The safari connoisseur’s choice, Botswana offers some of Africa’s greatest game viewing. Explore huge, wild reserves by 4X4, canoe and boat and enjoy superlative safari accommodation.
Welcome to one of the few unspoiled wilderness areas in Africa, with vast game reserves where some of the largest herds in southern Africa roam free and wild, together with some of the most spectacular and varied bird life.
In Botswana you experience a land of nature and endless horizons, little changed by man. The tropical climate greets you with blue skies, sunshine and cooling breezes. Exotic birds and flowers are all around you and herds of elephant, giraffe, buffalo, and antelope roam across the rolling countryside.
As you travel through Botswana, you discover a land of contrasts. It is a land-locked country, about the size of France, in which you can encounter the desert sands of the Kalahari and the verdant Eden of the Okavango Delta, where water takes precedence over land. The Okavango Delta forms the nucleus and heartbeat of this treasure house of wildlife.
Explore the waterways of the Okavango Delta, the largest inland delta in the world; the vast, white salt pans and the grasslands of the Makgadikgadi and Nxai Pans; the seemingly endless Kalahari Desert with its orange sand and scant vegetation, and the dense bush and broad floodplains of Chobe National Park, home to the largest concentration of elephants in Africa.
All the large mammals can be found in Botswana; elephant, buffalo, red lechwe, lion and cheetah occur in good numbers and Botswana 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.
History & Economy
A model working democracy since its independence in 1966, Botswana is one of Africa’s true success stories. Long associated with the San Bushmen, this France-sized country was settled by Iron Age African farmers – the predecessors of today’s Tswana – but was subsequently colonised by the British. Once something of a colonial backwater, Botswana’s peaceful transition to freedom was led by Sir Seretse Khama – a highly revered figure in the country – and the discovery of enormous diamond fields quickly transformed the country.
Lying landlocked at the dry heart of the Southern African subcontinent, Botswana has used its limited resources wisely, and for thirty years it enjoyed the highest average economic growth rate in the world. The wealth derived from Botswana’s three major industries of cattle, diamonds and tourism has resulted in country-wide infrastructure and – by continental standards – a high standard of living.
People & Culture
With a population of barely over two million, Botswana has a mostly homogenous culture with strong religious beliefs. Most people are Christian and Tswana-speaking (English is widely spoken), though many San Bushmen still follow their traditional way of life in the Kalahari. Most of the population however lives in the more urbanised south-east, especially in the ever-expanding capital city of Gaborone, leaving much of the country completely wild and uninhabited.
Landscape & Wildlife
Virtually synonymous with the Kalahari Desert, much of Botswana is flat and dry, covered in thorny acacia trees and home to enormous salt pans and rolling grasslands. Rainfall is highest in northern Botswana where vast open woodlands dominate the environment and several globally important wetland habitats – the Okavango Delta, the Linyanti Swamps and the Chobe River – support huge numbers of animals.
With over 17% of its land surface turned over to conservation and a ban on virtually all hunting effective from 2013, Botswana is a haven for wildlife and several of its protected areas – the Chobe National Park, the Okavango Delta and the Moremi Game Reserve in particular – rank among Africa’s best game viewing destinations. Botswana’s Kalahari parks are some of the wildest and least developed in the region but offer excellent opportunities for game viewing, especially in early summer when several local zebra migrations occur.
Botswana’s wildlife highlights include Africa’s greatest concentrations of elephant, fantastic bird watching, abundant predators and the continent’s largest population of African wild dog. Botswana’s lions are particularly notorious for their size and their ability to prey on large animals such as hippo, buffalo and even young elephants
A Botswana safari will deliver a travel experience that will live long in your memory. Custodian of extraordinary, wildlife-packed destinations such as the Okavango Delta and the Chobe National Park, this easy-going, friendly country blends sensational big game viewing with excellent accommodation, cultural interactions and smooth-running logistics.
Go on guided game drives, nature walks, river cruises and canoe trips to fully appreciate Botswana’s legendary wildlife for yourself; Botswana is home to Africa’s largest elephant population as well as huge herds of buffalo, zebra and many antelope species. The bird watching is fantastic and if it’s Africa’s top predators that you want – big cats, crocs, hyenas and wild dogs – then Botswana is one of the best African countries to see them.
The perfect destination for wildlife photographers and discerning safari travellers, Botswana’s intimate and exclusive nature will also appeal to romantics. Indeed, the country offers some of Africa’s most select and luxurious safari lodges in stunning locations, making a Botswana honeymoon a natural choice for those who want an unforgettable experience. And given the virtually never-ending array of animals both big and small, it’s a great destination for an adventurous family safari too though we’d advise against taking young children and toddlers.
We’ve made planning a Botswana safari holiday simple. Our hand-picked lodges and tried-and-tested itineraries ensure your expectations are more than met, and it’s surprisingly easy to add on other iconic Southern African destinations such as Cape Town, Victoria Falls or the Kruger National Park. Browse our recommended tours and safaris or simply contact one of our African Safari Experts for inspiration and assistance.
Our top places to visit in Botswana:
- Okavango Delta – the Kalahari’s green oasis
- Chobe National Park – elephants & predators
- The Kalahari – unique parks & thriving wildlife
- Linyanti, Selinda& Kwando – exclusive wetland areas
- Moremi Game Reserve – one of Africa’s best reserves
- Savuti – dramatic game-viewing and predator sightings
There’s plenty of variation on a Botswana safari: huge wetlands and wide rivers are havens of biodiversity in the country’s northern woodland environments while the surprisingly rewarding Kalahari is where to go in Botswana for game-covered grasslands and sun-baked salt pans. Each destination offers something different but combining these places of interest is simple to arrange – light aircraft charters serve each destination and you can even enjoy some bird’s eye game viewing on the way.
Okavango Delta: the Kalahari’s green oasis
An emerald-green paradise in the middle of the red Kalahari, the Okavango Delta forms the centrepiece of most Botswana safaris. One of the world’s most mesmerising natural destinations, its labyrinthine channels, open floodplains and tangled woodlands really do teem with wildlife and it offers a wide range of safari activities including game drives, nature walks, boat rides and canoe safaris. Much of the Okavango Delta is protected by the legendary Moremi Game Reserve; privately managed conservation concessions take care of much of the rest.
Chobe & Savuti National Park: elephants & predators
Botswana’s heavyweight big game reserve, the Chobe National Park is where to go in Botswana for elephants and at no time more so than between June and October when enormous herds congregate on the Chobe River. Further south is Chobe’s Savuti region – raw, wild and the legendary setting for savage interactions between lions and hyenas.
Savuti is an arid region 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 Kalahari: unique parks & thriving wildlife
A far cry from the popular imagery of a sandy wasteland, the beautiful wooded grasslands and seasonally flooded pans of Botswana’s three Kalahari parks are home to an astonishing variety of animals, quite different from Botswana’s more famous destinations, and are ideal for seasoned travellers looking for a unique safari experience.
Linyanti, Selinda& Kwando: exclusive wetland reserves
If it’s an Okavango Delta-type experience you want but with an air of exclusivity then travel to the private reserves of Linyanti, Selinda and Kwando. Bordering the Caprivi Strip, these wild wetlands have only recently opened up to visitors and the game viewing, particularly in the June to October dry season, is superb.
Maun, a transitory town popularly known as the gateway to the Okavango Delta or the hub of the tourism industry and one of the country’s busiest centres. 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 travellers 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 with huge saltpans and 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 North Eastern 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 “thirst lands” are transformed into great sheets of water that attract a spectacular array of water birds 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.
Tuli Block: safari in the Land of Giants
Tucked away in eastern Botswana, the Tuli Block is one of Botswana’s least known places of interest but offers a very different safari experience to the rest of the country. Set around the Limpopo River, this is a country of dramatic rocky landscapes, huge baobab trees and elephants, protected by private reserves.
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 tranquillity 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.
The question of when to go to Botswana is best answered by thinking about what you want to experience. Game viewing is at its peak during the dry winter months of May to October when animals are concentrated in ever increasing numbers at water sources as the dry season wears on. Many experts regard the cooler months of June to August as the best time of year for a Botswana safari – the game viewing is consistently excellent, there’s virtually no rain and the risk of malaria is at its lowest.
Reaching peak concentrations during the hot and dry September/October months, wildlife tends to disperse during the rainy January to April summer but several destinations such as Chobe’sSavuti region and the Kalahari offer excellent summer game viewing, not least because they lie on the path of migrating animals – particularly zebra. Indeed, Botswana’s three Kalahari parks are arguably at their best in early summer – December is a particularly good month as many antelope give birth then which means more predators.
A year-round birding destination, bird watchers will nevertheless find the migrant-filled summer months of the “Green Season” the best time to visit Botswana for both numbers and diversity of species.
Need more detail? Contact one of our Travel Experts to assist you.
There’s nothing like up-to-date, relevant travel information direct from the experts – get Sun Africa Expeditions’ essential Botswana travel advice before you go.
Money & Spending
The national currency of Botswana is the Pula – a regionally strong currency – but the US dollar is widely accepted at lodges and hotels throughout the country. Major hotels have foreign exchange desks and most shops, lodges and travel agencies will accept traveller’s cheques. All major credit cards are accepted at hotels, lodges, shops and restaurants. However, some establishments do not accept payment by Diners or American Express.
Full banking services are only available in Botswana’s major towns, but ATMs are becoming increasingly more common. Banking hours: 8:30am to 3:30pm Monday to Friday and 8:30am to 11am on Saturday.
Provided the service is good, it is customary to tip lodge staff and guides in either Pula or any hard currency on your Botswana safari. The amount that you tip varies depending on the staff member’s role and the size of your group. In city restaurants and bars, a 10% tip is customary when the service charge is not included.
For in-depth tipping guidelines, enquire with one of our Africa Safari Experts – they’d be happy to share their knowledge with you.
Average summer temperatures: 18°C to 38°C
Average winter temperatures: 6°C to 27°C
Rainy season: October/November to March/April
Refer to “best time to visit Botswana” for details on the best wildlife-viewing times.
What to Pack
When packing for a Botswana safari, practicality is key. In the summer months, daytime temperatures can exceed 40°C, so shorts and t-shirts are best, with a longer shirt for protection against the sun if you burn easily. Choose clothing in neutral colours (try to avoid white) and wear lightweight long-sleeved clothing at night and in the early mornings to protect against mosquitoes.
During the cooler months it is best to layer up as the days are still warm and sunny but the night time temperatures can drop close to freezing point. Be sure to pack a thick fleece or jacket for early morning and evening game drives, which can be very cold.
Flights & Getting Around
Gaborone: you can fly to Sir Seretse Khama – Botswana’s main international airport – from Johannesburg but most safari-bound travellers skip it and fly directly to one of the two airports below.
Maun: regular flights from Johannesburg and Windhoek (via Victoria Falls) mean easy access to the Okavango Delta’s gateway airport. You’ll transfer to light charter aircraft for your flight into the Delta.
Kasane: fly to Chobe’s gateway from Johannesburg, Gaborone or Maun. You’ll transfer by road to lodges in the Chobe River area or smaller aircraft for safaris in Savute or Linyanti. Victoria Falls is less than 100km away by road.
Charter flights on small aircraft are the norm for getting from place to place in Botswana with transfers and game drives conducted in open-sided 4X4 vehicles. Transfers and game viewing by motor boat and mokoro (dug-out canoe) are common in the Okavango Delta.
Visa & Passport Requirements
Every visitor to Botswana must be in possession of a passport that is valid until six months after the initial date of travel; however, no visas are required by citizens of EU countries, most Commonwealth countries, the USA, South Africa, Switzerland, Israel and Norway.
Upon arrival you will receive a 30-day entrance stamp and, for those who plan on travelling onwards to Botswana’s neighbouring countries, visas for Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe can be obtained in Gaborone.