Botswana is arguably the best safari destination in Southern Africa, if not
the whole of Africa. It has vast National Parks, including Moremi National Park,
Chobe National Park, Makgadikgadi Pans and the Central Kalahari Game Reserve.
These are some of Africa's last great wilderness areas and indrecible safari destinations. Seeing how mass tourism
has damaged, degraded and forever destroyed the environment in many countries
around the world, Botswana's tourism authorities promote high-income, low-volume
tourism. This does make Botswana a slightly more expensive safari destination, but
those that do go on safari in Botswana can expect superb wildlife, birdlife and
scenery without the crowds of some the other destinations.
The Republic of Botswana is situated in Southern Africa, nestled
between South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Zambia.
The Botswana is democratically ruled, and boasts a growing economy and a stable
political environment. It has some of Africa's last great wildernesses
including the famous Okavango Swamps and the Kalahari desert.
Botswana has an upmarket tourist policy that promotes high cost, low volume
tourism that discourages an influx of low-income tourists whose impact can cause
irreparable damage to ecosystems. This policy maximizes Botswana's tourism
income, one of the countries main sources of foreign income. It also preserves
this fragile environment for future generations. This low volume policy
contributes to the exceptional safari experience in which visitors experience an
untouched African safari.
Botswana is mostly subtropical, but varies with altitude and experiences
extremes in both temperature and weather. It has poor and erratic rainfall.
Summer: The country has summer rainfall (October/November to March) with the
highest rainfall in December, January and March. Summer is also humid.
Temperatures can rise to over 40°C, but usually drop to
25°C during the night. The annual average rainfall is
around 475 mm. The northern areas receive up to 700 mm, while the Kalahari
Desert area averages 225 mm. The northern safari areas, namely the Okavango
Delta and Chobe National Park, continue to have continual sources of water (i.e.
rivers) to support wildlife.
Winter (late May to August): Usually dry and mild. Maximum daytime
temperatures average 26°C. Subfreezing night-time
temperatures are normal in June and July. The best time to go on safari is from April
to October when the days are sunny and cool to warm (25°C).
Evening temperatures however drop sharply. This is also the best time for game
viewing as the vegetation is not as dense and animals congregate around the
limited water sources.
Main safari destinations
The Okavango Delta is a fragile ecosystem and it remains one of
Africa's most unspoilt and authentic wilderness areas. It consists of a
labyrinth of lagoons, lakes and hidden channels covering an area of over 17,000
square km and the largest inland delta in the world. It is surrounded by the
parched Kalahari sands so is a magnet for the wildlife that depends on the
permanent waters of the delta. Each year, heavy rainfall in Angola, the source
of the Okavango River, results in the river breaking its banks and creating what
is known as the Okavango Delta as it flows into Botswana. The swamp waters are
crystal clear, clean and free of bilharzia and is home to a rich variety of
wildlife, bird and plant life. The Okavango Delta is Botswana's main tourist
attraction. The best time to visit is mid-May to mid-September, when the
water levels are neither too high nor too low.
Okavango Delta map
Chobe National Park:
The Chobe National Park is a 11,000 sq. km. park in northwestern Botswana.
Habitats range from swamp and flood plain to dead lake bed, sandridges and
forest. This is Botswana's second tourist attraction. It has varied game
populations. There is no development and remains a natural wilderness. Access is
by gravel and sand roads, and by air. The two main entrances to the park are at
Kasane (an hour's drive from Zimbabwe's Victoria Falls) and at Mababe (an hour's
drive from Maun). The riverine areas to the west of Kasane are accessible by
saloon car. Main attractions are large herds of elephant and buffalo, hippo,
lion, leopard, rhino, giraffe, eland, zebra, tsessebe, waterbuck, puku, lechwe,
crocodile, sable antelope, wild dog, warthog, baboons, impala, hyena, roan,
kudu, and many others. Entry and camping tickets can be purchased in both Kasane
ad Maun. Accommodation is provided in lodges and park camping sites at Serondela,
Savuti (the Savuti area is closed from January to March), and Noatsau. Camping
sites are administered by the Department of Wildlife and National Parks, PO Box
17, Tel. 17, Kasane and PO Box 11, Tel. 230, Maun.
The Central Kalahari Desert:
The Kalahari, or Kgalagadi, covers almost two-thirds of Botswana. Most of this
area is contained in the Central Kalahari National Park and the Makgadikgadi
Pans Game Reserve. It is a sandy desert with very little vegetation. Beneath the
dunes are a complex and fascinating system of pans, depressions and river beds.
Wildlife was once abundant, and remains so in certain areas. These include
hartebeest, wildebeest, springbok, gemsbok, eland, giraffe and ostrich. The
various game reserves in the Kalahari offer a variety of attractions which range
from geological to the said wild animals including big game. Travelling through
the Kgalagadi offers one the ultimate wilderness experience. Overnight campers
have an unforgettable experience under the starry night sky. This area is a good
contrast to the more lush Okavango Delta and is often combined in a safari. The
sense of space is tested, with nothing as far as the eye can see, including
Central Kalahari National Park map
Gemsbok National Park
The Gemsbok National Park forms part of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.
Kgalagadi is the first Transfrontier Park in Africa combining the Kalahari
Gemsbok National Park (South Africa) and the Gemsbok National Park (Botswana).
Only the dry river bed of the Nosop river dividing the two parks. Read more
about the Kgalagadi
Located in northwestern Botswana. Attractions
include more than 2,000 ancient San paintings, impressive peaks and hiking.
Access is by road. No facilities for accommodation but ideal camping sites
Located between Nzai Pan National Park and Makgadikgadi Pan Game Reserve is a
complex of small salt pans, called Kanyu Flats, that is interesting to visit. In
1862 the artist-explorer Thomas Baines painted a group of massive baobab trees,
which today remain as he painted them over 130 years ago.
Khutse Game Reserve:
This reserve is in the central Kalahari and is the closest reserve (only 240 km)
to Gaborone. It combines most types of typical Kalahari habitat with grassed and
bare pans (over 60 of them), dry river beds, fossil dunes, and rolling
grasslands. The reserve is typical of vast areas of the Kalahari and offers an
unsurpassed wilderness experience: low vegetation, wide bare pans and vast
spaces combining to create an atmosphere of silence and peace. Local San guide
visitors around the reserve, teaching them about edible and moisture-bearing
plants and about the animals in the area which survive on little water.
ůVisitors should not expect to see large herds of game, though large herds of
antelope sometimes occur towards the end of winter and in spring (late July to
September). Nevertheless, there is a wide variety of species. Birdlife is
extremely interesting with over 150 species having been recorded. Access is by
road but 4-WDs are essential. Camping and entry tickets may be bought at a
Department of Wildlife and National Parks camp at Galalabodimo Pan at the
entrance to the reserve. Guides prepared to accompany visitors and camp with
them may also be hired here. It is normal to feed guides and pay them about P4 a
day. They take their own bedding. Further information may be obtained from the
Department's headquarters, in Gaborone.
Mabuasehube Game Reserve:
"Mabuasehube" means "red earth" in Sengaloga. The focal point of the whole
Reserve is the three large salt pans and several smaller ones, all separated by
small sand dunes except for those at the southwest of each pan which are high
and magnificent. The pans are starkly beautiful and reflect extraordinary colour
changes as the day wears on. Large herds of animals especially eland and gemsbok
come to lick salt from the pans. Predators too are frequent visitors.
The Reserve shares a boundary with the Gemsbok National Park. During winter
and spring it is home to some of the herds which migrate from the west. Of the
170 recorded species of birds are large birds such as Kori bastard, secretary
bird, eagle, vulture and buzzard. Water fowl visit the area after heavy rains.
The best time to visit is from July to September, although the park is open
throughout the year. The Reserve lies on the main road from Tshabong in the
south to Hukuntsi. The road is navigable only by 4x4 vehicle. Accommodation is
at the Department of Wildlife and National Parks camp at Mabuasehube pan. One
must bring all provisions and make arrangements with the Department in Gaborone
or Tshabong (no phone) as the camp is not always occupied.
Makgadikgadi Pans Game Reserve:
Makgadikgadi Pans Game Reserve was once a great lake, probably as large as
Lake Victoria. However, it is now dry other than for ephemeral pools after rain.
Its floor stretching for miles and miles over the horizon, is bare salt. These
salt pans are the largest in the world and are clearly visible on satellite
maps, including Virtual Earth maps. Travelling over the surface of the salt pan
can be an extremely trying experience when one's vehicle gets stuck. Several
hours of digging may be required to free such a vehicle. The main attractions
are the solitude one experiences out on the pans, and the congregations of
birds, including flamingoes which come to breed, during the rains (summer
months). Concentrations of game are to be found to the west of Ntwetwe.
Accommodation available at designated campsites in the park.
Game Reserve map
Nxai Pan National Park
Nxai Pan National Park is a 2,100 sq. km park located in northeastern Botswana.
Nxai Pan was once part of a great lake that included the Makgadikgadi. Now it is
a grass pan with small islands of trees. It is most attractive during the rainy
season (late February to April), when large herds of wildebeest, zebra, and
gemsbok can be seen on the open pan. By May the herds migrate southwards to
Makgadikgadi until the start of the rains in November when they move north
again. Nxai Pan is best known for its giraffe which at times number up to fifty
in a herd. Cheetah are frequently seen. Other game include eland, springbok,
impala, hyena, and kudu. Elephant and buffalo are occasional visitors during the
rains. The pan is also excellent for bird viewing. Access is by road (4WDs).
Accommodation is at a public camp site belonging to the Wildlife and National
Parks Department. One must travel entirely self-contained.
Other Game Reserves:
Gaborone Game Reserve (4 sq. km); Mangelanong Game Reserve (3 sq. km); Mashatu
Game Reserve (450 sq. km, private.); and Maun Game Reserve (3 sq. km).
Featured Botswana Safari lodge maps
Khwai River Lodge map, Okavango Delta
Duba Plains camp map, Okavango Delta
Kwando Lebala Camp Map, Liyanti
Selinda Camp Map, Liyanti
For a complete list of safari lodge maps, see the individual National Park maps.