Botswana is perhaps the best known secret in Africa! The prolific wildlife and pristine habitats, combined with a vast selection of safari options, offer safari-goers countless possibilities.
A model of prosperity and stability for the continent, Botswana is a land of harsh contrasts and compelling beauty - a true untamed wilderness encompassing a diverse variety of habitats, each one home to an astounding array and density of animal and bird life. The country's more than 80,000 elephants alone make up the largest free-roaming herds in Africa. With names like the Okavango, Makgadikgadi, Linyanti, Moremi, Savute, the Kalahari and Selinda Bostwana conjures up images of elephant, lion and leopard, stunning sunsets and clear night skies.
Botswana is also a year-round wildlife destination with some of the finest safari lodges and camps in Africa... so start planning your safari to Botswana today.
The Okavango Delta is a fragile ecosystem that remains one of Africa's least spoilt and most authentic wilderness areas.Rising in tha Angolan highlands the Okavango river flows south-east through Namibia and into northern Botswana. At the end of its journey it spreads out over the Kalahari sandveld in an immense, fan-shaped inland delta. These wetlands are among the great natural wonders of Africa. Here there are wide, mysterious waterways, tranquil lagoons and palm-graced islands, narrow labyrinthine channels choked by reeds and papyrus and by dense mantles of water lilies that bloom gloriously in their season. Fringed with stands of palms and thick forest, this vast and pristine wilderness is yours to explore. With over 12,000sq kms of waterways, it is truly one of the natural wonders of the world.
As well as exclusive safari camps and lodges for couples, families and groups, the Okavango is well known for its horse riding and walking safaris and is a popular destination for fly-in and mobile tented safaris (along with many of the safari destinations featured in the following tabs). New on the waterways are mobile boat safaris through the entire length of the Okavango Delta. Ask for more details.
Within the Okavango Delta lies an area know as the Moremi Game Reserve. The reserve holds a proud place in the annals of southern African conservation. In the early 1960s the local Tawana people, fully aware of and increasingly worried about the threat posed to their traditional lands by sporting hunters and other intrusive elements, set aside the area as a game sanctuary - one of the few instances in Africa, indeed in the world, of a community voluntarily dispossessing itself of its territorial birthright.
Names like Chitabe and Jao, Xigera and Xakanaxa, Vumbura and Mambo, Kwara and Duba Plains, Khwai river and Chief's Island are all to be found in this region.
North of the Okavango are the famed concession areas of Selinda, Kwando and Linyanti - all renowned for their vast landscapes and boundless wildlife. This is Africa at its most untouched. These are vast, private conservation areas where only a limited number of guests can experience a traditional African safari without the pressures of mass tourism. These three regions (or concession areas), together with the Savute, form an inter-linking ecosystem where vast herds of buffalo, elephant, zebra and other species can roam freely, attracted to the individual water systems of the Savute Marsh, Selinda Spillway and Linyanti and Kwando rivers.
The Kwando river, which runs for 80kms along the north-eastern boundary of Botswana before becoming the Linyanti, changes its name further down to become the Chobe river. The availability of water along this river course governs the rhythm of life in the region. In the drier months when the pans in the mopane country to the south and west have all but dried up massive elephant numbers and vast buffalo herds begin to migrate to the refuge of these permanent waters and make it a haven for game-viewing.
Selinda A private concession area, the Selinda Reserve covers an area of 1350sq. kms, abutting the remote and spectacular Linyanti swamps. The Selinda Spillway which passes through this area is the only waterway to connect the Okavango Delta to the Linyanti river. As an extension of the Kwando / Linyanti the Selinda is a haven for lion, cheetah, hyena, jackal and wild dog together with plains game including giraffe, wildebeest, impala, lechwe, tsessebe, and kudu.
Kwando Kwando is the essence of Botswana - ancient, immense and unspoiled. Kwando's uninhabited wilderness captures all the power and majesty that Botswana's wildlife experience has to offer. The 232,000 hectare (2320 sq. miles) Kwando concession stretches southwards from the banks of the Kwando river, through huge open plains and Mopane forests to link up with the Okavango Delta - an area criss-crossed by centuries old migratory trails of elephant, buffalo, zebra and wildebeest which move between the Delta, Chobe, and the open Namibian wilderness to the north. This vast pristine wilderness is for the exclusive used of the guests of the two safari camps within the concession, Lebala Camp and Lagoon Camp.
Linyanti Situated in a forgotten corner of the Chobe NP is Linyanti. A secluded and uncrowded paradise, this short strip of swampy river frontage is a reminder of the Okavango's waterways, lagoons, reed beds and towering canopy of trees.
In the far north-east of thye country, where the Chobe river flows into the Zambezi, is Chobe National Park - popular for its proximity to the Victoria Falls. This is big game country. There are no fences, although there is a veterinary cordon far to the south, and the animals are free to migrate to and from the Chobe in the north, and at times - especially in the dry months - Chobe plays host to a large proportion of the wider region's 100 000 plus elephant found in the region. Other species abound, among them buffalo and zebra, sable and impala, kudu and tsessebe; reedbuck, waterbuck, lechwe and sitatunga in the wetter parts; the rare roan antelope and the Chobe bushbuck; monkeys and baboons; lion and leopard, hyena, wild dog and other predators. The avifauna too, is quite splendid: around 400 different birds have been recorded, most prolifically and colourfully on and around the floodplains.
Alongside the private concession areas of Selinda and Linyanti is the Savuti (or Savute). Recognised a prime game-viewing area, the Savuti includes an area of sweeping savannah, originally the Savuti Marsh - now a wide open plain and dry channel that once was its lifeline. Mysterious wet and dry cycles mould this landscape and dictate the nature of its wild inhabitants. Here wild dogs hunt in the channel where crocodiles swam only twenty years ago. The Gubatsa Hills shelter leopard and klipspringer and rock paintings of early man's wildlife sightings. Dry season game viewing concentrates on Savute's resident bull elephants, antelope and lion prides around half-empty pans and permanent water-holes. Black-backed jackal, bat-eared foxes, tsessebe, kudu, impala and ostrich abound. The summer rains bring a feast for lion, hyena and cheetah as thousands of migrating zebra and wildebeest assemble in a chaotic pattern on the marsh. Cape buffalo herds arrive and migrant birds swell Savute's 300 resident species, thrilling bird-watchers with their spectacular antics. Carmine bee-eaters perch on the back of kori bustards and red-crested korhaans plummet from the sky in daring aerobatic mating displays.
The Kalahari, or "Kgalagadi" as it is correctly called in Setswana, covers much of Botswana and probes into Namibia, Zimbabawe and South Africa (in fact it stretches across 9 countries in total to just north of the equator and is the world's largest continuous mantle of sand). It includes such game rich areas as Hwange NP, Chobe NP, Moremi and the newly formed Kalkgadi Transfrontier Park. Also part of the Kalahari are the Makgadikgadi & Nxai Pans and the Central Kalahari (or Kgalagadi) Game Reserve. These National Parks and Game Reserves of the Kalahari, in conjunction with the vast conservation areas that surround them, protect the plant and animal life of this fragile ecosystem. With little more than 100 to 200mm of rainfall per year, the fauna and flora in the Kalahari wages a daily struggle for survival. It is also the ancestral home of the San (Bushmen) and one of Africa's last wildlife paradises.
Despite its sandy porous soils, long hot summers, sparse vegetation, unpredictable rainfall and lack of surface water the Kalahari is not regarded as a true desert because its annual rainfall exceeds the maximum rainfall normally experienced in a desert. The Kalahari is not a desert of dunes but a combination of grasslands, scrub and dry river beds.
Covering an area of 51800 sq kms, the Central Kalahari Game Reserve is the second largest protected area in the world. It encompasses some of the most harsh, inhospitable and undeveloped territory in Botswana (and indeed Africa itself), and yet is also some of the most inspiring.
Established in 1961 to allow the San (Bushmen) people to continue their traditional lifestyle, this remote area has been utilized as a vast hunting ground. It has been closed to the public until recently and remains essentially undeveloped. As a result of social changes among the San and pressure from conservation circles, the government has, since the late 1980's, decided to encourage the San to leave the reserve, leaving it solely for animals and tourism interests. The San have resisted the move and a situation exists where the San mostly inhabit the southern parts, whilst the north is being set aside for tourism. This situation may in time be formalized.
Deception valley, in the north-east of the reserve, was made famous by the book Cry of the Kalahari, by Mark and Delia Owens who researched brown hyena from 1974 to 1981 and brought to international attention the many facets of this fascinating area together with the history that has threatened its very existence. As well as Deception Pan, a number of other pans offer animals a source of water, being pumped on an irregular basis - Sunday Pan, Letiahau Pan and Piper's Pan all offer good game viewing.
The Makgadikgadi Pans are at the southern end of the Great Rift Valley that runs the length of Africa. The pans are also reputed to have once been part of the Zambezi Valley before geographical changes shifted the flow to its current course.
Ntwetwe Pan and Sowa Pan, together with numerous smaller pans, form the Makgadikgadi Pans system. The pans are remnants of the once great superlake - Lake Makgadikgadi: 80,000 square kilometres in extent, and up to 30 metres deep, this was the largest inland sea in Africa. Today, this vast area of salt pans are predominately dry, being interspersed with low-lying grass islands and in the wet season, becomes the destination of herds of migrating zebra. It is a land of unspoilt beauty and hidden fascinations that holds unforgettable experiences for the visitor.
The San word for salt is "Sowa" - an apt description of the vast white expanse of this the largest natural salt pans in the world. Sowa Pan and the western Ntwtwe pan are important breeding sites for both lesser and greater flamingos who migrate here from Etosha in neighboring Namibia and as far away as East Africa.. Brine shrimps, worms and tiny crustaceans provide food for greater flamingos while the lesser flamingos feed on algae. These food types all flourish in the warm shallow waters of the pans during the rainy season.
There are little or no landmarks in the Makgadikgadi other than rock islands (remnants of ancient sand dunes) and Baobab trees. In days gone by early explorers carved their signatures into these huge bizarre trees - the most famous of these being Baines' (made famous by Thomas Baines who painted them in 1862) and Greens' Baobabs (named after the two Green brothers whose expedition passed this way in 1852).
Nxai Pan is quite different in character, and instead of a briny wasteland, boasts short sweet grass which provides good grazing for springbok and other antelope. Giraffe, zebra and wildebeest are also found in this region in good numbers together with unusual birds such as the Kori Bustard and Black Korhaan.
The Nxai Pan National Park was founded in the early 1970's, along with the Makgadikgadi Pans Game Reserve. These two protected areas were joined in 1992, to form the Makgadikgadi National Park, a 7500 km2 area incorporating Ntwetwe Pan, Makgadikgadi Pans, Nxai Pan, Baines' Baobabs and Kudiakam Pan. The vast Makgadikgadi Pans areas are the last evidence of a prehistoric super lake that was once found here, and today is a one of the last true wilderness area left in Africa. Famous explorers who passed through this region on their way to the 'interior' included David Livingstone, James Chapman and Thomas Baines.
Nxai Pan is well known for its huge springbok and gemsbok populations, and is indeed the only natural place where one can see impala and springbok living together. Once the summer rains have begun (late November to March) migratory species such as zebra and wildebeest begin to move to the Nxai Pan and surrounds in their thousands. Hundreds of elephants make their way to the area from the Chobe and Okavango to feed. These large herds of animals attract many predators including lion, cheetah, wild dog, leopard and both spotted and the more elusive brown hyena. White Rhino are also occasionally sighted. Also to be seen are the Livingstone's eland, greater kudu and red hartebeest.
The Tuli area of far north Botswana incorporates several privately owned reserves including Mashatu and Tuli Game Reserve and boasts vast numbers of elephant and buffalo together with excellent lion and leopard sightings. Both Walking Trails and Horse Riding Safaris are also a feature of this little-known destination. Night game drives are also a feature and give you the opportunity to witness the incredible diversity of nocturnal wildlife that play out their dramatic fight for survival each night. Genet, porcupines, leopard, aardvark and aardwolf are but a few of the nocturnal mammals that can be seen in the evening hours. Although not always easy to get to, Tuli is an extremely worthy addition to any safari itinerary.
Botswana is predominately a fly-in safari destination although traditional mobile tented safaris are also extremely popular. Walking trails and horse riding safaris are also a feature and more lodges are welcoming families - read more below:
The entire northern region of Botswana is divided into exclusive concession areas of pristine wild habitat. In each of these concessions one or more safari camps or lodges have been built to host visitors from overseas. All have their own airstrip. These camps and lodges are small and have exclusive traversing rights over that area. Some lodges are also located within the Moremi Game Reserve. Bordering Moremi are areas like Khwai River which are owned by the local community. Here too, agreements between the local villagers and safari operators mean that safari camps have been established.
The standard of camps and lodges is superb as is the guiding and wildlife opportunities. Some are what is referred to as "wet" camps - these are generally located on lagoons, where there is permenant water year round, and offer more water-borne activities like mokoro trails or boating in specially designed, two-tier aliminium boats.
Not to be missed when in the Okavango is a helicopter flight over the "Delta" - highly recommended.
In the more arid Central Kalahari, Makgadikgadi & Nxai Pans permanent safari camps have been established to receive visitors - names like Jack's & San Camps, Meno A Kwena and Leroo-Lau-Tua. Here you will partake in expeditions onto the vast salt pans and across the vast grasslands, seeking out the migrating zebra herds, brown hyena and the ever inquisitive meerkat.
Many people maintain that until you have experienced a mobile tented safari you really haven't been on safari! Ask for details..
More and more lodges and safari camps in Botswana are welcoming families, including children as young as 4 and 5 years. Some now offer 'family rooms' with adjoining bedrooms and shared bathroom. A number have speciallly designed children's programs and guides selected for the role. Families with children under 8 yrs may be asked to reserve a private vehicle for game drives.
Some of the finest horse riding safaris are to be found in the Okavango region Ask for details..
While many lodges do offer walking as an activity it is best done as a 2 or 3 day walking trail, staying in overnight fly-camps or suitably rustic seasonal camps. Ask for details..
We also offer mobile boat safaris through the entire length of the Okavango Delta. Guests are able to experience the waterways of the Okavango Delta on comfortable custom designed aluminium game viewing boats with accommodation in classic tented camps on remote islands along the way. On offer are fully catered private safaris for groups up to 12 people, luxury mobile safaris for groups up to 8 people and scheduled safaris suitable for single travellers and couples.
Mokoro Trails (dugout canoes)
As per walking above, while many of the delta camps/lodges offer mokoro excursions as an activity it is best done as a 2 or 3 day trail, staying in overnight fly-camps or suitably rustic seasonal camps. Mokoro trails allow guests to explore the Okavango Delta's tranquil waterways in search of rare creatures such as sitatunga and Pel's fishing owl. You will board a mokoro (dug-out canoe) and glide into one of the more remote areas of the Okavango Delta. On a secluded island, you will find your rustic bush camp where friendly staff waits ready to welcome you with a refreshing cool drink.
Over the next two nights/three days you will explore this diverse environment by canoe and on foot. When on the water, your mokoro guides will take the time to point out red lechwe, fish eagles, painted reed frogs, golden orb spiders and malachite kingfishers. Whilst on foot your walking guide will point out interesting plants and trees. He will take time to explain ways the bark, roots or fruit are utilised by the animals and people of this area. You may also see animals such as giraffe, impala or elephant during your walk and searching the canopies of the African ebony and the mangosteen might allow you a glimpse of the Pel's fishing owl.
The trails camps accommodate a maximum of four to six people in two twin bedded tents, and the camp includes the services of a professional guide, personal chef, waiter, housekeeper and mokoro guides. Each tent has adjacent bucket shower and 'long drop' toilet facilities. Lighting is by rechargeable 12 volt lamps, charged by solar power.
Apart from the evening boat cruises that depart from most of the Chobe lodges, you can also stay on board a more luxurious vessel with all the comforts - a unique experience. Cruise the waterways amongst a myriad of wildlife whilst being pampered in luxurious comfort....sound good? Ask us about the possibilities.
Maun is the tourist hub for the entire Okavango Delta, Central Kalahari and Makgadikgadi & Nxai Pans region (see the Botswana map).
Flights into Maun (from Johannesburg, Cape Town or Windhoek) are limited so it is important to secure these early.
Fly-in safaris from Maun are a simple matter of flying a circular route from camp to camp. Weight restrictions apply - generally 15/20kgs ONLY.
Mobile safaris are generally 7, 10 or 14 days and tend to start and end in Maun, or start in Maun and end in Kasane (near Victoria Falls) or start in Kasane and end in Maun.
A range of accommodation options are avauilable in Maun if required.
Some points to note when planning your Botswana itinerary:
Botswana combines well with South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Namibia and/or the famous Victoria Falls.
Access to Tuli is often better via South Africa! Talk to us about the possibilities.
Weight restrictions apply to scheduled flights within Botswana - generally 15 to 20kgs ONLY.
Mobile tented safaris are generally 7, 10 or 14 days but may be longer when including South Africa, namibia and/or the Victoria Falls.
No visas are required for Botswana for most countries.