Blessed with some of the greatest wildlife spectacles on earth, Botswana is one of the great safari destinations in Africa.
The Okavango Delta – there's nowhere quite like it on earth. This is a place where wild creatures roam and rule, where big cats and much bigger elephants walk free in one of the world's last great wildernesses. The delta is a byword for abundance – for animal numbers, for the variety of species, for the birdlife, for floods of Biblical proportions. And it is also a place of singular and unparalleled beauty where safari possibilities can seem as endless as the waters themselves.
Stark Desert Beauty
The Kalahari Desert, the largest unbroken stretch of sand on the planet, is not your ordinary desert. From the salt pans of Makgadikgadi, the baobabs of Nxai Pans, and the spare magnificence of Kubu Island in the north, to the wonderful wildlife of Kgalagadi in the south, this is a desert of exceptional variety. Throw in the fossil river valleys, swaying golden grasses, black-maned lions and the echoes of the indigenous San people in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve and there are few more beautiful deserts on Earth.
Botswana didn't just turn its back on mass tourism. It ushered in an era of utterly exclusive safari experiences, the likes of which are seen no where else. These are sumptuous lodges and remote tented camps, especially in the Okavango Delta and surrounds that are sometimes contemporary in style, and at other times problematically awash in colonial nostalgia. And they will provide you a front-row seat for wildlife spectacles that you may just have all to yourself.
Africa's Best Camping
You can experience Botswana by renting your very own 4WD vehicle that doubles as an ingenious camping home away from home. This is about experiencing wild Africa at your own pace, travelling from one campsite to the next, where you may lie awake at night listening to lions roar their bone-trembling roar, or hippos, elephants, or the chilling saw-like grunt of a leopard. Build a campfire, gaze at the stars and feel at one with this gloriously beautiful country.
These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Botswana.
National ParkCentral Kalahari Game Reserve
The dry heart of the dry south of a dry continent, the CKGR is an awesome place. If remoteness, desert silences and the sound of lions roaring in the night are your thing, this could become one of your favourite places in Africa. Covering 52,800 sq km (about the size of Denmark), it's one of Africa’s largest protected areas. This is big-sky country, home to black-maned Kalahari lions, a full suite of predators and a wonderful sense of the remote.
Nature ReserveMoremi Game Reserve
Moremi Game Reserve, which covers one-third of the Okavango Delta, is home to some of the densest concentrations of wildlife in Africa. Best of all, it’s one of the most accessible corners of the Okavango, with well-maintained trails and accommodation that ranges from luxury lodges to public campsites for self-drivers.
The largest island in the Okavango Delta, Chief’s Island (70km long and 15km wide) is so named because it was once the sole hunting preserve of the local chief. Raised above the water level by tectonic activity, it’s here that so much of the delta’s wildlife retreats as water levels rise. As such, the island is home to what could be the richest concentration of wildlife in Botswana. It's the Okavango Delta as you always imagined it.
National ParkChobe National Park
Chobe National Park is one of Africa's great wildlife destinations. Famed for its massive elephants and enormous elephant population, Chobe, which encompasses nearly 11,000 sq km, is itself the size of a small country and an important epicentre of Botswana’s safari industry. The park encompasses three iconic wildlife areas that all carry a whiff of safari legend: Savuti, Chobe Riverfront and the Okavango-like Linyanti Marshes. Chobe has everything from campgrounds for self-drivers to luxury, fly-in lodges and tented camps.
Nature ReserveKgalagadi Transfrontier Park
In 2000 the former Mabuasehube-Gemsbok National Park was combined with South Africa’s former Kalahari Gemsbok National Park to create the new Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. The result is a 28,400-sq-km bi-national park that is one of the largest and most pristine arid wilderness areas on the continent. The park is also the only place in Botswana where you’ll see the shifting sand dunes that many mistakenly believe to be typical of the Kalahari.
National ParkKhutse Game Reserve
This 2500-sq-km reserve, which is an extension of the southern boundary of the CKGR, is a popular weekend excursion for Gaborone residents, but it’s still deliciously remote and crowds are rare, especially from Sunday to Thursday. It has all the attractions of the Kalahari, including good (if low-density) wildlife watching, well-maintained trails and around 60 mineralised clay pans that once belonged to Africa’s largest inland lake. Leopard and lion sightings are possible, while gemsboks and giraffes are also commonly seen.
National ParkNxai Pans National Park
This 2578-sq-km park is one of the most accessible places to experience the salt pans that are a Kalahari speciality, although it's more about smaller pans surrounded by grasslands and scrubby vegetation than the vast, salty wastes that you find further south. Wildlife is a highlight here, with elephants, giraffes and jackals pretty much guaranteed, and good chances to see lions and cheetahs as well.
Wildlife ReserveKhama Rhino Sanctuary
With the rhinos all but disappeared from Botswana, Serowe's residents banded together in the early 1990s to establish the 43-sq-km Khama Rhino Sanctuary. Today the sanctuary protects 30 white and four black rhinos – the sanctuary was not originally set up for black rhinos but when one wandered across the border from Zimbabwe it was the start of a beautiful relationship. Some rhinos have been released into the wild, especially in the Okavango Delta, joining imports from Botswana’s regional neighbours.
National ParkMakgadikgadi Pans National Park
This 3900-sq-km park, the southern section of the Makgadikgadi and Nxai Pans National Park, extends from the Boteti River in the west to the Ntwetwe Pan in the east. The return of water to the Boteti River in recent years has drawn plenty of wildlife, particularly in the dry season from May to October, when the river, even at low levels, is the only source of permanent water in the reserve. There are three main campsites, and three entry gates.
Whether it’s a guided tour of a historic landmark, private tasting of local delicacies, or an off-road adventure — explore the best experiences in Botswana.