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Our Ultimate Safari Guide to Botswana

Lauren Curd

A former British protectorate, Botswana emerged from the shadows in 1966, creating one of Africa's most beloved safari destinations. There's an abundance of wildlife experiences ready to be explored, with opportunities ranging from bird watching to stalking the famous Big Five, walking and night safaris in private game reserves to game viewing from the waterways, and everything in between. It is one of Africa’s most sparsely populated countries, being dominated by large expanses of sand, and a vast majority of the people live in and around the capital city of Gaborone, in the south east of the country and bordering South Africa. Botswana is also home to the largest population of San (bushman) who still live the hunter-gatherer way of life.

What Makes Botswana Unique?

This magnificent country features the world’s largest inland river delta, the Okavango; the world’s most impressive saltpan, the Makgadikgadi; and the largest continuous stretch of sand on the planet, the Kalahari Desert – you know a safari holiday in Botswana will set you among nature’s amazing spectacles. Due in part to these large wonders, wildlife is in plentiful supply, ensuring a trip here will not disappoint. You are virtually guaranteed some incredible animal encounters.

Best Time to Travel?

Botswana has two major seasons: summer, from October to April, and winter, between May and September. Most rainfall will occur between December and March, mostly in short but dramatic thunderstorms. March sees the delta waterways fill up to transform this area into an aqueous haven, opening up the area to a vast array of birds and wildlife. Safaris are a year round event and you’re sure to experience fantastic game viewing whenever you visit. Areas in and around the Okavango Delta region tend to have a more moderate climate than the Kalahari, the latter boasting extremely warm temperatures that can drop below freezing when the sun sets - blankets are provided in safari vehicles to keep you warm when the sun sets! October is the hottest month, with maximum temperatures sometimes creeping towards 40°C. The dry land at this time of year congregates the game around the watering holes, so high concentrations of animals can be witnessed together.

Key Areas for Game Viewing

Most visitors will be drawn to three main areas in Botswana, based on what type of animals you wish to see, the terrain, the time of year and, ultimately, personal preferences. Chobe National Park in the north east corner of Botswana borders Zimbabwe and Zambia and attracts thousands of visitors each year due to its fame as one of the largest game concentrations in the country; it’s here you can witness four of Big Five, including the largest elephant population in the continent, as well as thousands of antelope of varying species. Chobe eventually gives way to the Okavango Delta, the world’s largest inland delta, where you can witness a wide range of wildlife on the waterways from a mokoro (traditional dugout canoe). Keep your eyes peeled for lion, leopard, buffalo, rhino, giraffe, hippo, crocodile, hyena, jackal, wild dog and a wide range of antelope. This wilderness area of lagoons and waterways is also a bird watcher’s paradise, with over 400 species calling the Delta home. In the south, the Kalahari Desert takes over, the ultimate wilderness safari destination. Gain an insight into how animals adapt to survive the harsh environment and look out for giraffe, wildebeest, ostrich and the Kalahari’s famous black-maned lions. Cheetah sightings are excellent in this part of Botswana, too.

Suggested Places to Stay

Central Kalahari – Tau Pan Camp, Deception Valley Lodge, Wilderness Safaris Kalahari Plains Camp
Makgadikgadi Pans – Jack’s Camp, Nxai Pan, Leroo La Tau
Okavango Delta – Shinde Camp, Kanana Camp, andBeyond Nxabega Okavango Tented Camp
Moremi Game Reserve – Camp Moremi, Mombo Camp, Belmond Khwai River Lodgde
Chobe National Park – Belmond Savute Elephant Lodge, Chobe Game Loddge, Muchenje Lodge

 

nxai pan camp botswana

Other Things to Do

There’s plenty to still see and do in Botswana away from the main safari hotspots. Explore the sights of Nxai Pan National Park, Mokolody Nature Reserve, Tswapong Hills, Kasikili, and Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. For culture, head to the cities of Gaborone, Kasane, Maun, and Francistown, while interested history buffs should visit Tsodilo, a hillside filled with thousands of rock art drawings, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site held in esteemed status due to the religious and spiritual significance to the local San people.

Admire the spectacular scenery as you take a light aircraft flight to the Okavango Delta – the aerial views are truly mesmerising. Be sure to try a walking safari if you are staying in a private game reserve to experience game viewing from a different perspective, and don’t forget about mokoro rides in the Okavango Delta – this traditional form of transport offers the chance to get up close to a wide range of flora and fauna.

Our Top Tips

The national parks and game reserves in Botswana have much fewer visitors touring through on jeeps – it isn’t unusual to not pass another vehicle all morning. Therefore, take the time to observe the wildlife and admire their activities for as long as you wish, rather than rushing on to tick off the next animal on your checklist.

Pack clothes that you can layer, to wrap up and keep warm during early morning game drives then peel off and cool down during the mid morning when the sun is up. Likewise, when the sun is setting, the temperature can drop quite rapidly, so it’s handy to have a fleece with you to put on for your journey back to safari camp.

Take a comfortable pair of trainers or walking boots with you, particularly if you’re planning on trying a walking safari in a private game reserve – thorn-proof soles are essential.

Don’t forget your binoculars! The birdlife is prolific in Botswana and it’s wonderful to get a closer look to be able to identify different specifies and admire the incredible colours of their feathers.

 

**This blog post was previously published on Medway Leisure Travel, now trading as Pettitts Travel**

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