2019 African Safari: Botswana vs KenyaDecember 22, 2018
Both Botswana and Kenya have been voted among the best destinations to travel to in 2019 but how do you know which one is for you?
Natalie Beauregard, the travel guides editor at AFAR, chose Kenya because, from next year, “Kenya Airways just started offering direct flights from New York’s JFK to Nairobi, which is going to open the idea of a safari to so many people, since it used to take multiple connections to get to Kenya”.
Botswana was picked by Fernanda Costa Gama Logemann, founder of travel platform Spice up the Road, because he is “always looking unforgettable adventures and authentic experiences, so glamping (upscale camping) is a trend that I am really excited about.”
Well, the Forbes list has definitely narrowed it down but, unless you’re wanting to do both, you’re still in the difficult position of choosing between the two. This short break-down of the differences and similarities between the two countries will help clarify which to prioritise for 2019.
Botswana: This is a country of hugely contrasting landscapes. There is a wide range of national parks and game reserves that cover these various environments, affording safari-goers a remarkable variety in game-viewing. The waterways and accompanying lush, green vegetation on the floodplains make the Okavango Delta a natural waterpark, whilst the Makgadikgadi Pan and surrounding salt pans in the savannah of the north-east is a dry and desert landscape.
Kenya: With far more geographical elevations compared to the flatlands of Botswana, Kenya has large mountain ranges that are also then contrasted with low-lying coastal areas. This is where Mount Kenya reaches to a peak height of almost 5200 metres and also where the vast grasslands of the Masai Mara upon which only sporadic acacia trees and thorn bushes grow high. The port town of Mombasa is a picturesque setting with conservation parks in the ocean and land.
Botswana: A trip to Botswana offers an extensive mix of animal and bird life as a result of these different regional habitats. The well-known Chobe National Park is home to the largest concentration of African elephants, which can be seen drinking from or cooling off the mighty Chobe River. The wildlife-rich Moremi Game Reserve is reputed to have significant numbers of wild dogs, an endangered species that can be quite difficult to spot. Throughout Botswana, there is an impressive number of bird species, and particularly beautiful water-birds that keep the waterways healthy.
Kenya: The Great Migration of wildebeest, zebra and antelope that crosses the Masai Mara region of Kenya, is of course, a major drawcard. Most safari enthusiasts have Kenya on their travel list for just this special wildlife event. It is a good destination to encounter the Big 5 on safari, and predator-prey sightings on the plains are particularly exhilarating. Different sub-species of giraffe, such as the Rothschilds and Masai, can be seen in different regions of the country.
Kenya: Kenya offers superb wildlife viewing with a well-established safari infrastructure of operators with both permanent camps and mobile safari circuits. Hot air ballooning over the plains of the Masai Mara is utterly magical, and so too is overlooking the wildebeest from one of the smaller hills.
Botswana: Luxury private tented safari camps and tracts of wilderness areas with very low tourist densities, make Botswana a relatively private safari experience. The safari vehicles used here are modified and open-air, which also add to the intimacy of the experience. Water-based safari activities, most notably mokoro safaris, are quite unique to Botswana.
Botswana: The rains generally fall between November and March with the rest of the year being mostly rain-free. Because of this, most of the camps remain open year-round. During the rainy or ‘green’ safari season in Botswana, herbivores drop their babies and lush landscapes take over.
Kenya: October marks the beginning of the ‘short rains’ while April brings the ‘long rains’ to Kenya. Many of the safari camps close during the long rains due to difficult driving conditions. Pre-rainy season time, such as in September, is usually a good time to witness the wildebeest migration in Kenya.
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