Highly regarded as one of Africa’s greatest wildlife destinations, Botswana nature’s haven, where everything is abundant and nature is in its most raw form.
No Botswana travel guide is complete without mention of the level of hospitality that you will receive in Botswana. This is one of the most travel-friendly countries in the world and Batswana people are at the heart of it. Botswana is a patchwork of cultures, mainly, Tswanga, Kalanga and Baswara, a small population of Baswara “San” people who are the first nation peoples of southern Africa.
Home to the Okavango Delta, which takes up nearly half of the country, Botswana is interrupted by so many lakes and rivers that it could be a great inland island, and with that, come more animals than you could ever imagine.
Think hundreds of thousands of zebras, even more buffalo, and with that, great populations of lions, among many other cat species, all in large numbers. Botswana is also home to over a third of Africa’s declining elephant population, with room for many more. This is all thanks to the diverse land that Botswana maintains, the longest stretch of desert on the planet, deep millennia-old salt pans, dense forest and long grasses to help the animals to thrive.
While few tours in Botswana go beyond Moremi Reserve, which is home to around 40% of the Okavango Delta, Botswana has safari experiences at every turn, creating exclusive experiences for a lucky few.
Nowhere in Africa are there flat plains as far as the eye can see, making this a dreamland for an African safari. Botswana is strictly reserved for the more exclusive safari goers, and quite rightly so, her land is the soul of Africa!
When to Go to Botswana
Green season, from November to April is ideal for slow travellers who don’t mind the odd wet day, as you can imagine, animals thrive in this environment as the foliage grows and flowers bloom. This is a beautiful season as it’s when most animals have their young.
The dry season from May to October when days are warm and nights are cold. If you are visiting the Okavango Delta, and you should, this is also when the waterways are at their highest, creating the perfect environment to view animals.
Botswana’s Safaris and Tours
Moremi Game Reserve
Moremi has an impressive and diverse land that accommodates the majority of Africa’s endangered species. As the park operates with the idea of having as little impact as possible on the environment, few vehicles, and even fewer people are allowed on the grounds.
From mopane grasslands to acacia forests and lagoons, Moremi has one of the richest ecosystems in the world and is a playground for white rhinoceros, lions and cheetahs, making it one of the best stops on a Botswana safari tour.
Fueled by around 40% of the Okavango River, Moremi has always been a wildlife haven, however, this was endangered after Europeans started visiting following David Livingstone’s exploration in 1848. With the increase in visitors came an increased need to protect the land, which locals successfully achieved in 1963.
The Zebra Migration
As the longest animal migration ever recorded, you might be surprised to hear that the zebra migration remains relatively unknown.
Moving from north to south and vice versa each year, the migration creates a cloud of black and white on the dusty plains with up to 30,000 zebras in the herd. This is the largest migration in southern Africa.
Botswana was once home to huge migrations of many different species, however, with land divisions and poor maintenance of the land, numbers began to dwindle. Until the early 2000s, rangers thought that the era of Botswana’s bountiful animals was over until they noticed that zebras were making moves – big ones!
You might be lucky enough to see the zebra migration on your Botswana wildlife safari in the northern wetlands at the end of November as they leave through the Kalahari Desert on the Namibian border to arrive in Makgadikgadi in January where it is also possible to see them.
Fun fact: lions don’t normally like water, however, due to the great populations of buffalo in the Okavango Delta, they adapted to its conditions to feast!
Chobe National Park Tour
Sitting on the border of Zambia, Zimbabwe and Namibia, Chobe National Park is one of southern Africa’s finest and is among the best of Botswana’s safaris. The impressive number of waterways in Chobe National Park create a natural haven for animals and make an interesting addition to any Botswana safari holiday with boat trips and cruises.
No matter whether you choose to explore Chobe by jeep or boat, the national park is known for having the highest concentration of game in all of Africa, ensuring a memorable visit to Botswana like on this 11-day Cape Town, Victoria Falla and Chobe safari tour. Here, while out on safari, you’ll be treated to sightings of large herds of elephants and many big cat sightings.
Centred around the Selinda Spillway, this spectacular reserve connects the western Okavango Delta with the eastern Linyanti swamps with pristine, luscious lands.
With tall forest trees and vast open grasslands, this is as much paradise for safari-goers as it is for the animals that thrive in it. Your Botswana safari tour could not be much easier than it is here, with open plains making it easy for sightings and diverse landscapes such as dense leadwood and mopane forests. Should you be lucky, from June to October the Selinda Spillway fills with water and creates a wildlife wonderland that you can explore by dugout canoe.
Sitting in the north-east of the Okavango, the Kwai Concession is considered a bountiful alternative to Moremi Game Reserve as its waters are bursting with animals at all times of the year.
Permanent floodplains and mopane forests characterise this region, where hippos, antelope and wild dogs are only dispersed by elephants looking to bathe in its waters as you’ll see on this 4-day Botswana safari. The Khwai Concession sees the zebra migration along with thousands of other animals when the dry season arrives. However, due to its natural bounty, at any time of year this will feel like a Botswana luxury safari tour with all that you will experience, far from the crowds.
Nxai Pan National Park
Dominated by open grass plains, Nxai Pan National Park is a five million-year-old lake bed that is one of the salt pans in the Makgadikgadi basin; it’s the world’s largest salt pan.
The park is characterised predominantly by acacia trees which interrupt the dry savanna grasslands. It’s more famous for its seven baobabs that sit on the edge of the park, named after Thomas Baines, who came across them on the Livingstone Expedition.
Nxai Pan is known for its animal sightings that are thanks to the old lake bed that it floods in the rainy season. When you are not gazing out at the huge herds that flock here, remain on the lookout for fossils that tell of the pan’s millennia-old age.
Nxai Pan is a popular stop for those who wish to learn more about the San bushmen, the ancient nomads of these lands whose descendants maintain their ways of tracking, hunting and gathering. Their knowledge of this land is unparalleled.
Rock Art in the Tsodilo Hills
Although often missed off of Botswana tours, Tsodilo Hills is one of the most fascinating attractions in Botswana. Decorating rock faces in over 500 sites in the Tsodilo Hills are pieces of evidence of thousands of years of human inhabitation, some of which date back 20 millennia.
The Tsodilo Hills are believed to have been a sacred place for Bushmen, which is why over 3,500 drawings are found here. The hills are actually four karsts which jut out from the desert landscape unexpectedly, which could be why Bushmen thought they were sacred. The rock art found here is the most informative and detailed in the world.
Formed by the Okavango River, the Delta is an inland, hand-shaped expanse of water made up of swamplands. It’s one of the very few in the world without an outlet to the sea. This fertile water-filled land is regarded as the life-source of Botswana.
Tipping down from the highlands of Angola and finishing at the edge of Botswana’s Kalahari Desert, there really is nowhere on Earth like the Okavango Delta. Flat, verdant plains meet forests and grasslands which are made into 150,000 islands; these lands have kept many species alive and, come dry season, few aren’t present.
Of all the Botswana safaris and tours, nothing can compare to this. Covering much of Moremi and skirting across to the northern Namibian border, the Okavango Delta covers a lot of Botswana, however, in recent years it has dramatically reduced in size with significantly reduced annual floods that were once only comparable to Noah’s Ark.
Fun fact: Botswana is one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world.
How to Get Around Botswana
Botswana is well connected through a series of well-maintained roads. While driving in Botswana, it’s important to take extra caution as the roads go through farmlands where animals often pass freely. If you should choose to do a self-drive tour, do not drive during sunset hours, this is when wild animals are at their most active.
Boats and Makoro Dugout Canoes
Whether you are on the Kwai River or travelling on your Okavango Delta, Botswana safari, you’ll find that sometimes you can only travel by boat or dugout canoes known as Makoros. Always an adventure, these parts of Botswana are some of the most active areas in the country, so it’s less of a mode of transportation and more of a constant safari!
The northern parts of Botswana are where you will find most of the safari experiences and waters that you are looking for, these parts are made accessible through Maun airport. If you are travelling from South Africa, you’ll find that getting to Maun is possible from both Johannesburg and Cape Town. For international flights, you’ll have to fly to Gaborone, the capital.
Best Safari Camps in Botswana
Botswana is home to the best accommodation options in Africa! However, these come at a price. You will find that there is a limited choice of price ranges across the country.
Close to Maun
Maun is the third-largest town in Botswana and sits at the southern tip of the Okavango, the wrist of its hand shape so to speak. Maun has a handful of hotels, lodges and campsites that are just moments from its airport. The city has an interesting layout of modern buildings and traditional residential areas, however, it is popular with travellers as the gateway to the Okavango Delta. In the tourist area, you’ll find a host of restaurants and tourist operators with safari and day trip options.
Set along the Thamalakane River, the further down you go the more lodges will appear with a more intimate vibe.
National Parks and Reserves
Within Botswana’s national parks and reserves, there are a host of lodges that sit on the park entrances and on safe outcrops within the parks. No matter where you choose, remember this is Botswana, so you will never miss out on a wildlife experience.
There are a handful of accommodation options at park gates that offer dormitory and private rooms, however, Botswana budget safari travellers should not hesitate to take advantage of the many campsites that are available, particularly in Moremi and Chobe.
Luxury accommodation options are in abundance, set in stunning locations that overlook the flat plains that Botswana safari camps are famous for.
Set on the Chobe River, there are a host of overnight cruises that offer the cream of the crop of luxury tours and a great alternative to your traditional Botswana safari lodge. Imagine your sundowner safari from the top deck with a cocktail in hand and binoculars in the other and you get the idea. The cruise liner takes you through the national park over several days, stopping for 4×4 experiences before wining and dining through one of the most active parks in the world.
Fun fact: Botswana has one of the highest economic growth rates in the world, and diamonds are at the heart of it.
Food to Eat in Botswana
The chances are, unless you are from Africa yourself, you won’t know that much about Botswana food – it’s delicious! Meat lovers will not be able to get enough of the hearty, tender dishes on offer here.
Seswaa is essentially slow-cooked meat with onion and peppers. When we say slow, we really mean slow! The meat, onions and peppers are thrown into a big pot that is set on an open fire; once the meat is cooked, it’s pounded until the desired texture is achieved. This can typically be done with goat, beef or chicken and is served with polenta, porridge or pap.
This dish looks like your standard fried green but it’s much more bitter. Morogo is a mix of fried greens, particularly pumpkin leaves. This dish is often referred to as “African spinach” and is great for topping up the energy levels as it is highly nutritious. Morogo is a great accompaniment with other dishes and is often served with onions and tomatoes.
Goat Meat Stew
A staple among locals, goat meat stew is a dish you will see on the corner of every city, town and village you visit in Botswana. Cooked slowly to maximise flavour, the stew is a mix of soft, juicy and tender goat meat cooked with heaps of spices, potatoes and tomatoes.
Here’s a dish you cannot leave Botswana without trying! More of a side to your tenderly cooked meat, dikgobe is a mix of beans, peas and maize to make a thick consistency. Cooked with minimal oil and salt to taste, this is your perfect mix of healthy, hearty and energising food.
A must-east throughout all of southern Africa, vetkoek is a sweet bread that can be served on the side of just about anything. Whether you want to mop up the spicy sauce of your goat stew, want a dipping device for your soup or are looking for a sweet snack with syrup or jam after a day of walking, vetkoek is a go-to.
Vetkoek translates from Afrikaans to mean ‘fat bread’ and is found absolutely everywhere.
Festivals in Botswana
Taking over the last week of March and into April, Maitisong Festival is Botswana’s biggest performing arts festival taking place in Gaborone’s Maitisong Theatre. Featuring some of Africa’s top performing artists, the festival has been going since 1987 with a range of indoor and outdoor venues around the theatre.
For two days, the centre of Maun is jam-packed full of creativity. From poetry to crafts, visual arts to theatre; the festival is a celebration of northern Batswana roots. Raising money for local schools, the atmosphere of Maun Festival is filled with a strong sense of community.
Kuru Dance Festival
A celebration that is rooted deep in San culture, Kuru Dance Festival takes place on the full moon that brings us into autumn. The full moon is believed among the San people to heal the sick with its powers that are delivered to them through song and dance.
The festival has turned into a bold statement of dedication to preserve and celebrate the San people’s culture as more and more people attend. Although the spiritual importance still stands, the Batswana communities that travel to take part have led the festival to become a cultural exchange of all Batswana.
A nationwide annual celebration on the 30th of September, Botswana Day is locally known as Boipuso, which commemorates Botswana’s independence from British colonisation in 1966 after 80 years. Botswana Day is particularly big in Gaborone as the national army marches in a big parade complete with horses and dancers, young and old.
Thing to Know Before Your Tour in Botswana
Visa: Many nationalities do not require a visa to enter Botswana, however, many also do, particularly Asian and other African countries. It’s best to check well in advance before you travel as you may need to visit the Botswana Embassy in your respective country.
Money: The currency of Botswana is Pula. Interestingly, it means rain and is also used as a greeting. At the time of writing, February 2021, 10.92 Botswana Pula is equal to 1 US Dollar.
Wildlife: While on safari, you are viewing some of the most dangerous animals in the world, listen to the guide and stay quiet.
Cost: Botswana safari prices can be high; however, your money goes towards preserving the land and is worth every penny
Clothes: Chances are, you’re here for a safari. Neutral, light clothes are recommended for safaris to blend in with the landscape and deter animals. Jackets may be needed for the cooler evenings.
Conditions: The levels of the Okavango Delta change every year, check the water levels before you go.
Has This Botswana Travel Guide Got You Thinking?
From desert to open grass plains, bustling rivers and great salt pans, Botswana is an African dream that is waiting for you!
At Tripfuser, we have a host of fully-customisable Botswana trips covering Namibia, Zambia and beyond. To take the next step to your ultimate Botswana safari trip, browse through our experiences to see what’s on offer.
If our trips don’t quite envision what you were thinking, click ‘design your own trip’ and fill in a few quick questions covering your base travel needs, budget and style and our Local Experts in Botswana will get back to you within 48 hours with a personalised itinerary!