left of an enormous ancient lake that was once fed by the Okavango, Chobe and Zambezi Rivers, running south-eastwards via the Limpopo River and into the Indian Ocean. These watercourses changed over time, influenced by the tectonic shifting of the unpredictable Kalahari-Zimbabwe fault-line and also by a gradual rise of temperature, perhaps as a result of climate change.

            • Highlights of Makgadikgadi Pans

              In 1970, the Makgadikgadi Pans National Park was declared, which today comprises an area of 4,900 sq km. The Makgadikgadi’s two largest pans, Ntwetwe pan and Sua pan (sometimes called Sowa pan) do not fall within the park’s boundaries but are reachable by 4x4 in dry season. These are both spectacular places to explore for those who seek freedom in solitude. Nata Bird Sanctuary, on the north-east of Sua Pan is run by a community trust to protect the multitude of water-birds that flock there annually.

              the oryx
              The oryx strikes a formidable pose against the backdrop of the Kalahari Desert

              On the western border of Makgadikgadi Pans National Park is the Boteti (or Botletle) River, a prime drinking and bathing spot for domestic cattle as well as migrating zebra and elephant.

              Try this Makgadikgadi & Okavango Delta tour

              Nxai Pan National Park is another special area to explore where, in the peak of wet season, travellers spend a good deal of the night listening to the evocative roaring of lions that ambush both springbok and impala at waterholes during daylight hours.

              flamingoes
              Flamingoes in flight at Nata Bird Sanctuary
            Back to regions
          • Chobe and Savuti

            Botswana’s Chobe and Savuti regions constitute a rich diversity of habitats that fall mostly within the boundaries of Chobe National Park, Botswana’s oldest wildlife reserve. The park was proclaimed in 1968 and protects an area of 11,700km2 that at the time of its formation was largely being ravaged by big game hunters and commercial logging. Chobe National Park is located in the north-east of Botswana, falling within the convergence of two major biomes: Kalahari savanna meets broad-leaved and acacia woodland as well as Zambezi Teak forest. Running through these beautiful ecosystems is the illustrious Chobe River with its yawning floodplains and surrounding riparian forest.

            Explore the Chobe here
            chobe river
            Chobe River meanders through Botswana

            The Chobe River rises in Angola as the Kwando (Cuando) River and then disappears into the swamplands of the Linyanti, reemerging as the Chobe River. During winter months, the banks of the Chobe attract the largest population of elephants in the world at around 60 000 – 70 000 individuals. Add great herds of buffalo, notoriously fearless lion prides, and 468 bird species to date, and you’ve got a playground for nature-lovers that’s second to none. From November to December herbivores migrate between the Chobe River and the Savuti Marsh in pursuit of fresh grazing grounds.

            • Highlights of Chobe and Savuti

              The Savuti Marsh is an expanse of grasslands in the western region of Chobe National Park. In Botswana’s Bayei dialect, the world Savute means “unclear,” and this is thought to be a reference to the areas’ unpredictable water supply, the Savuti Channel. The channel has been a subject of great intrigue throughout history for its mysterious patterns of flow, that experts believe to be influenced by underground tectonic forces. The earliest mention of it can be found in European missionary explorer David Livingstone’s journal where, in 1851, he referred to Savuti (“Sontwa”) as a “dismal swamp”. The channel seems to have remained a drying wasteland for close on a century but began to flow again in 1957 when it drowned a large portion of the area’s acacia trees. These dead trees continue to stand today, creating an intriguing, almost ghost-like landscape. In 1982 the channel again dried up, a process that was documented by Dereck and Beverley Joubert in their film Stolen River, and later, Journey to the Forgotten River. The drought transformed a thriving wildlife area into a dramatic battleground for survival, where large lion prides become specialized elephant killers, and crocodiles sought refuge by hibernating in the Gubatsaa Hills. In 2008 the area got wetter and the channel flooded into the marsh into 2010, with the channel beginning to dry up again in 2016. The drying up process is a fascinating one to witness with storks, eagles, herons and numerous bird species flocking around small pools to feast on trapped fish. Even leopards have been caught grabbing catfish from the muddy shallows, showing off their remarkable ability to adapt to changing environmental conditions.

              Read some interesting facts about the Chobe

              Savuti has a public camping area as well as some small exclusive lodges that are mostly tented with wooden walkways. Although the channel itself is currently experiencing a dry spell, the Savuti plains are lush and green during wet season. Large herds of buffalo and zebra can be seen scattering the open plains while bateleur eagles and white-backed vultures circle the skies. There are small clustered islands of wild date and ilala palm trees that make shady hideaways for predators at midday. Three artificial waterholes, introduced to the Savuti area in 1995 attract a high number of elephants during dry season.

              lodge in savuti
              A lodge overlooking Savuti

              A perennially popular day or overnight excursion out of Cape Town runs inland to the Cape Winelands, where dozens of historic wine estates offer tasting sessions in characterful Cape Dutch buildings shadowed by spectacular mountain ranges such as the Simonsberg and Groot Drakenstein.

              Stretching for 200 km between Mossel Bay and the dramatic Storms River mouth, the Garden Route is lined with family-friendly Indian Ocean beaches, but its plethora of lakes, forests and mountains - many protected in the patchwork Garden Route National Park - offer rich pickings to hikers, birdwatchers and other outdoor enthusiasts.

              The Linyanti swamps lie on the northwest corner of Chobe National Park, bordering on the Zambezi region of Namibia. Linyanti is known is one of the most attractive and remote areas in Chobe National Park with its cathedral mopane forests and restful atmosphere beside the meandering Linyanti River. The area has several private concessions with a portion open to self-drivers and campers. The public section is slightly more limited in terms of road networks, yet the tracks running along the river are exceptionally beautiful for game drives. Linyanti is well known for its thriving wild dog populations.

            Back to regions
          • Okavango Delta

            Botswana’s world-famous Okavango Delta, also known as the “Jewel of the Kalahari”, could easily be the most pristine oasis in the world. The Okavango River finds its origins in the highlands of Angola, in a catchment area of about 112,000 km2. From here it begins a winding journey of 1,900 km before fanning out into an intricate system of waterways covering 22,000 km of Kalahari sand; a phenomenon that can be observed by astronauts in space. Although the river would have once reached the ocean, today it is swallowed up by a thirsty basin of white Kalahari sand, creating an effect that resembles an outstretched emerald hand, or more correctly referred to by scientists as an “alluvial fan”. Unlike other rivers, the waters of the Okavango are exceptionally clear of mud, and by the time they reach the furthermost lagoons and marshes, have been filtered through sand and reeds for many months. The Okavango reaches its peak water levels in winter, attracting an extravagant concentration of wild creatures that center their biological patterns of existence on this annual flooding. The Okavango is home to about 160 mammals (including the recently reintroduced black rhino and globally threatened African wild dog), 155 reptiles, 30 amphibians, 80 fish species, 1500 species of plants and 500 species of birds, including 22 that are globally threatened. Scientists are still discovering new species each year and expeditions such as National Geographic’s Okavango Wilderness Project led by Dr Steve Boyes are vital to our continued understanding of the Okavango’s dynamic ecosystems. The initiative was also instrumental in getting the Okavango Delta finally recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2014.

            Take a tour of the Delta
            moremi game reserve
            Moremi Game Reserve is home to amazing wildlife

            Moremi Game Reserve was proclaimed in 1963, and incorporates a large proportion of the Okavango Delta. The idea to create a reserve in the Okavango region came from Robert Kay (a crocodile-hunter turned conservationist) and his wife June (a writer). Yet it was the local BaTawana people (with help from the San/BaSarwa) who spearheaded the project, most notably Mohumagadi Pulane Moremi, the wife of deceased Chief Moremi II and the BaTawana’s Queen Regent. The reserve was named after the BaTawana Royal title, “Moremi”.

            Moremi Game Reserve is 5,000km2 and made up of floodplains, woodlands, thick forests, savanna grasslands and myriad waterways surrounding thousands of islands. The smaller islands were formed through a process of termite bioengineering while larger ones, like the famous Chief’s Island, are an effect of wrinkled fault lines deep below the Kalahari.

            gunns camp
            The Gunn’s Camp overlooks the legendary Chief’s Island
            • Highlights of the Okavango
              moremi
              Wildlife in Moremi

              Nighttime in the Okavango Delta is characterized by deeply evocative sounds: the bell-like “pings” of painted reed frogs, the hum of cicada beetles, the explosive grunts of hippos, and the deep roars of lions making you grateful to be tucked up safely in bed!

              The most popular time to visit the Delta is in winter when large herds of animals congregate around flooded marshes and rivers. In Moremi Game Reserve you are driving on the mainland (primarily through mopane and acacia woodland with patches of open savanna), so your experience of the Okavango is limited to seasonally inundated plains of water and the outskirts of papyrus-fringed lagoons. These are fantastic game viewing areas and there are several great camping sites and lodges within the park (and also on nearby community concessions like Khwai) from which to explore.

              okavango delta
              The Okavango Delta is a magical place

              When the floodwaters recede and the first rains arrive in November/ December, wildlife disperses, especially breeding herds of elephant that move into the mopane forests where natural water holes fill up with rain. Summertime brings its own unique allure, turning the russet veld a vibrant green to be gorged upon by grazers like zebra, wildebeest and impala antelopes. This is the height of baby season and the plains abound with newborn plains game, tottering alongside their parents on unsteady legs. This makes for beautiful photo opportunities, and plenty of easy prey for wild dog packs and leopards. It may be more challenging to spot predators in the newly sprouted grass, but the spectacular display of migrant bird species is enough to inspire any nature lover, filling the air with brilliant trills and hues.

              To experience the Okavango’s innermost secrets, however, a traveller needs to visit one of the remote island camps tucked away in the water-rich inner regions of the Delta, only accessed by light aircraft.

            • Back to regions
          • Almost all visitors from abroad fly to South Africa. The main hub for international flights is OR Tambo International Airport on the outskirts of Johannesburg, but some carriers also operate international flights to Cape Town and/or Durban.

            The national carrier SAA, operates an extensive network of flights between Johannesburg and a large number of major cities in North and South America, Europe, Asia, Australia and elsewhere in Africa.

            rhino
            Black rhino and calf in the Hluhluwe Game Reserve

            Most major international carriers operate direct flights between their home country and South Africa, among them Air China, Air France, Alitalia, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Delta, EgyptAir, EL AL, Emirates, Ethiopian Airlines, Etihad, Iberia, Kenya Airways, KLM, Lufthansa, Qantas, Qatar, RwandAir, Singapore Airlines, Swiss, Turkish Airlines and Virgin Atlantic,. Particularly coming from a major European city such as London or Paris, there might be dozens of indirect options and you can save a lot of money by shopping around.

            namaqua daisies
            Each year the landscape of Namaqualand bursts into bloom as a carpet of wildflowers cover the earth | Credit: Northern Cape Tourism

            It is also possible to enter South Africa overland from the neighbouring countries of Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia, but you’d only be likely to do so as part of an extended overland trip through Africa.

            There are overland borders with the Kingdoms of Lesotho and Swaziland, the former surrounded entirely and the latter on three sides by South Africa. It’s highly unlikely anybody would enter South Africa directly via either of these small countries, but some itineraries pass through them (Swaziland in particular) in which case any visitor who requires a visa should apply for multiple-entry.

          When to go

          When to visit Botswana?

          • January
            South african beach
            Except a lot of rain during January
            • This is one of Botswana’s highest rainfall months with an average of 100mm falling in often unpredictable and heavy downpours, and as a result January is not the most popular time to visit. It does mean that prices are a lot lower, making this prime safari destination more accessible to travellers on a lower budget. Birding is excellent at this time of year; however the water levels in the Delta are low, and the presence of water means wildlife is scattered.
            • 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.
            • This is especially true in Moremi Game Reserve and around the Okavango Delta. 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.
          • February
            turtle
            The Central Kalahari Game Reserve is best visited in February
            • Perhaps Botswana’s rainiest month with long showers, and hot and humid weather, temperatures ranging from mid-20s to 30s(C).
            • The heavy rain makes some parts of the parks (i.e. Moremi) either inaccessible or very tricky to navigate by road, but in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, the landscape is a green, grassy paradise with lots of newborn antelope and a great variety of birds.
            • By February the summer rains are beginning to lessen, but otherwise conditions stay much the same as January. Average daytime temperatures remain in the low 30°C’s, while the coldest nights in the Kalahari may occasionally drop below 15°C. Towering thunderclouds still form an impressive backdrop to afternoon photographs, and the atmosphere stays clear and fresh after each bout of rain.
            • February is still prime time for the Central Kalahari, Savuti, and the Makgadikgadi and Nxai Pans, which attract large numbers of zebra, springbok and oryx. Predators, especially lion, are never far away. Elephants can be harder to spot in summer as they tend to disperse due to the abundant vegetation and increased surface water. Birding, however, is at its best with numerous migrant species and large flocks descending on the pans.
            • Road conditions are at their muddiest in February so make sure you’re carrying recovery equipment and drive in convoy if possible. Driving on or near the pans is particularly treacherous and doing so will almost certainly get you stuck. In Moremi, and around the delta, certain tracks may be closed due to flooding and others will have deep pools that you’ll need to treat with caution. Always ask other travellers about the conditions ahead, and look out for no-entry signs or the equivalent – logs or branches laid deliberately across the road.
          • March
            lilac breasted roller
            Lilac breasted roller
            • The steady drop in temperature and rainfall continues throughout March, but hot days across the country can still reach the mid 30°C’s. In the south and centre of Botswana, cold nights can drop to 10°C, but tend to stay between 15°C and 20°C in the north. There are still afternoon thunderstorms every few days, which keep the atmosphere clear. March remains an excellent month for spectacular landscape photography.
            • March and April are considered some of the best months to visit the Kgalagadi. The Kgalagadi is worth visiting at any time of year, but as the summer rains withdraw, the landscape is at its most striking – a vast green grassland against low, red-ochre dunes. As the animals begin to congregate around any pans that are still full, predators, especially lions, gather too, with exciting interactions virtually guaranteed.
            • Further north, the Central Kalahari is also green and full of life, though road conditions around the pans remain extremely muddy. To the northeast, Nxai Pan is no exception, although it’s especially wonderful at this time of year as migrating grazers make the most of the lush grassland and abundant surface water.
            • In the Okavango Delta, the marula trees start dropping fruit, attracting hungry elephants, often right into camp. There are few things more marvellous than sipping on your drink, watching the sunset, as a magnificent elephant munches happily at a marula tree nearby.
            • By the end of the month, the roads in Moremi have usually begun to dry, making driving a bit easier. The water in the delta is now approaching its lowest level and makoro trips may not be possible, but boats out to the deeper channels are usually available year-round.
          • April
            elephant in botswana
            The plentiful food brought by the rains begins to diminish during the high season
            • The April/May shoulder season is an excellent time to visit Botswana. By April, rainfall has almost completely ceased across the country, although there may still be a few scattered showers. Everywhere is still green and most pans still hold some water, but what is available is getting scarcer, forcing both predators and prey to stay near. Average daytime temperatures are now about 30°C and nights hover around 15°C – pleasant enough for long evenings around the campfire, while also allowing for a more comfortable sleep.
            • By mid-April, water levels in the Okavango Delta panhandle are beginning to rise, although it takes a few months for them to filter down to Moremi. The delta itself feels fresh and alive, with fruit-laden trees and tall, green grass as far as the eye can see. April is the start of the antelope breeding season and the well-fed male impala begin fighting it out for females. If you’re keen on fishing, then the deeper waters of the panhandle offer bream (tilapia) from April to August, but tigerfish are more likely from late August/September.
            • The Kgalagadi and Central Kalahari are at their best in April – a combination of cooler weather, prolific game, and lush, leafy landscapes. Game is also still plentiful at Nxai Pan and with the rains now almost gone, the muddy tracks are drying quickly. By the end of the month road conditions are much improved across the country. It’s still best to avoid crossing the Makgadikgadi Pans, however. The transit route from Lekhubu to Gweta may not be dry for at least another month.
          • May
            walking safaris
            May is a wonderful time of the year to enjoy bush walks
            • May is the beginning of Botswana’s dry winter season and there’s usually no rain at all anywhere in the country. Average daytime temperatures range from 25°C to 30°C, and it’s generally slightly warmer in the north and cooler in the south. Evenings in the north are now regularly below 15°C and by the end of the month, nights in the Kalahari can fall close to freezing. May is one of the best all-round months for visiting Botswana, with good to excellent game viewing, mild, dry weather and relatively quiet campsites and parks that get much busier later in the season.
            • There’s good game viewing all across Botswana, but especially in the Savuti region where herds of zebra and buffalo congregate in large numbers. As surface water evaporates, elephants return to the Linyanti Chobe River System, and to the Khwai River and northern Moremi. In the northwest panhandle, the seasonal flood waters are beginning to filter into the rest of the delta although it’ll take another few months before they percolate all the way to the southeast. The gently rising water attracts numerous resident water birds, while migrant species take to the skies in numbers and begin the long journey north.
          • June
            game viewing
            Great game-viewing on safari during June
            • June is another excellent month to visit Botswana, although the parks get busier from around the 20th as schools in neighbouring South Africa break for winter holidays. These usually run from the last week of June to mid-July and campsites across Botswana book up quickly. Late June marks the start of the high season in Botswana and July to October is the busiest time. Make sure you book your campsites well in advance.
            • June and July are Botswana’s coldest months and night-time temperatures in the Kalahari can drop below freezing. In the north, it rarely freezes, but lows of 5°C are common and morning game drives can be very cold. Daytime temperatures are roughly the same across the country, averaging between 20°C and 25°C. As ever, the north is warmer and hot days may still reach 30°C.
            • By June the pans have usually dried, forcing the animals to find more permanent water sources. They begin to congregate in large numbers along the fridges of the Okavango Delta and on the northern waterways of the Savuti Channel and Chobe Linyanti River System. June is a great time to see African wild dogs, as they begin to search for dens for their pups.
            • In the Kgalagadi and Central Kalahari, lion and other predators are never far from the permanent waterholes, and large herds of springbok and oryx – which can survive with limited water – can still be seen on the drying, golden plains.
          • July
            okavango delta swells
            The water levels of the Okavango Delta have reached a yearly high
            • July is the start of Botswana’s busy season and camps and lodges can book out far in advance. Botswana’s parks and reserves don’t have that many public camping areas and most are small and spread far apart. This makes finding space tricky during peak times, but also means that even when the campsites are at their fullest, Botswana’s parks never feel overly crowded.
            • July is Botswana’s coldest month and night-time temperatures can drop below freezing in the centre and south. In the north expect lows of between 0°C and 5°C, and early morning game drives can be icy with the added wind chill. Daytimes average between 20°C and 25°C across the country, with hot days in the far north occasionally touching 30°C. It’s also the driest month in Botswana with practically no rain at all anywhere in the country.
            • July is an excellent time to visit the Okavango Delta, Moremi and Chobe, when the wildlife congregates in greater and greater numbers along the permanent water channels. In Moremi, the flood waters are now at their highest and there’s plenty to eat along the myriad waterways. Their bright green fringes lie in stark contrast to the parched surrounding plains, where the thinning vegetation allows for superb game viewing.
            • Wildlife sightings in the Kgalagadi and Central Kalahari are still good, although not at their best. The permanent waterholes become the focal points for the larger predators, while the shorter grass makes it easier to spot smaller animals such as the honey badger and Cape fox. By late July the pans are thoroughly dry and crossing from Lekhubu to Gweta should pose no problems.
          • August
            male lions
            Tiger fishing on the Chobe
            • August remains extremely dry across Botswana, although by the end of the month there may be a brief shower somewhere in the south. Temperatures, however, are already beginning to rise and while nights in the Kalahari can still fall below freezing, sub-zero mornings are the exception not the norm. Daytime temperatures also climb rapidly during August and hot days across the country will regularly top 30°C. August is very a popular safari month in Botswana and campsites and lodges should be booked far in advance.
            • In the Okavango Delta, water levels are high, by now having reached as far south as Maun. Game viewing along the waterways is at its best and will remain so until the first rains fall in November. Late August marks the start of the barbell (catfish) run in the northwest panhandle. From now to November is also the best time to catch tigerfish and the panhandle’s lodges and houseboats are at their busiest.
            • Away from the delta, water is extremely scarce and the animals gravitate to the few man-made waterholes. The Kgalagadi’s Kaa Gate and Nxai Pan’s South Camp both offer oases in a dry and desolate land. Kaa Gate is known for its black-maned Kalahari lions, and no stay at South Camp is complete without a thirsty elephant trundling through the campground.
          • September
            hippos in the Chobe
            September sees Northern Botswana still rather dry, but the life-giving waters of the Chobe offer a great despite from the heat
            • Northern Botswana stays completely dry during September, but the centre and south may receive a few scattered showers. Temperatures climb rapidly throughout the month and no longer drop below 0°C, even in the Kalahari. Average lows are between 10°C and 15°C, a bit cooler in the south and warmer in the north. By the end of September, the days are hot everywhere, averaging over 30°C and approaching 40°C in Maun and Kasane. September is another busy month in Botswana, and the popular northern camps should be booked well in advance.
            • September and October are particularly impressive along the Chobe and Linyanti Rivers. Thousands of animals rely on these waters for survival, especially elephants, which can drink up to 200 litres of water a day. After a long, hot day foraging for food, hundreds of elephants gather along the river, often running the last few metres, trumpeting wildly in their excitement and thirst.
            • Moremi is also excellent in September, although by now the days are getting very hot. The dry, thin vegetation makes for excellent wildlife viewing and the cooler mornings and evenings are best for predator spotting as they come to the channels to drink. By September, the Okavango’s barbell (catfish) run is in full swing and it’s also prime time for tigerfish in the northwest panhandle.
            • In September, the Kalahari and pans are almost at their driest, but the full October heat has yet to arrive. Wildlife viewing across the central and southern parks can be hit and miss, but the endless golden grasslands have a beauty all their own. And lurking in the grass are the Kalahari’s black-maned lions, stalking the large herds of springbok, oryx and red hartebeest that still roam the plains. While many visitors focus on the north, the south and central parks still have a lot to offer and can be much quieter and easier to book at this time of year.
          • October
            baobab
            The distinct blue sky of Botswana is immortalised in the country's flag
            • October is Botswana’s hottest month and temperatures can exceed 40°C in the north of the country. The south is a bit cooler, but not by much. Nights in the south average between 15°C and 20°C, and in the far north are often much warmer. In the south and centre the rains usually come earlier, with the first afternoon thunderstorms bringing some relief. In the north, it rarely rains until the end of the month and the rainy season doesn’t start properly until mid-November. Despite the heat, October is a popular safari month, especially along the Chobe River which is famous for its herds of thirsty elephant.
            • In Moremi, the delta waters begin to drop, opening up the flood plains and providing much needed vegetation for the grazers. The drying pools also trap fish, which draw vultures and other scavengers in for a feast. Away from the delta, the vegetation is denuded and sparse – not at its most beautiful, but great for spotting predators. To the northwest, the panhandle’s barbell (catfish) run is still going strong and September and October are the best months to catch tigerfish.
            • By October, Botswana’s seen no rain for six months and the cloudless skies turn a pale, dusty blue – exactly the colour of Botswana’s flag! Be prepared for heat and dust and bumpy roads, but also for excellent wildlife sightings and long, warm evenings under the stars. It can be a particularly beautiful time to be on the pans, especially Baines’ Baobabs and Lekhubu Island. There may be no animals around at all and the midday heat can be intense, but the incredible dusty sunsets are worth it, as the light fades to pastel pinks and purples over the baobabs.
          • November
            african thunderstorm
            November sees some respite from the relentless heat during the high season
            • November is the spring shoulder season in Botswana, a time of soaring thunderclouds, returning migrant birds and, once the rains arrive, fields of new-born calves. It’s still very hot, with daily highs of 35°C to 40°C across the country, and it can get even hotter in the north where nights are humid and often well over 20°C. The start of the rainy season is always hard to predict, but good years can see early November rainfall in the south and central Kalahari, while Moremi and Chobe usually have to wait until later in the month.
            • November is all about when the rains will begin and when they do arrive it’s with a literal bang. Before the first thunderstorms, conditions are much the same as October, with increasingly desperate animals drawn to whatever permanent water sources they can find. Waters in the delta continue to recede, opening up the flood plains and providing essential, fresh grazing. The Chobe and Linyanti river banks are by now crowded with game and large numbers of elephant congregate on the waterways.
            • Once the rains do come the relief is palpable. The dust clears from the skies, the pans begin to fill, and the antelope birthing season begins. If there have been early rains, this is an excellent time to visit the Central Kalahari, where enormous herds of oryx and springbok attempt to protect their new-borns from prowling cheetah and lion. Road conditions are still reasonable at this early stage of the wet season and you can still drive confidently without worrying too much about getting stuck.
          • December
            vervet monkey and infant
            Botswana in December sees much life explode across the country
            • December and January are Botswana’s wettest months, with afternoon thunderstorms a regular feature across the country. The rains are cooling, but daytime temperatures remain high, averaging in the low 30°C’s, but with hot days of up to 40°C or more. Nights tend to be humid and warm, often not dropping below 20°C. The clear atmosphere and thunderclouds make for excellent photographs, and you can expect a spectacular thunderstorm every few days.
            • December is the start of the summer ‘green season’ when the vegetation recovers and grazing land is plentiful. New-born calves frolic on the Kalahari plains and are often targeted by the ever-present predators. As the pans slowly fill, more and more animals are drawn to the central parks and both the Central Kalahari and Nxai Pans National Parks have abundant wildlife at this time of year. The Savuti region is also packed with game, although by now the elephants along the Chobe River are beginning to disperse as more water and vegetation becomes available inland.
            • As the rains intensify the roads around the pans deteriorate. Thick mud can make some tracks impassable and it’s a good idea to travel in convoy. The roads through and around Moremi also get worse as the rains continue. Large holes in the roads fill with water and the going can be very slow as you navigate around the deep pools and fallen tree trunks.

          Why Botswana?

          Botswana’s primary attraction is its vast wilderness. From the endless palm-covered islands of the Okavango Delta, to the moonscape saltpans of the Makgadikgadi region, it’s the perfect destination for anyone seeking pristine, unfenced surroundings.

          The Okavango Delta is a marvel of epic natural proportions

          Botswana’s commitment to safeguarding its wildlife heritage is unparalleled in Africa. The country covers a total area of 581,730 sq km, and approximately 40% of this land falls within a wildlife-protected area. These areas are a sanctuary for the world’s largest concentration of elephant, and a stronghold for other endangered large mammals such as the black rhinoceros, African wild dog, cheetah and lion. For avian enthusiasts, there exists no better place in the world to view the Slaty Egret and Wattled Crane, and seeing the illusive Pels Fishing Owl for the first time has been known to bring bird-watchers to tears!

          In 2014, Botswana consolidated its position as a conservation leader by banning commercial hunting, paving the way for former hunting areas to be transformed into photographic safari destinations. The government’s decision to opt for a high-quality, low-impact tourism model means that safari-goers can generally avoid congested game drives, especially when staying in one of the many privately operated concessions, which commonly have their visitor density limited to around one guest per 50 sq km. These concessions, licensed out to top safari companies, boast some of the most luxurious yet eco-conscious lodges and camps in Africa. In order to lease the land, lodge owners must show commitment to uplifting local communities by providing jobs for people in close proximity to concession boundaries. Today wildlife and tourism employs around 45% of adults in Botswana, making it the country’s’ second largest income earner after diamonds.

          Travellers can feel secure in the knowledge that Botswana is one of Africa’s most stable and peaceful nations, with the continent’s longest continuous multi-party democracy and a steady economy.

          Reserves vs national parks in Botswana

          Botswana is a safari destination that boasts outstanding wildlife density and variety, and it is wild and organic without fences and developed tourist facilities. In this sense, it attracts adventurous travellers who are passionate about nature and wildlife experiences and who are not nervous in the presence of wild animals. Keen photographers would benefit greatly from a Botswana holiday at different times of the year, as varying locations offer unique and interesting natural scenery, not to mention superb wildlife activity to capture.

          See the world differently on this photographic safari

          The terrain in Botswana is rough with plenty of dust, thick sand, and seasonal flooding, so exploring the country by road – which includes long morning game drives in areas like Savuti – means packing an adventurous spirit and tolerance for the natural elements. On the other hand, Botswana has some impeccable luxury options, with exclusive airstrips, seamless service, world-class food, and supreme comfort, which bring extreme comfort to visitors willing to pay. Botswana is easily sewn into an itinerary including Victoria Falls and the Kruger National Park, Zimbabwe’s Hwange and Mana Pools, Zambia’s South Luangwa, and Namibia’s Caprivi Strip; so travellers planning a southern Africa trip should consider including Botswana.

          Luxury accommodation is never far away in Botswana

          Luxury accommodation is never far away in Botswana

          Type of traveller

          What type of traveller are you?

          • Romantic holiday in Botswana

            All regions of Botswana are ideal for couples travel, particularly the regions that are accessed by road. Travelling as a couple might get expensive when destinations require flights - i.e. some islands in the Okavango Delta during high water season. Self-drive spots, such as Chobe, Moremi, and the Kalahari are ideal for couples, as they offer both camping and lodging as accommodation options.

            Try this Okavango to Mozambique honeymoon experience
            couple travel in botswana
            • Highlights

              The great thing about travelling as a couple, is there are very few limitations. Most lodges are designed to sleep two people in a room, so accommodation is geared towards couples sharing a bedroom and bathroom facilities, while verandahs and lounges are made up with two chairs, two bath robes, two sets of towels, etc. It is easy to enjoy a romantic safari in Botswana given the rooming environment. Some of the best couples activities include mokoro cruises (two to a mokoro), horse riding, private bush dinners, and couples’ spa treatments.

              romantic mekoro trip
              Practical advice

              Travelling as a couple through Botswana can be a bonding and challenging experience for those who choose to self-drive. There is room for a pilot and co-pilot, a navigator and a music maestro, a relief driver for long distances, and two people to set up camp, cook, and clean. Travelling as a couple can be romantic, but it can also be remote, so it is important to ensure that each person is informed about the destination with regards to navigation, emergency details, knowledge of the animals and possible risks, so that if one person falls ill, the other can take control.

          • Solo travelling through South Africa

            Botswana can be an invigorating, eye-opening, relaxing, and a somewhat spiritual experience for solo travellers; although most activities are conducted in a group, so one is never really alone. The Okavango Delta has a number of very small camps, which would create the peaceful and intimate experience a solo traveller might prefer, particularly if it is water-based and offers the serene activity of a mokoro excursion. Alternatively, solo travellers looking to join a group would benefit greatly from an overland safari tour, which covers most of Botswana’s prime destinations.

            Eight reasons why you should choose Botswana
            solo travel in botswana
            • Highlights

              Travelling solo allows the opportunity to meet new people and create lasting relationships with like-minded individuals; particularly on longer lasting tours or itineraries, such as an overland trip, when a group stays together throughout. It is incredibly rewarding to explore a destination as untamed as Botswana on a journey of discovery, contemplation, peace-seeking, or renewal if the purpose of one’s solo trip is indeed to enjoy it alone.

            • Practical advice

              Guests travelling alone but not necessarily looking to be alone will be right at home in the Okavango Delta, Moremi, or Chobe National Park where safari lodges offer anywhere between three and 15 bedrooms and cater for guests travelling as a single or a group. Meal times and activities are shared and take place at set times, so the experience is enjoyed as a group and individuals are not likely to get a unique experience at a lodge.

          • Family holiday in Botswana

            family travel in botswana

            Botswana is a fascinating and stimulating country to explore for a family of wildlife and nature enthusiasts, but it is important to note which areas and which lodges offer the most in terms of family value. Activities designed for younger children are important, because game drives, walks, and mokoro cruises do have age restrictions. The best regions for a family safari, particularly when younger children are involved, include the Kalahari and Makgadikgadi, and Chobe River.

            Four camps and lodges perfect for families
            • Highlights

              In the Kalahari and Makgadikgadi Pans, children will benefit from the demonstrative Bushman walks, which focus on animal tracking, spoor, insects, fire-making, and traditional uses of plants, and making arrows out of stones. Chobe River is ideal for families because boat cruises are a safe and comfortable way to get up close to animals like elephants, hippos, and crocodiles. For a family with older children, game drives in Moremi and Chobe can be incredibly exciting due to the plentiful animal encounters that are sure to be unforgettable.

              walking safari for kids in botswana
            • Practical advice

              It is best to travel Botswana as a family when the children are a bit older, so that they can get the most out of the experience. Children have to be older than 8 to go on a game drive, while walking safaris require children to be at least 12 years old. Wildlife is abundant in Botswana, but terrain can be challenging and sometimes one might endure a long, bumpy ride to get the results, which children might not tolerate well. For families travelling from abroad, it is advisable to seek out lodges that cater specifically for children in family-sized tents with special child-minding services, or kid-friendly bush walks and activities.

          Budgeting for Botswana

          What type of traveller are you?

          • A budget Botswana holiday

            Budget holiday options for Botswana include self-driving or overland safari tours. These are two exciting and adventurous ways to travel through the country and give visitors the chance be exposed to the country on a more intimate level, in comparison to fly-in safaris, which are also far more expensive. Travelling by road saves on cost, but not on time, so budget-minded travellers will have to account for this factor.

            Affordable Makgadikgadi and Okavango safari
            sundowners

            Self-drive safaris involve a fair amount of preparation with regards to route planning, taking into consideration the time of year it is and whether rainfall might have affected accessibility of some areas. There are not many self-catering options within the national parks and the Delta, and if one is planning to stay at a lodge in an area such as Savuti or Moremi, a reservation would come at a fully inclusive price. Camping keeps costs down, and is ideal for travelling on a budget through Botswana. The public campsites are located within the national parks and are unfenced, quiet, equipped with the basics, and they come in at a good price. Costs for a self-drive holiday would include fuel, park and vehicle fees, food and beverages, and any activities that might be of interest; for example, a boat cruise of Chobe River.

            Choose the green season for budget
            budget couple holiday

            Overland safari tours are perhaps the most affordable way to get as much out of Botswana as possible, without having to shoulder any of the pressure of handling the route, the vehicle, the fees and payments, activities, food shopping or meal planning. These pre-planned holidays have a tried and trusted route in place and are led by a professional guide who knows the country well. An overland tour would include visiting all of Botswana’s prime destinations over about a 2-week period, and the price one pays for the tour includes all transport within the country, three meals a day unless otherwise specified, park fees, accommodation at campsites and lodges (depending on itinerary), and all standard activities. The overland trucks are equipped with tents and stretchers, fold-up camping chairs, a fully equipped kitchen with gas stoves, providing everything one needs to be accommodated for in Botswana. Prices for these overland tours vary depending on itinerary, but a fully inclusive 16-day holiday could come in at around US$4000-5000 per person.

            Try our African Safari Cost Calculator
          • An affordable Botswana safari

            Advice for achieving a value-for-money holiday in Botswana would be to plan ahead and book accommodation in the best wildlife areas at the best time of year, so that one can get the most out of the safari experience and money spent. It pays to do some research about the lodges in the country to compare prices and find out what the affordable options are in hotspot areas like the Delta, Chobe River, Savuti, and Moremi Game Reserve, so that one can be accommodated in top locations without paying a prime rate. Classic safari camps without “all the frills” are often the best choices for feeling a true connection with the natural surroundings, indulging the senses, and creating a multi dimensional experience, so if one can forgo luxuries such as air conditioning, electricity, and king-size beds with percale cotton, the reward in terms of value will be far greater. It is vital to book accommodation a year in advance to ensure this availability of lodges during the best season for game viewing.

            Four off-the-grid places to visit
            elephant

            On the other hand, peak season for some might not be others’ idea of fun, as the popular time to travel will result in a high density of tourists, vehicle traffic, and high prices, which could detract from the experience if one is out to seek solitude and exclusivity. For some, the “off season” is the best time to go, as the prices of safari lodges are reduced by about a third, the parks are much quieter, and there is more freedom to roam. During summer, Central Kalahari Game Reserve is awash with greenery and plenty of grass and water, and baby animals are born, which piques he predators’ interest. Birds are abundant and the bush is invigorated and nourished. The rainy season in Botswana can offer enormous value for money for those travellers who have been on safari before and who are back for something more, something different, and who know what to expect in terms of terrain and climate.

            Try our African Safari Cost Calculator
          • A luxury Botswana safari

            duma tau camp
            Duma Tau camp

            There is no shortage of luxury lodge options in Botswana, as some of the world’s leading travel companies and safari operators have created their masterpieces here. With vast protected areas and landscapes that have been declared by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites, the environment is pristine, and as far as nature is concerned, luxury abounds throughout the country. To show off this one-of-a-kind countryside to the custodians of the world, unlimited opulence has been achieved in a number of globally celebrated private tented camps and safari villas, which offer no holds barred treatment for their guests.

            What defines luxury in Botswana?
            delta island camp
            Delta Island Camp

            Airstrips service some of the most remote destinations of Botswana, bridging the far distances between the popular safari spots and cutting travel time down by hours, while offering scenic aerial views of the country and world-renowned piloting. Flying between Chobe River, Savuti, Moremi Game Reserve, the Kalahari, and the Okavango Delta luxuriously eliminates the time spent driving along dusty roads in challenging conditions, whisking travellers off to each destination in no time at all.

            The most luxurious holidays in Botswana can be found in the private concessions of the Okavango Delta, where safari activities are exclusive and personalised, while the accommodation and lodge services are elite. These luxury camps are spaciously built, incorporating the natural arena with style and elegance. Only a handful of guests are hosted at a time, keeping the experience intimate. Activities are flexible, and there is no vehicle traffic in sightings making the experience entirely unique.

            Botswana and Victoria Falls luxury safari
            sanctuary chief\'s camp

            Activities that may tempt the luxury seekers and those with a higher budget include a rhino tracking experience, which takes guests on an exclusive walking safari among the reintroduced rhino population in Botswana; a hot-air balloon cruise above the intricate waterways of the Okavango Delta, seeing hippo and herds of lechwe from above while champagne twinkles away in a sunset-lit flute; and a desert sleep-out on the inimitable Makgadikgadi salt pans, which will be nothing less than breathtaking.

            Try our African Safari Cost Calculator

          The Basics

          • Travelling to Botswana

            The easiest and fastest way to travel to Botswana is a connecting flight from Johannesburg International Airport (O.R Tambo) in South Africa, although there are also connecting flights from Cape Town and Windhoek (Namibia) available. Currently there are no international carriers that fly directly to Maun Airport. Transport in Botswana is relatively efficient. Getting to your lodge or destination is as easy as jumping on an air shuttle service or a safari vehicle, this is where the choice is really up to you based on your requirements, time and budget. Fly or be driven, with each one of these options comes a cost, private air charters being the most expensive while the most viable option would be a guided road transfer. It is also worth noting that some of the more remote camps and lodges are only accessible via aircraft or boat. The best way to get to Botswana is to fly to Maun or Kasane. These two towns have international airports and are located in northern Botswana, close to popular national parks and main roads, and these airports facilitate the arrivals and departures of domestic flights to airstrips in the Okavango Delta, Moremi Game Reserve, and Central Kalahari. Self-driving travellers can easily access Botswana through the border posts from neighbouring countries, so it can be incorporated into a road trip holiday, but time allowances must be made for the length of time spent on the road.

            Where to eat in Maun
            maun international
            A charter flight from Maun International Airport

            Maun International Airport is the main hub for all flights entering Botswana as a safari destination; the airport is located within the town itself.

            Sir Seretse Khama International Airport is located just 10 kilometres north of Gaborone, offering daily one hour flights from Johannesburg and three weekly two hour flights from Harare.

            12 Botswana questions answered

            Kasane International Airport is located around four kilometres south of the town of Kasane and lies just a few kilometres away from the Chobe National Park.

            kasane
            Kasane International Airport
          • Getting around in Botswana

            Paved highways connect Botswana’s major towns and while most are in good condition, some sections are badly potholed. You’ll need to keep an eye out for these, as well as for both wild and domesticated animals. Stray cattle and donkeys are common near villages and the donkeys can be particularly dangerous. They have a tendency to stand in the middle of the road, refusing to move and forcing cars to stop and drive around them.

            Botswana’s traffic police are active on the highways and often set up radar speed traps after villages and vet fences. Don’t be tempted to accelerate back to highway speeds until you see the appropriate signage.

            traffic in botswana
            Obey the traffic signs in Botswana

            Away from the highways, the road conditions deteriorate rapidly. There’s not much in the way of secondary roads and you can go from tarmac to thick sand in a few hundred metres. Particularly sandy sections include the access roads around Mabuasehube Game Reserve and the Kgalagadi, the Xade Gate road into the Central Kalahari, the main entrance road into Nxai Pan National Park, the road north of Maun to Moremi, and pretty much everything from the Savuti region to the Chobe River. An unusual route, and perhaps the sandiest of all, is the north-south track between Khutse Game Reserve and the Central Kalahari. It’s about 230km of deep sand from Khutse to Xade Gate and shouldn’t be attempted lightly.

            Botswana is well equipped for self-drivers, but there are long distances between parks, lodges, campsites, and towns, so travelling by road can be time consuming. Fortunately, much of northern Botswana is land dedicated to conservation and even when driving outside of the national parks, wildlife roams free, so the opportunities to see animals en route between locations are abundant.

            Fly-in safari goers will save plenty of time as they make use of Botswana’s many scheduled flights and air-transfers, but this method of travel is obviously more expensive. There are road transfers available from the major towns, which offer a more affordable way to get from A to B, and although more time consuming, allow more time for game spotting.

            roads in botswana
            Some sections of road are particularly sandy
          • Wildlife in Botswana

            The wilds of Northern Botswana safeguard the largest elephant population in the world. Huge breeding herds and large solitary bulls traverse the landscapes of Chobe National Park and Moremi Game Reserve. Chobe’s broad-leaved woodlands and riparian forests are home to the endemic Chobe bushbuck and other lesser-known antelope species like puku, sable and roan. Chobe also boasts the highest bird species diversity in Botswana (468 species), including birds found nowhere else in the country like the Schalow’s and purple-crested turacos, trumpeter and crowned hornbills and the crested guineafowl.

            chobe
            Botswana’s Chobe region is home to the world’s largest herds of elephant and prolific birds

            Savute, in the western Chobe region is notorious for its large lion prides, historically numbering up to 30-odd individuals. The unpredictability of Savuti’s water supply has been known to set the scene for dramatic feats of survival, including hibernating crocodiles and bold lions preying on adult elephants. Savuti’s vast savanna plains are perfect for enjoying sightings of Burchell’s zebra, tsessebe, giraffe, and impala.

            savute
            Savute is reknowned for its lion prides

            Red lechwe splashing through the swamplands, hippopotamuses trodding confidently out of water at midday and lions swimming across water channels are just a few of the spectacular wildlife sightings awaiting visitors to the Okavango Delta. The Okavango comes into its own during winter months when rainwater from the highlands of Angola fans out over temporary floodplains that teem with wildlife. You could get lucky and spot a semi-aquatic sitatunga antelope from a mokoro, lurking in the papyrus – or a Pels Fishing Owls. These beautiful owls replace their daylight rivals, fish eagles, on perches overlooking deep lagoons where they fish for large bream. The Delta is also the best place to see the near-endemic Slaty Egret, Wattled Crane, and special waterbirds such as the Lesser Jacana, White-backed night heron and African skimmer.

            pels fishing owl
            The Pels fishing owl is a beautiful bird, found in the Okavango

            The cracked and dry Makgadikgadi Salt Pans may not look like the kind of environment that would attract a large population of wildlife, but appearances can be deceiving. Come summertime, these desolate dry expanses sprout juicy patches of grass attracting springbok, wildebeest and zebra followed closely by lion and cheetah. Shallow waters flood over seemingly endless pans, attracting thousands of flamingos. Along the Boteti River you can watch Southern Africa’s largest zebra migration, and come nighttime shine a spotlight into the secret lives of playful bat-eared foxes and shy brown hyenas.

          • Botswana cultural nuances
            • Travellers greeting local Batswana will notice that the spoken “dumela rra/mma” (man/woman) is accompanied by a handshake with the right hand while the left hand moves to gently grasp one’s own right forearm. This greeting is commonly shared between local people, and tourists are welcome to take part in the tradition.

            • There are 11 official languages that are spoken, with English being the most widely used.

            • South Africa is affectionately known as the rainbow nation because of its diversity in its people, climates, geography and wide array of experiences.

            • It covers 1,21 million square kilometers, making it roughly twice the size of France.

            • South Africans are very warm and accommodating.

            • The culture isn’t homogenous; rather it’s a collection of different cultures with different ones being predominant in different regions.

              the botswana people
              The people of Botswana are friendly and vibrant
            • A large number of people from Botswana and indeed southern Africa belong to a religion called Zionism, which is based on a fusion of African traditions and the Christian faith.

            • Members of the ZCC (Zion Christian Church), by religious guidance, do not eat pork, drink alcohol, or consume drugs, while some solely consume the white meat of chicken and fish, eradicating red meat from their diets altogether.

            • Men also wear hats to indicate their religious affiliation.

            • Furthermore, it is not alignment with the Batswana custom to wash other peoples’ undergarments, and guests at lodges will notice that a laundry service is provided for all items of clothing with the exclusion of personal underwear.

          • Languages in Botswana

            The national language of Botswana is SeTswana, spoken by the Tswana people in the region, while English is recognised as a second official language and is spoken widely throughout the country. People in remote and rural areas that are not frequently visited by tourists are not likely to speak English well, so some basic SeTswana will go a long way in terms of communicating here. There are also about 20 unofficial dialects spoken by people belonging to less dominant tribal groups, such as Hambukushu, Seyei, Herero, and Kalanga, while only about five of the original 13 Bushman dialects remain, known collectively as SeSarwa.

            “Pula” is a word that is revered in Botswana, not only does it appear on the national coat of arms, but it embraces other meanings too.

            In its literal sense it means ‘let there be rain’ - in a country that is mostly semi-arid, rainfall is precious and appreciated as a blessed event.

            The local currency is pula and it is also the country’s motto and rallying cry (in this context it means ‘shield’), and is shouted out by crowds at football matches whenever the national team, ‘The Zebras’, scores a goal.

          • Is Botswana safe?
            gabarone
            Gabarone is the heart of Botswana’s business district

            Botswana is considered one of the safest countries in Africa to travel in; in fact, tourism is welcomed and valued by the local people in general, as it brings opportunities and income. There is no reason for tourists to feel unsafe anywhere in Botswana in terms of crime, as there have been very few reported incidents of petty theft, or other opportunistic crimes, especially against tourists. Having said that, it is always a good idea for travellers to be aware of where their valuable items are stored while travelling and not to neglect common sense when it comes to safeguarding one’s possessions. The most likely place an incident would take place would be near a town and not out in the national parks, so the places to remain vigilant would be at petrol stations, or parking lots where opportunists might linger.

          • Shopping in Botswana
            a market in botswana
            People come together at festivals and markets around Botswana

            Every major town in Botswana has at least one shopping centre or mall, which includes major supermarkets, liquor stores, clothing, furniture, homeware, and electronic shops, in addition to local banks and ATMs. In terms of gift stores and curio shops, some safari lodges stock their own locally made woven baskets, jewellery, wooden carvings and bowls, and these items are usually sourced from communities in the area. A number of safari operators and lodges offer village visits as an opportunity to meet local people, learn about their culture, and understand their way of life, and there are often opportunities for travellers to purchase some locally crafted items. Be warned, these local markets are expensive and it is likely that similar items can be sourced in gift shops in Maun or Kasane at a cheaper price.

          Travel advice

          What type of traveller are you?

            • Visa requirements and fees

              There are only a handful of countries whose residents require tourist visas to enter Botswana (this list can be found here), while every traveller must ensure that they hold valid, permanent passports with at least 3 blank pages remaining. Most tourists in Botswana come from the United States, second-most is the United Kingdom, and third is Germany. Visitors from these countries do not need visas for 90 days and then can get an extension from immigration. Emergency or temporary passports are not accepted without an accompanying visa. Those travelling with minors (children under 18) are required to provide a certified copy of the minor’s unabridged birth certificate in addition to their valid, permanent passport in order to gain access into Botswana. In the instance that the minor is travelling without one or both of his/her parents, an affidavit from absent parent/s consenting to their child’s travel.

            • Malaria considerations

              There is no clear-cut answer to this question. Although Botswana’s malaria-risk is lower than some other African nations, there is still a certain risk associated with travel through the beautiful Botswana bush.

              The colder dry winter months have less mosquito activity. May through to October is best. Additionally, areas with less people have less risk of transmission, even if there is water – Kalahari, Okavango and Moremi concessions and the Makgadikgadi Pans are low risk areas.

            • Health care in Botswana

              The public sector dominates the healthcare system in Botswana - operating most of the care facilities. However, there is a huge gap between public and private medical provisions, and tourists are recommended to purchase private health insurance for the trip duration to Botswana.

              As in much of the rest of Africa, the public healthcare system mainly serves a lower-income bracket, while expats and those who can afford it use the private healthcare system.

              It is always recommended that visitors make use of travel insurance and medical aid services supplied by their providers at home, which will ensure that they can benefit from treatment in the private healthcare facilities in Botswana. Citizens of Botswana pay a very small fee for healthcare in public hospitals and mobile clinics, as the healthcare they receive is mostly subsidised. Private healthcare providers are geared towards catering for tourism, and provide a good service. Recommended medical services for tourists in Botswana are Medical Rescue International, and Okavango Air Rescue.

            • Medical emergencies in Botswana

              Botswana has some remote and far-away places, and many of these places are likely to be where tourists are headed because they contain some of the best wildlife and most pristine natural areas in the country. There are a couple of highly rated emergency response teams that are equipped for both land and air rescue in Botswana, which should put tourists’ minds at ease when travelling through a wild and harsh country.

              If travellers are on a guided safari, they will have their local guide to rely on who will have first aid qualifications and a medical response protocol to follow in an emergency. Safari lodges and camps are equipped with satellite telephones, Wi-Fi, or an accessible mobile phone network in order to be able to contact necessary medical facilities in an emergency.

              If travellers have opted for the self-drive route, it is advisable to have purchased a SIM card for one of Botswana’s mobile networks, or to use international roaming in order to make calls domestically. In an emergency, Medical Emergency International (MRI) is one of the country’s leading ground and aerial ambulance response services and is available all day every day and can be contacted on the following numbers: 992 (toll free from any local network), or +267 3901601 (international). Patients can request to be flown to Millpark Trauma Hospital in Johannesburg, South Africa, and in the instance that the patient, nor anyone else in the party, can not speak, the MRI responders will transfer the patient to the hospital appropriate for his/her medical condition. Millpark Trauma Hospital is the best and most-frequently used hospital in the region.

            • What to know about lodges in Botswana

              Visitors to Botswana should always bear in mind that they are travelling to a country that cherishes its natural surroundings and pays enormous attention to conservation and the health of the environment. Botswana’s land is primarily dedicated to wildlife and sustaining a small population of people, so environmental impact is low.

              It is important to respect the effort gone to to protect the wild areas and to maintain a sustainable tourism infrastructure, and be reminded that waste disposal, water and electricity usage, and sewage systems are likely to be sensitive. A good rule when staying in lodges is to conserve water, e.g. short showers, reusing towels and sheets. A great idea when visiting Botswana is to learn a few words or greeting terms in the local language, Setswana.

              To be able to greet your guide, cashier, or driver in their local language is an easy and effortless way to show interest and appreciation for Botswana’s culture and custom.

            • Botswana food and tipping

              Safari lodges and camps in Botswana serve an array of internationally recognised food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and dietary requirements can be catered for with ease when given prior notice. Beef and chicken are popular meats eaten locally and served many ways in restaurants and in the dining rooms at lodges, so travellers can expect to enjoy food they know when being catered for in the country.

              Local dishes include beef seswaa, bogobe (pap), and morogo, which are eaten throughout Botswana and surrounding countries. Beef seswaa is slow cooked beef (usually fillet), which is then shredded and cooked as a pot stew with an onion and pepper gravy. Bogobe, is ground cornmeal boiled with water and salt until it becomes a porridge-like consistency and is then served as the starch with meat and veg. Bogobe is often accompanied by a tomato and onion relish, or cooked spinach in a dish known as morogo.

              Meat is also traditionally grilled on open coals, as are large, white mielies (corn on the cob), which are farmed on a small, subsistence level. These are seen often on the roadside where vendors are set up with their grills serving the passing local public. The local beer is a St. Louis, and it goes down a treat!

              Tipping practice in Botswana can be compared to anywhere else in Africa. A general guideline for tipping servers at restaurants is to add 10% of one’s bill as a gratuity if one feels they received a good standard of service; however, as always, this amount is at the client’s discretion. When it comes to tipping one’s safari guide, a standardised approach is to tip an amount of 10% of the daily rate per person per day, and to pay it directly to one’s guide at the end of the stay. It is encouraged to show gratitude after an excellent safari experience by tipping well in either Pula, or the guest’s home currency. Housekeeping and kitchen staff, as well as back up guides, mokoro pollers, and boat drivers are also eligible for tips and there is often a deposit box for staff tips, while individual tips should be paid to the individuals themselves.

          • wildlife in bots
            Wildlife is prolific throughout both South Africa and Botswana

            Botswana vs South Africa

            South Africa and Botswana are neighboring countries that both offer superb wildlife sightings and top class camps and lodges, but there are a number of differences to keep in mind when choosing one over the other. South Africa lacks the rugged remoteness of Botswana, but for those eager to see a maximum amount of wildlife in a short amount of time, private concessions like those in South Africa’s Sabi Sands are a reliable option. Unlike Botswana, South Africa’s game reserves are all fenced. This has the effect of limiting the natural migration of animals within the ecosystem but results in a higher concentration of game, especially big cats.

            Botswana’s game viewing, while excellent, can be unpredictable at times, as animals migrate according to the seasons. South Africa has a number of private concessions that offer a very exclusive, intimate safari experience on par with Botswana, but these areas are much smaller so guests do not get exposed to the same variety of habitats in Botswana. South Africa has very few unfenced camping areas, making it safer for families camping with children, but disappointing for those seeking a wilder camping experience. South African campsites, such as those in the Kruger National Park tend to be crowded, especially during school holidays. South African game reserves are mostly accessible by car and few require a 4x4 vehicle, while a 4x4 is absolutely necessary to negotiate the thick Kalahari sand tracks in many of Botswana’s wild areas. Because Botswana has a no fences between its national parks and outlying areas, it is completely normal to see elephants, buffalo, lions, giraffes, or even a pack of wild dogs padding along the country’s main highways.

            leopard
            The intrepid leopard

            Botswana, with its simpler infrastructure and small remote towns, has a charming ‘real African’ feel while the plentiful shops in South Africa, even within the Kruger National Park, make stocking up on supplies very convenient. A South African safari is generally the cheaper route with more choice when it comes to mid-range accommodation options. Botswana, on the other hand, only offers two options – camp or stay in a luxury lodge, and most luxury lodges are only reachable by light aircraft so it is important to pack light. Booking for a camping safari in Botswana needs to be done at least a year in advance as campsites are limited, whereas you are far more likely to get away with a last minute bookings in South Africa, although booking ahead is always the wiser option.

            Visit South Africa
          • namibia
            Namibia’s stark landscape is a great juxtaposition to Botswana

            Botswana vs Namibia

            Namibia is Botswana’s western neighbour, and the two countries share a large portion of the Kalahari Desert although Namibia does not have the water supply that Botswana has, making the latter far superior in wildlife density. The only small exception to this is a narrow stretch of land that protrudes from Namibia’s northeast corner known as the Caprivi Strip. Being mainly desert, Namibia is not the right choice for those wanting to see the “big 5” on their first safari experience, yet it does offer the chance to see some unusual desert–adapted creatures like oryx, brown hyena, black rhino and the famed desert elephants and desert lions. Both countries are equally rugged and remote with a low population density and a rich cultural heritage, but when it comes to spectacular landscapes, the immensity of Namibia’s panoramic views are hard to beat.

            Visit Namibia

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