Its reputation as Africa’s ultimate safari destination has reached all corners of the safari traveller's globe. Its national parks and reserves being some of the most richly populated by wildlife and birdlife against a backdrop of incredible natural beauty is known to most people considering a safari trip to Africa. But stripped back, what is the truth and does a safari to Botswana live up to the hype. Here we have a quick look at safari in Botswana through our eyes.
Yes, Botswana does indeed have several safari areas that are incredibly special with the kind of abundance of wildlife and exclusivity that has any safari purist purring at the thought of being able to visit. And yes its overall hype is fully deserved, provided one understands a few of the nuances that make Botswana safari a little unique and expectations are managed in a responsible way.
The first thing to understand is Botswana’s tourism model. It is high income, low visitor impact which is aimed at keeping visitor numbers fairly low and attracting the kind of clientele that understands, respects and appreciates the value of places of natural beauty in our world and the need to preserve them. Botswana is Africa’s most expensive destination with prices ranging from USD$600 per person per night to over USD$2500 but average more toward the middle ground figure of over a thousand dollars per night. It seems a little ludicrous at first glance that a safari camp or lodge can justify that kind of cost, but once you factor in the levies and rates, licence fees and concession fees imposed by government on any given operator, along with the capped number of guests able to stay in any one area at any one time, and you quickly realize that it is forced upon the operators by government.
As with anything you get what you pay for. And what you get in Botswana is extraordinary. The Okavango Delta, the Linyanti Game Reserve, Central Kalahari, Chobe national park and the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans are exceptional safari areas. The camps, lodges, safari guides and camp managers excel at offering a pampered, luxury safari experience. And this is the point. Botswana is a luxury safari destination, marketed to travellers that won’t really be looking at the bottom line in terms of cost. That is not to say that Botswana is out of reach for the not so well off, as Chobe National Park is geared up for the younger travellers, larger safari groups and regional clientele. Likewise, with the most southerly reaches of the Okavango Delta, and eastern areas of the Linyanti Savuti regions.
Tailormade Africa appreciate what Botswana is trying to achieve and whilst wanting to make safari Africa available to everyone, the success of this tourism model is clear to see and it is a model that others will probably need to adopt to maintain safari authenticity and integrity.
As sensational as wildlife viewing can be in Botswana it is vital to plan your trip carefully using the experience and knowledge of safari companies like ourselves, who have worked and lived in the country’s safari areas and know the best areas to visit at any given time of year. The Okavango Delta in particular can be moody, with some regions running lite with game at certain times of the year. Too much water from the rains or the delta flood, can make some private concessions cut off from the higher drier ground. Too little water and the game disperses over wider areas.
For us at Tailormade Africa, Botswana is all it is cracked up to be, but we do advise to travel here only if you have spoken to a true Botswana safari expert and only if you can afford to get into the areas that make safari here so special, so intimate and life changing.