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Botswana

Land of thundering herds and primeval natural beauty
Overview

Teeming with life, landlocked Botswana is the wild heart of south-central Africa. Mind-boggling numbers of animals congregate on the country’s vast salt pans and floodplains, creating an unforgettable spectacle. Add in some of Africa’s most pristine landscapes and it’s easy to understand why travelers often liken this place to Eden.

Botswana’s land has a primordial beauty: gnarled baobabs juxtaposed against the stark white Kudiakam Pan, thorny acacia trees crowded with nesting birds, or the dazzling palette of greens painting the edges of the world’s largest inland river delta, where the Okavango’s waters meet the Kalahari, rising and falling with seasonal rains and creating a Shangri-la for wildlife.

The sheer quantity and variety of species here is astounding. Botswana’s zebra migration is Africa’s largest, and its elephant herds are the continent’s most impressive: get right in among them on land, or watch them come by the hundreds to drink by the river in Chobe National Park. Here and in the country’s private concessions you’ll find great pods of hippos, prides of lions, and thundering herds of buffalos, zebras, and wildebeest, along with unparalleled opportunities to view the endangered African wild dog. Countless additional species—including impala, cheetahs, hyenas, and crocodiles—follow the ebb and flow of the Okavango or congregate around the intermittent rainwater-fed pools on the Nxai Pan salt flats.

A crowning highlight for many travelers is paddling silently through the waters of the Okavango Delta, recently named a UNESCO World Heritage site. Slipping through the reeds in a traditional mokoro (dugout canoe) and listening transfixed to the chorus of birdsong or the splash of a diving kingfisher is as primeval an experience as you’ll find anywhere on the planet.

Read more about Botswana

Country Highlights & Attractions

  • Mingle with Africa’s largest elephant herds in Chobe National Park
  • Canoe through the Okavango Delta, a vast green oasis in the Kalahari
  • Explore the wildlife-rich grasslands and otherworldly salt pans of Nxai Pan National Park
  • Track elusive wild dogs in the Kwando and Moremi game reserves
Wildlife

Wildlife in Botswana

Enormous herds and great flocks of birds are drawn to Botswana’s vast open spaces, where the Kalahari salt pans and the life-giving waters of the Okavango Delta provide sustenance to elephants, hippos, zebras, wildebeest, and a host of other wildlife.

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Elephants

With an estimated population of 120,000, Chobe National Park’s massive elephant herds are the largest in Africa. Watch in awe as they thunder down to the river for an afternoon drink.

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Hippopotamus

One moment eyeing their surroundings, then dipping out of sight underwater, enormous hippos are a permanent fixture in Botswana’s waterways, and a characteristic part of the soundtrack of any safari.

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Honey Badger

A fierce and opportunistic hunter, the honey badger relies on a cooperative relationship with the honey guide bird, who leads it straight to the beehive—the badger’s favorite food.

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Meerkats

The charismatic, clever, and entertaining meerkats of the Kalahari are rather trusting of humans and always making use of the highest lookout spot; don’t be surprised when one climbs atop your head!

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Pel's Fishing Owl

With 600 recorded bird species, Botswana is a natural magnet for bird lovers. The elusive Pel’s fishing owl ranks high on the lifer list, with 100 pairs calling the Okavango Delta home.

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Red Lechwe

Found in the Okavango Delta’s permanent swamps and wetlands, the beautiful red lechwe takes advantage of its excellent swimming abilities to escape predators.

Country Facts

Flat, landlocked Botswana is a sparsely populated southern African country with a diverse and hospitable population. The Kalahari Desert comprises the majority of the country’s topography, making this one of Africa’s premier wildlife areas. With 38 percent of the land protected in national parks, reserves, and wildlife-management areas, Botswana’s numerous species of animals roam unhindered over desert and savannah, as well as the lush Okavango Delta that is classified an important birding area and a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Known in colonial days as the Bechuanaland Protectorate, Botswana gained its independence from Great Britain in 1966. Today it is a peaceful and prosperous parliamentary republic with regular democratic elections. Its capital city is Gaborone.

Language & People

The official language of Botswana is English and the national language is Setswana, a Bantu language spoken by 78 percent of the population. The predominantly rural population of 2.2 million includes a wide diversity of ethnic groups, each with its unique traditions and customs; among these, the best known outside of Botswana are the !Kung San bushpeople of the Kalahari Desert. Nearly three quarters of the country’s inhabitants (around 72 percent) identify themselves as Christian.

Food & Drink

There is no single native cuisine in Botswana encompassing all ethnic groups. Sorghum comes closest to being the main crop, served porridge-style and, for lunch and dinner, accompanied by savory vegetable, meat, or fish stew. African lager-style beers are enjoyed throughout the country.

Weather & Elements

Botswana is an ideal year-round destination with a predominantly subtropical climate. Weather conditions are arid to semiarid, with average daily temperatures around 90° F and minimum temperatures around 64° F. The hottest (summer) months are typically December and January, and the coldest (winter) months are June and July. Rainfall can occur in brief thunderstorms throughout the year. The driest season is May to August, and the rainiest from November to March, during which time the Okavango Delta completely floods and can be accessed only by boat.

Best months for birding are Nov–Mar; for botany, Dec–May; for mammals, Jul–Oct; and for diversity, May–Jun.

Entry Requirements & Visas

U.S. citizens: Passports are required and must be valid for at least 6 months beyond the dates of travel. Visas are not required for U.S. citizens for stays of up to 90 days. For most up-to-date visa information, and for non-U.S. citizens, see the Embassy of Botswana website: www.botswanaembassy.org.

For visa and passport assistance, we recommend Travel Document Systems: www.traveldocs.com.

Currency

Botswana uses the pula (abbreviated as BWP), which is divided into 100 thebe. As of November 2014, $1 US = 1 BWP. For up-to-date exchange rates, see www.oanda.com.

Foreign currency (USD, British pound, and South African rand are easiest to exchange) is recommended for use and can be exchanged at banks, exchange offices, and authorized hotels. It is unlikely that you will be able to access cash once outside of Maun and Kasane. ATM machines and credit cards can be used only in larger towns, cities, and some lodgings.

Immunizations & Health

No immunizations are required to enter Botswana with the exception that proof of yellow fever vaccination is required for all travelers if traveling from, or transiting through, a country with risk of yellow fever transmission.

Malaria medication, hepatitis, tetanus, typhoid, polio, measles, mumps, and rubella vaccinations are generally recommended for all travelers. Requirements and recommendations change frequently, so always check directly with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC: www.cdc.gov/travel; 800-232-4636), a travel clinic, and/or your personal physician for the most current information. Plan ahead for immunizations, as some require administration several months prior to departure.

Electricity & Phone

Alternating current of 220/240v and 50Hz is used in Botswana. Plug types are typically the South African M plug and the British G plug.

Phone & Internet
Botswana country code: +267
International access code calling out of Botswana: 00

  • Cell-phone coverage throughout Botswana is extensive, but cannot be guaranteed at all times, especially in remote areas.
  • Internet access is generally very good in towns and villages but less dependable elsewhere, especially in parks and reserves.

For more information about Botswana, see the national tourism board website: www.botswanatourism.us.

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Guides

Ian Johnson

Ian Johnson is a professional safari guide, ecotourism consultant, and professional photographer. He is qualified as a microbiologist and has studied conservation in South Africa. Having lived and worked throughout the continent’s Great Rift Valley, he has come to know some of Africa’s greatest wildlife destinations, from South Africa all the way to Egypt. As a photographer, Ian has received several Southern African and international awards for his wildlife and natural-history photography.

He is also a freelance cameraman for the BBC Natural History Unit and has worked on a number of documentaries, including Big Cat Diaries in the Masai Mara. Through his eco-consulting business, he has taught and worked with guides, trackers, and wardens from the forests and gorillas of Uganda, the vast Serengeti/Mara, along the entire East African coast, the Okavango Delta and Linyanti ecosystems, and the Sabi Sands reserves. Ian believes in adventure and thrills, and this is what he has been doing for the last 16 years – by constantly striving to spread the magic of Africa!

Spencer Mathambo

Spencer was born near Francistown into a wide extended family, and has four brothers and two sisters. He speaks three languages (English, Setswana, and Kalanga) and has been guiding for the last 10 years. Spencer’s personal interests include videography, educational lecturing to local wildlife clubs, reading, listening to music, hiking, and herding cattle when he goes home on his leave. Spencer has traveled throughout Botswana, Zimbabwe, and South Africa, and is popular with camp staff and guests alike. Spencer has a quiet confidence that comes from years of bush experience.

Dux Mareja

Dux Mareja was born in 1979 in Sankoyo, a small village in the northeastern corner of the famous Moremi Game Reserve. Born into the Bayei—a tribe of river bushmen that farms the delta—he grew up as the oldest son in a family of five. After completing his primary education in the village, he moved to Maun for junior and high school and his studies with a focus on office administration.

He spent the first part of his career responsible for accounts and reservations until his real talent was identified. Before changing professions, he assisted in mobilizing the Community Based Natural Resources Department in his village, an organization that strives to alleviate poaching and wildlife conflict in the area. This inspired him to attend a Professional Guiding and Wildlife Conservation Course with Botswana Wildlife Training Institute, and then to complete a longer course in South Africa.

He strives to create authentic relationships with guests, and to nurture and maintain them for a memorable and highly rated unique wildlife experience. He says, “The wilderness is where I originate and where I belong.”

Mothusi Kebusitswe

Mothusi Kebusitswe is a Maun local who spent much of his childhood in Sepupa, a fishing village on the panhandle of the Okavango Delta. Mothusi has four sisters, and comes from the Bayei tribe, the original inhabitants of the Okavango Delta. His interests and hobbies include traveling, music, board games, and photography.

He has traveled to Zambia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa. Mothusi’s ambition is “to see the outside world before getting too old!” He visited South Africa in order to broaden his outlook and knowledge of the guiding profession. He has guided for mobile safaris and lodges since 1998. His sunny personality, broad smile, and wealth of knowledge make him a well-respected and popular guide.

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Dry Season

Grass is short, so it’s easy to spot wildlife that is concentrated near waterholes.

Temperate Season

Ideal Safari season – wildlife is easy to track, and the weather is temperate.

Rainy Season

Tropical downpours mean an ideal season for birding and photography.

Light Rains

Cooler weather & nighttime rains mean animals are more active during the day.

Nov, Dec, Jan, Feb & Mar: The summer in Botswana is known as the green season. During this time of year hot, sunny days and frequent but short rainstorms can be expected. Birdlife and photography are outstanding at this time of year. The bonus, great value, no crowds, and lots of baby animals. Average high: 88-94. Average low: 63-66.

Apr, May & Jun: Referred to as the shoulder season by many, this is an ideal time to explore the islands and waterways of Botswana’s Okavango Delta. The weather is far cooler, there are not as many visitors, yet the wildlife is prominent and active with much of the birdlife still in abundant display.  Average high: 77-87. Average low: 42-58.

July, Aug, Sept & Oct: This time of year offers peak game viewing in Northern Botswana. The weather is arid, the grasses are low, and the game is concentrated around disappearing water sources. Daytime temperatures in July and August are comfortable with cold evenings. September begins to warm up considerably leading into October, the hottest month of the year with highs in the mid-90s. Average highs: 83-95. Average lows: 47-64.

Read more about The Best Time To Visit

2 Botswana Safaris

Botswana

Best of Botswana 9 Days / 8 Nights

Activities: Active Safaris, Cultural Visits, Urban Explorations, Boats and BeachesEnjoy magnificent perspectives on Botswana’s land and wildlife as you explore the country’s floodplains, rivers, and deltas by air, land, and water.

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Flight + Safari from $7,608 USD per person
  Safari Only from $5,498USD per person
trip details

Highlights

  • Slip silently through the reeds on a sunrise canoe tour of the Okavango Delta
  • Watch elephants by the hundreds come down to bathe and play on the banks of the Chobe River
  • Enjoy aerial perspectives on great herds crossing Botswana’s wide-open spaces
  • Celebrate each day’s adventures with sundowners, fireside conversation, and spectacular stargazing

Departure Dates


May 31-Jun 8Aug 11-Aug 19Nov 2-Nov 10

Also available as a Private departure - choose your own dates!

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We Speak Safari
Call 888-483-7696 | Request a Reservation  

Botswana

Okavango Delta, Chobe & Nxai Pan 9 Days / 8 Nights

Activities: Active Safaris, The Big Five, Classic Game Drives, Boats and BeachesExperience Botswana’s multifaceted wild beauty, from Nxai Pan’s ancient baobabs and the lush green Okavango Delta to the great elephant herds of Chobe National Park.

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Safari From $5,898 USD per persontrip details

Highlights

  • Marvel at the spectacle of Africa’s largest elephant herds, seen from air, land, and water
  • Thrill to the otherworldly beauty of Nxai Pan’s baobabs and infinite white salt flats
  • On a walk with a Bushman tracker, discover ancient secrets of celestial navigation through the desert
  • Paddle through the Okavango Delta, serenaded by birdsong

Departure Dates


Make it your own! Private trips are just for you and your travel companions. Choose your preferred departure date and we handle all the details.

NEED HELP DECIDING?

We Speak Safari
Call 888-483-7696 | Request a Reservation  

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