People who return to Botswana over and over again give many reasons for their preference but high on the list is the warmth and peace-loving nature of the local Setswana-speaking people, the incredible diversity of wildlife, exclusivity, and the large variation of safari activities on offer.
People of Botswana, known collectively as Batswana (singular: Motswana), generally live with a deep appreciation of their natural heritage and have a characteristic laid-back attitude. The staff in safari camps are warm and welcoming and it’s not unusual to be serenaded by beautiful singing on a guest’s first arrival. Guiding in Botswana is of a very high standard and the tradition of story telling is often carried out with gusto around a campfire in the evening.
For a small country dominated by dusty Kalahari Desert, Botswana is truly unique in the variety of safari activities it has available. These activities differ between seasons when landscapes alter dramatically, determined largely by the natural flooding of rivers and annual rainfall. A Botswana safari is simultaneously tranquil and unpredictable, giving guests a propelling sense of wonder that comes from knowing that around every corner, there is the chance to see something new.
The Okavango Delta, in the northern reaches of Botswana, is perhaps where the biggest seasonal changes can be observed. Each year, floodwaters reach the uppermost section of the delta in February/ March and fan out into a vast network of channels and marshes, reaching a peak level in dry midwinter. The high concentration of wildlife around these temporarily inundated floodplains is astonishing, making this the most popular time of year for safari-goers to visit. Summertime brings its own unique allure, turning the russet veld a verdant green, to be gorged upon by grazers like zebra, wildebeest and impala antelope with their newborns tottering alongside them on unsteady legs. It may be more challenging to spot predators in the newly sprouted grass, but the spectacular display of migrant bird species makes up for this, filling the air with brilliant trills and hues.
Botswana’s Chobe region, another system of lagoons, marshes and rivers, is just as complex and interesting as the Okavango Delta. The Chobe River is a popular hot spot for tourist activities with safari operators offering fishing trips, specialized photographic boat cruises, game drives and beautiful riverside camping. The best way to explore the Chobe waterfront is undoubtedly by boat, reclining with a camera or a cool gin and tonic to watch the drama of Africa as it unfolds at eye level. Chobe Game Lodge, the only lodge inside the Chobe Game Reserve, now boasts several electric and solar-powered safari boats, adding a new element of interest for the modern eco-conscious traveller. Savuti, to the west of the Chobe region, is famous for its mysterious and fascinating channel that has a history of drying up unpredictably, influenced primarily by a series of shifting fault lines that lie deep below the earth, a continuance of the Great Rift Valley. Game drives are the most popular way to experience Savuti, where roads meander through an interesting dynamic of open grassy plains and mopane woodland where the chances of coming upon large lion prides are as good as they get.
The Makgadikgadi saltpans also offer a wide range of exciting activities that keep guests returning again and again. In dry season adventurous travellers can quad bike across the pans and sleep out under the Milky Way, which the Kalahari Bushmen call ‘the backbone of the sky’. In green season Africa’s second largest wildebeest migration unfolds alongside the Boteti River and is a magnificent spectacle, especially when viewed in dusty twilight hues. This is also the perfect time of year to enjoy a helicopter flight over thousands of pink flamingos feasting on algae and brine shrimp, gathered to breed at Sua Pan. Activities to be enjoyed year-round are walking with the Zu/’hoasi Bushmen, 4x4 explorations to Kubu Island, horse riding trails and close encounters with the habituated meerkats at Jack’s Camp.
The pristine, wild locations of Botswana’s camps and lodges make for an exhilarating safari, a perfect choice for those who treasure wild places. Safari-lovers speak of feeling a profound sense of freedom in Botswana’s wilderness that deepens with regular visits.