Exceptional wildlife, small camps in exclusive wilderness areas, unique activities, and low human footprint combine to make Botswana one of the most memorable safari destinations in Africa.
Situated in the centre of southern Africa, landlocked Botswana has Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe as its neighbours. With the exception of the eastern part of the country, where the summer rainfall is slightly higher, the Kalahari Desert forms the majority of Botswana. This predominance of arid land makes for a remarkable phenomenon… the Okavango Delta. This wondrous wetland within a desert, receives its waters from rain falling over a thousand kilometres away, and sustains a huge diversity of fauna and flora. And in the northeast of the country, the Chobe and Linyanti reserves are renowned for their predators and large concentrations of game.
Historically Botswana is one of Africa’s outstanding success stories. Prior to independence in 1966, it was one of the world’s poorest countries, an unexplored land only visited by hardy adventurers. Botswana embarked on innovative and proactive ways to deal with tourism, the second largest export sector after diamonds. The country’s leaders took the view that high quality, low volume tourism was the best way to create a sustainable industry that would employ a large percentage of its people while still preserving the environment.
Its pristine, natural beauty, abundant wildlife, and remoteness wilderness areas that make Botswana such a truly exquisite safari destination.
Regions of Botswana
Chobe National Park, the second largest national park in Botswana, is world-renowned for its large migratory population of more than 50,000 elephants. If you want to see these wonderful gentle giants, come to Chobe.
The park has varied habitats – plains, swamps, thick forests, and arid flatlands – which support a great diversity of species. In addition to the pachyderms, there are lion, leopard, hyena, jackal, wild dog, impala, kudu, zebra, wildebeest, giraffe, warthog, waterbuck, lechwe, puku, roan and sable antelope, bushbuck, baboons, and more than 460 bird species. Land safaris are very rewarding here, but there are also popular boat safaris, on the mighty Chobe River, watching animals, especially large herds of elephants and buffalo, come to drink, with a front row seat, a much different point of view than from a land rover.
Chobe is the most accessible park in the country, and therefore can get quite busy, especially on the riverfront and nearby wilderness. It is still a great option for those without the time and money to head into the more remote areas of Botswana.
Kwando, Selinda and Linyanti are private concessions in the northern region of Botswana, some of the most beautiful and remote destinations in the country, offering exceptional wildlife viewing, perhaps the best in the country. The area is also extremely diverse, with serpentine channels, lagoons, grass floodplains, papyrus stands, marshes, reed beds, savannah, riparian forest, mopane woodland, scrubland, palm groves and magnificent, towering trees Baobab trees.
During dry season, the area really comes to life, as the rivers’ permanent waters provide a vital lifeline for the resident and migratory animals, including impala, blue wildebeest, giraffe, waterbuck, reedbuck impala, buffalo, the world’s highest density of elephants and a variety of predators – lion, hyena, leopard, cheetah, jackal, serval, caracal and wild dogs. Many people consider this region to have the best predator viewing in Botswana.
These private concessions offer a very exclusive, authentic and remote safari experience. The camps here are small and private, isolated in the wild, with very few guests. The wildlife viewing is wonderful, but what stands out is that this is “the bush”, similar perhaps to what the early explorers may have found, the Africa one dreams of experiencing. With little connection to the outside world, visitors have the untamed wilderness, the incredible star-filled sky, and the sounds of the animals at night.
The Okavango Delta is one of Africa’s most amazing destinations. This vast inland delta, the largest in the world, is nearly 6000 sq. miles of wonderful wetlands – lagoons, sinuous channels, lakes, flooded grasslands, and thousands of islands. This incredible oasis, which lies in the middle of an enormous desert, is appropriately nicknamed the ‘jewel’ of the Kalahari.
This wetland paradise supports a staggering amount and diversity of animals, including 122 species of mammals, 71 species of fish, 444 species of birds, 64 species of reptiles and 1300 species of flowering plants. Visitors can explore the Delta on land and water – by land rover, on foot, and in “mokoros”, small traditional boats used to travel in the shallow waters. It is a very memorable, iconic activity that the Okavango is famous for – a “must do” for any visitor.
The Makgadikgadi Pan – one of the largest salt pans in the world – is the remains of an enormous lake that evaporated thousands of years ago. It is vast, stark, and desolate, and stretches as far as the eye can see, and then further…it’s the size of the entire country of Switzerland!
This may seem like an unusual place for a safari, but when the rains come, the desert comes to life. The landscape is transformed from an empty, sunbaked expanse covered in salt to a gigantic waterhole reminiscent of the magnificent lake of its prehistoric past. The precious water attracts a cornucopia of wildlife, including one of Africa’s largest zebra populations, large wildebeest herds, thousands of flamingos, elephants, cheetah, hyena, lion, a myriad of water birds, gemsbok, springbok, red hartebeest, bushbuck, giraffe, eland, kudu, bushbuck, duiker, etc. They are all thirsty, so if they are within walking, or flying distance, they come to Makgadikgadi.
Although it is a desolate and challenging habitat, people have been living here since the Stone Age. In addition to the wildlife, there are also interesting villages to visit as well as fascinating archaeological sites. Other activities include nature walks, quad biking, horse riding, and visiting the famous meerkat colonies.
The Central Kalahari Game Reserve is the second largest game reserve in the world- the size of Massachusetts and Vermont combined… that’s one gigantic wildlife park! It is also one of the least visited and the most remote in all Southern Africa. This is a fantastic combination, especially for the adventurous traveler seeing an authentic, off-off the beaten path experience. Nothing can prepare you for the Kalahari- its immense size creates a feeling of unending, untouched wilderness, with little signs of life, making visitors feel like explorers on another planet.
On first impression, it seems impossible that this vast landscape of dry desert sand could support any wildlife, but there is actually an impressive variety of animals living here, including lion, brown wild dog, leopard, honey badger, giraffe, brown hyena, cheetah, warthog, and a wide variety of birds and antelope. In fact, the desert comes to life in the rainy season, when hordes of plains game, followed by their predators, provide some of the best summer wildlife viewing in Botswana.
There are few people here, visitors or inhabitants, which just adds to the adventure. The San, or Bushman, are one of the few cultures that do live here, some still practicing their traditional hunter/gatherer way of life, as their ancestors did. Interactions with this culture is a unique and incredibly enlightening addition to any visit to the Kalahari.
Activities include game drives, cultural visits, bird watching, and nature walks. Nightlife here is nonexistent, except of course, for gazing at the brilliance of the limitless starlit sky.