Botswana is a travel destination that appeals to the adventurous, nature-loving spirit, be it for a fly-in safari that takes you deep into the Okavango Delta, a sunset cruise on the Chobe River or the remote desert plains of the Kalahari.
The Okavango Delta, a place of concentrated magic
The Okavango Delta should be on every safari enthusiast’s wish list and when you get there you know exactly why. This important inland wetland is a unique oasis that is considered one of the best safari destinations in Africa. It is a place of concentrated magic.
A highlight here is that your guide will maneuver you through the reed-lined waterways in the traditional Mokoro or dugout canoe. It is the calm that impresses you the most and the closeness to every game that comes into the water to drink. There are also game drives from some camps and bush walks, but this is peace in person.
In the area, the Moremi Game Reserve attracts self-driving visitors to explore its waterways and islands. The most popular are Chief’s Island and the forested Mopane Tongue Peninsula with numerous lodges and camps to choose from. It is the first reserve in Africa to be established by local residents. The reserve was proclaimed in 1963 and remains the only officially protected area of the Okavango Delta.
With one of the richest and most diverse ecosystems in Africa, this is a paradise for game viewing and bird watching. Black and white rhinos have recently been reintroduced and are regaining their status as “Big Five” reservations. Pools, pans, meadows, plains and mopane forests offer wonderful hiking trails, both guided and independent.
Chobe Game Reserve where elephants walk around
The largest elephant population in the world lives in Chobe National Park in Botswana. 200,000 elephants are said to roam the river, which marks the place where four countries meet. Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and a tiny strip of Namibia. It is a special place. Also known for its large herds of cape buffalos, lions, antelopes, hippos and migratory zebras.
The morning and sunset Chobe river cruise on the flat-bottomed boats offers a special experience, where you can watch game and birds from the water. The skipper navigates back and forth between the long grass to spot crocodiles baking in the sun, hippo pods curiously approaching them, and shy game gently peering out from behind the trees in the reserve as they near an evening drink .
The cormorants dry their wings in the last rays of the sun and water monitors sneak around between the rocks. If you’re lucky, you can even hear the distinctive cry of the osprey that crowns the moment. A gin and tonic in the evening or a cup of Amarula coffee in the early morning complete the experience.
In the dry season, hundreds of elephants come to the water’s edge, often seen as their trunks hold each other’s tails as they cross the river to the lush islands to graze. This is a clearly visible Chobe sight.
“On the Mokoro, it is the calm that impresses you the most and the closeness to the game that comes into the water to drink. That is personified peace. “
Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park where the wild are
If you don’t have a 4×4, find a friend or family member and visit the Mabuasehube Game Reserve in Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. Here in the south of the country you are guaranteed a big sky, open pans and loneliness. The recommendation here is to drive the rugged and fairly wild road that crosses the park and settle down in one of the campsites that offer A-frame protection for shade, a shower with freshly-drilled borehole water, and a long road. Drop the toilet.
The days are spent relaxing in camping chairs, reading, playing cards and watching the active life of the local squirrel. Always keep an eye out for the game that may come by. You may even be lucky enough that a lion drinks water from the makeshift shower at night. Don’t be fooled though, they’re not there to make friends, and a useful tip is to always keep the car doors unlocked just in case it approaches and you need secure protection.
The nights turn black and the headlights come on when you gather around the campfire to prepare dinner and enjoy the obligatory gin and tonic with ice if your vehicle is well equipped with a fridge and freezer. You can’t get closer to nature. Reservations are essential and must be made in advance as the camps are very popular. A park ranger can drive through to check on you, but most of the time you are alone. So take all the necessary supplies and your vehicle with you.
Best time to visit
The rainy season falls from November to March and promises dramatic thunderstorms that cool down the hot days. May to October is the most popular season for visiting lower grass for good game viewing and the highest water level in the delta. February is referred to by some as a “crazy month”, with temperatures well into the 1940s and little relief, except for a cool shower or a dip in the pool of your lodge, of course.
Did you know?
Botswana is the world’s largest diamond producer and trade has turned the country into a middle-income nation. The country’s other valuable asset is its commitment to nature conservation and wildlife with clear protection laws, a strong stance against hunting and the commitment to tourism, which serves as an important source of income.
4 × 4 self-drive safari adventures
There can hardly be a more dramatic experience than driving through untouched wilderness. It is not for the faint of heart, and experience driving in difficult conditions is a must!
For this adventure, you need a fully equipped 4 × 4 device with water, food, fuel and supplies to accompany you in every situation. You can rent a 4×4 vehicle that contains everything you need for your trip. There are gas stations in the capitals, but not in the bush. You need to calculate and fill up your gasoline needs early, as using an air conditioner and engaging lower gears will drain your reserves.
It is important to note that off-road driving is prohibited in national parks to keep wilderness areas in pristine condition and to protect wildlife from damage. More information about safari specialists for self-drivers, Drive to Botswana, will meet all of your personal requirements: www.drivebotswana.com.
** Images according to the printed article that appeared in onRoute Magazine.
** You can find more of my freelance work here.
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