Botswana is a stable, peaceful and relatively prosperous country, home to vast game reserves where some of the largest herds in southern Africa roam free, together with the most spectacular and varied bird life. The tropical climate greets you with blue skies, sunshine and cooling breezes. As you travel through Botswana, you discover a land of contrasts. The Okavango Delta forms the nucleus and heartbeat of this treasure house of wildlife. Explore the area on foot, in a 4×4 or on a traditional mokoro (canoe). In sharp contrast, but equally fascinating, you can also visit the vast white salt pans and the grasslands of the Makgadikgadi and Nxai Pans, or the seemingly endless Kalahari Desert with its orange sand and scant vegetation. In the north of Botswana, you’ll find the dense bush and broad floodplains of Chobe National Park, home to the largest concentration of elephants in Africa. A safari in Botswana should yield plenty of elephant, buffalo, red lechwe, giraffe, hippo, lion and cheetah. The country also has the largest remaining population of the endangered African wild dog. Over 500 species of birds have been identified along with reptiles and smaller mammals. The people of Botswana will extend a warm welcome to you.
- Location: Botswana is in Southern Africa, just north of South Africa, it borders Namibia to the west and Zimbabwe to the north east
- Size: Botswana covers an area of 31,802 square miles, slightly smaller than Texas and slightly larger than France.
- Capital City: Gaborone
- Population: Just over 1.5 million people live in Botswana.
- Languages: You will most likely hear English (the official language) as well as Setswana which is spoken by most people in Botswana.
- The Flag: The Botswana flag replaced the Union Jack when Botswana gained independence from Britain in 1966. The light blue represents water—specifically, in its form of rain, as it is a precious resource in Botswana. The black band with the white symbolizes the harmony and cooperation between the people of different races who live in Botswana. They also represent the stripes of the zebra, the national animal of Botswana (and the name of the national soccer team!)
- Currency: For safari purposes, the US $ is widely accepted at lodges and camps, but the local currency is the Pula ±1:USD5. Pula means “rain” in Setswana, which (like money) is scarce & valuable.
- Getting to Botswana: For safari destinations, main points of entry are: Maun (MUB) or Kasane (BBK), served by Air Botswana (to/from Johannesburg, Victoria Falls, Windhoek) & South African Airways (to/from Johannesburg). You can also travel by road from Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe or by road & boat from Livingstone, Zambia. Read more about this region’s rather confusing geography!
- Combine Botswana with: Cape Town or Victoria Falls Books: No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency – Alexander McCall Smith, Cry of the Kalahari – Mark James Owens; Back Seat Safari – Robyn Keene-Young; Botswana Time – Will Randall.
Movies: The Last Lions — nature documentary by the Jouberts; The Gods Must Be Crazy (1981), by Peter Uys, Africa – BBC Documentary (6 episodes)
CHOBE & SAVUTI
North of the Okavango Delta and occupying 4200 square miles is Chobe National Park, the second largest in Botswana. This park has a variety of habitats ranging from the verdant floodplains, grasslands and thickets bordering the Chobe River, to forest, mopane woodland and scrub. The original inhabitants of this area were the San people. They were hunter-gatherers who moved from one area to another in search of water, wild fruits and wild animals. A major feature of Chobe National Park is its elephant population. The Chobe elephants comprise part of what is probably the largest surviving continuous elephant population in the world, estimated at about 100,000. Chobe is also home to buffalo, hippo, lion, leopard and hyena. Game viewing here is by open four-wheel drive vehicles as well as in small boats on the river. Game viewing is at its best during the dry season (April – October), when the majority of natural pans have dried up.
Savuti is an arid region located in the southern part of Chobe National Park. Bisected by the Savuti Channel, this strange waterway seemingly has a mind of its own. After remaining dry for 100 years, it abruptly flooded again in the 1950’s and remained flooded until the early 1980’s, when subterranean earth movements caused it to dry up once more. Savuti has open plains which are the permanent home of elephant, lion and spotted hyena. Large herds of Burchell’s zebra visit the region in late summer (February – March).
The Okavango Delta is formed from rains that fall over 600 miles away in northern Angola. This life-giving moisture travels down the Okavango River and spills out onto the Kalahari Desert creating the world’s largest inland delta. It has marsh, river, grasslands, and riverine forest of palms, islands, flood plains and lagoons. Here dry meets wetland. A rich tapestry of channels flowing with crystal-clear water, the Okavango Delta stands as an oasis within a surrounding desert landscape. Over 1100 species exist in this beautiful and exceptional wilderness. A visitor can explore the maze of water passages in a mokoro, gliding among palm-fringed islands, watching hippo grunt and splash in the pools. Or one can view the wildlife that live at water’s edge in the Moremi Wildlife Reserve from a vehicle or on foot. With the seasons marked by the ebb and flow of water, the Okavango Delta hums to the rhythm of nature, which can be observed in all its glory.
Maun, a transitory town popularly known as the gateway to the Okavango Delta or the hub of the tourism industry is one of the country’s busiest centers. It has grown in leaps and bounds with the increase in tourism to the region. Flights from Gaborone, Victoria Falls, South Africa and Windhoek arrive daily into Maun International Airport. In addition, there are many charter services, which take travelers into the Delta. Within a few hours travel from Maun, tourists can find themselves in the Okavango Delta, Moremi Game Reserve, Kalahari Desert or Chobe and these areas are the heart of Botswana’s tourism.
MOREMI GAME RESERVE
Moremi Game Reserve covers an area of approximately 1800 miles and contains within its borders 20% of the Okavango Delta. One of the attractions of Moremi is its diversity of habitats, from riparian woodland, flood plain, reed beds and permanent wetland through mopane forest to dry savannah woodland. Moremi is one of the most beautiful reserves in Africa. Elephants are numerous, particularly during the dry season, as well as a range of other wildlife species from buffalo, giraffe, lion, leopard, cheetah, wild dog, hyena, jackal and the full range of antelope, large and small, including the red lechwe. Moremi Game Reserve in the Okavango Delta is haven to a wide variety of bird life and many water dependent animals. For birding enthusiasts, not only does the woodland offer a wide range of species but also the chance to drive to the edges of large lagoons which offer fantastic birding. There are many species of ducks and geese, as well as an amazing variety of heron.
Makgadikgadi National Park offers endless vistas of rolling golden grasslands and its huge saltpans … with desert palms lining the horizon. This 4500 square mile park is directly south of Chobe National Park. It consists mainly of fossil pans and the famous Baines baobabs. The floor of some of the pans is vegetated with palatable grass species – an important source of grazing to animals such as zebra, springbok and impala. The southern section of the park consists of saltpans and grass plains (which are) believed to be the remains of an ancient lake. The pans, situated in half the south, east and northeastern areas of the park, fill with water during the rains from mid-November and mostly retain their water into April or May. During the rainy season these “thirstlands” are transformed into great sheets of water that attract a spectacular array of waterbirds and trigger dramatic migrations of wildebeest and zebra. The Makgadikgadi remains a spectacle to visitors both when dry and wet. For a truly unique safari adventure during the dry season, (four-wheel drive) quad bikes are used to venture far into the middle of the Pans to explore remote archaeological sites. In the wet season, the water attracts flamingos, pelicans, ducks, geese and many other migratory water birds in their thousands. Herds of wildebeest and zebra are common during the wet season, but spread out in the grasslands of the Makgadikgadi and move to the Boteti River for water during the dry months.
CENTRAL KALAHARI GAME RESERVE
This last great true wilderness of Africa is a vast desert region covering some 80% of Botswana. The Deception Valley of the Central Kalahari is one of the remotest areas in the Kalahari. The Game Reserve is the second largest in Africa covering approximately 32,000 square miles of pristine wilderness and is the largest open eco-system remaining in Botswana. To explore the area is to travel back to an Africa of another time. Deception Valley is host to huge herds of gemsbok, springbok, wildebeest and hartebeest attracted to the area by the flush of sweet grasses that flourish in the ancient valley following the rains. There is also a good chance of seeing the Kalahari lion, cheetah, brown hyena and meerkats, made famous by Mark & Delia Owens who undertook an eight-year research program into the desert predator ecology in the valley. As such, their book, the ‘Cry of the Kalahari’ makes essential reading for anyone undertaking a visit. The best time to visit is March to May, after the rains, when the Kalahari awakens with life. At this time, large concentrations of plains game and large numbers of birds can be seen.
LINYANTI AND SELINDA
The Linyanti Wildlife Reserve, bordering on the western boundary of Chobe National Park consists of 125,000 hectares of unspoiled wilderness. Open grassland, riverine forest, mixed terminalia woodland and the dry Savuti Channel characterize most of the area. The area is most noted for its very large elephant populations, which can reach enormous densities in the winter months. Impala, lechwe, kudu, zebra, giraffe, sitatunga, sable, roan, waterbuck, buffalo, bushbuck and the smaller antelope are all found here. The major predators, such as lion, leopard, cheetah, wild dog and hyena, are resident and regularly sighted. The reed and papyrus swamps are ideal for numerous and diverse species of birds, ranging from the fish eagle to waterfowl, cranes, storks, plovers and herons. Selinda Wildlife Reserve is a private wildlife area located to the northwest of Savuti. This area covers some 800 square miles along the Selinda Spillway, which links the Okavango Delta to the Linyanti Swamps. These papyrus marshes are home to crocodile, hippo, sitatunga and lechwe. The birdlife is prolific and varied, especially in the riverine areas. Game viewing is exceptional with sightings of lion, cheetah, wild dog, leopard, elephant and buffalo, to name a few.
Nxai is the northern-most vestige of the super lake that created the entire Makgadikgadi complex. As such it is essentially a saltpan, which has been entirely reclaimed by the savannah grasses. The pan itself is host to huge numbers of springbok, gemsbok and even impala, and in the wet season zebra and elephants migrate into the area and frequent the pan. As such, it forms a stark contrast with the serene tranquility of Ntwetwe Pan, south of the Makgadikgadi area. There are also good populations of giraffe, kudu and lion in the area and a good chance of seeing leopard, wild dogs and cheetah.
Botswana Suggested Safaris
Botswana Wilderness8 Days 7 Nights$7325 - $13650
Botswana is a peaceful and prosperous country, home to vast game reserves where some of the largest herds in southern Africa roam free, together with the most spectacular and varied bird life. This 8 day luxury Botswana safari covers all the highlights of this fantastic wildlife region: Savuti, Kwetsani (Jao concession) and Chitabe.
Classic Tented Safari12 Days 11 Nights$6250 - $11810
A land of staggering beauty, Botswana has developed a tradition of top-level safari tourism, offering some of the best wildlife safaris you will find. Natural parks and vast private game reserves make up 40% of a fenceless territory, enabling huge herds of game to roam freely in contrasting landscapes of magnificent extremes, from the Kalahari’s desert plains to the Okavango’s lush waterways… Combine this with the natural wonder of the breath-taking Victoria Falls and with such a diversity of habitats and ecosystems there is a safari for every season. Your safari concludes in Zimbabwe, a country of untamed beauty, thriving wildlife and welcoming people. Enjoy three nights of superb game viewing and unsurpassed hospitality at Somalisa Camp in Hwange National Park.
Southern Africa Adventure11 Days 10 Nights$6175 - $9700
This adventure begins in Victoria Falls, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an area of natural beauty. Enjoy Africa's self-proclaimed adventure capital while staying at Ilala Lodge for two nights - a great location for exploring Victoria Falls town, its craft markets and local flavours. Enjoy a sunset cruise as you toast your first night in Africa! A myriad of additional activities can be added during your stay including a tour of the Falls, ziplining, white water rafting, a helicopter excursion or a trip to the Devil's Pool (water levels permitting). Pre-booking is recommended. Your journey continues as you travel to Botswana, beginning with 2 nights in the Linyanti area, at Linyanti Tented Camp, where there will be ample opportunity for walking/hiking as twice daily game drives, in a area rich with wildlife and considered one of the prime elephant wildlife corridors in Southern Africa. From there continue to Gomoti Plains Camp for 3 nights. Located on world's largest inland delta, the Okavango Delta, with its excellent guides and location. Days are spent enjoying game drives, night drives, mokoro (canoe) excursions (water level dependent) and bush walks - a lovely combination of land and water activities, with fantastic game viewing including lion, leopard, elephant, hippo as well as birdlife and antelope. Then it is onto Cape Town for a final 3 nights in Africa's southernmost city. Days will be spent exploring the city, including Table Mountain, Cape Point and the Cape Winelands. The Cape Cadogan, a charming boutique hotel in a lively neighbourhood, will prove a welcome oasis to relax, while close enough to enjoy all the fine dining the city has to offer. It is foodie heaven!
Botswana and Zimbabwe Explorer14 Days 13 Nights$7950 - $11595
Your safari begins with a breath-taking 5 nights of wildlife viewing in Botswana combining 2 nights at Khwai Tented Camp with 3 nights at Linyanti Ebony Camp, allowing you to experience both concession areas and their diverse wildlife and ecologies. From there, you will have a gentle break from the bush with 2 nights at Victoria Falls. Ilala Lodge, is a wonderful property from which to explore the area and the world famous Victoria Falls! Your safari adventures will continue in Hwange National Park, with its stellar wildlife. During your 3 night stay at Khulu Bush Camp, you have the opportunity to spend time at the Painted Dog Research Centre. The painted dog (or African wild dog), once truly endangered, are seeing their numbers grow thanks to conservation efforts – watching their playful interactions and hunting strategies is a unique experience. Your itinerary will end with 3 nights at Amalinda Lodge in the stunning and spiritual Matobo Hills, where you can enjoy some wonderful activities including mountain biking, rhino tracking and a visit to the final resting place of Cecil Rhodes.
Botswana Cultural Safari9 Days 8 Nights$6550 - $7875
Explore three different and distinct regions of Botswana on this fly-in safari offering excellent value for money. You start your tour with an opportunity to view the majestic Victoria Falls. You continue by road to Chobe National Park, renowned for its impressive, shifting migratory population of more than 50 000 elephants. Chobe is situated in the far northeast of Botswana, bordered to the north by the mighty Chobe River. Explore this area on game drives, morning walks and night drives. Your next safari experience is in the massive Khwai Private Reserve comprised of some of the most fantastically diverse habitats in northern Botswana, including riverine woodlands, floodplains, open savannah, mopane woodland, rivers and lagoons. Enjoy morning and afternoon game drives, bush walks and elephant viewing from an underground bunker. You conclude your safari in a private concession adjacent to Makgadikgadi Pans National Park. The area is renowned for its massive herds of wildebeest and zebra which migrate to the park en masse followed by a variety of predators including lion, cheetah and hyena. Popular activities include game drives, bird watching, exploring the salt pans and fascinating bush walks to historic sites guided by experienced Bushmen trackers.
Untamed Botswana9 Days 8 Nights$6175 - $9350
An excellent safari for families, couples and honeymooners alike who seek an authentic, classic Botswana safari experience in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. It combines a visit to the elephant paradise of Chobe, with an opportunity for a morning or sunset cruise on the Chobe River, with the highlights of Moremi Game Reserve for exceptional game drives and a 'water camp' experience at Camp Okavango featuring excursions through the channels of the famed Okavango Delta waterways. Ask us about adding on extra days to enjoy more time at Victoria Falls, the Kalahari, or Cape Town.
Heart of Botswana9 Days 8 Nights$4950 - $9850
This custom itinerary combines a visit to Victoria Falls, staying at the lovely Stanley & Livingstone Boutique Hotel with two sister camps in Botswana to offer a concentrated, wildlife rich safari in the heart of the Okavango Delta. Enjoy two days to explore the lively town of Victoria Falls and all the adventure activities on offer before a shared charter flight will whisk you deep into the heart of the Okavango, to Machaba Camp. Machaba is a classic luxury safari camp, a favorite among seasoned safari goers. It is located in the game rich Khwai area, adjacent to the Moremi Game Reserve. The camp is built in the classic 1950’s style, with luxury safari tents, en-suite bathrooms and living areas, without all the frills but with a more authentic style of old. We promise you won't be ready to leave after your stay here! However, you will be equally enthralled by Gomoti Plains Camp, situated on the edge of the Gomoti River system, which is your next fantastic safari experience. The area is known for its large concentrations of wildlife which thrive on the Gomoti plains and waterways. This itinerary offers fantastic value for a luxury tented experience. The focus is on excellent wildlife viewing, highly trained staff, trackers and guides, and a very comfortable, relaxed atmosphere at camp.