Which of these Southern African giants takes the top spot? Choosing one over the other seems an almost impossible task, but to help you decide, we’ve rated both countries’ scenery, wildlife, accessibility, and culture.
Sweeping arid landscapes and incredible diversity turn Namibia into one of Africa’s most fascinating destinations. And with the second-lowest population density in the world, you get to experience much of it alone – from dunes melting into the horizon in Sossusvlei and the Namib Desert – the oldest living desert in the world – to the shimmering saline pan at the heart of Etosha National Park, the vast khaki plains, majestic mountains, and rugged landscape of the remote Damaraland, or the wild and wonderful 500km long Skeleton Coast Park.
From the lush Okavango Delta to the stark Kalahari, and the shimmering salt pans of Makgadikgadi, Botswana remains one of the most diverse destinations in the world. The Chobe and Okavango River are the country’s lifeblood – add to that dry summers and rainy winters, when the seasonal floods from Angola turn the Delta into a green oasis, and you have a wildlife paradise. One of the most renowned areas to spot wildlife is the Chobe National Park, which moves from the forests of the Chobe River to the remote Linyanti Wetlands and the marshland of Savuti.
Don’t be fooled – despite its parched reputation, Namibia is teeming with wildlife. With an expansive desert as its eye, Etosha National Park is surrounded by tear ducts of natural springs, with much of the game viewing concentrated on Etosha Pan – this is where you’re likely to spot four of the Big Five (the buffalo is the only one not found in the park), as well as an array of indigenous species. The Namib Desert is home to desert-adapted wildlife, while the semi-arid Kaokoland and Damaraland feature a healthy population of desert black rhino and desert elephant; and Cape Cross near Swakopmund is where you’ll find a huge Cape fur seal colony. The Waterberg Plateau, Caprivi, and Kalahari add further widely contrasting wildlife dimensions.
Botswana offers safaris of epic proportions, and no wonder. Start with a classic game drive in the Chobe National Park, which has the largest concentration of elephants in the world; go in search of elusive leopards in the Okavango Delta’s Moremi Game Reserve, and spot the lush delta wetlands’ hippos, crocodiles, and birdlife aboard a traditional mokoro canoe. The Makgadikgadi Pans National Park’s most famous locals are its meerkats, but during the rainy season (December to March) this is also where the second largest migration in Africa occurs, when a dazzle of zebra migrate to the fresh pastures of this vast basin. Last but not least, the Central Kalahari – the world’s second-largest reserve (after Selous in Tanzania) – also makes for incredible game viewing.
Offering a sense of freedom, adventure and flexibility, hiring a car and setting off on your own is one of the most enthralling – and affordable – ways to explore Namibia. You can go at your own pace and stop along the way as your fancy takes you. Namibia’s road network is excellent, with broad, well-graded and sign-posted gravel roads the norm – and chances of getting stuck in a traffic jam are basically non-existent. The one crux is that distances are vast – we can arrange a private guide to take care of the driving for you, or you can travel between destinations by plane (with fly-ins also being more affordable in Namibia than Botswana).
Botswana is often considered to be the (sustainable) Rolls Royce of safari destinations. Remote lodges in pristine wilderness locations and strict policies set in place to avoid overcrowding and champion sustainability mean that demand often outstrips supply – naturally resulting in higher prices. And while self-drive tours can be arranged for adventurous travellers, many destinations are only accessible via plane and/or with a guide. Having said that, we can recommend ways to combine a guided tour with a self-drive in certain areas – chat to us for further details.
Earth’s first people - the San hunter-gatherers - have inhabited the Kalahari for more than 20,000 years. For an authentic Namibian experience that goes beyond a traditional safari, venture out on a bush walk with a San guide. You’ll get a fascinating insight into the heritage and nomadic lifestyle of these skilled hunter-gatherers, and will learn about their extraordinary background and knowledge, honed over generations. In the north of Namibia, semi-nomadic Himba people survive in a seemingly uninhabitable place; visit a Himba village and discover their traditions, rituals and way of life.
Home to some of Africa’s oldest tribes, Botswana is proud of, and seeks to safeguard, its rich cultural heritage. From the San people to the Tswana and Batswana tribes, visiting local villages and witnessing traditional dance performances and artisanal handiwork such as beading and basket weaving means to venture into the heart and soul of the country, immersing yourself in ancient traditions that have stood the test of time.
Our 7-day fly-in safari, Namibia Highlights Fly-in Safari, starts from US$ 4,400 (+- ZAR 84,000) or opt for the 11-day self-drive Namibia Highlights Safari starting from US$ 1,900 (+- ZAR 36,000) if you're on a tighter budget. Or get the best of both worlds and combine flying and driving on our new 11-day combo tour: Namibia Highlights Fly-In and Self-Drive Combo starting from US$ 4,000 (+- ZAR 76,000).
All our trips are fully customisable - from budget to mid market to luxury; small groups, families and honeymooners. Our travel experts will tailor-make a travel experience to meet your unique requirements: private guided tours, fly-ins, self drives, you name it.
You can cover the highlights in Botswana over 7 days on our Three Rivers Safari from US$3,170 (+- ZAR 60,000) or over 11 days on our Best Value Victoria Falls and Botswana Safari from US$6,480 (+- ZAR 125,000).
While Botswana generally tends to be pricier than Namibia, anything is possible. Our dedicated team is eager to assist you in creating a tailor-made itinerary that not only aligns with your specific criteria but also ensures a unique and unforgettable experience.
Whether exploring the distant horizons of the Namib Desert or gliding along the Okavango River; getting up close to desert rhino or interacting with meerkats in The Makgadikgadi Pans National Park; following shipwrecks on a Namibian road trip along the Skeleton Coast or flying into a remote Botswana lodge in search of the Big Five, it’s impossible to choose – the country you pick depends simply on your preferences and budget. Can’t decide? We also offer trips that combine Namibia and Botswana, so you get the best of both worlds.
Contact us to find out more.
"NTS organized the trip wonderfully!"
We felt that the trip kept getting better every day
"The trip of our lives!"
Everything was excellently planned by Ashlee at Namibia Tours & Safaris.
"A truly wonderful and memorable trip"
Namibia, it's countryside, people and wildlife really should be on everyone's bucket list of places to visit!
"Absolutely a five star experience with this great company!"
Super clear communication, great recommendations and just really clear logistics.