Visiting Botswana is a unique experience in itself, an enthralling journey that awakens deep-seated feelings of wonder and belonging. Heighten the senses and explore deeper with some of these incredible experiences:
Lion prides are abundant, elephants roam in their hundreds, and hippos forage along riverbanks – so this isn’t a country for aimless wandering. That said, it is one of Africa’s best walking safari destinations. Skillful guides expertly track wildlife and respond to their behavior, allowing you to get agonizingly close to some of nature’s largest and wildest creatures. And from ground level, they always seem a lot bigger! A buffalo herd may saunter right onto the trail in front of you. They stop and stare. Wait, stay silent, admire the interaction, then walk on – and don’t be surprised to find an elephant waiting around the next corner.
A lake the size of Switzerland once covered northeastern Botswana. It’s long since shriveled and disappeared, leaving behind the remarkable Makgadikgadi Salt Pans – a white wonderland that’s punctuated by ancient baobab trees and shimmers beneath the relentless sun. Few places in Africa are as starkly beautiful, especially when 25,000 zebra are migrating across it en route to the Okavango. Watch a surreal sunset burn onto the horizon, marvel at the shooting stars that silently thunder across the desert sky, and then watch the sun dictate life in Makgadikgadi for another day.
Botswana may be 600 miles across in both directions, but its landlocked position makes it easy to combine with many of Southern Africa’s other natural wonders. Head north from South Africa and zebras surround the border post. Come from Zambia or Namibia and elephants wander past the sign that welcomes you to the country. One of the new seven wonders of the world, the majestic Victoria Falls are less than an hour from Chobe National Park, along the Zambia-Zimbabwe border. Regional airports connect you with small bush airstrips – meaning that within a couple of hours you can enter the country and be deeply immersed in the Botswanan experience.
The indigenous San Bushmen have ingeniously survived on Botswana’s wild plains for almost 50,000 years. These semi-nomadic hunter-gatherers practice remarkable age-old bush skills that could soon be lost from the world. They track animals barefoot, nimbly scampering through the bush, proficient eyes spotting every clue and precipitating split-second changes of direction. Taking a walking journey with a laconic tribesman will reveal the intricacies of one of the world’s last great ‘lost cultures’ – one that showcases astonishing survival skills, and invariably arouses deep respect and humility.
Botswana’s immense swamps and wetlands are among the most wild and distinctive ecosystems in the world, as rich in rare animals and birdlife as they are inhospitable to humans. Exploring them is always an adventure, their seasonal nature meaning that trails are annually washed away and boundaries are constantly changing. Thousand-strong grazing herds roam chaotically, big cats lurk along shriveled-up channels, and your lodge will invariably seem like the center of a cacophonous wildlife show. The Savuti Marsh and the Linyati Swamp, bordering Chobe National Park, boast record concentrations of zebras and lions, in some of the most pristine and untouched wilderness areas on Earth.
ON GAME DRIVES
The most common and popular means of getting to see the animal and birdlife of Botswana, is on game drives. The type of vehicles vary from open-roofed Land Rovers to closed vehicles, all under the expert direction of well-trained guides.
Taking to the wilds on foot is a completely different experience to being on a vehicle. You connect with your core, and most of all, you connect with the energy of Africa: your senses are awakened; every sight, sound and smell is more intense; you are one with your environment. The smaller creatures like insects become more visible, as do tracks and signs in the sand, providing clues as to who has passed before you. If you have the honour of being guided by a local Motswana or Bushman guide, prepare to have the secrets to a seldom-seen world, revealed to you.
The crystal clear lagoons and channels of the Okavango are comfortably explored by boat. Covering greater distances than a mokoro, game and of course a spectacular myriad of birdlife, is often spotted along the channels. The beauty of the aquatic vegetation, from papyrus to water lilies, huge Jackalberry trees and palms, is best revealed to a boating audience. On the mighty Chobe and Linyanti Rivers, a boat excursion gives you a front row seat to the biggest population and seasonal gathering of elephants anywhere in Africa. Prepare for a most wonderful show of mammals, birds and reptiles that make this environment, their home. For all these reasons and more, boating is very definitely an essential Botswana activity.
IN A MOKORO
Relax, sit back and enjoy the serene beauty of the Okavango Delta 's channels and waterways via a mokoro, as the locals call it, or traditional canoe. Under the guidance of your local expert, they will reveal the insect underworld and amazing plant life often unseen using other vehicles. From reed frogs, dragonflies and spiders to fishing owls and eagles your time on the water is mesmerizing and peaceful like no other!
WITH AN ELEPHANT
Guests at Abu are invited to become part of the Abu elephant herd during their stay. The abundance of fauna and flora means that game viewing is excellent and is appreciated through a variety of activities. However, the combination of these two factors allows for the unmissable event of walking with the herd to experience the bush as they do. Guests at Stanley's and Baines' Camp are also able to walk and spend time with a semi-habituated herd of elephants that were also rescued from culling or zoos. Living with elephants is a unique opportunity to gain insight to the lives of elephants.
FROM THE AIR
Getting between camps is most often undertaken by light aircraft, giving you an aerial view of the spectacular scenery below. If you are on a mobile safari, with no planned flights, you are able to see it all from above on a scenic charter flight from Maun - in an aircraft or helicopter. Photo opportunities are endless and the chance of spotting a rare rhino or a sitatunga are far greater from the air than on the ground!
ON A QUADBIKE
Venturing far into the centre of the Makgadikgadi, on 4wd quad bikes, you are able to explore remote archaeological sites, periodically discovering never before documented fossil beds of extinct giant zebra and hippo. The fact that you can travel across the pans at great speed and still arrive nowhere only underlines the pans immensity. There is nothing out there. Absolutely nothing. No outcrops, no features, no grass, no trees, no sound but the crunch of your boots in the crust.
Explore the outer reaches of the Okavango Delta or the inner pans of the Makgadikgadi on horseback, while staying in a combination of permanent camps and fly camps - there aren't many adventures as sublime as this if you are a horse lover.
IN AMAZING CAMPS
A tent is an often mis-used term when it comes to describing accommodation in Botswana. While on a mobile camping safari you will stay in a tent, pitched on the ground but most permanent camps are more wooden cabin, from simple and perfectly appropriate structures with a canvas or thatch roof to large architectural masterpieces and examples of modern design - with leather lounge suites, salas to sleep off the heat of the day, spas, plunge pools and more - they need to be seen to be fully appreciated!
UNDER AFRICAN SKIES
It is hard to describe the feeling of sitting beneath the milky way on a balmy night in Africa, after spending the day exploring the water, floodplains and forests of Botswana - whether it is during dinner, after dinner with a quiet drink in hand or just sitting on your deck at your room it is a dreamy mix of unforgettable experiences by day and night.
ON SPECIAL OCCASIONS
On Honeymoons, birthdays, Christmas, romantic occasions, family events - Botswana is the perfect destination. There is accommodation to suit every need and a range of fabulous experiences to enjoy, from private dinners under a thousand stars, to a picnic on an island and sleeping under the stars on an elevated deck. These memories will stay with you forever along with your entire Botswana experience!
FROM A HOT AIR BALLOON
Take to the skies in style and soar silently over the rich ecosystem of the Okavango Delta in a hot air balloon. Gaze over scenic splendour, watch elephants playing far below and fly eye-to-eye with an eagle. This marvellous morning ends with champagne and snacks. (April to September, selected camps only)