Botswana has a stark natural, beauty in its landscapes, ranging from the compelling desert scenery of the Kalahari to the unique wonders of the Okavango Delta, and Chobe National Park. For the ultimate Africa photography safari, Botswana has few rivals. More than 40 percent of the country is protected within national parks and game reserves. Visitor numbers are limited, ensuring the best wildlife-to-traveler ratio in Africa. Blessed with some of the greatest wildlife spectacles on earth, Botswana is one of the great safari destinations in Africa. There are more elephants in Botswana than any other country, the big cats roam free and there’s everything from endangered African wild dogs to aquatic antelopes, from rhinos making a comeback to abundant birdlife at every turn. A country focused on conservation allows for exceptional close-up photography.
One of the most sought after wilderness destinations in the world, the Okavango Delta gives entrance to the spectacle of wild Africa such as dreams are made of – the heart-stopping excitement of big game viewing, the supreme tranquility and serenity of an untouched delta, and evocative scenes of extraordinary natural beauty.
A journey to the Okavango Delta – deep into Africa’s untouched interior – is like no other. Moving from wetland to dryland – traversing the meandering palm and papyrus fringed waterways, passing palm-fringed islands, and thick woodland, resplendent with lush vegetation, and rich in wildlife – reveals the many facets of this unique ecosystem, the largest intact inland delta in the world. The Okavango Delta is situated deep within the Kalahari Basin, and is often referred to as the ‘jewel’ of the Kalahari. (I would not mention palm fringed.... not so many palms in reality. More Jackalberry trees, bush willows, etc.)
Chobe National Park.
The park derives its name from the mighty and breathtaking Chobe river. Undoubtedly one of Africa’s most beautiful rivers, the Chobe supports a diversity and concentration of wildlife unparalled anywhere else in the country, encompassing floodplains, swamps and woodland. The Chobe River forms its northern boundary. The most accessible and frequently visited of Botswana’s big game country, the Chobe Riverfront is most famous for its large herds of elephants and Cape buffalo. The river dries up to a trickle in winter which makes the visiting wildlife even more abundant.
Driving the loops that hug the river’s edge, you may see up to 15 different species of animals on any one game drive, including waterbuck, lechwe, puku (this is the only part of Botswana where they can be seen), giraffe, kudu, roan and sable, impala, warthog, bushbuck, monkeys and baboons, along with the accompanying predators lion, leopard, hyena and jackal.
Take a river cruise – and you’ll experience the park, and the animals, from another vantage point. Here you’ll get up close and personal with hippo, crocodile and a mind-boggling array of water birds.
Over 460 bird species have been recorded in the park, making it one of Africa’s premier venues for bird Safaris. Common species to be seen include the Sacred Ibis, Egyptian Geese, the ubiquitous cormorants and darters, Spur-winged Geese, Pel’s Fishing Owl, carmine Bee-eaters, most members of the kingfisher family, all the rollers, the unmistakable Fish Eagle, the Martial Eagle, and many members of the stork family.
Central Kalahari Game Reserve.
Nothing prepares you for the immensity of this reserve, nor its wild, mysterious beauty. There is the immediate impression of unending space, and having the entire reserve to yourself.
Waist-high golden grasses seem to stretch interminably, punctuated by dwarfed trees and scrub bushes. Wide and empty pans appear as vast white stretches of saucer-flat earth, meeting a soft, blue-white sky. At night the stars utterly dominate the land; their brilliance and immediacy are totally arresting.
The Central Kalahari game Reserve the largest, most remotely situated reserve in Southern Africa, and the second largest wildlife reserve in the world, encompassing 52 800 sq kms.
During, and shortly after, good summer rains, the flat grasslands of the reserve’s northern reaches teem with wildlife, which gather at the best grazing areas. These include large herds of springbok and gemsbok, as well as wildebeest, hartebeest, eland and giraffe.
At other times of the year, when the animals are more sparsely distributed, the experience of travelling through truly untouched wilderness, of seemingly unending dimensions, is the draw. The northern deception valley is one of the highlights, principally because of the dense concentrations of herbivores its sweet grasses attract during and after the rainy season (and of course the accompanying predators).
Makgadikgadi Pans National Park.
Makgadikgadi – one of the largest salt pans in the world. For much of the year, most of this desolate area remains waterless and extremely arid, and large mammals are thus absent. But during and following years of good rain, the two largest pans – Sowa to the east and Ntwetwe to the west – flood, attracting wildlife – zebra and wildebeest on the grassy plains – and most spectacularly flamingos at Sowa and Nata Sanctuary. Flamingo numbers can run into the tens of thousands, and the spectacle can be completely overwhelming.
No vegetation can grow on the salty surface of the pans, but the fringes are covered with grasslands. Massive baobab trees populate some fringe areas – and their silhouettes create dramatic landscapes against a setting sun.
In the wet season, this reserve can offer good wildlife viewing, particularly when large herds of zebra and wildebeest begin their westward migration to the Boteti region. other species include gemsbok, eland and red hartebeest, as well as kudu, bushbuck, duiker, giraffe, springbok, steenbok, and even elephant, with all the accompanying predators, as well as the rare brown hyena.
One of the most popular destinations on the Makgadikgadi is Kubu island, a rocky outcrop near the south-western shore of Sowa pan.
This crescent-shaped island is about one kilometre long, and its slopes are littered with fossil beaches of rounded pebbles, an indication of the prehistoric lake’s former water levels. Many rocks on the island are covered in fossilised guano, from the water birds that once perched here. Fantastically shaped baobabs (little known fact – they are actually mostly wild chestnut trees – very few baobabs) perch on the island, and they are surrounded by the white salt surface of the pan, making for a unique otherworldly atmosphere.
Moremi Game Reseve.
It is the first reserve in Africa that was established by local residents. It is the only officially protected area of the Okavango Delta and, as such, holds tremendous scientific, environmental and conservation importance. Moremi Game Reserve is situated in the central and eastern areas of the Okavango, and includes the Moremi Tongue and Chief’s Island, boasting one of the richest and most diverse ecosystems on the continent.
This makes for spectacular game viewing and bird watching, including all major naturally occurring herbivore and carnivore species in the region, and over 400 species of birds, many migratory and some endangered. Both Black and White Rhino have recently been re-introduced, now making the reserve a ‘Big Five’ destination.
Contained within an area of approximately 3900 sq kms, here land and Delta meet to create an exceedingly picturesque preserve of floodplains – either seasonally or perennially wet, waterways, lagoons, pools, pans, grasslands and riparian, riverine and Mopane (correct spelling) forests. This terrain makes driving Moremi’s many loops and trails both delightful and, at times, totally inspiring.
Moremi is a very popular destination for the self-drive camper, and is often combined with the Chobe National Park to the northeast.
Linyati, Selinda and Kwando.
Sandwiched between the Chobe National Park to the east and the Okavango south, the extensive Kwando, Selinda and Linyanti concessions offer superb wildlife viewing – and terrain to rival the physical beauty of the Okavango. A small area of the Chobe National Park juts up to meet the Linyanti River and swamps. It has a government campsite and facilities for the self-drive camper, while the concessions offer private camps.
This is real African big game country, and during the dry season the permanent waters of both the Kwando and Linyanti Rivers serve as important migration points for wildlife from much of northern Botswana – including large herds of buffalo and elephant, wildebeest and zebra. Perhaps the greatest attraction of this part of Botswana is the feeling it gives of extreme isolation, and being completely removed from the world as we know it. The camps are small and private, with perhaps only twenty or so guests present at one time.
Best time to travel:
The peak time to travel to Botswana is during the winter months of May through to September. . This however, is not necessarily the "best time" to visit Botswana as there are areas that attract herds of game in the summer months when the grass is lush and there is plenty of water about. However, the summer months (October- April), when all the antelope give birth and the migrant birds have arrived, has become a popular time to visit. Botswana is unusual in that some of the rivers are in peak flood at the height of the dry season - adding an extra dimension to a Botswana safari.
The world-renowned Okavango Delta reaches its peak months after the last rains of the season have fallen in the area - due to the fact that most the Delta water comes from the highlands of Angola almost two thousand kilometres away.
Citizens of most European and Common-wealth countries do not require a visa for entry into Botswana. It is vital for visitors to carry a valid passport and sufficient funds to facilitate their stay.
Note: For countries with whom Botswana has no diplomatic representation, visa information and processing is available through British Embassies and High Commissions.
The Botswana currency is the Pula (meaning ‘rain’ in Setswana). It is divided into 100 thebe (meaning ‘shield’ in Setswana). Travellers’ cheques and foreign currency may be changed at banks, bureaux de change, and authorised hotels.
The US dollar, Euros, British Pound and the South African Rand are the most easily convertible currencies. Automatic teller machines accept foreign visa cards, but are mostly found in larger towns and cities. Cultural sites and community art and craft outlets usually only accept cash. Major credit cards, such as MasterCard and Visa, are accepted throughout the country, in most hotels, restaurants, retail outlets and safari companies. However, shops and lodges in remote areas and service stations may only accept cash.
Botswana is one of the healthiest countries in sub-Saharan Africa, with good primary health care facilities available throughout the country. Malaria, including cerebral malaria, is common in northern Botswana, in the Okavango and Chobe areas, particularly during and immediately following the rainy season, from November to April.
As the strains of malaria, and the drugs used to combat them, frequently change, and as certain strains can become drug resistant, it is best to seek medical advice before your departure and take any medication prescribed. Pregnant or very young children are not advised to travel to malarial areas.
If you are travelling to Botswana from areas infected with Yellow Fever, you must have a valid Yellow Fever vaccination certificate. Otherwise, no other immunisations are required. However, it would be wise to have an updated TPD (tetanus, polio, diphtheria) vaccine, and a Hepatitis A vaccine. Reasonably priced medical services are available at government clinics and hospitals throughout the country. Private medical practitioners are available in the cities and major towns, such as Gaborone, Francistown and Maun. Hospital requires medical coverage, or cash payment in advance where medical coverage is not available
It is essential for visitors to remote areas of Botswana to have a comprehensive medical insurance policy, to provide coverage for the treatment of serious illnesses/accidents, and if required, medical evacuation. Personal effects insurance is also advisable.
Check that your insurance policy will be accepted by service providers in Botswana. Ensure that you are treated by licensed medical personnel to enable you to provide your insurance company with appropriate documentation and receipts.