If you’re trying to work out where to go in Botswana, you’re in the right place! Botswana truly is a land of contrasting landscapes. From desert, the Kalahari which covers seventy percent of Botswana and touches nine African countries, to the Okavango Delta, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa, where the Okavango River spreads over the landscape to form a seasonal water wonderland.
Friendly people, knowledgeable local guides and around thirty seven percent of the country being a protected area makes Botswana a highly desirable safari destination.
Add to this that Botswana’s philosophy is low impact, high quality tourism means that you won’t be crowded by thousands of other visitors.
These are our favourite places to visit on safari in Botswana.
The Okavango Delta
Rain during January and February in the highlands of Angola 1200 km away produce the seasonal flooding of the delta. This surge of water arrives in the delta about a month later and spreads out over the 250 by 150 km area of the delta from March to June.
The flooding peaks between June and August during Botswana’s dry season attracting one of Africa’s greatest concentrations of wildlife.
The Okavango Delta is both a permanent and seasonal home to a spectacular array of wildlife. The big five: lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant and rhinoceros (both black and white) are resident. Other safari animal favourites are giraffe, blue wildebeest, plains zebra, hippopotamus, impala, common eland, greater kudu, sable antelope, roan antelope, puku, lechwe, waterbuck, sitatunga, tsessebe, and cheetah.
Other animals that can be found are African wild dog, spotted hyena, black-backed jackal, caracal, serval, aardvark, aardwolf, bat-eared fox, African savanna hare, honey badger, crested porcupine, common warthog, chacma baboon, vervet monkey and of course the Nile crocodile.
Over 400 bird species make it a bird watchers heaven with populations of helmeted guineafowl, African fish eagle, Pel’s fishing owl, Egyptian goose, South African shelduck, African jacana, African skimmer, marabou stork, crested crane, African spoonbill, African darter, southern ground hornbill, wattled crane, lilac-breasted roller and secretary birds.
The best bird watching areas are mixed habitats such as the panhandle, the seasonal delta and the parts of the Moremi Game Reserve close to the water.
Seventy-one species of fish have been found in the waterways, including tigerfish, several species of tilapia, and various species of catfish.
Accommodation ranges from luxury lodges to reasonably priced bush camps. Visitors can travel the waterways in a mokoro, a wooden canoe, wander on foot observing the wildlife and enjoy game drives.
A bird’s eye view of this unique landscape and its inhabitants can be had from a helicopter flip or a silent glide in a hot air balloon.
The Makgadikgadi Pans
The name Makgadikgadi means “vast, lifeless land”. If you’re wondering where to go in Botswana, and it’s solitude, silence and wide-open skies that you are after, this is the place to be, as even during the high season people are scarce here.
The Makgadikgadi Pans National Park is south of the Nxai Pan National Park in Botswana and they form a unity park with huge salt pans and an impressive surreal landscape.
The Makgadikgadi Pans are one of the world’s biggest salt pans and are formed by two large, and thousands of small pans with an area of more than 8400 km². The complete area of pan systems covers an area of more than 16000 km².
When the rainy season, from December to March, arrives, herds of zebras, oryx, wildebeests, impalas and springbuck migrate south into Makgadikgadi where green pastures and many small water holes sustain them from June to November, when they move along the Boteti River back north into the Nxai National Park.
You can find elephants along the Boteti River and some waterholes are large enough to let you see hippos.
With the rains come many aquatic birds, especially flamingos, that breed alongside the pans.
Accommodation in the park is mostly under canvas and self-drive safaris are possible, although you will need to take all necessities like water, fuel and food with you. Many tracks are only accessible with four-wheel drive vehicles.
Chobe National Park
Chobe National Park is in the north-east with the Chobe River the northern border.
Forming part of the Kalahari Basin and extending over 10 600 km² to the south it is mostly flat, sandy, and in some areas even swampy with the best known and most visited being the Chobe Waterfront in the north. Tall, tropical trees offer shade to numerous animals, and visitors can get a different view of the wildlife from the river, gliding along on a variety of vessels.
Further south in the Linyanti region, swampy areas are found and this remote and more exclusive area is known as “the little Okavango Delta”. The Savute area is famous for elephant hunting lion prides.
During the dry season the wildlife is forced to come to the watering holes, thus guaranteeing excellent game viewing.
The huge amount of wildlife in Chobe virtually guarantees some very special game sightings. Apart from an elephant population of around 50 000, visitors can see herds of zebras and wildebeests; uncountable antelopes; large predators like hyenas, hippos and crocodiles as well as other wildlife coming for water at the riverside.
The park is also home to more than 440 bird species.
Like many game reserves there are no surfaced roads, so four-wheel drive vehicles are required.
Around Kasane a lot of accommodation including luxury lodges can be found. The park offers some excellent bush camps and lodges to suit most budgets and those visitors staying over in Kasane have the advantage that a 70km drive across the border into Zimbabwe takes them to the Victoria Falls.
Central Kalahari National Park
The sheer size and immensity and the wild beauty of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve leaves many visitors absolutely stunned. The impression is of unending space, giving visitors the impression that they have the place to themselves.
From horizon to horizon stretches waist-high golden grass punctuated by dwarfed trees and scrub bushes. If one only needed one reason to visit, it would be the stars. At night the stars are an incredible, awe-inspiring sight. Visitors feel they could simply reach up and touch them.
The Central Kalahari National Park is huge, being the largest, most remotely situated reserve in Southern Africa and the second largest wildlife reserve in the world at 52,800 km².
In the rainy season and shortly after, the northern areas of the park teem with wildlife gathering at the best grazing spots. Large herds of springbok and gemsbok, wildebeest, hartebeest, eland and giraffe fill the plains attracting predators.
In the north, Deception Valley is one of the highlights attracting herds to the grazing. Deception Valley is also one of the most travelled areas of the reserve, with many public campsites and proximity to the eastern Matswere Gate. The other two gates are on the far side of the reserve, at Xade and Tsau, where public camps are also available.
Other worthwhile areas to visit are Sunday and Leopard Pans, north of Deception Valley, Passarge Valley, and further south, Piper’s Pan.
Available accommodation ranges from public campsites to luxury lodges in private reserves on the periphery of the park.
Botswana is known for having some of the best wilderness and wildlife areas on the African continent, offering visitors impressive and diverse safari adventures in an unspoilt, friendly country.
For a cultural experience, get to know the Bushmen who have inhabited the area for thousands of years. Make sure to sample the national dish Seswaa, consisting of meat stew served over thick pap. Botswana is a safari adventure-lovers dream destination, but with so much to choose from, ensure you get the right advice from a trusted source.
Talk to John Pearse to arrange your Botswana adventure.