|© Michael Poliza
Botswana is a land of startling contrasts, from the lush wetlands of the Okavango Delta to the plains and woodlands of the Linyanti-Chobe region and the stark crystalline expanse of the Makgadikgadi Pans. Almost half of the country has been set aside for conservation, and Botswana's pioneering low volume/high cost tourism policy keeps these wilderness areas fundamentally untouched - mass tourism will never be a factor here. Despite being known as Africa's most exclusive safari destination, Botswana isn't only for the wealthy - travelling in the 'green season' enables anyone to experience Botswana's natural wonders.
On Safari in Botswana
Most of Botswana's premier game-viewing areas - with the notable exception of Mombo, the renowned private concession at the heart of the Moremi Game Reserve - lie on protected land outside the national parks. They are divided into exclusive private concessions with strict limits on visitor numbers, ensuring that the camps leave a very light footprint - and offering you a private wilderness experience where you will rarely encounter another soul.
Game drives in Botswana are conducted in open 4x4 vehicles. Off-road driving and tracking are allowed throughout the private concessions, so you can follow lions on the hunt or birds on the wing without being restricted to established roads. Unlike the national parks, the private concessions offer night game drives, enabling you to observe predators when they are at their most active and to see nocturnal animals rarely seen by the light of day.
In addition to day and night game drives, camps in Botswana offer guided bush walks, boating, fishing, mokoro (traditional dugout canoe) trips, and superb birding. Due to the remote locations of the camps, transfers are almost always by light aircraft.
Mobile safaris led by professional guides offer a fascinating off-the-beaten track alternative to camp-based itineraries. Botswana is unusual in that special wilderness campsites have been set aside for use by mobile safaris, ensuring a private bush experience. For more about mobile safaris in Botswana, please visit the Mobile Safari
Botswana has three principal game-viewing regions:
- The renowned wetlands of the Okavango Delta support an extremely high density of wildlife, and offer what is arguably the best predator viewing in Africa.
- The Linyanti is a region of grasslands fringed by mopane woodlands - environmentally similar to Chobe but without the crowds - offering superb game-viewing, including the best opportunities in the world to see the highly endangered African wild dog.
- The Kalahari Desert and Makgadikgadi Pans, a white sand sea speckled with grassland islands populated by unique desert species, offer a striking contrast to the other regions of Botswana and are home to Botswana's San (Bushman) communities.
Though located in Namibia, the Caprivi Strip
- across the Chobe and Kwando Rivers from the Linyanti - can easily be incorporated into a visit to Botswana. While not a prime game-viewing region, the Caprivi Strip can make a relaxing stay in lovely riverside surroundings, with good birding and low-key game-viewing by vehicle and boat.
Cultural Exploration in Botswana
Though primarily renowned for its amazing wildlife, a visit to Botswana is not entirely about game-viewing. The Kalahari is home to Botswana's San Bushman communities, and spending time with these remarkable people adds an entirely new dimension to your trip. In addition to learning about traditional bushcraft and desert survival skills from San guides at the Kalahari's safari camps, visitors who wish to learn more about San traditions and culture can arrange a mobile safari to a remote community where they can participate in village life as guests of the San.
Due to Botswana's central location, extended safari itineraries combining Botswana with Namibia
, South Africa
, or Zimbabwe
can easily be arranged. Each country has its own unique safari style, offering a wide variety of wildlife experiences.
Many people begin or end their trips in Victoria Falls
, easily reached by light aircraft from Botswana's safari camps. In addition to the Falls themselves - one of the natural wonders of the world - Victoria Falls offers relaxation on the shores of the Zambezi as well as the thrill of adrenaline sports such as white water rafting and bungee-jumping.
Most international visitors reach Botswana via Johannesburg, the air transport hub of southern Africa, making it easy to combine your safari with time spent exploring and enjoying Africa's non-safari attractions. Cosmopolitan Cape Town
and the rolling vineyards and cosy country inns of the Cape Winelands
offer a fascinating counterpoint to Botswana's remote wilderness.