Botswana is the quintessential wildlife and safari destination that ranks amongst the best in Africa. It is a country where game roams freely, especially in the northern region where Botswana’s rare quality jewel is located, the Okavango Delta.
Covering an area of 581,730 sq. kms, Botswana is similar in size to France and Madagascar and with a population of just over 2 million people, there are vast uninhabited wilderness areas that allow free movement of wildlife. Large and beautiful National Parks, Game Reserves and Wildlife Management Areas make up 38% of the country’s surface area.
Botswana is relatively flat with very little difference in elevation througout the country and very few mountains and rocky outcrops. About 80% of the country is covered in Kalahari sands and though the Kalahari is often referred to as a desert, it has a higher rainfall than a true desert like the Namib, supporting more animals and vegetation and thus classified as arid savanna.
Maun is the safari capital of northern Botswana, located just below the Okavango Delta, and serves as the springboard for all safaris to the north and south. North of Maun you will find some of Africa’s prime wildlife destinations which include the magical Okavango Delta with it’s mosaic of aquatic and dry land habitats, the stunning scenic diversity of Moremi Game Reserve, the Khwai Concession, Linyanti and Chobe National Park with it’s two particularly popular areas, Savute and Chobe Riverfront. Bordering Chobe National Park and located on the Chobe River is the small town of Kasane where numerous lodges offer affordable safari experiences. Being close to Victoria Falls, Kasane is also a key area for Northern Botswana safaris and the magnificent Falls.
To the south of Maun lie the more arid savanna destinations of Nxai Pan National Park, Makgadikgadi National Park and the Central Kalahari Game Reserve where an abundance of plains game and attendant predators can be seen in the summer months.
Kgalakgadi Transfrontier Park is located In the extreme southwest part of Botswana, a typical arid savanna Kalahari wildlife destination shared with South Africa.
The Tuli region is another wildlife destination located in the extreme southeastern part of Botswana and offers a very different perspective due to it’s scenic rocky habitats.
Botswana is also one of the last refuges of the San / Bushmen people, the original inhabitants of Southern Africa and the oldest living race in the world. Learning about this fascinating culture on a Bushman Walk is an enlightening experience.
Whether you opt for a Guided Mobile Tented Safari or a string of Luxury Lodges, you will never be disappointed – you can expect an enchanting surprise around every corner.
Mobile Tented Safaris
A great way to experience the wildness of Botswana, fully serviced Mobile Tented Safaris offer you a degree of luxury in the bush with ensuite facilities, comfortable beds and a safari team that cater to all your needs. Campsites are completely private without any disturbance from other groups, making your wilderness experience totally authentic. The thrill of sitting around a campfire at night listening to the sounds of the wild cannot be compared to staying in a lodge.
Depending on where your Mobile Safari is located, activities may include day and night game drives on open safari vehicles, walking safaris, mokoro excursions and boat cruises.
Groups normally comprise a maximum of 6 to 9 guests unless it is a privately guided safari.
Mobile Tented Safaris are possible in most of Botswana’s game reserves and national parks and some community concession areas such as Khwai. Campsites are in designated areas and no trace is left when breaking camp.
Apart from the luxury of staying in a lodge, the spectacular location and setting of most lodges in Botswana add greatly to your safari experience. Many lodges are luxury tented camps that make you feel like you are on safari but with all the added creature comforts and tantalizing food. Most safari lodges in Botswana rely on alternative energy and are thus not able to offer room facilities that draw too much electric current but this also adds to the safari experience. The highlight of a lodge safari experience is the thrill of open vehicle game drives with a potential surprise around every corner, especially in Botswana, the ultimate wildlife safari destination. Not all lodges in the Okavango Delta offer land-based activities such as day and night game drives. Some only offer walking safaris and water-based activities such as mokoro excursions and boat cruises.
The option of being able to do land and/or water-based activities at lodges in the Okavango Delta is thus a factor to consider when booking a lodge as this can shape your wildlife experience.
Explore the different habitats on an Open Safari Vehicle in search of wildlife and birds. Most of us have an undying fascination of large cats like lion and leopard as well as the big game species such as elephant, buffalo, giraffe, zebra, wildebeest and a variety of antelope. But don’t ignore the smaller animals and the unbelievably diverse birdlife whose antics and calls create a special atmosphere in the bush.
Your guide has the ability to make your wildife experience rewarding, observing every sign that may lead you to that elusive predator or special sighting. Knowledge and experience coupled with an engaging spirit and passion for the bush will rub off on you and add that extra thrill. A guide’s job is to entertain his guests and keep them on their seats. The level of guiding in Botswana is high and most guides have spent a large part of their lives in the bush.
A day on safari normally starts with a very early wake up call followed by coffee/tea and a snack. Then hop onto your open vehicle and set off on a game drive lasting 3 to 4 hours. It is customary to stop at a scenic spot enroute for another drink and snack and absorb the wonderful bush atmosphere. Then back to your camp or lodge for breakfast or brunch to share your experiences and feast on good memories and great photos.
Night drives offer you the possibility of seeing nocturnal animals that are not visible during the day as well as those animals that are active at night such as most predators. However this option is only available in private concessions but not in the game reserves and national parks.
A mokoro is a wooden dugout canoe poled along the watery channels of the Okavango Delta. Most mekoro are now made of fibreglass to protect the large and beautiful tree species of the Delta from destruction. It is a truly wonderful experience to sit or lie back in your mokoro while your poler transports you gently along a channel. It may just be the soft sounds of the craft gliding through the water with the occasional call of the Fish Eagle that you hear, or a chatter of birds and then your poler telling you that there is a giraffe browsing further down. You may have to stop to let a herd of elephants finish drinking and enjoying the cool water before proceeding further. Your poler has probably grown up here and knows every sign of danger, gently steering you to safety. He will stop at a point where you can get out on an island and do a bush walk, following the myriad of animal tracks along ancient animal routes.
Mokoro excursions are offered by most lodges in the upper reaches of the Okavango Delta and seasonally by some lodges in the lower reaches of the Delta, the western fringe of Moremi Game Reserve and on the Khwai River in the Khwai Concession.
Gameviewing from a boat adds another dimension to your safari experience allowing you to observe and photograph animals at close range drinking, playing, wallowing, crossing bodies of water or just playing out their normal everyday activities. To observe a breeding herd of elephants interacting in the water with young calves from the vantage point of a boat is very special.
But apart from the wildlife and birds, it is also the spectacular landscapes and tranquillity of pristine nature that make this activity very special, giving you another perspective compared to exploring the areas on an open vehicle.
Different sized craft are used depending on where you are. In the Okavango Delta small boats are mostly used that can negotiate the lagoons and narrow channels, though double-decker boats are also used in some places. On larger rivers such as the Chobe River, boats range in size from small to very large and take you into Chobe National Park where you have the opportunity to see crocodiles and hippo at very close range as well as a wide range of animals and birds that rely on this important water source. The Chobe River Sunset Cruise is a very popular activity.
Boat cruises are also available in the private Kwando and Linyanti concession areas.
A walking safari is the ultimate bush experience, allowing you to enter the space of wild animals, see their tracks and signs and feel close to nature. It does not always allow for good sightings of wildlife as their sharp senses will often perceive your presence before you spot them and cause them to take flight, But a good guide who knows his territory and notes the wind direction may bring you within a reasonable distance to observe wildlife and birds.
You will also learn more about the smaller animals, trees and ecology of the area as well as the cultural use of plants and how African people survive in the bush. Walking safaris are offered by many lodges in Botswana.
Lift off the ground just before sunrise on a balloon safari in the Okavango Delta and drift along enjoying fantastic views of the pristine landscapes and wonderful sightings of big game.
Flight duration is about 45 minutes and can carry 4 passengers. Celebrate this awesome experience with snacks and a glass of champagne and orange juice at the end. Balloon safaris are offered by several lodges in the Okavango Delta and Chobe region.
Scenic flights over the Okavango Delta and the game rich areas of northern Botswana can be done from Maun, Kasane and Shakawe. This is a wonderful experience affording you superb views of the layout and landscapes of these areas and sightings of large game species. Flying over the Okavango Delta also adds to your understanding of what this massive area actually looks like as you have no way of getting a clear impression when you are on the ground other than looking at a map which often doesn’t tell the real story. See how the channels spread out, link and form lagoons and islands to create a maze of abstract lines and shapes.
Most scenic flights can carry a maximum of 5 passengers.
With over 570 species of birds in Botswana, each with a particular niche and set of habits, birdwatching or birding is a fascinating pastime and is hugely popular throughout the world today. Few people are aware that birds lend a special atmosphere to a landscape with their antics and calls. Relax in your chair at your camp or lodge and observe the different types of birds around you flying, feeding, foraging on the ground and going about their daily activities while listening to the variety of sounds they make. To begin to understand all of this you need to learn to distinguish one bird from another and slowly you will build a great interest in and fascination for birds. Having a guide who is a bird specialist is hugely rewarding as there is so much to learn and identify, and the subtle differences between one bird and another can be confusing.
Birding safaris are offered by many tour operators and lodges in Botswana.
The Bushmen are the original inhabitants of Southern Africa and the oldest living race on earth. Their knowledge of plants, animals and natural processes is astounding and the opportunity to learn about their hunter-gatherer culture and way of life is a fascinating, humbling, educative and spiritual experience. Several lodges and tour operators in Botswana offer Bushman cultural experiences where you are taken into the bush by Bushmen to demonstrate the species of plants that can be eaten or used for medicinal purposes, how they track animals and hunt, how they make fire and how they make their bows and arrows and the poisons they used.