Blessed with some of the greatest wildlife spectacles on earth, Botswana is one of the great safari destinations in Africa.
Exclusive Travel's Spiritual Home
Botswana didn't just turn its back on mass tourism and all the potential pitfalls it can bring. It ushered in an era of utterly exclusive safari experiences, the likes of which no other country on mainland Africa can match. These are sumptuous lodges and remote tented camps, especially in the Okavango Delta and surrounds, that are sometimes contemporary in style, and at other times awash in safari nostalgia. Best of all, they provide a front-row seat for fabulous wildlife spectacles that you may just have all to yourself.
Why I Love Botswana
By Anthony Ham, Writer
Nowhere in Africa have I felt such a closeness to the wild dramas that are Botswana's daily stock. I love listening to lions roar just beyond the circle of my campfire light. I love the contrast of desert and delta, the endless horizons of the salt pans, the sense of a delta world in motion that is never the same from one year to the next, and the sense that here in Botswana, the world of wilderness, wildlife and wild places survives intact.
The Okavango Delta – there's nowhere quite like it on earth. This is a place where wild creatures roam and rule, where big cats and much bigger elephants walk free in one of the world's last great wildernesses. The delta is a byword for abundance – for animal numbers, for the variety of species, for the birdlife, for floods of Biblical proportions. And it is also a place of singular and unparalleled beauty where safari possibilities can seem as endless as the waters themselves.
Stark Desert Beauty
The Kalahari Desert, the largest unbroken stretch of sand on the planet, is not your ordinary desert. From the salt pans of Makgadikgadi, the baobabs of Nxai Pans, and the spare magnificence of Kubu Island in the north, to the wonderful wildlife of Kgalagadi in the south, this is a desert of exceptional variety. Throw in the fossil river valleys, swaying golden grasses, black-maned lions and the echoes of the indigenous San people in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve and there are few more beautiful deserts on Earth.
Africa's Best Camping
You can experience Botswana by renting your very own 4WD vehicle that doubles as an ingenious camping home away from home. This is about experiencing wild Africa at your own pace, travelling from one campsite to the next, where you may lie awake at night listening to lions roar their bone-trembling roar, or hippos, elephants, or the chilling saw-like grunt of a leopard. Build a campfire, gaze at the stars and feel at one with this gloriously beautiful country.
Cruise along the Chobe River
The languid and life-giving Chobe River is both exceptionally beautiful and bursting with wildlife. Probably the best place in Africa to see elephants swimming, you’d also be hard pushed to find a better spot for an evening boat cruise and a sundowner or three with hippos belly laughing all about you. To take the experience to another level, book a Chobe houseboat holiday.
Experience the beauty of Moremi Wildlife Reserve
Botswana's Moremi Wildlife Reserve lies in the centre of the Okavango Delta. The reserve encompasses a wide range of habitats – from wetlands, floodplains and reed beds to forests and savannah woodlands. The fauna inhabiting this pristine park is abundant and equally diverse, ranging from exotic birds, zebras, buffalo, wildebeest and giraffes to hippos and lions.
Get lost in Kgalagadi Transfrontier National Park
Encompassing ancient animal migration routes between Botswana and South Africa, this enormous desert park is bigger than the Netherlands and famed for its big cat population, particularly lion and cheetah. Other attributes include incredible night skies and overpowering stillness. It’s still a relatively underexplored park, and a special place for wild camping.
Go on a game drive in Chobe National Park
Chobe National Park is Botswana’s flagship park and easily combined with a visit to Victoria Falls just across the border into Zimbabwe or Zambia. The park itself is vast, wild and home to more than 100,000 elephants, sometimes seen in herds of up to 500. There are also plenty of predators, including leopard, lion and the critically-endangered African wild dog.
Paddle around the Okavango Delta
The oasis of the Okavango Delta is one of Africa’s most iconic destinations and not without good cause. Positively teeming with wildlife and birdlife, this region of vast grass flats, low tree-covered ridges and narrow and intricate waterways is best explored in a mokoro, a traditional dugout canoe. This rustic means of transport takes you closer to the delta’s staggering biodiversity.
Roar across the Makgadikgadi Pans
Traverse the world’s largest salt pans on a quad bike to make the most of the awe-inspiring vistas and sense of isolation. Come at the right time of year and you’ll also see southern Africa’s most spectacular zebra and wildebeest migrations. The barren landscape is occasionally punctuated by strange and picturesque islands of palm trees. You might spot the rare brown hyena here.
Sleep with the rhinos at Khama Rhino Sanctuary
Established in 1992, this community-based wildlife project is a shining example of Botswana’s sterling conservation work and its emphasis on sustainable tourism. The peaceful sanctuary provides a safe haven for both white and black rhino, previously wiped out across most of the country, and there are onsite chalets and camping facilities.
Trek in the sacred Tsodilo Hills
Tsodilo Hills is a UNESCO World Heritage Site held sacred by Botswana’s San Bushmen. Known to have been inhabited for at least 100,000 years, these dramatic, isolated hills are decorated with thousands of fascinating ancient rock paintings. A number of different hiking trails showcase both the stunning natural beauty and rich cultural heritage of these ancient landscapes.
Venture into Central Kalahari Game Reserve
Remote, enormous and virtually unexplored, the Central Kalahari Game Reserve is a refuge both for iconic wildlife and the country's few remaining Bushmen, nomadic hunter gatherers indigenous to southern Africa. Often referred to as one of Africa’s last true wildernesses, roaring lions may be the only sound to puncture the overpowering desert stillness here.
The Okavango Delta, Moremi and Chobe are Botswana's most popular parks. The best time to visit them is from May to September, during the Dry season and winter, resulting in more moderate temperatures. In addition, the Okavango is flooded from June to October.