Botswana Safari on a Budget!
Yes a Botswana safari is expensive BUT if you plan things and have a sense of adventure, you can enjoy a great trip without emptying your pocket!
Here are some thoughts how to;
1 Go in low or mid season.
Low/Green season, December - March [excludes Christmas weeks]
Mid/shoulder season, April - June, November
High season, July - October
Peak season, August
Botswana's main safari regions lie on the edge of the Kalahari Desert, it gets hot in the summer months of November to March with a good chance of a rain shower in the afternoon and possibly extended rain days around March. Rates are at their lowest, typically less than half of high season rates, because it is hot during the day [up to 100 Fahrenheit] and it might rain in the afternoon or at night - considered the least comfortable time to travel. Game viewing is still excellent, you head out early morning and spend the midday hours relaxing in camp before heading out in the late afternoon and into evening. Yes there can be bursts of insect life following the rain but none that are particular bothersome and the flip side is a burst of animal life all wanting those insects! The green season is full of colour and is my favourite time for photography with clouds in the sky.
April temperatures begin to cool and there is less rain about, so it is a more comfortable time to be in the desert. Grass levels will have peaked and waterholes and puddles should be everywhere, so wildlife will have dispersed widely. Migratory grazers will have found their way to the short grass areas and pans, with their newborn, so this is the time to be there. Elephants move into the forests and away from major bodies of water. Into May and June, the leaves start falling and surface water begins to evaporate, flood waters in the Okavango Delta begin to arrive. Rates are typically 75% of high season numbers. While animals are spread out, you still see them and it is still worthwhile visiting.
2 Consider a Botswana mobile camping safari and small group trips
Yes these trips are far less luxurious than staying in a lodge, and yes you mostly stay in national parks and not private concessions, but viewing is still very good and you get to explore a variety of habitats and regions on one trip. You can still partake in all the traditional activities, like walks, boat trips and mokoro excursions. You do spend a bit more time in the vehicle getting from one region to the next, but it is almost all in parks where you can and will see wildlife, and you will see villages and rural life in Botswana, which you typically do not see on a lodge safari. There are some very basic trips, with small tents and shower/toilet facilities are shared, they are the cheapest option. On the higher end of mobile camping, you have large walk-in tents with a proper bed and linen, ensuite bathroom with bucket showers and a flushing toilet. As a group you do have to share space with other folks but if you keep an open mind you will meet other interesting travelers who you might make friends with! Shorter trips of 5 nights start from $2000 per person and longer luxury trips of around 10 days go up to $6000.
3 Change the way you get around
You can access a number of camps by road, and avoid flying in light aircraft, which is expensive. Nxai Pan to the Central Kalahari and lower reaches of the Okavango Delta, Moremi and Khwai, can all be accessed by road.
4 Book at the 'last minute' [within 30 days]
If the beds aren't full, and you have a flexible schedule, you can make a last minute booking to a selection of lodges at massively reduced prices, typically low season prices at any time of year. Last minute bookings generally have to be made within 30 days of travel. If you are not too picky about lodges and let us look at what is available, we can almost always craft together a really good itinerary by filling in the gaps. The rates and specials are often not publicised, but we know them and how to make them work for you!