Botswana, arguably Africa's top safari destination…
Botswana's Top Destinations
|Okavango Delta (& Maun)||Botswana Safaris|
|Moremi Wildlife Reserve (in Okavango Delta)||Botswana Essential Info|
|Chobe National Park (& Kasane)||Botswana Honeymoons|
|Savute Wilderness Area||Botswana Luxury Safaris|
|Linyanti Wilderness Area||Botswana Country Facts & Info|
|Makgadikgadi Pans & Nxai National Park.||Botswana Top Tips|
|Self-Drive versus Overland Botswana||Climate|
|What type of safari will suite you?||Botswana – Getting There & About|
|'Did You Know? ' – Interesting Botswana|
Botswana is arguably Africa's top safari destination, with safari camps and lodges for the most part set in remote wilderness locations, with access via light aircraft fly-in only. Part of the allure of the Botswana safari experience is that safari camps are widely spread out across large tracts of wilderness, and the exquisite feeling of being isolated within the wilderness can definitely be felt here. The policy of the Botswana Government of low-impact luxury tourism, allows for quality game viewing.
Botswana's most acclaimed wildlife haven is the Okavango Delta – a vast wetland literally within a desert. The Kalahari Desert covers over half of the country of Botswana (70% of its land surface). The Kalahari is dry desert scrub, but it is not desolate, it is home to an incredible variety of wildlife species, and scenic vistas that are equally as fascinating.
Botswana's safari experience is all about combining camps – not only desert camps with the water camps of the Okavango Delta, but within the Delta itself, camps are water only, or water and land combination safari camps – each option allows for different safari experiences. Water camps allow for game viewing in mokoro's (dug-out canoes) and on motor boats. Combination camps allows for both water activities as well as open vehicle game drives and walking safaris. It's the 'mix and match' of safari experiences that will make your Botswana safari interesting.
… you have a number of choices, either a luxury mobile camping safari, or a fly-in safari where a range of camps are available from value for money 3 ‘star’ to luxurious 5 ‘star’ options. The vast wilderness is remote and untouched, and considered one of the remaining true wilderness areas within Africa. The wilderness options are exciting in their differences – traverse the lush waterways of the Okavango Delta, then marvel at the lunar landscape of the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans.
A safari in Botswana is not your ‘cheapest’ option which may be a deciding factor in your holiday plans, as traditionally the emphasis has been on low-impact and high-yield tourism (quality not quantity). So although your safari may cost that much more, it is definitely a once in a lifetime ‘bucket list’ holiday experience.
Vast tracts of wilderness, mostly unfenced, the free flow of wildlife within enormous game reserves both National Parks and private reserves, with small, intimate and exclusive safari camps is the ultimate African safari. When considering ‘when’ to travel – dry season (winter) versus wet season (summer) – also take into consideration your budget in making your decision – over summer deep discounts and pay stay deals can equal substantial savings. Also bear in mind when choosing camps, that if you keep your safari to one supplier, discounts will be offered for long stays, which are not possible when ‘mixing’ safari suppliers e.g. for instance Kwando Safaris offer a stay 6 nights, get 5% off. Again in summer certain suppliers ‘hook up’ to advertise packaged deals at a discount.
Don’t be put off by the terminology – rainy or wet season – think of it rather as the ‘green’ season – yes this is the time of rains, but an afternoon thundershower in the African bush can be quite a spectacular event, erupting on the scene quickly and dissipating just as swiftly. Also the green season is the time of plenty and this is when the antelope calve. The ‘green season’ is also the best time for bird watching as the migrants arrive in their droves.
- Peak season is considered July – October (essentially this is the dry winter months). July is top month. October tends to be the hottest month of the year.
- Green season is November – March (essentially this is the time of rains).
- Botswana is a year round safari destination.
Read more about Botswana’s climate
There are various ways to travel Botswana, the most common travel option being the fly-in safari with inter-camp transfers in light aircrafts that cover vast distances into remote areas within 30 to 90 minutes. For those with limited time, this is the perfect solution, and a light aircraft flight is in itself is a fabulous experience. With a bird’s eye view of the terrain, you are witness to Botswana’s endless wilderness – ancient animal pathways that criss-cross the earth, water ways and wildlife.
A more traditional safari option is the mobile tented safari, which is by no means ‘roughing it’, as the mobile tented safaris are for the most part utterly luxurious affairs. These mobile tented safaris tend to remain in one area, whilst camp with back up staff move from location to location and set-up, whilst you enjoy your game experience, whether it be Mokoro (dugout canoe) or open vehicle game drive. These mobile safaris are luxurious yet ‘smack’ of ‘old Africa’.
There are also Exploration type safaris, which offer more of a three star standard affordability within the pristine wilderness. On the exploration safaris, singles are also catered for in that one can ‘choose’ to share in order to bring costs down.
We suggest you discuss your Botswana holiday with your Africa Travel Expert, who can provide more details pertaining to each ‘style’ of safari. Also remember that peak season is literally just that, ‘peak’ so booking far enough in advance is essential as safari camps are generally small and intimate, with 4 to 8 or 12 chalets only, and therefore space is premium during peak game viewing season.
BOTSWANA TOP TRAVEL TIPS & CLIMATE
- Peak travel seasons in Botswana: May – October (dry/winter months)
- Wet/summer months November – April
- During summer midday temperatures can soar to 38/40 degrees Celsius (this is when your outside shower is great), however night time temps can drop to 20/25 degrees Celsius. During summer expect high humidity levels.
- During winter temperatures average at around 20 degrees Celsius, and can drop as low as 5/8 degrees Celsius at night but your days are dry and sunny.
- July is ‘top’ safari travel month.
October is usually the hottest month of the year, with the air heavy with the scent of rain in the air.
In the Okavango Delta the best time visit is between May and September, when the Delta is in flood and the temperatures are cooler, with fewer mosquitos ‘around’. The months of September and October are particularly ‘top’ safari travel months in the Delta. Although the Okavango Delta is in flood during this time, it is actually considered dry season as virtually no rainfall occurs. The high water levels are due to water flowing into the Delta from rains in the Angolan Highlands some 2000 kms away!
November through to March is considered is summer in Botswana and temperatures can soar into the 40’s (Celsius) with high humidity levels. However thunder showers are frequent and do not last long and bring respite from the heat. An afternoon thunder shower in Africa, with great big rain drops is quite something to behold – it stimulates the different scents and aromas of the African bush. December, January and February are typically the three ‘wettest’ months out of the year.
During the winter months, your days are usually warm and clear, however during early morning game drives and night safaris, temperatures can drop dramatically and you will need to wrap up warm. (See ‘what to pack’ for your safari below).
During the winter months game is ‘easier’ to spot as the wilderness is ‘thinner’ and the animals are thirsty, congregating at watering holes (usually well known by the rangers and guides). However summer brings a whole ‘other’ beauty to the wilderness, this is the best time for ornithologists when the abundance of water draws the crowds (of birds that is) including the migrants. Summer is the time of birthing, and to watch the antics of small animals, either wobbly and learning to stand, or pronging and darting in odd directions, or simply hanging beside mom can be particularly entertaining. The lush wilderness is also something to behold – fruit and flowers and the buzz of insect life abounds.
The rainy season typically lasts from November to April, however when the rains arrive and when they conclude their daily afternoon downpours is not set in stone, and neither is the quantity of rain that falls. Rainfall decreases as one travels from the north east of the country to south west.
WHAT TO TAKE
Note that on light air crafts or within safari game vehicles (or any other mode of transport – speed boat for instance) space is limited, therefore pack carefully and stick to luggage guidelines and weight restrictions – particularly where air-crafts are concerned as you could end up paying substantially for extra luggage transfers. Suitcases, or bags on wheels with hard frames, are particularly unsuited for safari travel. Soft bags that can be more easily stowed are best to travel with on safari.
WHAT TO PACK
- Wash and wear’ comfortable clothing in muted tones (khaki and browns). Bright colours and white are not recommended on safari, purely because one wants to ‘blend in’ with the bush and vehicle and not be ‘obvious’ to the wildlife. What you should pack will also be affected by the season in which you are travelling – see Botswana Climate information.
- Take with ‘smart-casual’ long pants (jeans or track suit) as well as shorts and comfy shirts/t-shirts and a sarong is always helpful. When packing shirts, bring along a couple of light long sleeved shirts as well, as they are handy for early morning and late afternoon ‘cover’ for your arms during peak ‘mosquito time’. Light long sleeved shirts will also help to protect your arms from the sun.
- Wind breaker/jacket for the cooler evenings and early mornings (layers work well during the winter months as you can peel off the layers as you begin to warm up during the day). Try to get a wind breaker that doubles as a rain coat, or bring along a light compact raincoat. Also bring along a jacket during the summer months as you may feel the chill on night safaris.
- A beanie and/or scarf during the winter months and gloves, is great to have.
- Comfortable trainers (walking shoes) as well as sandals/thongs (that can be used whilst on canoe or when in camp).
- Swimming costume and sun hat, don’t forget your sun glasses (polarised) and your sun cream (high factor).
- Camera equipment and binoculars (extra batteries and memory cards are also good). Quite often your vehicle/ranger will bring along a pair of binoculars for the group to make use of – check before you head out on your game drive. It is best to check with your Africa Safari Specialist prior to travel.
- Insect repellent. Although camps will often keep a comprehensive first aid kit, if you know that you react to insect bites, we also suggest brining along an antiseptic cream that you know ‘works’ for you. Another great item to remember is lip balm. A liquid hand sanitizer or hand wipes is also a ‘nice to have’ option for guests unused to the dust on safari.
- We also suggest a personal first aid kit – headache tablets, anti-histamine cream, Imodium for diarrhoea, feminine protection requirements, and plasters, eye drops etc. for quick and ready access.
- Remember to bring enough prescription medication with you, as safari camps are remote and popping down to the local chemist is definitely not a possibility. It is also recommended that you carry a written/official prescription for your medication with you as well – just in case.
- Note book and pen to jot down those special moments and memories.
- Reading material – there will be great opportunities to read during the midday siesta, just be careful of the ‘weight’ of the book/reading material.
- Throughout Africa (South Africa is the exception) military style or camouflage clothing is not recommended. In countries like Zimbabwe, camouflage clothing is strictly prohibited. It is best to avoid camouflage print clothing.
Apart from your soft bag, you should also bring along a separate light day pack for items that you need readily – camera, binoculars, wind breaker, water bottle etc.
Malaria precautions are highly recommended throughout Botswana. Please consult with your local practitioner or health care clinic prior to departure on the latest in malaria prophylactics, as quite often malaria precautions need to begin prior to travel and are to be continued on your return home.
The Aids/HIV epidemic is rife in Botswana, and is actually one of the major threats to the economy of Botswana, as the disease has decimated the working class. However travellers to Botswana need only take the usual necessary precautions against the HIV virus that one would take within your own country.
If you are travelling to Botswana from areas infected with Yellow Fever, you must have a valid Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate. Otherwise no other immunisations are required. For any itineraries that include Zambia and South Africa, even if in transit on flights, it is a requirement for entry into South Africa, to have a Yellow Fever Certificate of vaccination. It would be wise to have an updated TPD (tetanus, polio, diphtheria) vaccine and a Hepatitis A vaccine.
During the summer months ensure that you consume enough water/liquids so as not to dehydrate, and avoid excessive alcohol which in itself causes dehydration.
It is essential for visitors to Botswana to have comprehensive medical insurance to provide cover for the treatment of serious illness or accidents and if required medical evacuation. Remember most camps within a remote and isolated in the wilderness. The responsibility for travel insurance lies with the client. Besides medical, emergency evacuation and repatriation expenses, we suggest that you also ensure you are covered for cancellation and curtailment of your holiday, as well as damage or theft/loss of your personal belongings.
TRAVEL DOCUMENTS / VISAS
A valid passport is required for entry into Botswana and must be valid for six months after your return date and have at least two blank pages. Visitors must hold return or onward journey tickets and sufficient funds to maintain them during their travels in Botswana. US citizens and most European and Common-Wealth countries, as well as South African citizens, do not require a visa for a stay of up to 90 days, however we suggest that you access the latest information from the Botswana Consulate website for the most up to date visa information before you travel. Travel visas are the responsibility of the client.
Although the safari lodges will be ‘geared up’ to allow their guests to re-charge camera batteries, most safari camps are located in extremely remote areas, and it is therefore advisable to bring along enough charged batteries, and data chips with you. Often your ranger will carry binoculars on the vehicle, which will be shared between all guests on the vehicle, however we recommend that you bring along your own light weight binoculars to fully appreciate the wilderness that surrounds you. When one catches a glimpse of that illusive bird, to wait whilst the bino’s are passed around, he may have flitted off in his fine plumage by the time it’s your turn!
Intriguing Africa is able to assist with both your international flights as well as your regional and/or light air craft safari camp ‘connections’. However if you would prefer to handle your international flights with your local travel agent, you would just need to supply us with your flight details, and we could assist with regional and inter-camp flight connections. Alternatively we can simply assist with your ground arrangements; however this would always include the light aircraft flight hops between the safari camps. Most international flights from Europe and the United States, Asia or Australia flying into Johannesburg South Africa, where connecting flights to can be booked to the safari hubs of Maun and Kasane (or Gaberone / Francistown for business travellers).
The main access points into the most popular safari destinations are MAUN and KASANE.
Both airports are accessed via a number of routes of which we have provided a summary for your ease of reference:
Maun (MMB) as the entry point to the Okavango Delta.
Direct flights to Maun are available from:
Johannesburg (South Africa’s Gateway)
Cape Town (in South Africa, another top holiday destination)
Windhoek (in Namibia, opportunity to link holiday packages of desert sand dunes, with the lush Okavango Delta)
Kasane (KSE) as the entry point to the Chobe National Park
Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe and Zambia)
Lusaka (Zambia – another wonderfully wild safari destination)
BOTSWANA'S MAIN AIRPORTS
- Sir Seretse Khama International Airport – Gaberone (GBE)
- Francistown Airport (FRW)
- Maun Airport (MUB)
Kasane Airport (BBK)
Botswana is a land locked country in southern Africa, bordered by South Africa to its south and east, Zimbabwe to its north east, Namibia on its northern and western boundary and ‘touching’ Zambia (at Victoria Falls). The country is dominated by the Kalahari Desert, with the largest inland Delta in the world – the Okavango Delta, which fans out into the desert, creating a water labyrinth of palms, islands and reeds that supports a fascinating variety of wildlife species.
TOP TOURIST WILDLIFE RESERVES
- The Chobe National Park in the far north, which includes the Savute and Linyanti Marshes.
- The Okavango Delta in the North West, also including the Moremi Game Reserve.
- The Makgadikgadi National Park and the Nxai Pan National Park (adjacent national parks) – salt pans and desert mirages. These national parks offer a great combo experience with the Okavango Delta. Tourists enjoy a desert safari experience at the Makgadikagadi and Nxai reserves, and then the water world of the Okavango Delta. The two contrasts offer a great combination in that within fairly close proximity one can experience two entirely unique and different environments along with the varied wildlife species that thrive in these contrasting habitats.
The Tuli Block – A lesser known wildlife haven, but equally as fascinating and a great reserve to combine with South Africa’s northern Kruger National Park.
- Full Name: Republic of Botswana
- Capital City – Gaberone
- Summer Months: November to April
Winter Months: May to October
(April and October are considered the in-between months)
- The country gained independence in 1966 and is one of Africa’s success stories building economic growth through agriculture, tourism and its diamond reserves. Botswana is a peaceful and stable nation, with a relatively small population in relation to the size of the country (around 1.8 million) concentrated near the two major cities of Gaberone and Francistown in the south east of the country. The Botswana Democratic Party has dominated the country’s politics since independence.
- Botswana has the largest percentage of land in the world set aside for wildlife conservation – 17% of the land is National Parks with an additional 21% awarded to private conservation concessions, which totals 38% given over to conservation tourism.
- Language: The official language is English, and the national language is Setswana.
- Time: GMT +2 (i.e. two hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time)
- Economy: Diamond mining, tourism and livestock farming are key components of Botswana’s foreign exchange business, with the Botswana economy connected and acutely affected by the South African economy, having benefitted directly from South Africa’s transition into a democracy.
- Currency: Pula (BWP), which is divided into 100 Thebe (P5, P10, P20, P50 and P100). It is best to carry small denominations of US Dollars as well as Pula on your travels as both are widely accepted at most hotels and lodges. Most major credit cards (Visa & Mastercard) are accepted at shops, restaurants and lodges, as are traveller’s cheques. Most of the private lodges and hotels will accept most major foreign currencies – US Dollars, Euro’s and Pounds as well as South African Rands. ATM’s are found in the larger towns and cities. Banking hours: Mon to Fri 09h00 – 15h30. Sat 09h00 – 10h45.
- The country is two thirds desert and water is precious. The word Pula means water, which is significant in that it shows how important water as a commodity is to the Botswana people.
- Water: Hotels and lodges will stock bottled water, or alternatively have water purifiers from which you can ‘fill up’ your water bottles. Tap water is not recommended for drinking, although ‘safe’ to drink, if you are not used to the water you may just find yourself with an upset tummy. Please do your best to conserve water, this is important in a semi-arid country with low rain fall – most of Botswana has a desert climate (up to 70% of Botswana is covered by the Kalahari Desert).
- Botswana is the world’s 47th largest country and is comparable to the size of Madagascar, roughly the size of France, or slightly smaller than the US state of Texas. The country is predominantly flat.
- When crossing border posts in and out of the country, you may be requested to walk through a disinfectant ‘dip’ – vehicles too drive through this disinfectant – and on occasion you may be requested to take out any shoes from your luggage and dip these too – this is to stop the spread of ‘foot and mouth’ disease into the country.