Botswana Safari – A Complete Immersion in Wildlife and Wilderness
Botswana Safari Overview
Botswana safaris conjure brilliant images of the wild. The country offers safari for true animal lovers, with multi-day adventures that place you centerstage in wildlife theatre. Botswana is the country where you can be completely immersed in the wilderness, and completely surrounded by big game. It’s wild, it’s wonderful, and you won’t believe how close you can get.
Botswana has far more wild animals than people. Elephants wander around the main highway in the north of the country. Great tracts of desert are populated by migrating zebra. There’s hardly anything here, other than animals. Go on a Botswana safari and you are a visitor to the wildlife world. From deserts to delta, swamps to forest, welcome to a wildlife paradise like no other.
In Botswana you’re never on the outside looking in. You are truly surrounded. The encounters are wonderfully intimate and they continues at all hours of the day – you could be relaxing at a camp, watching elephants wander past as lion roars perforate the nighttime sky. Intimacy is the country’s highlight as you experience how the animals interact with other, as well as how they behave in different situations.
Such an incredible immersion requires time. Botswana is not a destination for a two-day vacation. With its immense size and wild atmosphere, this country is best when you stay for at least a week. Give it time and slowly you tune your senses into the wilderness. The holiday becomes a complete escape from the everyday, where animals write the script and there’s no end to the wildlife drama. Botswana also has the most startling contrasts of any country in Africa. Every day on safari is different and you will need time to combine the remarkably diverse destinations.
The classic Botswana safari covers three distinct landscapes. There’s the desert, as showcased by the Kalahari, an arid land of serenity where wildlife clusters around waterholes; the Central Kalahari is where princes Harry and William wooed their future brides. The Okavango Delta is Africa’s great oasis, a splendid landscape of islands, lagoons, waterways and life. Then there is the woodland, best symbolised by Chobe. Here there are more wild elephants than anywhere else on the planet – more than 100,000! – along with a superb variety of other wildlife.
Such contrasting destinations can be explored in different ways. So on a long Botswana safari you go on game walks, nighttime game drives, mokoro canoe trips and motorboat safaris. These different perspectives help to provide a new experience each day. Such enormous wildernesses are also able to accommodate different tyres of visitor. In Botswana there are superb budget safaris as well as Africa’s most exclusive safaris.
At SafarisOnline we match the destinations to the visitor, so you can enjoy the Botswana safari that is best for you.
- Paddle past hippos on a traditional mokoro canoe through the Okavango Delta.
- Surround yourself with elephants in Chobe, where there are over 100,000 of the pachyderms during dry season.
- Admire the rare black-maned lions of the Kalahari.
- Track the predators with a safari around Moremi Game Reserve, the game-rich heart of the Okavango.
- Safari in one of Africa’s best private concessions, with Linyanti, Selinda and Kwando all offering very exclusive experiences.
- Ride a quad bike across the Makgadikgadi, the world’s largest salt pans.
- Escape on an overnight cruise down one of Botswana’s legendary rivers.
- Start or end a Botswana holiday with a visit to Victoria Falls, a spectacle that is barely one hour over the border.
- Fly between destinations on local safari flights and enjoy stunning views onto the wilderness; or appreciate the scale on a self drive safari.
- The Okavango Delta is one of the world’s largest inland water systems, covering approx. 6,000 square miles during peak season. It takes almost nine months for the water to make its journey from the Angolan rains to the bottom of the Delta, creating a plethora of waterways weaving between islands.
- Botswana is a major country for meerkats. No other country has so many of them.
- In the !Xoo language of Botswana and Namibia, only spoken by about 3500 people, there are 112 distinct sounds, compare that to the approximate 40 we have in English.
- Botswana is the world’s third-biggest diamond producer.
- Botswana is home to the worlds biggest concentration of African elephants, of which the highest concentration is in Chobe National Park.
- Botswana was a British protectorate until 1966. A year after gaining independence, a huge diamond mine was discovered.
Recommended Destinations for a Botswana Safari
These destinations are listed from north to south and follow a standard safari journey. Of course, you could also explore these in the reserve direction from south to north. With safari flights it’s easy to hop between different destinations. Travel by land and it makes sense to do as many stops as you can on route. However, you shouldn’t feel obliged to go everywhere and we can advise on the destinations that would best suit your interests.
Chobe National Park
Elephants fill the Chobe forest. Perhaps you can imagine what it is like to see one elephant. Maybe even to see 100 elephants in one vista. But how about 100,000 elephants? That’s how many of them live here during the dry season, with most of them congregating along the Chobe River banks from May to October. The Chobe riverfront is a great place to watch other wildlife as well, and not just the thousands of hippos. You can spot many different animals coming to take a drink, with buffalo and giraffe particularly abundant.
It’s relatively difficult to see the big cats in Chobe, due to the thick woodland and high grass. This isn’t a big five destination and the experience is all about the quantity of certain animals. Most Chobe safaris combine game drives with a boat safari. We also offer overnight boat safaris for those who want to travel deeper into the park. Chobe is only 90 minutes away from Victoria Falls, so these destinations are easy to combine. We’d recommend one to two days in Chobe.
The Okavango Delta
The Okavango was chosen as the world’s 1000th World Heritage Site. That’s how special it is. This oasis carpets part of the Kalahari Desert from May to October, created by rains that fell in the Angolan Highlands four months earlier. Water in the desert attracts an incredible profusion of migratory wildlife, as well as supporting huge numbers of predatory cats and year-round residents. Quite simply, this is one of the world’s most unique natural experiences, both in terms of the wilderness and the animals.
Moremi Game Reserve and Chief’s Island are in the heart of the Delta, great destinations for a more budget orientation safari. Most of the rest of the oasis is divided into smaller concessions. Those to the south and east are dryer, so more of the activities will be on land. Those in the west and north are wetter, with much of the safari taking place on water. We can guide you through the options and you may consider two different Okavango destinations, such is the diversity of experience. From December to May you still have water in the delta, but not the same lush world of waterways and reed-fringed islands.
Linyanti, Selinda, Kwando and Savute
These are four of the best private concessions and safari destinations anywhere in Africa. Located between Chobe and Okavango, they are home to a myriad of different habitats. This attracts the complete mix of resident wildlife. In addition, these concessions are also located on natural migratory routes. So think of huge prides of lions facing off against buffalo herds. Imagine packs of wild dogs chasing down zebra. Picture a safari with elephant, wildebeest, giraffe, leopard, hyena, and almost all the famous mammals (rhinos are the only one that is missing).
Safaris here are private and exclusive. Game drives can go off the trails and you have a complete choice over the activities, with game walks and water-based activities usually included. However, do note that these are expensive safari destinations. We think they are worth it but understand that they are beyond the budget of most. To make the most from the experience we’d recommend three nights in one of the concessions.
Maun is the safari gateway town in the heart of Botswana. It’s the easiest place to fly to on an international flight; from the UK you will probably change planes in Johannesburg. From Maun you can easily travel by land or air to any of the country’s key destinations.
The Kalahari Desert and Makgadikgadi
When princes William and Harry wanted to woo their future wives they took them to the Kalahari in Botswana. This remote and ancient desert offers solitude and privacy. You can be truly alone and nobody would know where you are. Amazingly, life can thrive on this arid landscape. Black-maned Kalahari lions are one highlight while 30,000 zebra migrate across the Kalahari every February to March.
Spotting wildlife requires long game drives and you won’t see as many animals as elsewhere in Botswana. However, the landscapes are very special and the desert has its secrets. One of these is the Makgadikgadi, the world’s largest salt pans. They are home to more meerkats than anywhere else and offer dreamy evenings beneath the stars. We wouldn’t recommend visiting Botswana just for the Kalahari. Instead, it’s the perfect contrast to combine with one of the other destinations.
Key Botswana Safari Considerations
Botswana isn’t a zoo. Elephants literally cross the main roads. Lions and hippos roam freely. This creates an incredibly intimate experience. You’ll really feel what it is like to live in the animal kingdom. However, it’s essential to be cautious. Every camp or lodge will provide a safety briefing when you arrive, including what to do when encountering different animals. All this intimacy is scary to some people, but if you’re keen on adventure then Botswana is where you should be.
Botswana has two distinctive seasons and is not a year round destination. May to October are the months you should consider.
May to August are the dry winter months. Temperatures are mild and comfortable during the day, then can get very cold (0 – 10 degrees) at night. During the dry season wildlife starts to congregate around permanent waterholes and rivers. There is also less vegetation and the grass is low. All this makes game viewing much easier.
May to June is also when the Okavango floods. So in the same months you can enjoy classic dry season safari in some destinations, along with classic Okavango flooding. This adds up to popularity. June to August are peak season and the best lodges and camps must be booked months in advance.
By September and October the daytime temperatures start to soar. Most people will find them managable, although senior visitors and families can struggle. Game viewing is at its peak and lodges aren’t as busy – this could be an ideal time for a romantic Botswana safari.
Humidity increases and the rain starts to fall from November or December. From now until April it is very hot, very humid, and often very wet. All this makes a Botswana adventure rather uncomfortable. Plus, with all the vegetation and water it’s not a good time to see wildlife. Some lodges and camps close during these months as well.
GMT + 2 hours
Internal Flights and Transfers
Due to the remote areas the camps and lodges are based in, transfers between camps may take place by boat, mekoro, game drive vehicle or light aircraft.
Weight & Luggage Restrictions
For safety reasons light aircraft transfers have a restriction of 15kg luggage plus 5kg of hand luggage (20kgs total) per person, packed in SOFT bags. (In Zambia and Mozambique this limit is decreased to 15kg per person total on light aircraft transfers, scheduled flights remain at 20kg). Only one piece of hand luggage with a maximum weight of 5kg is allowed per person. Please note that a handbag is considered as a piece of hand luggage.
On a Botswana safari you could live like a prince at a £1000 a night camp. Or you could make a self drive journey across the bush, one of the cheapest authentic safaris around. There is something here for different levels of luxury and adventure. We don’t worry too much about the wildlife; after visiting Botswana so many times we know that everyone comes face to face with a lot of wildlife.
Instead, we like to know your travel preferences, so we can choose lodges and experiences that are best for you. There is something for every budget and we can guarantee wild encounters with the famous animals.