Essential Botswana and Victoria Falls
- 3 Weeks
For most of this trip you will have to be completely self-sufficient and fully confident in your navigation and survival skills. For the less adventurous, tour operators in Maun are happy to help you organise a custom safari.
Starting in Maun, the classic staging point for all Botswanan safaris, you can stock up on supplies before heading out to the Okavango Delta, either by mokoro (dugout canoe) or charter plane. If you’re pinching your pennies, there’s no shortage of budget camping trips to choose from, though it’s certainly worth stretching your budget to allow for a few nights in one of the safari-chic tented camps in the wildlife-rich Moremi Game Reserve (try Chief’s Camp if you can afford it). Containing some of the densest concentrations of wildlife on the continent, Moremi is also the only protected area of the delta.
The next stage of your bush travel is a 4WD expedition through Chobe National Park (known for its huge populations of massive elephants). Stop at Savuti, where most megafauna are resident, and which is particularly well known for sightings of predators; Linyanti Marshes, an extensive wetland with opportunities to see elephants, lions, wild dogs, cheetahs and leopards; and the Chobe Riverfront, which is the most accessible part of Chobe and has the park's largest wildlife concentration. Whether you travel by private vehicle or tour bus, the overland route through Chobe is one of the country’s most spectacular and wildlife-rich journeys.
Make another supply stop in the border town of Kasane, at the meeting point of four countries – Botswana, Zambia, Namibia and Zimbabwe – and it’s time to cross the border to visit the world-famous Victoria Falls. The falls are one of the seven natural wonders of the world, and a visit reveals nature at its most inspiring. Whether you base yourself in Livingstone, Zambia or Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, it’s worth exploring life on both sides of the Zambezi River. If you’ve got a bit of cash burning a hole in your pocket, there’s no shortage of pulse-raising activities to help you get a quick adrenaline fix. Try a microlight flight over the falls for a unique perspective of this watery wonder.
Secrets of the Kalahari
- 2 Weeks
If you’re looking to leave the khaki-clad tourist crowds behind, this off-the-beaten-track option takes you straight through the heart of the Kalahari.
If you're starting in Johannesburg, head west for the border where you can cross at Bokspits to enter the enormous Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. The park is one of the only spots in the Kalahari where you can see shifting sand dunes, though the undisputed highlights are its pristine wilderness and low tourist volume. It's the Kalahari of your imagination, noted for its wildlife watching, including large numbers of springboks, gemsboks, elands and wildebeest as well as predators such as lions, cheetahs, leopards, wild dogs, jackals and hyenas. If you like birdwatching, you’re in for a treat here too.
Head east towards Gaborone and then loop back to enter the southern gates of the utterly wild Khutse Game Reserve. Here are well-maintained trails and around 60 pans that once made up the largest inland lake on the continent. Leopard and lion sightings are possible wildlife highlights. From here, traverse north through some exciting 4WD territory into the adjoining Central Kalahari Game Reserve, where you can navigate one of the continent’s most prominent topographical features. It's about the size of Denmark, so there’s plenty of scope for losing yourself in Africa’s raw heart. Before leaving, spend a night or two in Deception Valley, renowned for its rare brown hyenas. Although wildlife densities are significantly lower than in Chobe or the Okavango Delta, so are the number of safari vehicles.
Heading north, you’ll pass through D’kar, where you can pick up some beautiful San crafts. If you’re here in August, immerse yourself in traditional Bushman culture at the Kuru Dance Festival. Press on for the remote Gcwihaba (Drotsky’s) Cave, renowned for its 10m-long stalagmites and stalactites, as well as Commerson’s leaf-nosed bats. Finally, at the furthermost tip of the country, you’ll come to the mystical Tsodilo Hills, which is a treasure chest of painted rock art that continues to be revered by local communities. The beautiful colours of these remote hills are striking but it's the 4000-plus prehistoric rock paintings throughout the hills that most people are here to see.
The Best of Botswana
- 2 weeks
This journey around the country is aimed primarily at self-drivers. If you're among the many travellers who spend their entire time in Botswana staying at remote, fly-in, luxury camps and lodges, simply choose three or four and enjoy the experience.
Fly into Maun, staying just long enough to pick up your pre-booked vehicle and take a scenic flight to get a sense of the delta in all its vast glory. Drive into Moremi Game Reserve, with a couple of nights in each of Xakanaxa Campsite, Savuti Campsite and Linyanti Campsite. Spend a couple of nights recharging the batteries in Kasane, with a sunrise and a sunset foray along the Chobe Riverfront. Drive to Gweta and stay overnight, long enough for an encounter with meerkats, then plan a night by the Boteti River in Makgadikgadi Pans National Park. With some hard driving, you could make a dash for the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, camping in Deception Valley and Motopi on your way back to Maun.