Botswana is filled with such diverse landscapes that visitors may sometimes feel like they are travelling between different worlds. Although over 80% of the country is semi-desert, Botswana is known for having a huge concentration of wildlife with several world famous parks within its boundaries. There are numerous ways to watch game such as on 4×4 drives, guided walking tours or even on the back of a horse, elephant or camel. The Batswana have a rich culture and are noted for their basket crafts attractive in their colour and design. Within the Kalahari Desert, ancient Bushmen paintings tell stories of an era past.
Destinations within Botswana
The Okavango Delta is one of Africa’s top highlights for wildlife and nature lovers. The annual floods bring life to this huge oasis in the sands of the Kalahari, which is an incredible haven for wildlife. The Okavango Delta is the largest inland delta in the world at 17,000 sq km. it’s a beautiful oasis in the Kalahari desert, whose waters start flowing from the highlands of Angola all the way over the sands of the Kalahari desert. The Delta gives life to many forms of life which seems to be unexpected in the middle of a desert. The Okavango Delta became the 1,000th inscribed site on the World Heritage List of Unesco in 2014. None of the water in the Okavango Delta reaches the sea – the large majority of it is either evaporated or transpired, with a remaining 2% estimated to discharge into Lake Ngami. 593 bird species have been recorded – most of which are waterbirds found in the Okavango Delta.
Situated in the northwest corner of Botswana, this placid and surreal landmark draws in wildlife like a magnet, as many depend on the waters of this feature. There are over 400 species of birds that can be found in the Delta, not to mention the numerous other animals that can be seen on the mainland and amongst the its many islands. One can often find lions, elephants, hyenas, wild dog, buffalo, hippo, and crocodiles congregating in their natural habitat. In addition, there are numerous smaller animals such as warthogs, mongoose, monkeys, bush babies, tree squirrels, and spotted genets to look out for.
A place teeming with wildlife, plants, and scenic views, the Delta has something to offer everyone. Safari activities by water are the primary specialty of the Okavango, using the mokoro (canoe) which is ‘poled’ along by your guide. This is the most evocative way of exploring the numerous waterways of the Delta. Motor boats travel on the main waterways and lagoons. Traditional 4X4 game viewing vehicles are used on the main islands, with night drives available in the private concession areas. Walking safaris are available from most camps and lodges – perhaps the most exciting way of viewing game-stalking and tracking wildlife with an expert guide. Game viewing flights are available by both light aircraft and helicopter. Fishing, bird watching, photography, and serene relaxation are other options that the Delta presents its many patrons.
Chobe National Park
Chobe National Park lies in northwest Botswana and is the second largest national park covering 10, 566 sq km. This vast and picturesque area is known to have one of the largest concentrations and variety of game in all of Africa.
The park consists of four distinct eco systems: Serondela with its lush floodplains and dense woodlands surround the Chobe River; the Savuti Marsh featuring savannahs and rolling grasslands; the Linyanti Marsh contains woodlands, lagoons, and limitless floodplains; and lastly, the hot dry Hinterland lies in-between the two. The Serondela offers sightings of elephant, buffalo, and bee-eaters drinking from the river. While the Savuti Marsh area is home to various buck species and wildebeest during dry seasons and lion, zebra and hyena during rainy seasons. The Linyanti Marsh has concentrations of leopard, wild dog, and hippo as well as other rare species. Finally, the dry hinterland is well known for eland.
Chobe is best known for its spectacularly immense elephant population. The park is home to roughly 50,000 Kalahari elephants. Spreading themselves out amongst the Chobe and Linyanti rivers, these elephants are the largest in size of all known elephant populations and are an incredible sight to see in their natural habitat. During the rainy season, these magnificent creatures can be seen migrating to the southeast stretch of the park.
This unique environment coupled with its abundance of wildlife offers a safari experience of a lifetime.
The Central Kalahari Game Reserve consists of open plains with gentle sandy dunes and is the largest game reserve in the world. Just opened the to the public recently, the reserve offers a remote area consisting of four lush rivers fossilised with salt pans and wind throughout, making it a bit of an unforgiving and harsh terrain.
The Central Kalahari’s original purpose was to serve as a refuge for the San Bushmen who were the first inhabitants of the Kalahari area and have been residing there for the past 30,000 years. These people lived a traditional nomadic hunter-gatherer lifestyle and lived off the land – only taking what they needed to survive. Many safari lodges within the reserve often hire people of Bushmen origin to guide visitors into the desert and impart their valuable knowledge on how to survive. This offers a unique and unforgettable experience for those who visit. Often dressing in traditional animal skins and carrying a bow and arrow, these people are more than willing to show you how to find water-filled tubers in the sand as well as how to catch an ostrich. Not to mention the outstanding and embellished stories they will tell you.
While out in the bush, the reserve becomes one of the best game-viewing areas in Botswana. A hidden treasure if you will, not many tourists know about this gem and visitors are few. There are often sights of game dozing underneath the shade of bushy trees, such as giraffe, brown hyena, warthog, cheetah, wild dog, leopard, lion, wildebeest, and various antelope. Fascinating reptiles, insects, and scorpions are also found within the Kalahari. In addition to the surreal wildlife offering, the reserve is home to magnificent cloud formations during the summer rains as well as picturesque starry nights.
Another feature of the Kalahari is Deception Valley that is the remains of a rambling riverbed extending across the north of the Reserve. It owes its name to the mind trick it plays on its audience, appearing as though full of water from a distance. Another exquisite site is Piper’s Pan which offers a stunning stretch of perfectly flat grass that is green in the rainy season and turns a beautiful shade of barley gold by May.
Beside the Kwando-Linyanti river system, four large private reserves (Kwando, Selinda, Linyanti and the Chobe Enclave) protect high concentrations of wildlife. These offer remote, private safaris, including walking and night drives, plus off-road driving which makes for closer and better predator sightings.
This protects the Selinda Spillway which links the Okavango and Linyanti river systems. With its huge tracts of dry grasslands dotted with small palm-forest islands; it is a quite spectacular environment. Predator sightings in the area are incredible in the dry season. Selinda and Zarafa camps, newly re-done are the two luxury camps in the area, as well as the less opulent Motswiri which specialises in horseback safaris.
The private Linyanti Wildlife Reserve, situated north of the Okavango Delta, offers 125 000 hectare of unspoiled land and prime wildlife. Game viewing can be done on boats and canoes on the Linyanti River and bird watching is popular in the Linyanti swamps. Fed by the Kwando River, the Linyanti Swamp is the heart of the reserve and is the attraction for the tens of thousands of elephants, one of Africa’s largest Elephant populations, and other animals that concentrate during the dry season. Across the water is Namibia’s Caprivi Strip and to the east is the Chobe National Park.
The 2300 square km private Kwando concession has more than 80km of river frontage. It stretches south from the banks of the Kwando River, through huge open plains and mopane forests to the Okavango Delta.
Chobe Enclave is a triangle of land surrounded on two sides by the Chobe National Park and along the north by the Linyanti marsh. There are a few camps in this area which, despite not being within the national park, enjoy the game rich habitats of both the Linyanti and Chobe Savute. The area is a community trust, meaning that local people benefit from tourism and natural resource management within the concession and have an active hand in decision-making.
Makgadikgadi Salt Pans
The Makgadikgadi Pans National Park features magnificent grasslands stretching as far as the eye can see. This area was once a super lake almost 80,000 sq km in area, but dried up due to the changing climate. The name of the pans implies a vast lifeless land and for most of the year when they are dry salty clay crust, it does seem this way. But, when showered with rain, the water and grass of the pans serve as a refuge for animals and birds. In addition, riding a quad bike across the desolate pans proves to be a thrill for anyone who dares. There are also the occasional rocky outcrops and large stranded sand dunes spotted across the area. The ancient mystique of this park gives way to isolation and serene quiet. With beautiful sunsets one often feels as though you’re lost within a surreal wonderland unlike anything you’ve seen or experienced before.
The Makgadikgadi offers four main types of vegetation: scrubland, saltpans, pure grassland, and riverine woodland. Some unique products of these environments are a peculiar looking tree called the Baobab or nicknamed the ‘upside down tree’, whose branches look as though they are actually tree roots. The ‘prickly salt grass’ found on the rises between pans is also a unique short and spiky yellow grass common to the area. It is not uncommon to find Stone Age tools just lying about amongst the vegetation as you meander throughout the park. Many travelers pick them up, examine them, and leave them for others to discover the revels of this amazing landmark.
Home to a number of various animal species, the park is most well known for the migration of thousands of animals moving from the pans area in the southeast of the park to the Boteti River on the western side. Here one can often see magnificent game such as zebra, wildebeest, gemsbok, and springbok moving in herds across the outstretched land. The heavily vegetated wooded areas near the riverbanks also provide a home for many antelopes like bushbuck and duiker. One of the most astounding features of Makgadikgadi, however, is the astounding flamingo breeding season on Sowa Pan. Its tiny crustaceans in this area provide nourishment for the largest breeding flocks of flamingos in all of Africa.
The Moremi Game Reserve covers an impressive 4, 871 sq km in the eastern section of the Okavango Delta. Moremi has a great diversity of plant and wildlife containing a wide range of habitats including mopane woodlands, acacia forests, floodplains, reed beds, riparian woodlands, and lagoons. It is described by most as being one of the most beautiful wildlife reserves in Africa.
In this tranquil and serene environment one can expect to see a prolific amount of game at any point during the year, only varying slightly with the seasons. Birdlife in Moremi is plentiful with over 500 species ranging from water birds to shy forest dwellers. In addition, one can often find different varieties of geese and ducks, as well as an outstanding heron population.
Game viewing is just as remarkable as the reserve offers a range of elephants, buffalo, giraffe, lion, leopard, cheetah, hyena, and jackal to name a few. There is a full range of antelope – both large and small – including the red lechwe as well. The park is most well known for its significant wild dog population that is so commonly dwindling elsewhere, but remains a regular sighting in Moremi. The best time to visit is in the dry season where game viewing is at its peak from July to October.
Botswana can be combined easily with Victoria Falls (Zambia or Zimbabwe) which makes a great start or end to a Botswana safari. You could also consider other add-ons such as time in Cape Town, or a beach break … We can help you with a variety of options.