The Rolls-Royce of safari destinations, Botswana rewards with exclusivity, and a wildlife spectacle that requires frequent pinches to one’s arm
Botswana is blessed with a geological oddity that has resulted in one of the greatest wildlife events in the world – the annual flood of the Okavango Delta. This combines with the starkness of the Makgadikgadi and Nxai Pans, the dry scrub of the Kalahari and the life and death struggle of the big game of Chobe National Park, Selinda and Linyanti, to make a Botswana safari one of the most well-rounded African experiences one can have.
In keeping Botswana’s philosophy of low-volume tourism, the lodges and camps are small and high end. Most are accessible only by air, which allows you to appreciate the scale and splendour of the variegated land below. You are never insulated from the bush, however, and opportunities to get up close and personal on foot or in a dugout mokoro abound.
Planning your safari…
The Best Time to Visit Botswana
Botswana is a hot, dry semi-desert country with a mixture of permanent and seasonal water that courses through it, depending on the time of year. There are two main sources of water:
- The rains that fall in the Angolan highlands at the beginning of the year flow south west to Botswana, arriving in June – July, at the height of the dry season. This water floods the Okavango Delta, and the Kwando and Chobe River systems.
- The second source, to a lesser extent, is the dispersed surface water from rain that falls in Botswana from November to April.
June to August are cool and dry, with short grass and sparse foliage that makes for clear lines of sight through the bush. This is when Botswana receives most of its water, and is the peak season, when the country is at its busiest and most expensive.
September and October are hot and dry, causing wildlife to congregate around water sources. October can be very hot and humid indeed.
November to April are warm and occasionally, it rains. This rainy period is a kinder and gentler time for the animals, as there is more dispersed water and vegetation, and this is the best time for most of them to give birth. It is the best time for the 25,000-strong Zebra migration in the Makgadikgadi, and it is the best time to see game here and in the Central Kalahari. This green season is far less busy, and the cheapest time to come to Botswana.
May is a transition period. The first waters of the flood start to arrive, it is not too busy, a little drier, not too hot, and not too expensive.
Okavango Delta, Moremi Game Reserve and Khwai
With the annual flood, the Okavango Delta makes for a unique gathering of wildlife, and a diversity of plants and animals that makes the Delta a global treasure. A gorgeous selection of small, isolated camps and lodges pay homage to the Okavango and bring you right into the heart of the experience. The delta incorporates Moremi Game Reserve and the Khwai Concession, each area being superlative for their variety and density of wildlife.
Chobe, Linyanti, Selinda and Kwando
Chobe National Park is home to a surfeit of mega-herbivores, and an abundance of predators. The marshes and savannah of Savuti, the riverbank and floodplains of the Chobe Riverfront and the riverine forest, open woodland and floodplains of Linyati and Selinda to the north west and Kwando Concession in the north make for an extremely diverse collection of habitats. The result is varied and absorbing game viewing almost every time you look for it.
Carrying less vegetation than the Kalahari proper, the Makgadikgadi and Nxai Pans are the remains of a huge inland sea that dried up in prehistoric times. The surrounding area is fed by the Boteti and Nata Rivers, with the result in the dry season of a concentration of desert-adapted wildlife along the water courses. In the wet season, the desert turns lush and green, and one of Africa’s great migrations takes place, with thousands of wildebeest and zebra pouring onto the plains in search of fresh pasture.
Juxtaposed against the waterworld of the Delta, the Kalahari’s mix of scrub, salt pans and dry riverbeds hosts a plethora of desert-adapted wildlife. Even measured against the vast expanses of southern Africa’s wilderness areas, the Kalahari is huge, and contains three parks and reserves, just one of which (The Central Kalahari Game Reserve) is 20,000 square miles in area – almost the size of Norway. This therefore is one of Africa’s “reservoirs” for many key endangered species that require huge range, most notably lion, African wild dog and cheetah.