Such is the nature of travelling in Botswana that even the most tranquil holidays will involve some form of activities, from rugged 4WD excursions to poling gently along the Okavango Delta’s waterways in a traditional mokoro (dugout canoe). Beyond these activities there are few options, and most activities that are possible are organised as part of lodge packages rather than designed for individual travellers.
Botswana lags behind neighbours Namibia and Zambia as a hiking destination, although a number of treks are possible.
Walking safaris in the company of an armed guard form part of the available activities at many lodges, and leaving the safety of your vehicle will sharpen your senses and your awareness of your surroundings. Places where such hiking excursions along nature trails are possible include the Okavango Delta, the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) and the Makgadikgadi Pans. The treks run out of the luxury lodges of the Makgadikgadi Pans or the CKGR, for example, are a fascinating opportunity to explore the arid environs with San guides, who can point out the hidden details of the landscape and its specially adapted flora and fauna.
You don’t need to stay at a luxury lodge or tented camp to explore a small corner of the delta on foot, as many of the mokoro expeditions organised from Maun include walking components. Also, a small but growing number of mobile safaris in the delta and Moremi Game Reserve, organised from Maun, involve multiday hikes.
Options are limited for more free-range trekking, but the Tsodilo Hills, where trails lead up to thousands of rock-art sites, are undoubtedly the premier spot. Guides are available from the main campsite in the region. Another possibility is the Tswapong Hills in the country’s east, which sees very few tourists. For both, you’ll need to be entirely self-sufficient.
Cantering among herds of zebras and wildebeest is an unforgettable experience, and the horse-riding safaris in Botswana are second to none. You’ll need to be an experienced rider as most horseback safaris in Botswana don’t take beginners – after all, you need to be able to get yourself out of trouble should you encounter it.
Places where such safaris are possible:
African Animal Adventures Expeditions from Maun.
Grassland Safari Lodge Safaris into the Central Kalahari Game Reserve.
Mashatu Game Reserve In the Tuli Block.
Ride Botswana Based in Maun, with expeditions to the delta and Kalahari.
Uncharted Africa Out onto the salt pans of Makgadikgadi.
Travelling around the channels of the Okavango Delta in a mokoro is a wonderful experience that is not to be missed. The mokoro is poled along the waterways by a skilled poler, much like an African gondola. Although you won’t be spotting much wildlife from such a low viewpoint, it’s a great way to appreciate the delta’s birdlife and gain an appreciation, hopefully from a distance, of the formidable bulk of hippos.
Motorboat & Fishing Trips
The only two places where motorboats can operate for wildlife cruises and fishing trips are along the Okavango and Chobe Rivers.
For fishing, the only stretches of water to consider are the deep and fast-flowing waters of the Okavango Panhandle. The most popular form of freshwater fishing is fly-fishing for tigerfish, although pike, barbel (catfish) and bream are also plentiful. Tigerfish season runs from September to June, while barbel are present from mid-September to December.
Some lodges in the Makgadikgadi Pans area in northeastern Botswana offer trips across the expansive salt pans on four-wheeled quad bikes, also called ATVs (all-terrain vehicles). These are safe to drive, require no experience, do not need a car or motorbike licence and are great fun. Most operators are reputable, but sadly in recent years some travellers have begun to bring their own quad bikes to Botswana, where they criss-cross the pans with little concern for the wildlife or fragile ecosystems of the area.
A scenic flight of fancy in a light aircraft or helicopter high above the Okavango Delta is a thrilling activity. These can be arranged either in Maun directly with the operator or through your accommodation.