We recommend three different regions of Botswana as must-visit locations, and they couldn’t be more different from each other.
The undisputed geographic highlight of Botswana, and perhaps of the entire continent, the Okavango Delta is the largest inland delta in the world. With its countless tributaries that flow from Angola into an 18,000sq-km expanse of papyrus swamps, reed beds and floodplains, the Okavango River and surrounding area is a hotbed of wildlife fertility soundtracked by the roaring and barking of wild cats and the whoops of running hyena.
What a contrast it conveys compared to the rest of the country, too. Like an oasis of gargantuan proportions, this wetland paradise is found amidst the arid Kalahari Desert. Stranger still, it lives and dies here, soaking into the salt pans that surround it and never reaching the sea – unlike any other major river in the world.
The Moremi Game Reserve (also know as The Moremi Wildlife Reserve) is actually part of the central and eastern Okavango Delta. Unlike the rest of the Delta, this area of untouched wilderness is officially cordoned off for the preservation of the finest selection of wildlife in Africa.
As well as rich floral and faunal scenes, the Moremi is also home to over 400 species of bird, including colourful favourites like the malachite kingfisher, purple gallinule and the rare and secretive Pel’s fishing owl. And with the recent reintroduction of rhino – the result of years of painstaking conservation work – this is also one of the few areas in the region where you might spot all of the Big Five (lions, leopards, buffaloes, elephants and rhinos).
The game reserve status of Moremi also ensures it is highly accessible for safari lovers, with excellent trails and accommodation that ranges from luxury lodges to public campsites for self-drivers.
The Makgadikgadi (or the Makgadikgadi Pans National Park, to use its full name) is a stirring counterpoint to the Okavango Delta. Just as stunning, but for entirely different reasons, this 3900-sq-km park in the Kalahari is an iconic mix of desert salt pans covered with Baobabs trees, desert bushes and dry grasses.
The geography makes it an ideal place to try quad biking (more on this later), and despite largely being a desert region, there is plenty of wildlife to see here. The Boteti River in the west is the reason for this – November rains fill the pan with water which sees zebra, giraffe and antelope descent on the national park, followed by their natural predator – the lions.
In the dry season from May to October, the grass turn a gold and desert-adapted species like hyena, meerkat and springbok dominate the landscape instead.
There’s just so much you could do in Botswana, and we’re full of ideas to suit you. In the meantime, here are three of our favourites.
Steeped in authenticity, safari through the waterways of the Okavango Delta in a traditional dug-out canoe or ‘mokoro’ is an absolute must for anyone visiting Botswana. Over the years, these Mokoro Trails have become a popular way for travellers to experience the tranquillity of the Delta and gain real insight into the lives of the people of the Okavango.
You’ll sit on the low seat of your mokoro, inches from the waterline, whilst your guide stands at the back and poles you along – much like an indigenous form of punting. The slow pace and lack of physical exertion on your part makes this a hugely relaxing activity. You have nothing to do but sit there and watch waterlilies, reed frogs, and the occasional crocodile float by.
Mokoro Trails are inherently flexible too – you can take long trips if you want, but a couple of hours or half day is often sufficient to get the experience.
Although horse riding for inexperienced riders is not well-catered for in Botswana, it remains one of the best countries in Africa for those that know their way around a saddle. The Okavango Delta is by far the most popular area for horseback safaris in Botswana, and offers abundant and varied game, extremely experienced and knowledgeable guides and superb quality horses in a truly breathtaking setting.
The wildlife that can be spotted, weather and demands of the terrain do differ depending on the time of year, so if horse riding is a key interest then this should be carefully considered (don’t worry, we’ll be more than happy to advise you).
If your group has a mixed ability level, fear not – specialist providers do cater for non-riders accompanying riders by offering a range of alternative activities whilst the main party is out riding. As well as the Okavango Delta, riding safaris through the Makgadikgadi Pans and in the south east of the country are also possible.
Quad biking is yet another way to experience a safari in Botswana, and is a seriously exhilarating one at that. The salt pans region is ideally suited to it, with few obstacles or challenging terrain to negotiate allowing you to race across the pale white sands at high speed.
Excursions are available either as day trips or overnight trips to Kubu Island – a picture-perfect landscape of round boulders and twisted baobab trees.
The latter is an incredible experience, so aim for this. There are few safari experiences out there that can compare to watching the red sun descend on this unique geological feature from the back of your bike, chilled drink in hand.
Timing is everything, and when you choose to visit will play a huge part in the experience you have. Here’s some advice to help.
They share a strong sense of family and each has a unique personality. They can be happy, sad, volatile or placid.
They display envy, they can throw tantrums and can be fiercely competitive. They grieve deeply for lost loved ones, even shedding tears and suffering from depression.
They have a sense of compassion, which can extend to others in distress and unlike us, they have incredible long range infrasound and an extraordinarily good memory!
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