Symbiotic beauty land and water
Our Guide to
The lure of Botswana’s wildlife and its iconic Okavango Delta and Chobe is legendary, yet the country’s offering certainly does delve much deeper.
There is an impressive diversity of epic landscapes on offer if you are considering a Botswana safari, from scorching deserts to lush waterways and from wide open plains and pans to thick riverine woodlands. Few people have heard about the truly magical landscapes of the Tuli, rock art at Tsodilo, vastness of the Kalahari and serenity of Makgadikgadi with its intriguing San people.
Safari aficionados often consider Botswana as the ultimate safari destination on the continent and for good reason. Chobe National Park is the country’s oldest and easiest to reach wilderness area with great reward when venturing out in 4×4 or boating safaris. The Okavango Delta is the jewel in Botswana’s crown and its green heart. This enormous perennial inland delta is formed by the Okavango River as it fans out and drains into the Kalahari’s sandy soils until it soaks away to nothing. Floodplains, lagoons and a myriad of waterways and maze of islands offer uninhabited wilderness to explore by boat, mokoro, on foot and traditional 4×4.
Kwando River and Linyanti Marshes are an amazing conjunction of river and wetland. It is in this area that the enigmatic Savute Channel commences its journey away from the river towards Savute. The Selinda Spillway also in the area links the Okavango with the Linyanti when decent rains fall. Otherwise it is a dry channel and the region itself supports an impressive ecosystem of flora and fauna. Lion, elephant, giraffe, hippo and various antelope species abound in the riverine woodlands.
In the desert areas like The Central Kalahari, Botswana’s largest game reserve some 52,800 square kilometres, you work harder to track down animals. This is wild, off the beaten track and makes for a meaningful and adrenalin fuelled wildlife safari. Central Kalahari is characterised by vast plains, salt pans and ancient river beds that remain dry until the rains fall and herald the waters.
During the rains, the sweet grasses sprout and attract massive herds of gemsbok, springbok and carnivores like lion, cheetah and brown hyena. There is no permanent water here and in the dry season, cruel mirages emerge in the haze that cry out for rain.
The luxury Botswana safari is done differently. With a high cost low impact policy, you pay more for a more exclusive safari. Why? Well it’s quite simple – Botswana wants to limit the impact on its environment whilst still generating sustainable income for its people. The rewards certainly outweigh the price tag. Much of the bush is private concessions and there are strict limits to the number of guests in any concession at any given time to ensure protection of the wilderness, wildlife residents and the ultimate guest experience.
The greatest Botswana luxury safari is focused on meaningful experiences, immersion in the bush and the opportunity to get up close to wildlife, learning all about the environment from charismatic local guides.
There are few experiences in Africa that rival a Botswana safari holiday. Every wilderness area is unique – and the activities on offer are as varied as the wildlife. View wildlife from a dugout canoe (mokoro), on foot, from a helicopter or the more traditional 4×4 safari vehicle. It’s the ultimate environment for fly-in safaris because roads are few and far between. Botswana is also a romantic honeymoon destination because of its genuine remoteness and raw, authentic beauty.
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More on Botswana Safaris
Facts and figures are not for everyone. So we will keep this brief and interesting, mixing up some statistics and our take on Botswana.
Where is it and what should one expect?
Landlocked Botswana sits in Southern Africa bordering two of our favourite safari holiday countries, South Africa and Namibia. Quite small and flat Botswana isn’t massively populated comparatively and yet it’s history and cultures are hugely impressive not to mention its wilderness and wildlife.
What is Botswana known for?
Botswana is known for its Okavango Delta and Chobe river. It is also much loved for its predator action, from the largest population of the critically endangered African wild dogs to strong lion prides including the impressive Kalahari lions.
Cultures shaped the nation
First people in Botswana and still there today are the Bushmen (San), a hunter gatherer tribe. Large chiefdoms formed approximately a thousand years ago that were then morphed into the Great Zimbabwe empire. Between then and now various groups emerged, one being the Batswana which remains today, denoting a citizen of the country. There was war and destruction during the Zulu empire years and then Christian missionaries came from Europe. British rule came in and in 1964 Botswana became a democratic self-governed country. It’s a fascinating history and today Botswana is a well governed country with peace, proactive efforts for sustainability and conservation to ensure its future with protected wilderness and wildlife and community development at its heart. Perhaps that is why Botswana is one of our all time favourite safari countries.
Want to read more? Check out our travel guide.
Best time to visit Botswana
Botswana is a year round destination with high and low seasons, wet and dry seasons and pricing to match.
Dry season runs May to September and offers moderate temperatures and great wildlife sightings. The Okavango Delta floods from June to October so mokoro and boating are possible in certain areas, another great Botswana safari activity.
Botswana wet season runs November to March and this sees some camps closing due to weather conditions. Others remain open, rates reduce and so do the crowds. April and October are shoulder months offering great weather, less tourists and wonderful wildlife sightings.
High season runs July to October and with a high cost low impact strategy, even then it’s not going to feel crowded except in Chobe National Park due to the high density of accommodation and entry points to the park.
Low season sees a reduction in rates and some rains running December to April. The least ideal times to travel if you are weather sensitive would be October and November when it’s very hot and January and February when it’s peak wet season and more likely to rain.
Conservation in Botswana
Botswana is often seen to be leading the way in the battle to preserve the continent’s famous wildlife. In 2014 the president banned commercial hunting and the country’s conservation projects are the envy of many. It is not perfect here due to human encroachment and bush meat poaching. In Botswana, new game management areas over the years have been established to link parks through rural communities so there is sustainable community benefit and less need to illegally poach bush meat.
Botswana Tourism set up a certification system some years ago to encourage and support responsible environmental, social and cultural behaviour by tourism businesses and our partners on the ground. The system is further integrated with internationally recognised schemes like Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria and Green Key. As a country in the realm of tourism, there has been a massive movement to minimise negative environmental, social and cultural impacts.
The certification also requires maximising involvement in and equitable distribution of economic benefits to host communities and reinvesting funds to wildlife and wilderness conservation. In addition, a criteria is education of local people and visitors into the importance of conserving natural and cultural resources of Botswana whilst not compromising the quality of guest experience.
From those who have ventured
We would recommend Encompass Africa to our friends & family. We had a wonderful trip!
Bush & Beach Safari – Chandler coupleRead more
Fantastic itinerary created for our family with two boys aged 10 and 12 – very special memories!
Botswana and Zimbabwe Family Adventure – Ierino family.Read more
The trip was one of the most amazing experiences of my life and I loved every single second of it.