| More and more tours to Botswana are seen on the travel market, though, including
combinations with other countries in the region, including South Africa.
The Okavango Delta is probably the best known area of Botswana, famed for its waterways,
papyrus beds and savannas offering a fantastic bird life and many mammals, including
rich in wildlife is Chobe, like the Okavango Delta situated in the northern parts of
Botswana. Up to 50,000 elephants visit Chobe seasonally. You may also see for example
the beautiful sable antelope, and large numbers of greater kudu.
Another treasure of Botswana is the much less visited parks further south. These are
dry, hot and dusty bushlands and plains of the Kalahari. The herds of animals are smaller
and scattered, but these are the areas where bushmen painted the rocks a thousand years
ago, and where four-wheel drive and an expedition are required. Much of Botswana is
On the Southern Tropic
Botswana straddles the Southern tropic, or Tropic of Capricorn, and is a fairly flat
land, varying between 700 m/2,300 ft and 1,400 m/4,600 ft above sea level. The average
altitude is 1,000 m/3,300 ft.
The eastern parts are hilly bush and grasslands, while the west has the Kalahari Desert,
a sandy basin covering three quarters of the country. The only permanent waterways,
apart from the Okavango Delta, are the Okavango River in the north-west, Chobe River
in the north, and the Limpopo River in the east. Rainy seasons may fill some of the
otherwise dry saltpans in central Botswana.
Some 80 % of the population lives in the eastern areas bordering Zimbabwe and South
The safari destination Botswana
There are good safari opportunities in Botswana, both in the semi-desert areas of the
Kalahari and in wetlands such as the Okavango Delta. Almost 20 % of the country
has some form of nature protection.
Hunting and rhinderpest
Hunting during the late 1800's heavily decimated the wildlife populations, and the rhinderpest
epidemic that followed finished off most of what still remained of large mammals. Protection
and conservation measures started early in the 1900's, and the wildlife populations
slowly recovered. The elephant population, which was the slowest to recover, had regained
its former numbers towards the end of the 1960's.
Botswana now has a policy to avoid large volumes of tourists, and instead provide high
quality at a high price. A safari in Okavango may therefore seem quite expensive if
compared to a safari in for example Kenya or Tanzania
in East Africa.
Different types of accommodation are available to safari-goers, spanning from luxury
camp in areas that can only be accessed by air, to basic camping
sites in the middle of nowhere. Some parks may not be accessed from Botswana only, but
also from South Africa. Chobe and the Okavango Delta
are easy to combine with for example a tour in northern Namibia
or a visit to the Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe or
Parks in Botswana
There are a number of national parks and different types of reserves in the country.
Some of them are good wildlife areas, while others offer the wild nature for main attraction.
Chobe National Park
Chobe, situated in north-eastern Botswana and bordering the Namibian Caprivi strip in
the north and Zimbabwe in the east, covers 11,700 km2/4,520 sq mi, which makes it the
second largest park in the country. It became a game reserve in 1961, and was upgraded
to national park in 1968. It's mainly flat, except for hilly areas in the south-west.
Some areas bordering the park are large forest reserves, functioning as buffer zones.
The Chobe River (originating in the Angolan highlands, and having different names along
the way to Chobe; Kwando River, Linyanti River, Itenge River and finally Chobe River)
is the lifeblood of the park, flowing along its northern border. The river is lined
with different types of nature, including mopane and combretum woodland, river plains
and grassland. The waterways in the north-eastern tip of the park are popular among
visitors, offering boat rides, hippos, elephants, many birds and beautiful sunsets.
Good for elephants
Chobe is a good park for elephants. Many animals congregate along the waterways during
the dry season from May to October, and herds of hundreds of elephants may be seen along
the Chobe River. Around waterholes, other species give way to the elephants.
The park has many mammal species. It's known for its large herds of African buffalos,
and you may see zebra, southern lechwe, bushbuck, sable, puku, lion, leopard, cheetah
and hyaena. Some 440 bird species have been recorded, among these Pel's fishing-owl,
African skimmer (best seen in June to July), African open-billed stork, secretary bird,
kori bustard, carmine bee-eater and African fish eagle.
The only reliable sources of drinking water during dry seasons are the Chobe River in
the north, the Linyanti River in the north-west and waterholes in a few places in the
park, the most important being the wetlands in Savuti in south-western Chobe. Savuti
is 5,000 km2/1,930 sq mi of grass plains and sandy desert-like areas. It's considered
very good for game viewing.
Wild dogs and lions
Savuti also has a number of waterholes that don't go dry until far into the dry seasons.
The area has African wild dogs, lion prides following herds of zebras, leopards, cheetahs,
hyaenas, different kinds of antelopes and elephants.
The rainy season from November to April is the hot and humid part of the year. January
has the most rainfall. May to October is a dry season, when the wildlife is concentrated
to areas where water can be found. September and October can be very hot and humid,
but it may also be a very good time for game viewing, and seeing predators around waterholes
and along the rivers.
Chobe has accommodation in lodges of different standard. Game
driving off-road or game driving at night is not allowed. Chobe is considered
a malaria area.
The Okavango Delta
The Okavango Delta in north-western Botswana is probably the best known safari destination
in the country. It covers an area of 9,000 km2/3,500 sq mi to 16,000 km2/6,200 sq mi,
varying with the inflow of water from the Angolan highlands via Kavango River in Namibia
and the Okavango River in northern Botswana. During prehistoric times, the Okavango
River flowed into a lake in eastern Botswana called Lake Makgadikgadi (see Makgadikgadi
Pans Game Reserve below), but the reaches of the river have changed since. The lake
dried out, and the water began flowing into the Kalahari Desert and created the Okavango
Today's delta is a unique ecosystem. The beautiful nature has waterways, papyrus beds,
floodplains, lagoons, forests and savannas. There is a rich wildlife, including two
rare antelopes, the red lechwe and the sitatunga. There are also elephants, African
buffalos, zebras, hippos, waterbucks, African wild dogs, lions, leopards, cheetahs and
crocodiles. The birding is very good.
Boat rides, game drives and bush walks
The many waterways within the delta allow for good game viewing from boats or canoes.
Game drives in four-wheel drive safari vehicles is possible on the larger islands, and
most lodges and tented camps offer guided bush walks. One camp even offers elephant-back
The Okavango Delta offers game viewing all year round, but the water levels affect the
numbers of animals present. The delta normally reaches its maximum size in June to July,
and the best time for game viewing is from May to October. November to April is the
best season for bird watching, as many migrants are present during these months.
The temperatures are highest (up to 30ºC/86ºF) from October to April, which
also has the most rainfall, even though it doesn't rain very much in the area. May to
early October are drier and cooler months.
Lodges and tented camps
There is accommodation in some 40 lodges and tented camps all over the delta. Many of
them can only be accessed by air (from Maun or from Kasane north
of Chobe National Park). There are also camping sites outside Moremi
The Okavango Delta is generally a pricey safari destination, following a national policy
to avoid the large volumes of tourists, to protect the natural environments.
The delta encompasses the national Moremi Game Reserve, which is surrounded by a number
of smaller private reserves. Moremi has many permanent water sources, which allows for
good game viewing all year round, especially during dry seasons, when animals come for
water from dried-out parts of the delta.
The Okavango Delta is considered a malaria area.
Moremi Game Reserve
Moremi (4,871 km2/1,881 sq mi) covers the north-eastern third of the Okavango Delta.
Chief Island, the largest land area in the park, is some 1,000 km2/385 sq mi of mopane
woodland and acacia bush, surrounded by grassland, floodplains, islets clad in palms,
forests, lagoons and many waterways. You may see large herds of African buffalos, rhinos
(which have been introduced), elephants, red lechwes, giraffes, lions, leopards, cheetahs
and African wild dogs. The park is also known for its rich bird life. The best time
to visit Moremi is July to October.
Private reserves in the Okavango Delta
Chitabe, situated in the southern delta, has a classic delta nature including waterways,
wetlands, acacia woodlands and open grasslands. Most game viewing is done on land. You
have good chances of seeing the African wild dog.
Duba Plains in the outskirts of the delta is known for its many lions, which mainly
hunt buffalos coming to the floodplains to graze. The area can be explored by boat or
canoe from May to September.
Jao Reserve is found in the western parts of the delta. It has many water lily lagoons,
where you may see the rare sitatunga (a wetland antelope) and a variety of birds.
Vumbura has both waterways and savanna, where you may see sausage trees, many birds
and the beautiful sable antelope.
Pom Pom is situated in the central delta. There is a good and varied wildlife, and good
opportunities for walking, birding and fishing.
Central Kalahari Game Reserve
Central Kalahari is a huge park (50,000 km2/19,300 sq mi) in central Botswana, which
has recently been opened for visitors. It is situated in remote areas, and has a harsh
climate and a forbidding nature.
Kalahari is a huge sand basin reaching 2,500 km/1,500 mi northwards from South Africa
to Angola and Congo. There is no permanent surface water, but unlike the classic stereotype
desert, Kalahari has a lot of vegetation, including grass and many acacias on seemingly
The park was originally established to allow the San tribe bushmen to continue living
in traditional ways, hunting and collecting. Today, most of the bushmen have abandoned
the bush, and live in villages in the southern parts of the park.
Gemsboks and springbucks
Most parts of Central Kalahari consist of open plains, saltpans and long dried-out riverbeds.
Sand dunes can be seen in the northern parts, scrubs in the central, and mopane woodlands
in the eastern and southern. When the summer rains arrive to the northern parts, the
landscape turns green and transforms into one of the best wildlife areas in the country,
where the Deception Pan area is particularly good. Large herds of gemsboks and springbucks
come to graze, while lions, cheetahs and jackals follow the herbivores.
Other mammal species seen are giraffe, brown hyaena, warthog, African wild dog, leopard,
wildebeest, eland, kudu and red hartebeest.
November to March is considered to be the rainy season, but the exact time of year and
the amounts of rainfall are unpredictable. The Kalahari weather is dry, hot and dusty
from May to October. Little surface water can be found during these months, and little
wildlife can be seen. October is the hottest of these months.
Short rainstorms may turn roads into mud, so four-wheel drive is essential. You also
need to be self-supporting as to drinking water, food and fuel. There is one lodge in
the area, Haina Safari Lodge. The park is considered a malaria area.
Khutse Game Reserve
Khutse is south of, and borders, Central Kalahari Game Reserve
in central Botswana. It is 2,500 km2/965 sq mi of grasslands, scrubs and salt pans.
Large concentrations of animals are rare, but there is a rich wildlife that includes
herbivores such as giraffe, gemsbok, red hartebeest, eland, kudu, wildebeest, springbuck,
steinbuck and grey duiker, and carnivores such as lion, leopard, cheetah, brown hyaena,
black-backed jackal, bat-eared fox and African wild dog. Monitor lizards and rock pythons
are seen occasionally. The birding is best during the rainy season.
There is virtually no natural permanent surface water, but waterholes supplied from
bores have been built to allow the wildlife to remain in the area also during the dry
seasons from April to October.
There are camping sites in different areas of the park. There is also a lodge in the
eastern parts. To visit Khutse, you should to be self-supporting as to drinking water,
food and fuel. Four-wheel drive is required to manage the sandy roads.
Makgadikgadi Pans National Park
Makgadikgadi Pans National Park in north-eastern Botswana covers approximately 4,900
km2/1,890 sq mi. The Makgadikgadi saltpans, from which the park has been named, cover
12,000 km2/4,600 sq mi, of which 1,890 km2/730 sq mi are situated within the park.
Makgadikgadi is a former lake, believed to have been as large as 80,000 km2/30,000 sq
mi, which is larger than today's Lake Victoria (on the border of Kenya,
Tanzania and Uganda). All that
remains of the lake is now a huge flat saltpan.
The park was originally (in 1970) established as a game reserve. It was upgraded to
national park in 1992, when it also got its present borders.
Landscapes and rainfall
The park has four main landscapes: woodlands, scrubs, grass plains and saltpans. Much
of the park is covered by the grass plains, which attract many animals. The area receives
little rainfall, and the Boteti River on the western park border rarely has much water,
but enough to offer pools that attract hippos and waterbucks.
During the driest months, April to November, herbivores such as springbucks, gemsboks,
wildebeest and zebras migrate in huge herds from the south-eastern parts of the park
to the Boteti River in the west. When the rains come, they fill the saltpans (which
don't dry out again until April or May). The microorganisms in the pans come to life,
which attracts flamingos; some 30,000 flamingo couples are believed to breed in the
pan areas east of the national park. Huge parts of the area become inaccessible during
this time. The day temperatures may reach 40ºC/104ºF, but the nights are cool.
The game viewing is best from April to July. After these months, much of the wildlife
migrates to areas inaccessible to visitors. This time of year has pleasant day temperatures,
but nights may be cold.
Makgadikgadi Pans has one lodge offering good standard. The roads within the park are
generally poor, many of them sandy, so four-wheel drive is necessary, and it's wise
for vehicles to travel in pairs, and bring a sufficient supply of water. The park is
considered a malaria area.
Nxai Pan National Park
Nxai Pan is situated north of and borders Makgadikgadi Pans National Park. Since 1992,
when the former game reserve was upgraded to national park, Nxai Pan covers 2,580 km2/996
sq mi, including a 40 km2/15 sq mi salt pan, which is the bed of a pre-historic lake.
The park is dominated by grass plains with patches of acacias, and by mopane woodland
in the northern parts. It is known for its huge springbuck population, and for its large
herds of giraffes. You may also see wildebeest, gemsbok, eland, greater kudu and red
hartebeest, and predators such as spotted hyaena (there are also a few brown hyaenas),
cheetah and leopard. Elephants and African buffalos may be seen during the rainy season
from November to April, which is also a good time to see wildlife in general and for
Nxai Pan National Park has few visitors. The roads are poor and may become inaccessible
even to four-wheel drives after heavy rains. The park is considered a malaria area.
Mashatu Game Reserve and Tuli
Mashatu and Tuli are found at the eastern tip of Botswana, bordering Zimbabwe and South
Africa. Mashatu is a private game reserve, while Tuli is an adjacent area of private
farms and small reserves (for example Shalimpo and Stevensford). Three rivers (Limpopo,
Motloutse and Shashe) pass the area, which has a mix of open grasslands, wetlands, gallery
forests along the rivers and rocky outcrops. Many baobab trees and euphorbias can be
Night game drives
The opportunities for game viewing are good. The area has wildebeest, kudu, impala,
waterbuck, zebra, bushbuck, warthog, giraffe, eland and hippo. There is a populations
of some 700 elephants, and the chances of seeing lion, leopard, cheetah and hyaena are
fairly good, especially along the Motloutse River. Game driving at night is allowed,
offering nocturnal wildlife such as spring hare, genet, leopard, porcupine and aardvark.
Large crocodiles, monitor lizards and even pythons may be seen along the Limpopo River.
More than 350 bird species have been recorded in the area, including resident birds
of prey such as African fish eagle, martial eagle and black eagle. There are also ostriches,
different hornbills, rollers, woodpeckers, kingfishers, bustards, parrots and storks.
African finfoot and Pel's fishing-owl have been recorded.
September to May is the hottest and rainiest season. The temperatures peak from December
to February. June to August are the driest months, and offer pleasant day temperatures
(but nights may be cold) and few insects.
There are different types of accommodation in the area, including private lodges in
Tuli. Apart from the game viewing, Mashatu offers walking, horse riding and mountain
biking. Both Mashatu and Tuli may be accessed from inside Botswana and from South Africa,
for example from Johannesburg.
It is considered a malaria area.
Linyanti Wildlife Reserve
Linyanti (some 1,100 km2/425 sq mi) is situated on the southern banks of the Linyanti
River in northern Botswana. The northern side of the river, in Namibia, has wetlands,
papyrus beds and forests with for example marula trees, while the southern side, i.e.
the reserve, has lagoons, open river and gallery forests including for example sausage
trees. Open grasslands and dry woodlands follow inland.
Large numbers of elephants gather along the river and by waterholes during the dry seasons.
Thousands of zebras also spend the season in the park, to start migrating towards the
Savuti area in Chobe National Park in November, when warmer weather,
the rains and the fresh grass can be expected. Linyanti also has four interesting and
not very common antelopes: sable, roan, red lechwe and sitatunga. The large mammal predators
are represented by lions, leopards, cheetahs, hyaenas and African wild dogs, and the
smaller predators by servals and bat-eared foxes. Hippos can be found in the river.
The rainy season from November to March is hot and humid. May to October are dry months,
and as the months pass, more and more animals gradually congregate in areas bordering
the river, as waterholes in the park dry out.
Accommodation is available in good lodges and tented camps. The reserve is private,
and game drives at night and off-road driving are allowed. It is considered a malaria
Kgalagadi Transfrontier National Park
Kgalagadi is a large park shared by Botswana (28,105 km2/10,851 sq mi) and South Africa
(10,000 km2/3,860 sq mi). It was the first transfrontier park established in Africa.
Its name comes from the language of the San tribe, and means 'the place of thirst'.
The Kgalagadi part of the Kalahari is a dry area of scrubs and red sand dunes, receiving
an annual rainfall between 150 mm/6 in (in the south-west) and 350 mm/14 in (in the
north-east). Surface water is available from a few waterholes, and many animals eat
wild melons for water. The vegetation is sparse, and the wildlife concentrated to areas
along the usually dried-out riverbeds of the Auob and Nossob Rivers. Most roads follow
these rivers. Herds of gemsbok, springbuck and wildebeest migrate through the park,
and you may see predators such as cheetahs, leopards, brown and spotted hyaenas, and
the black-maned Kalahari lions. Suricates, or meerkats, are found throughout the park,
and you may see honey badgers, pangolins, bat-eared foxes, giraffes, kudus, chacma baboons
Some 280 bird species have been recorded, including many birds of prey, such as eagles,
vultures, goshawks and kestrels. Kgalagadi is known as a good place to see the African
The Kalahari climate can be harsh. The air temperature in the shade may exceed 40ºC/104ºF
during the summer (November to April), while ground temperatures may reach 70ºC/158ºF.
During winter night, the temperature may drop as far as -10ºC/14ºF. The rainfall
is erratic, and often comes in rainstorms with heavy winds, mainly between November
and April. Green grass and flowers follow rains, but the landscape soon dries out again.
Accommodation of different standard is available in self-contained bandas,
camping sites and tented camps. Many camps are located by waterholes. All roads within
the park are dust or gravel roads, and some of them are one way only. Vehicles should
travel at least in pairs in Botswana's part of the park.
Khama Rhino Sanctuary
Khama Rhino Sanctuary in eastern Botswana is a small park covering 43 km2/17 sq mi.
It is situated around the Serwe Pan, which is a grassland pan with a number of natural
waterholes. The vegetation is denser in the southern parts of the park.
The park was established as a rhino sanctuary. It is enclosed by an electric fence,
and some fifteen white rhinos (or grass rhinos) have been introduced. There are also
natural or introduced populations of other mammals, for example zebra, wildebeest, giraffe,
eland, springbuck, impala, gemsbok, kudu, steinbuck, red hartebeest, leopard, African
wildcat, caracal, black-backed jackal, bat-eared fox and brown hyaena. More than 230
bird species have been recorded.
Accommodation is available in camping sites and bandas. The roads are well kept and
accessible for two-wheel drive vehicles.
Selinda &Kwando Reserves
Selinda is a small private reserve between the Okavango Delta and the Linyanti River.
The area is dominated by scrubs and grasslands, with patches of palms or baobab trees.
The park has plenty of elephants, and also lions, cheetahs, hyaenas, giraffes, wildebeest,
kudus, impalas, hippos, sable antelopes, lechwes and African wild dogs. Crocodiles can
be seen along the river. The bird life in the park is rich and offers good birding.
Kwando is situated by the Kwando River (which later becomes the Linyanti River, and
later the Chobe River). The park has a mix of wetlands, floodplains, savannas and mopane
woodlands, where animals such as lechwes, impalas, kudus, zebras, wildebeest, elephants
and African buffalos may be seen. The predators are represented by for example lions
and African wild dogs. Hippos and crocodiles can be seen in the river.
Accommodation is available in lodges and tented camps.
Manyelanong Game Reserve
Manyelanong is a small park with rocky mountain landscape south of Botswana's capital
Gabarone. The park has been established to protect a colony of some 70 breeding pairs
of Cape vulture.
Mokolodi Nature Reserve
Mokolodi is a small (30 km2/12 sq mi) private reserve just outside Botswana's capital
Gabarone. It is the bush, but not really the wilderness. The reserve is managed by an
organization that promotes conservation. It also takes care of injured or orphaned animals,
of which the cheetahs probably are the most famed. Activities such as rhino and giraffe
tracking, riding, walking with elephants and game drives are offered to visitors. These
are rather zoo activities than safari activities.
The area has natural populations of for example kudu, impala, hyaena, leopard and waterbuck.
Species such as white rhino, cheetah, mountain reedbuck, giraffe, zebra, red hartebeest,
sable, gemsbok and elephant have been introduced since the middle of the 1990's.
Gabarone Game Reserve
This park is just outside Botswana's capital Gabarone. It is very small (6 km2/2.3 sq
mi), but receives many visitors. The park has a good road network and includes animal
habitats such as woodlands, wetlands and gallery forests, where visitors may see zebras,
wildebeest, rhinos, kudus, impalas, bushbucks, springbucks, elands and gemsboks. Many
bird watchers come to the park, which also has an information centre and picnic sites.
Cities and towns
Gabarone is the capital of Botswana. It is situated in the south-eastern part of the
country, towards the border to South Africa, and has a population that was estimated
to 200,000 at the end of the 1900's, but is growing quickly. The city has its name from
chief Gabarone of the Batlokwa tribe, who led his tribe to this area during the 1880's.
Gabarone is the centre of the country's administration and trade. It also has Botswana's
international airport, Sir Seretse Khama International Airport (GBE/FBSK). The city
is growing fast and is modernizing.
With a population of some 50,000 people, Maun is Botswana's third or fourth city/town
in size. It is a wild mix of modern buildings and traditional huts. Maun is also the
centre of Botswana's tourist industry; the town is situated just outside the Okavango
Delta, and not too far from Chobe National Park. A number of
safari and air safari companies operate from the town, where you may find many hotels
and good opportunities to rent safari vehicles and other equipment for tours into the
wilderness. Because of the air safaris, Maun Airport (MUB/FBMN) is one of the busiest
airports in southern Africa.
Botswana is a sparsely populated country, where most people live close to the border
to South Africa in the south-east. The population origins from a number of ethnic tribes.
Half are Christians, while about 45 % confess to traditional local faiths. English
is the official language, while Setswana is the national language.
| The main tribes/ethnic groups of Botswana:
| · Tswana
|| 75 % of the population
| · Kalanga
|| 10 %
Botswana has a climate that is dry and warm during much of the year. A rainy season
comes during the summer months. The rains are unreliable, though, and may vary much
between different parts of the country. The currency of Botswana is called pula,
which means 'rain' in Setswana and indicates the high value of rainfall.
The summer reaches from November to March and means temperatures up to 40ºC/104ºF
in the shade. Most rainfall is received during this time of year. The winter from May
to August is mainly dry, and has sunny days with temperatures ranging from cool to pleasant.
Some nights may have freezing temperatures, especially in the south-western parts of
Best time to visit
The best time to visit Botswana to see animals is April to October, when the weather
is clear and stable. The wildlife is concentrated around waterholes and along rivers
during this time of year.
This web page on Botswana is a stand-alone introduction page that comes outside the
main scope Safari in Kenya and Tanzania of Safari Patrol. Information
found elsewhere on this site might not be fully applicable to Botswana or safaris in