When it comes to choosing a destination for your visit to Africa, travelers are often faced with the exhilarating pre-holiday task of weighing up South Africa vs Botswana for the ultimate safari experience.The rich variety of wildlife, diverse and dramatic landscapes, world-class lodges and myriad of activities on offer in both countries mean that between South Africa and Botswana, there is simply no wrong choice. But a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see Africa’s biggest, greatest, rarest and fastest up close and personal in their natural habitat, is on the radar.There are however some differences between going on safari in South Africa vs Botswana, and these two destinations, with equally compelling reasons to visit, has their own unique charm to turn your bucket list dream into a wild reality.Brush off the dust from your binoculars and start uncovering which safari destination is calling your name.
Both South African and Botswana offer travelers incredible once-in-a-lifetime safari experiences.
An Overview: South Africa vs Botswana Safari
From navigating your way through South Africa’s biggest – Kruger National Park – to exploring the wilderness of Chobe National Park and beyond, here are a few things to keep in mind when choosing where to go on safari.
Let’s talk location
South Africa’s most popular wildlife destination is Kruger National Park and the nearby private reserves (with small airports and private landing strips) and is known for its diversity from acacia trees along rivers, to elephants reaching for marula berries and the distinctive Baobab towering into the air. Then there is also the multi-cultural KwaZulu Natal and the Eastern Cape with its big seven destination, Addo Elephant National Park , close to Port Elizabeth, the gateway to the Garden Route.
See the big five up close in personal in their natural habitat when you go on a safari in South Africa.Botswana is home to the picturesque Okavango Delta, one of the biggest inland deltas in the world and protected by the Moremi Game Reserve; it is a must-see and visitors usually reach this green paradise via a flight to Maun, and then a road transfer. Another popular safari destination in Botswana is the unique Makgadikgadi Pans and of course,Chobe National Park with all its elephants, just a stone’s throw from Kasane airport. A visit to Chobe can also easily be combined with a day trip to Victoria Falls.
The winding waterways of the Okavango Delta – a labyrinth of channels, lakes, lagoons and overgrown islands – make for an unique safari experience.
Experiences and Highlights
Ticking off the big five from your wish list is on the cards when you visit South Africa, as well as Botswana. Wild dog sightings and endangered species are popular in Kruger while the private reserves are known for excellent leopard sightings. Botswana’s Chobe National Park is known for its massive herds of elephants while Moremi is prone to big five sightings. Other than wildlife sightings in Makgadikgadi Pans, it is home to one of two breeding colonies of flamingos and the Okavango Delta will bring you closer to the red lechwe and sitatunga antelope, two species you won’t find in South Africa.
Get a front row seat to all the thrilling wildlife sightings when you go on a safari in Botswana.If you are strapped for time, guided game drives or staying in private lodges are recommended as rangers know the area like the back of their hand. While self-drive unguided game drives are possible in the national parks, many visitors find it more enjoyable to sit back, relax, take photos and soak in the insightful facts and anecdotes from the rangers.Morning and afternoon game drives are popular, and it is considered the best time for a safari and both private reserves and national parks offer guided walks, boma dinners, educational programs and more.But Botswana has one exclusive offer over South Africa: the rare opportunity to explore the Okavango Delta in a mokoro (traditional dug-out canoe), or on a motorboat and you can cruise on the Chobe River with hippos yawning next to you while the African sun dips behind the horizon.
Tap into the serenity of the Okavango Delta and see wildlife up close and personal in a traditional mokoro, or by motorboat.
Your South Africa vs Botswana Safari Accommodation Options
Treating yourself to a safari pairs well with treating yourself to unforgettable accommodation. And you are spoilt for choice. While the national parks offer more affordable accommodation, the private reserves step it up with beautifully eco-designed luxurious lodges and a high standard of service, giving Out of Africa a run for its money. Private lodges are usually all-inclusive with a full day of game drives, activities, sundowners on safari and mouthwatering meals. In terms of accommodation, Botswana is slightly more expensive than South Africa.
Other things to take into consideration
Still asking the "South Africa vs Botswana Safari" question? Here are a few more things to consider.It is advised to take a malaria medication as a precaution for visiting both countries, however the risk for contraction is quite low. The summer months are great for bird watching while the winter months (May to August) are more ideal for wildlife viewing due to the thinning vegetation and the drier climate attracting animals to waterholes and riverbanks. National parks can get extremely crowded in winter and this also affects the prices of accommodation in private and exclusive camps and lodges.
A guided game drive with an experienced guide is highly recommended if you want to sit back, relax, take photos and hear insightful facts about the animals.If you want to spend time in one of the last untouched wildernesses in Africa, aim for a safari in Botswana. The remoteness, population and distances between destinations mean a captivating and immersive wildlife experience can be expected. For families, a South African safari is often considered more child-friendly for kids under seven, but lodges and private reserves all over have no shortage of special activities for the youngsters.