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Botswana - Travel Essentials

 

Botswana is all about stunning wilderness areas inhabited by incredible wildlife where visitors are looked after by some of the very best guides in the business.

Nothing can beat the sound of lions roaring and hyena calling at night when tucked up under your blanket in your room. It's one of those genuinely lifelong memories.

The sunrise and sunsets across the vast wilderness areas of the Okavanga or the Kalahari are spectacular and help make a Botswana safari one of the ultimate experiences in travel.

Botswana safari life, to some appears rather demanding, but in reality, once you have settled into your daily safari routine, it’s actually incredibly relaxing and humbling, especially learning about the local Batswana people and how they grew up in such a vastly different environment.

Botswana Honeymoons

For those looking to invest in the honeymoon of a lifetime, few destinations can beat a safari in Botswana.

Honeymooners are often be given a few extra treats and some camps have special honeymoon tents/rooms which tend to include more spacious accommodation with larger bathrooms, private decks and even outdoor baths.

Botswana Family Holidays

The standard of accommodation in Botswana has improved dramatically in the past few years with specially built family tents able to accommodate families under one roof but with two interconnecting rooms, meaning the children remain within touching distance.

A safari in Botswana is not generally suitable for children under 8 years old. In fact many safari camps in Botswana have restricted safari activities for children under 12.

When on safari with younger children, it's often necessary to pay for a private vehicle which gives the family greater freedom in how the safari is conducted and reduces any pressure from other adult paying guests.

Game Drives in Botswana

Most Botswana safaris are in custom-made open-sided 4x4 safari Landrovers or Toyota Landcruisers.

This allows more ground to be covered and closer encounters with wildlife in Botswana.

Walking Safaris in Botswana

Walking safaris in the Okavango Delta and Linyanti areas offer an opportunity to track game as well as learn about the smaller wildlife in the bush, which play as important a role in the eco-system as the larger mammals.

Heading out on guided walking safaris and walking trails offers a chance to appreciate the wilderness at ground level.

Mokoro trips in the Okovango

One of the most romantic and peaceful experiences in the Okavango Delta is to head out on an afternoon or evening Mokoro safari trip.

These traditional wooden dugout canoes (today made of fibreglass) take two guests and have an experienced “Poler” who stands at the back of the Mokoro and uses a long pole to push you along the water channels.

The water is a great place from which to view birdlife, the delightful tiny reed frogs and even see some of the larger mammals.

Sitting in a mokoro in Okavango Delta, with a chilled drink in hand, listening to the sounds of the bush and watching the sun set against an orange sky can be a magical experience.

For the more adventurous there are even 2-3 night canoe trail safaris with overnight camping on the river banks, with a team of professional guides and support staff to take care of everything.

Horse riding safaris in Botswana

In terms of equestrian experiences, little can be more exhilarating than galloping on horseback through the marshes in the Okavango Delta with running Zebra and Giraffe.

Some of the best horse riding safari experiences in Africa can be found in the Okavango Delta. Naturally this is one for the experienced and confident rider only.

Fishing in Botswana

With all the water around the Okavango Delta, some fantastic friendly fun can be had enjoying some catch and release fishing when out on speedboats.

The most popular fish to catch are bream and tiger fish. The tiger fish is one of the most exciting fish to catch on light fishing tackle.

Okavango Delta

The Okavango Delta is the deserved main attraction to the safari enthusiast visiting Botswana. This is a vast and pristine wilderness area packed full of wildlife.

This is a unique inland delta which gets flooded every year between the months of May through to September when the floods start receding.

The Okavango Delta is scattered with flood plains, palm fringed islands, lagoons, deep water channels which host some of the most incredible big game in Africa.

The Okavango Delta should be the priority for all visitors to Bostwana.

During the peak months of the flood July – August, this is the most popular time to visit and as a result demand is incredibly high. Booking 12months in advance is the best way to secure your preferred accommodation without having to make compromises.

The Okavango Delta can be visited at all times of year.

Moremi Game Reserve

The Moremi Game Reserve lies within the Okavango Delta, but being a national park, makes it accessible to all.

The game reserve can be described as a flat peninsular, surrounded by water (seasonal) on three sides, like landscape feature which stretches west into the Okavango Delta.

The area close to the main access points on the eastern side is the busiest areas and is where many self-drivers and overland safari companies will take their guests as part of their overland journey.

For the international visitor these areas do not deliver the pristine wilderness experience we expect.

The best areas of the Moremi Game Reserve to safari is in a private concession called Mombo Concession and also the area to the north where you find some amazing value specialist camp options like Camp Moremi, Xakanaka.

The best area for safari and big game viewing is in the Mombo Concession where you have the camps of Mombo Camp, Little Mombo Camp and Chief’s Camp.

These three camps are undeniably expensive, but you get the most intense big game viewing experience here and are perhaps the 3 of the 5 most famous camps in the reserve if not Botswana.

Linyanti, Selinda & Kwando

Between the Linyanti River and the Okovango Delta in northern Botswana, the Linyanti Wetlands is a huge area of pristine wilderness, split into three private concession areas.

The Linyanti, Selinda and Kwando Wildlife Reserves are large, unfenced areas consisting of swamp, grassland and riverine forest, each offering excellent wildlife viewing opportunities.

The Linyanti River is an excellent location for game viewing, with lion, leopard, wild dog, wildebeest, zebra and giraffe common.

Chobe National Park

Chobe National Park is one of Botswana’s next most famous conservation areas, extending from northern Botswana to the edge of the Okavango Delta.

Chobe National Park has a wide range of landscapes, from the lush Savuti Marshes to the Chobe River’s emerald floodplains.

Chobe National Park’s main claim to fame however is the high concentration of elephant, which along with high numbers of buffalo, antelope, predators and birdlife make a visit to the Chobe National Park essential on any holiday to Botswana.

The Central Kalahari Desert & Makgadikgadi Pans

The Central Kalahari Game Reserve is an extensive National Park in the Kalahari Desert of Botswana and covers 52,800sq km making it the second largest game reserve in the world!

This is an area of flat desert like landscape interlinked with fossilized and vegetated sand dunes.

During the dry season, May to October, the migratory wildlife moves out of the park towards more permanent sources of water, leaving behind what initially looks like a desolate landscape, but when observed closer, leaves a uniquely adapted number of wildlife species and wonderful open landscapes.

During the green season, November to April, migratory animals move back into the open vleis and landscapes to feed on the flowering and lush grasslands.

At this time of year the reknown Black Maned Kalahari Lions thrive on the migrating plains game who feast on the grasslands.

The top camps to visit in the area are the Kalahari Plains Camp, Tau Pan Camp and Deception Valley Lodge and Camp.

The Makgadikgadi Pan is a dried up salt pan which was formerly an inland lake.

This is a truly unique landscape and offers a complete contrasting safari experience to what you find in the Okavango Delta, the Linyanti and Chobe areas of Botswana.

The Makgadikgadi Pans are also one of the last remaining areas where you can find the traditional hunter/gatherer San Bushman people.

The San people are the most incredible trackers and spending a day tracking and foraging with them, seeing how they survive in this desolate landscape is humbling and one of the true cultural experiences left in southern Africa today.

In January/February, there is an impressive Zebra migration into the grasslands of the Pans, which is secondly only to the great Wildebeest Migration in Tanzania’s Serengeti.

The best camps to stay here are San Camp and those looking for that “out of Africa” style is Jack’s Camp.

Getting There

There are two main international gateways to Botswana - Maun or Kasane, both usually accessed by air from Johannesburg, South Africa.

Once in Maun or Kasane, travel to onward camps is mostly by light aircraft with the exceptions of Kasane town or the Chobe Riverfront in the Chobe National Park.

There are also flights from Cape Town to Maun and also from Windhoek to Maun as well as road transfers and charter flights from Livingstone and Victoria Falls to Kasane.

Most visitors will fly overnight from the UK or Europe to Johannesburg and then catch connecting flights to Maun and Kasane.

The most popular airlines from the UK to Johannesburg offering direct non-stop flights are British Airways, South African Airways and Virgin.

Air Botswana and SA Airlink have daily services from Johannesburg to Maun.

Air Botswana have flights on certain days of the week to and from Cape Town and Maun and Air Namibia have flights between Maun and Windhoek on certain days of the week.

The general rule of thumb is to fly into Johannesburg, arriving around 7 am which gives plenty of time to make onward connections to Botswana.

Visas

British Nationals do not need a visa to enter Botswana for stays of up to 90 days.

Passports must be valid for a minimum of 6 months at the time of departure and an onward or return ticket and minimum 2 double blank passport pages are also required.

Travelling with children

Children are very welcome in Botswana, although many camps and lodges in Botswana will not accept children under 8 years old unless the family take sole occupancy of the lodge or camp.

Children under 12 are usually not allowed to join in certain safari activities such as walking safaris and canoeing safaris.

When families go on safari with children between the ages of 8 and 12,  it's normally a requirement to pay for a private vehicle and guide when on game drives.

This gives the family complete freedom to safari at the pace required by the family and avoids any potential clash of interests or conflict with other guests in camp on safari.

In recent years, camps in Botswana have developed family tents so that parents and children need not be separated at night.

These family rooms are much sought after, so early booking is advised.

Health & Safety

A safari in Botswana does not generate any significant health risks, provided guests abide by the camp regulations.

The greatest dangers involve sunburn and dehydration, so be aware of the strength of the sun and use high factor sun cream and drink plenty of water.

Human attacks on tourists when on safari in Botswana is extraordinarily rare – this is one of the safest countries you can visit for a safari holiday.

A safari in Botswana, by definition means entering unfamiliar territory, with wild animals about, so following the rules as outlined by guides and lodge managementis essential.

Don’t touch anything you don’t know in the bush and be vigilant at all times, especially if out on a guided bush walk.

Petty theft is rare but can occur, so please lock any valuables and cash in a safe.

Vaccinations

Doctors generally recommend that the standard vaccination cover should be Hepatitis A and Typhoid.

We strongly recommend seeking professional medical advice well in advance of travel.

For those entering Botswana having visited a country which has Yellow Fever, it is required to produce a Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate.

Botswana is classified as a malaria-risk country and we recommend seeking professional medical advice for the most suitable anti-malarial precautions.

 

Hydration and the Sun

Drink Plenty of Water and take Sun Cream. Skin can burn very easily in the hot temperatures, even after only a few minutes.

Sunburn and dehydration are the most common forms of ailments whilst in Botswana and can cause a lot of pain and restrict your ability to have a great time enormously.

Tipping

Tipping is not compulsory and remains at guests discretion, but is always gratefully received.

Here is a proposed recommended guide for tipping in Botswana:

  1. Specialist guides and rangers – US$15.00 per guest per day. Given in one sum at the end of the safari on departure.
  2. Trackers (if you have one when on safari) – US$10.00 per guest per day. Given in one sum at the end of the safari on departure.
  3. Camp/Lodge staff – USD$5.00 per guest per day. Usually there is a tip box in the main public areas, otherwise hand to the lodge management to distribute between staff members. Given at the end of the stay.

Of course feel free to tip more or less accordingly. Tips supplement incomes in botswana enormously and are therefore always verygratefully received.

Luggage

Luggage allowances on internal schedule flights is 1 item not weighing more than 20kg for checked luggage and 5kg carry-on luggage.

If travelling on smaller shared charter flights, the luggage allowance is also 20kg for checked in luggage, but it needs to be packed in soft sided bags.

Hard shell Samsonite styled suitcases are not suitable for smaller aircraft.

Excess luggage storage facilities can be found in the lower level of the international arrivals terminal building at Johannesburg International Airport.

What to Wear

At 95% of the lodges and camps we recommend, laundry (excluding underwear) is included in the rate. Therefore you can pack light.

Daytime temperatures are always around 30-degrees, so lightweight breathable clothing is recommended.

In the cooler winter months, the temperatures in the early mornings can be bitterly cold, so you should bring gloves, hat and warm jacket. As the sun rises, so does the temperature and then it’s a matter of peeling off the layers.

If visiting during the hot and wetter summer months, you will need a lightweight breathable and waterproof shell jacket.

There is no need to dress up in formal-wear for dinner. It’s all very relaxed with long trousers and a polo shirt being perfectly adequate for men, whilst ladies may wear something equally casual.

Heavy duty walking boots aren't requirec for walking safaris in Botswana. Trainers, cross-trainers and lightweight trekking shoes are generally perfect.

Camouflaged clothing is not encouraged. Browns, tans and beige are the traditional safari colours.

White, black and brightly coloured clothing are not advised when out on game viewing activities as these can stand out to the animals in the bush and could change their normal behaviour.

Electricity

In camp there are almost always communal charging points for re-charging video cameras and cameras.

The camps may have a selection of adaptor plugs, but it is definitely worth bringing your own.

The power supply in towns is mostly 220/230 volts AC 50 HZ.

Most plugs are round pinned 15 amp 3 prong or 5 amp 2 prong plugs.

Time Zone

The time in Botswana is +2hrs GMT

Communications

The general rule of thumb, as agreed between most safari suppliers in Botswana is that Wi-Fi is not offered.

Visiting Botswana is all about a pristine bush experience, not to be interrupted by Wi-Fi or mobile phones, so these services are not possible in the remote bush areas.

The camps and lodges have “bushmail” and short wave radio with their head offices in Maun and Kasane so urgent messages can be passed on if needed.