Best Botswana Safaris & Tours
Experience quality land and water-based game viewing and bird watching in unmatched scenery on safari in Botswana As an experienced African safari tour operator, Jewel of Africa knows every detail of what Botswana has to offer.
- REASONS TO VISIT
- BEST TIME TO VISIT
- TRAVEL REQUIREMENTS
- CULTURE & CUSTOMS
- COUNTRY STATISTICS
- African Travel Guide
Water & Land-based Africa Safari Experiences
Botswana is a Southern African gem. Together with its diverse ecosystems, extraordinary wildlife and the friendly nature of its people, there are many reasons to safari in Botswana.
The Okavango Delta
The Okavango Delta is one of few remaining unspoiled wilderness areas on the continent. Fed by floodwaters from central Africa, the delta covers an area of about 16 000 square kilometres forming a wetland system of beautiful palm-fringed channels, lagoons and islands that support a wealth of fauna and flora. There is nowhere on Earth that compares to this incredible ecosystem, so much so that it was made an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2014.
The best way to explore the delta is by mokoro (dugout canoe), being gently propelled through this magical wonderland by a knowledgeable guide. Time seems to slow as you drift past herds of grazing elephant and hippos chomping through the undergrowth. A mokoro offers a unique perspective from which to view the delta and there are even opportunities to walk on islands where few have set foot before.
Chobe National Park & its Elephants
Botswana’s first national park, Chobe, was established in 1968 and covers about 11 700 square kilometres of floodplains, swamps and woodland. The Chobe River forms its northern boundary and is one of Africa’s most beautiful rivers.
The national park is famous for its large herds of elephants, often reaching up to 100 000. During the dry winter months of May through to September, enormous herds converge on the river to drink, bathe and play. You are practically guaranteed elephant sightings and could even get stuck waiting for large herds of these lumbering giants to cross the dirt road ahead.
Buffalo are also prominent as are the associated predators, such as large prides of lion, that hunt them. In addition, Chobe is home to numerous antelope and other plains game as well as vast pods of hippo. The birdlife is spectacular so be sure to pack your binoculars.
Exclusivity & Luxury
Rather than attracting large numbers of visitors, Botswana has based its tourism industry on attracting discerning travelers who are willing to pay for the privilege of visiting remote areas of the country. Luxury and exclusivity are top of mind and many of the lodges, particularly in the Okavango, are only accessible by small plane.
When it comes to accommodation the emphasis is on quality and luxury, while keeping the environmental impact to a minimum. Lodges are based in spectacular environments, where the simple but stylish buildings blend beautifully into the ecosystem in a way that is environmentally friendly and sustainable.
The local guides are tremendous and their knowledge is extensive. Many live locally and have spent most of their life in the bush with the result that they are in tune with nature and the environments they work in.
A number of lodges have a guide and a tracker on each vehicle, which adds enormous value for guests. The guide is there to offer background information on the area, its wildlife, birdlife and even the minuscule flora and fauna visitors might otherwise miss. The tracker, meanwhile, keeps an eye out for spoor and other signs to determine the location of more elusive animals, such as lion, wild dog, hyena or civet.
Rare Wildlife Sightings
Botswana offers a blend of unique habitats, diverse wildlife and inspiring accommodation, but often guests have something in particular they want to see and, more often than not, these are elusive, rare species.
Moremi Game Reserve, and its adjoining private land concessions in the Okavango, provide the perfect environment to see endangered wild dogs in their natural habitat, but Botswana has a number of other rare species ,which can be seen on safari including the black-maned Kalahari lion, sitatunga, puku and red lechwe antelope, brown hyena, the African skimmer and aardvark.
Peace & Tranquillity
Once out of the towns of Maun and Kasane, you can appreciate the peace and tranquillity that this superb country has to offer. The remote, relatively inaccessible, luxury lodges are spaces where modern technology struggles to keep pace, allowing visitors to truly unplug and disconnect from the stresses of the world. The only sounds you are likely to hear with any regularity are the rumbling of elephants, the chirping of cicadas, the call of a fish eagle or honking of hippo.
A Genuine Commitment to Conservation
Botswana’s commitment to the conservation of its environment, wildlife and cultural heritage make it a leader in eco-tourism. More than 38% of the land is protected for wildlife and nature conservation and the government recognises the economic importance of ensuring that game reserves remain protected.
Local communities, meanwhile, benefit from conservation and good tourism practices because tourism creates employment.
This little-known, but spectacular, zebra migration is the world’s second-largest zebra and wildebeest migration after the Serengeti. Starting in November, at the beginning of the rainy season, up to 25 000 zebra start their migration through the Makgadikgadi and Nxai Pan National Parks in search of water and lush grazing.
The pans are normally harsh, dry environments, but the first rains transform them into areas that are rich with abundant grasses – critical for the migrating animals. The rains also bring other forms of new life. From the start zebra foals are adapted to being on the move. A foal can be found running beside its mother within an hour of birth. Their bodies are the same height as their mothers’, to shield them from opportunistic predators, including lions, leopards, hyena and cheetah.
Botswana offers diverse safaris, from game drives in customised 4X4s to boat safaris, which create a completely different experience. Explore the hidden nooks of the Okavango in a mokoro (dugout canoe) allowing you a lower vantage on wildlife, or enjoy the African bush on foot with knowledgeable guides. Walking safaris take place in environments that range from bushland savanna to the wide expanse of the salt pans.
Guided San (bushmen) walks in the Kalahari region are often a highlight for visitors. These walks focus on the smaller and more delicate side of the environment such as local flora, the San culture as well as their unique uses for all that nature has to offer. The walks draw attention to the landscape and provide a brilliant perspective on traditional life.
Horseback safaris are also an option for experienced riders only, due to the unpredictable nature of wildlife. The best part of being on horseback is that the wildlife accepts you as being just another four-legged animal and you can get much closer to antelope, zebras and the like.
Know What to Expect From the Seasons
In general, all of Botswana follows a fairly similar weather pattern with November, December, January and February situated slap bang in the heat and rain of mid-summer.
The Kalahari, in particular, can be stifling, but summer boasts plenty of greenery as well as the chance to see new-born animals and an abundance of migratory birds.
March is also wet, although rainstorms tend to be confined to afternoon showers, especially as you enter the month of April.
May signals the start of the dry season, with clear skies and moderate temperatures.
June, July and August are some of the best months to visit the Okavango Delta, Moremi Game Reserve and Chobe National Park as the wildlife is out in abundance. But be prepared for surprisingly chilly temperatures, especially in the early morning.
September and October are dry, hot and dusty with little in the way of bird watching, but there are also fewer mosquitos and less vegetation. This is often considered the best time to visit as wildlife clusters around the diminished waterholes, and there is little greenery to block the animals.
Effortless Travel to Botswana
All visitors to Botswana must have a passport that is valid for at least six months, with the exception of those who have outgoing travel documents and can demonstrate sufficient funds for the duration of their stay.
Travelers need at least two blank visa pages in their passport for entry and exit stamps.
Visitors from Commonwealth countries do NOT require a visa before travelling to Botswana. However, citizens of Ghana, Nigeria, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka DO require a visa to Botswana.
Valid entry visas for the countries that require them can be obtained from the various Botswana embassies and high commissions abroad. Allow at least 21 working days for your visa.
Entry visas obtained from the border posts are valid for a maximum of 30-90 days. These visas are only available for selected countries and it is advisable to rather obtain visas before traveling. Extensions may be obtained from any migration office in Botswana.
In 2016 the government of Botswana issued new regulations regarding the travel of children under the age of 18 through the ports of entry:
1. In addition to having a valid passport with valid visa (if applicable), children under the age of 18 are required to present a certified copy of their unabridged birth certificate, which shows the particulars of a minor and those of the parents.
2. If a child is travelling with only one of his/her parents, they must have an affidavit from the other parent allowing the child to travel =in their absence. However, in the instance that one of the child’s parents is not named on the birth certificate, an affidavit is not required.
Understanding the Batswana Culture
Although there are a number of rules around social etiquette in Batswana culture, foreigners are not expected to know or abide by most of them.
That said, common sense and respect should prevail – wearing shorts and T-shirts to church, for example, will not make you popular. Skimpy or revealing clothing (particularly if worn by women) can easily cause offence. Shorts are fine for walking safaris, but for the rest of the time dress conservatively and avoid short shorts, especially in the more rural areas. Traditional locals will wear long trousers (men) or long skirts (women).
In general, it is best to err on the side of modesty. Batswana culture frowns on excessive public displays of affection between couples, whether they are married or not. Even public handholding is rare. That said, the Batswana, who are used to riding in cramped minibuses and have grown up in rural villages, may not have the same sense of personal space and might think nothing of resting a hand on your leg in a crowded bus.
Greetings are an important formality and should not be overlooked. Locals will appreciate it if you greet them with a friendly ‘Dumela’ (hello), followed by a ‘rra’ (for men) and ‘mma’ (for women). It is important to emphasise that a two-hand handshake (placing your left hand on your elbow while you shake) is preferable to a Western-style handshake. Placing your left hand on your elbow is also an important gesture when exchanging money.
The national culture is defined by hierarchy, which makes it uncommon for children to question or talk back to parents, or for underlings to contradict their superiors. This shouldn’t affect most visitors, but does explain why lodge, or other employees, are often deferential towards their bosses and sometimes unwilling to offer an opinion.
Fast Facts (& Figures)
Botswana’s capital is Gaborone, known for its game reserves, Kgale Hill as well as its art and cultural displays.
English is the official language, while Setswana is the national language.
Water is so valued in Botswana that the official currency is named ‘pula’, which means ‘rain’ or ‘blessing’ in Setswana.
Botswana has the largest elephant population on the continent. The best place to see them is at Chobe National Park, which is known for its large herds.
The Okavango Delta is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, best described as a vast inland river delta and known for its sprawling grassy plains. June to August is the best time to visit as many animals migrate.
Botswana is approximately the size of France but has a population of only 2-million people, compared with France’s 66.9-million.
The border between Botswana and Zambia spans just 150 meters, making it the shortest border in the world.
Nearly 40% of Botswana is made up of national parks and wildlife reserves which provide large expanses for animals to roam.
Botswana holds a number of world records, including for the world’s largest salt pans, the world’s largest inland delta and the world’s shortest border.
Botswana Travel Guide
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Top Botswana Safaris & Tours 2021
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Botswana's Best Safari Destinations
From north to south, Botswana offers the discerning traveler an array of luxury destinations and experiences while on safari. From amazing rivers and waterways, deserts and savanna landscapes to some of the largest salt pans in the world. Each destination offers its own quality activities and unforgettable wildlife viewing.
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For ongoing news, inspiration, ideas and African travel information. The African Guide will keep you updated on prime destinations, game viewing and activities to help you plan your dream safari.
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