Africa and countries to visit on safari like Botswana are vast and there are just too many attractions to fit into one holiday. So where do you begin with your planning? Here is a list we've put together of Botswana's key attractions, together with some practical advice.
Botswana safaris offer it all, but this can most certainly be overwhelming to most. Let us help you through this most amazing safari country.
The Okavango Delta , also known as the jewel in Botswana’s crown, is a vast wetland that reaches between 6000 and 15,000 square kilometres as annual floods ebb and flow. The delta marks the point where the Okavango River spreads out onto the 1000 metre thick Kalahari sands and soaks away to nothing.
Consisting of floodplains, lagoons and a maze of islands, it’s largely uninhabited and home to copious wildlife and birdlife. It’s studded with small lodges, offering game drives and walks, and rides in a mokoro (a traditional dugout canoe). The Okavango is good at any time.
First reported by David Livingstone, this amazing lake comes and goes at the whim of the Okavango, at whose feet it lies. The mystery of why the Okavango floods move this way or that has yet to be solved. When the water flows to the west, Lake Ngami suddenly fills and springs again to verdant life, home to countless thousands of water birds. Easily accessed from Maun, it is great all year round.
Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR)
The vast heartland of the Kalahari is waterless and featureless, yet fascinating in its immensity. The renowned Deception Valley and Piper’s Pans lie in the north. The great northern pans are the remains of an ancient delta: an area where western rivers finally sank into the Kalahari sand. Khutse Game Reserve, in the south, is accessible from Gaborone. There are a handful of quality lodges in the park and its environs. Best visited between February and May; however, there’s some wildlife year round.
The red dunes make spectacular viewing and exciting driving. The high fossil dunes, remnants of the previous desert, are bare of grass and shrubs and catch the evening light in a staggering range of colours. Winding through the different hues are numerous sandy snake-like tracks, making it a great self-drive destination. It’s accessible any time of year, though there are no facilities.
Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park
This ‘peace park’, an amalgamation of Botswana’s Mabuasehube and Kalahari reserves, and South Africa’s Gemsbok National Park, was the first of its kind in Africa to straddle an international border and be jointly administered by two countries. The Mabuasehube section gives easy access to splendid examples of pans in beautiful open country. It’s especially good for lion, hartebeest and gemsbok. Game viewing is better in the winter (June to August) when the temperature is milder.
The remains of an ancient sea formed some two million years ago. It’s renowned for its unique vistas. Kubu Island, a lone granite outcrop festooned with giant baobab trees, rises out of Sowa Pan, which is also a major flamingo breeding site. Ntwetwe Pan and the Makgadikgadi grasslands are home to huge herds of wildebeest and zebra, with attendant lions, best seen between February and April.
Part of Makgadikgadi, this flat, grass-covered ancient seabed hosts unique vegetation and attracts animals year round. It is one of the few places where impala and springbok occur together. Elephants and lions frequent waterholes; prides of the latter use them for ‘ambush’ hunts. Nxai Pan was the setting for the IMAX film Roar 3D: Lions of the Kalahari, which is a must see.
SAN (Bushman) Art near Ghanzi
35km North of Ghanzi is the farm and San settlement of D’kar. It’s a project of the Dutch Reformed Church, led by the visionary Braam Le Roux, and has been a San refuge for decades. Through Kuru Development Trust, several surrounding cattle ranches have been acquired and one, Dqàe Qare, hosts a guest house and campsites. There’s a small museum and a remarkable art studio. Kuru is a unique and authentic project where the Naro people (a San group) actually have title to, own and conserve their own land.
Among the 800 million-year-old hills of quartzite schist are more than 5000 individual rock paintings at more than 400 sites. Few visible paintings will be older than 2000 years and most are younger. The site and the paintings, the work of San, have deep mythological and religious value. Many depictions refer to ‘trance’ dances and animals considered to have ‘power’. Visit any time, though May through August is ideal.
Chobe National Park
The most accessible of Botswana’s parks, sitting along the Chobe River. Famous for huge herds of elephant. Most species of game are common, including lechwe. Birding is amazing. An evening boat ride on the Chobe is a must. There are numerous hotels and lodges in Kasane. Independent game and boat drives are available, and the Victoria Falls is less than 100km away. A great self-drive opportunity. August through October is the best time to visit.
Moremi Game Reserve
On the edge of the Okavango, this reserve possesses a wide range of ecosystems, ranging from grassland and woodland to waterside. Probably Botswana’s most-visited game reserve, it teems with many different species. Wildlife viewing is best between April and October. Options for accommodation, activities and transportation all run the gamut.
Kwando River and Linyanti Marshes
An amazing conjunction of river and wetland. Here the Kwando makes an abrupt change of direction where the enigmatic Savute Channel begins its journey away from the river, towards Savute and the Mababe Depression, 100km to the east. It is also here that the Selinda Spillway links the Okavango with Linyanti . Huge buffalo herds sustain lion, while elephant, giraffe, hippo, crocodile and numerous antelope species abound in these riverine woodlands. It can be quite rainy between January and March.
Botswana - Right time, right place
Across most of northern Botswana, aim for the dry season, May to November, for the best game viewing – the later the better. In the Central Kalahari, the reverse is true, with January to May being best. Bird-watchers will find the widest variety of Palaearctic migrants from November to February, as well as many birds in breeding plumage.
If you want to visit fly-in camps on a moderate budget, then avoid July to October when prices are highest. Late June and early November are very popular, so to visit at these times you’ll need to book especially early (9-12 months in advance).
Thanks to Travel Africa Magazine for their contribution.