With vastly different landscapes - from the verdant Okavango Delta to the stark Kalahari, and the salt pans of Makgadikgadi - you have a myriad of experiences to choose from on your Botswana Safari.
The odds of encountering the famous Big Five – rhino, elephant, lion, leopard and buffalo – on a classic game drive in Botswana are definitely in your favour. One of the most renowned areas to spot them is the Chobe National Park, which features diverse habitats – from the forests of the Chobe River to the remote Linyanti Wetlands and the marshland of Savuti. The latter is home to the famed Marsh Pride of lions, which are among the biggest on the continent.
Close by, the Moremi Game Reserve covers one-third of the Okavango Delta, and is renowned for its leopard sightings. Then there’s the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, which expands across large swathes of the country. The world’s second-largest reserve (after Selous in Tanzania) makes for a safari experience of epic proportions.
The Central Kalahari Game Reserve is also the ancestral home of the San people, or bushmen – the first nations of Southern Africa. For a memorable experience that goes beyond a traditional safari, venture out on a bush walk with the San. 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. You might even catch a glimpse of their lives on a local community visit.
The most serene way to experience Botswana’s UNESCO World Heritage site is to float along its calm waters aboard a traditional mokoro canoe. Between June and August, the delta swells to three times its permanent size thanks to seasonal floods from Angola, attracting vast numbers of animals and creating one of Africa's greatest concentrations of wildlife. Most luxury lodges offer mokoro safaris with a guide steering you through the waterways with a long pole. For an extra special touch, you can also combine your mokoro safari with an overnight camping trip.
Chobe is home to the largest concentration of elephants in the world (roughly 126,000), and the best way to see them in all their glory is to board a sunset cruise on the Chobe River. Watching big elephant herds, including little calves, cross the river from one bank to another, is a spectacular sight. As the sun slowly sinks into the water, turning vivid hues of orange and pink, you’ll also spot birds, hippos, and crocodiles going about their business.
Many say that the meerkats of the Makgadikgadi Pans National Park are Botswana’s cutest locals. The best place to see them up close is in the area near the iconic Jack’s Camp. While you aren’t allowed to touch them, they’re so used to human interaction that they might end up using your head as a lookout if you’re close enough – a golden photo opportunity if ever there was one. The best time to see them is on an early morning drive, when they leave their den in search of breakfast.
Standing in stark contrast to the lush Okavango Delta, the Makgadikgadi Pans and Nxai Pan National Parks offer dreamy, almost mythical landscapes. For an exhilarating experience, zip across this expansive, flat desert landscape on a guided ATV (quad bike) tour, with seemingly limitless space surrounding you. And if you visit between December and March, you’ll also be able to witness the country’s zebra migration, when Botswana’s national animal meanders down from the Chobe region in search of sweet grasses – a striking sight.
Botswana is known as one of the best horse riding places on earth, and a horseback safari is a thrilling experience for seasoned riders. With varied landscapes, ranging from the dry desert-lands of the Makgadikgadi Pans to the delta wetlands in The Okavango, you’ll be riding on horses that are habituated to the surrounding wildlife (and vice versa), making for an immersive experience. Never been on horseback before? Not to worry, many lodges also offer gentle rides for beginners.
Harking back to the advent of travel, there’s something wonderfully romantic about rising up into the sky in a hot-air balloon, with the Okavango Delta spreading out below you. You’ll get a real sense of space as you float across lakes, rivers, and grasslands, spotting hippos, elephants and buffaloes below. For a more pulse-quickening flight, soar across the sky in a helicopter. Whichever you choose, you’ll be able to get an exclusive bird’s eye perspective of the meandering and intricate waterways.
If you’re on your honeymoon (or are planning to propose to your other half!), a night in a star bed should be top of your list. Supremely comfortable outdoor ‘bedrooms’ usually created on stilts above the treeline, you’ll have nothing but a mosquito net between you and the Milky Way. A stay often involves dinner or a treetop picnic – your guide will drop you off and make sure everything is set up, before picking you up again the following morning. Arguably the most luxurious of glamping experiences, you’ll hear the wilderness around you come to life as you drift off to sleep, thousands of stars sparkling in the night sky above you.
While mobile camping may be taking you ‘back to basics’, you won’t exactly be roughing it – think of it as glamping, rather. Instead of staying in a lodge, you’ll experience a series of tented camps, far from the crowds, moving every few days with the same guide and travel companions. Yes, you’ll have to give up certain creature comforts such as a swimming pool and air conditioning, but a mobile safari will bring out your adventurous inner child, and will give you a front-row seat to the wildlife action that’s hard to beat.
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