A safari in Botswana is like no other. Not only is the destination unrivalled for wildlife but it also hosts some of the smartest lodges out there. Hidden in private pockets of romantic wilderness, these East-African style camps and slick, sustainable outposts are designed to make you feel like the savannah is yours alone to explore. And yes, it may be expensive, but the space and the silence are privileges worth paying for.
The Okavango Delta, Botswana’s watery heartland, sparkles so brightly under the warm African sun, it almost feels like a mirage. Arriving by Cessna aircraft fuels the bubbling anticipation, with a birds-eye view of the sprawling wetlands, so verdant and wild you feel as though you’ve stumbled upon uncharted land. Here, everything is off-road. There’s not one person to be seen nor any engine noise to drown out the sound of chattering birds. Paddling silently through the lily pads in a traditional mokoro canoe allows you to get closer to the smaller, less conspicuous wildlife like tiny marbled reed frogs and great swooping fish eagles that make their home among the reed-studded waterways. On the Delta’s eastern side, Moremi, a spellbinding game reserve is full of roaming big cats and wild dogs to track. The Chobe National Park is where you can explore in zero-emission 4×4 vehicles and riverboats to spot herds of elephant shambling to the riverbank and hippo grunting in the lagoons.
In the northern Kalahari Desert, the Makgadikgadi feels otherworldly. Its ephemeral salt pans, some so large they’re visible from space, transform into lunar landscapes with blinding white salt crust that crunches underfoot. During the rains, the pans turn into turquoise pools drawing vast numbers of wildlife including flocks of bright pink flamingoes and migratory zebra who make their 250km linear pilgrimage to graze on the palm-studded grassland. It’s the perfect place for quadbiking, careering through the arid desert, or perhaps exploring ancient terrain with the Zu’Hoasi bushmen under gaping big skies.
Botswana is as remote as it is exclusive, so a chat with a destination insider will help you get your head around the finer details of how to access Africa’s undisputed safari champion.
Your journey will start with one of our UK team – someone like Karen, who's travelled extensively in Botswana. They’ll shape your ideas into the trip of a lifetime. But they won't do it alone. They'll draw on the expertise of our contacts on the ground, connecting you to the people who'll make your holiday one you'll always remember - the rangers who'll ensure you'll spot the best wildlife in Chobe, the village chiefs who'll give you an insight into local life and the helicopter pilots who can land you on an island in the Delta never visited by humans before.
Freephone an expert 01306230550
Time difference: GMT +2
Flight time: London + 14-16 hours
Currency: Pula (BWP)
Language: English and Setswana
Telephone code: +267
Tipping: Tipping is discretionary in Botswana although it is customary to tip your safari guide and tracker separately at the end of your stay. Specific guidelines are normally available from the lodge manager, however USD$10-20 per person per day is usual for your safari guide, and USD$5 per person per day for your tracker. If you take a mokoro trip, your poler should also be tipped and USD$5 per activity is reasonable. When staying in lodges, there is often a large team behind the scenes, including housekeepers, chefs and waiters so a contribution to the general staff box will ensure that they too are rewarded.
Etiquette: Along with democracy, unity, self-reliance and development, Botswana’s fifth national principle is botho. Showing good manners, being helpful and politeness are all examples of botho. By respecting others, you will earn respect back.
Always greet elders first and you should remove your hat before entering a building. When shaking hands, the left hand should be put on the right elbow. Ask permission before taking photos of people and do not take photos of government buildings or military personnel.
Religions: Introduced into Botswana in the late 1800s, Christianity is the main religion. Many people still include some practices of the traditional indigenous religion of Badimo. Badimo are spiritual ancestors and the Batswana will communicate through them to their supreme being. Badimo are believed to be present in daily lives and, in order to keep them happy, you may see locals placing food at a table for them.