Botswana harbours some of the finest wilderness areas, offers some of the greatest wildlife viewing and has some of the finest safari camps on the whole of Africa. The country has a very strong conservation ethos, and more than 30% of the total land area is under full protection.
Most of those protected land areas are split up into large concessions and are leased out to private companies, who then get exclusive usage. The Botswana government has set out stringent rules in terms of what type of accommodation these company can build, and in terms of maximum number of guests that these lodges can host. In all, it is a form of low-volume / high quality / low-impact safari tourism that is setting a standard that any other country has difficulty getting on par with. Apart perhaps from the private Kruger reserves and similar concession setups in Tanzania. The only downside is that these amazing safari experiences in Botswana don't come cheap.
Another positive is the stunning and absolutely unspoilt landscapes that Botswana can offer. While the country is as flat as a pancake, it does have many different habitats that are all equally attractive. Vast (semi-)deserts like the Kgalagadi, the Kalahari and the Savuti. Ever-flowing rivers like the Okavango- and Chobe rivers. Huge wetlands, marches and floodplains like the Okavango Delta. And unspoilt bushveld like the Linyanti and Chobe National Park.
Country Hotspots & Highlights
The Okavango Delta
By far the best known safari destination in Botswana. Africa's greatest wetland, which, remarkably, floods in the middle of the dry season.
Okavango is famous for its water-based safari. Drifting by mokoro canoe through the reed beds, taking in the bird, reptile and amphibian fauna is remarkably tranquil and hypnotic. It's the quintessential Botswana safari experience, but you can also opt for a motorboat ride. It's faster and louder, but is your better choice if you want interaction with larger animals such as hippos, elephants and crocodiles.
The Okavango Delta has less than 20 concessions, and about 50 lodges offering a very wide range of wet and dry safari activities; mokoro ride, boat rides, ruler game drives, balloon safaris, horse-back safaris and walking safaris. To get the most out of the area, in terms of safari results, visitors have to blend two or more areas/concessions.
Chobe is a very important national park, the heart of a vast conservation area, and should definitely be on your wish list if you plan a trip to Botswana.
When people hear the name "Chobe" they often think of the Chobe river front, which is what's often depicted in brochures, but the park is much bigger than this section. In fact, it is an area of dry mopane forest and scrub savanna that stretches all the way to the central Kalahari (Xnai Pan area). It harbours a vast numbers of animals, the species most known obviously being the elephant. During the dry season these animals converge to the Chobe riverfront, to the Savuti marshland area (western section of Chobe), and to some large waterholes in the southeast section of the park (Nogaatsa, Chinga).
Chobe is one of only a few safari locations in Botswana which are open to self-drive vehicles. As such it can be busier than other key wildlife areas in Botswana, especially on the eastern section of the Chobe riverfront, close to Kasane. Still, visiting that section can be very rewarding as lots of motorboat safaris depart from that area. These boat trips are a fantastic way to see the birdlife, and to get very close to bathing elephants.
The Linyanti waterfront is less known than Okavango and Chobe, but game viewing here is equally spectacular, if not better. In fact, we'd argue that game viewing is as spectacular as on the Chobe riverfront, but without the Chobe crowds.
Linyanti only has four concessions and about a dozen high quality camps, offering a wide range of wet and dry safari activities.
All camps have a very good reputation when it comes to guiding standards. Some also offer night drives, and by this we do not mean "one hour of driving around after sunset", but rather a full length game drive done "by the book", and by a highly motivated guide. A good night drive can deliver a far higher level of predator action than the equivalent daytime activity.
This reserve is huge; it's 12,5% of Botswana, and 4 times the size of the Serengeti. It's also very arid and has a relentlessly flat landscape.
But that doesn't mean it isn't worth a visit! The reserve has got all the usual suspects (giraffes, zebra, kudu, springbok) but also offers regular sightings of species that are more adapted to this dry environment; pangolin, aardvark, brown hyena, oryx, honey badgers and meerkats! And last but not least; cheetahs and the famous black-maned lions.
During the green season (December to March), summer showers can transform the desert into a Garden of Eden, filled with flowers and baby animals.
Lodges here also offer interesting bush walks with local San people.
This is a large area of broad open plains dotted with islands of palm trees, and some Kalahari scrub forest.
It's quite a dry area. To the east lie some huge salt pans, from a time when the Okavango was much larger than now. To the west is the Boleti river, which comes from the Okavango delta but only flows in years of high flood.
Desert specialists like brown hyenas, aardwolves, oryx, springbok, aardvarks and meerkats can be found in this region. Large herds of wildebeest and zebra congregate around a few permanent waterholes, with predators in tow.
You can do the regular game drives here, but also walks with San bushmen, quad-bike trips, and last but not least you can sleep under the starts on one of the endless salt pans.
Our favourite lodges
Accommodation; Six canvas suites with thatched roofs.
Room type; Double or twin beds (customers can choose), two persons maximum. Fan. Outdoor sky bed.