What to do in Botswana
Botswana is home to one of the last areas of true wilderness on earth. Up to 40% of the countries territory is dedicated to national parks and private game reserves, huge numbers of animals can roam across large areas, free from the interference of man.
Most people correctly associate safari with game drives, it is one of the best ways to cover large areas easily and spot the animals. The Okavango Delta in Botswana changes the activities on offer, lots of exploration in Botswana is by water. Most camps will identify as wet camps when they are close to permanent water or dry camps if not. The ‘wet’ safari camps will do safari by speed boat or mokoro (dug out canoe), the ‘dry’ camps will focus on game drives and walking safaris. There are not many roads in Botswana so taking to the air is great way to explore the area, camps offer hot air ballooning and helicopter trips for a birds eye view of the reserves. Most guests will travel to their camps on a light aircraft transfer, flying low over the parks spotting wildlife as you go.
In Botswana, game drives offer vastly different experiences due to the diverse terrain from lush delta grassland to deserts and forests. It hosts many reserves, parks and private concessions that provide unique experiences, from watching a slow moving herd of 500 buffalo and close encounters with huge concentrations of elephant to exciting night drives for viewing nocturnal animals that venture out after hours.
A cruise on the Chobe River in a houseboat is an experience of a lifetime, like embarking on a safari in your own private villa on the water. Wake up and gaze out at a glorious sunrise, feast on mouthwatering eats, enjoy amazing game viewing from multiple mooring points, and hop onto smaller tender boats to watch wildlife along the banks from the water. We think the Chobe Princess offers a fantastic experience on the Chobe River and you can read more here.
The mighty Okavango Delta is one of the most pristine wilderness areas in Africa. One of the best ways to experience it is a trip in a traditional narrow dugout canoe known as a mokoro. An expert local propels you through reed-lined channels, where from this vantage point the scale of everything is particularly grand. Wildlife encounters include everything from Africa’s smallest frog to hippos.
Game walks aren’t common in Botswana, primarily due to the water in the Okavango Delta, although there are camps that focus on high-quality guiding for excursions on foot, particularly in the north, like Sandibe. Here you’ll learn how to read tracks while spotting the “small five,” which include the elephant shrew, ant lion, rhinoceros beetle, buffalo weaver and leopard tortoise. Camp Okavango offers informative game walks on the surrounding islands and you can read more here.
Many of the camps in the Delta are surrounded by water, and motor boats are the best way to explore the area. The boats have the speed to cover large expanses and are a very comfortable way to traverse the Delta. As you travel through the river channels you can see the smaller animals who make their home on the reeds on the edge of the water, this includes many species of birds and brightly coloured frogs. Hippos are very sociable and it is fascinating to watch them from the water as they interact with each other. Xugana Island Lodge is situated on a wooded island surrounded by water, they take full advantage of this magnificent site, offering motor boat trips through the Delta.
Helicopter flips offer the chance to feel the excitement of the rotor blades thundering into action as the aircraft rises from the ground. The experience can be enjoyed in Botswana providing a bird’s-eye view of the wildlife, including the great migrations. From November to March, the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans are filled with oryx, zebra, and hartebeest, along with the predators that follow them.
Hot Air Balloon
To truly understand the complexity and size of the Okavango Delta, you need to take to the sky. You will have an early start to catch the sunrise from the air. From the serenity of a hot air balloon you can see the landscape, flooded with water from the Okavango River. There are winding delta channels, dotted in between the water channels are islands and large areas of woodland forests. You can enjoy a hot air balloon trip at Little Vumbura Camp.
Many lodges will give guests the opportunity to sleep out under the stars. Some lodges have a roof deck on top of your suite where they can set up a bed for the night. Other lodges have raised platforms out in the reserve, your guide will drop you off there in the evening and let you sleep with the stars above you and wake up to the sounds of the animals. Botswana has minimal artificial light, without the pollution, the stars and constellations are awe inspiring. This sleep out at Kanana Camp is one of our favorites.
San Bushmen Walks
The San Bushmen are the indigenous people of Southern Africa who have lived in the area for tens of thousands of years, their culture is one of the oldest in the world. The Central Kalahari Game Reserve was created to protect some of the San people’s traditional territory. The San live in the same area as Kalahari Plains Camp and the camp can arrange for guests to go out walking in the reserve with the San.
Meet the Meerkats
One reason people visit the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans is for the meerkats. The area is home to habituated meerkats, recently made famous by Sir David Attenborough’s documentary ‘Meerkat: A Dynasties Special’. The meerkats are wild but became used to people when research groups studied them. Guests can spend time with the meerkats as they go about their normal life, they have no fear of people.
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