A Traveler’s Guide to Botswana: Where and When to Travel

A Traveler’s Guide to Botswana: Where and When to Travel

Botswana. A landscape filled with a vast wilderness of grassy plains teeming with wildlife whilst winding waterways stir with pods of hippos and Nile crocodiles lurking in the shadows, waiting on their next meal to arrive. Our traveler’s guide to Botswana provides insight as to why this country is recognized internationally.    

It is without a doubt that Botswana is considered a top safari destination in Africa, with a good standing reputation amongst travelers as the ultimate place to experience an authentic African safari.

Unlike many other safari destinations, Botswana provides an experience that feels very private. Many lodges and camps are located within remote concessions of Botswana, particularly in the south, where light aircraft are the only accessible means of transportation.

An adventure in Botswana generally starts from the city of Maun, flying low over the vast open plains, lush woodlands and waterholes that attract an abundance of wildlife in the heat of the day. This flight is the perfect start to what is sure to be a thrilling safari experience.

Botswana is home to an array of outstanding game reserves but the most popular safari destinations are: Chobe National Park, Moremi Game Reserve, Okavango Delta and the Central Kalahari Game Reserve.

As with any destination in the world, it can be difficult to work out which destinations are best to travel to at which times. This is especially true in Botswana where the indistinctive seasons can be somewhat confusing.

Not to worry though, as Africa safari experts we’re here to help you find the perfect fit. Here is our breakdown of these top safari destinations in Botswana, and when to go.”

A Guide to Botswana: Chobe National Park

Elephants enjoying a refreshing swim in the Chobe River.

Chobe National Park takes its name from the mighty Chobe River which forms the northern boundary of the park and is Botswana’s second largest park. The Chobe riverfront is a wildlife enthusiasts dream, offering some of the most incredible game viewing and photographic opportunities.

During the dry season months of May to September, game viewing is regarded to be at its best with large herds of buffalo and elephant congregating along the banks of the Chobe River; the only place in Africa where the largest concentration of elephant can be seen.

June, July, and August are particularly some of the best months to visit Chobe National Park as the vegetation is dense and wildlife is abundant. The only challenge to face is the somewhat chilly mornings, particularly on game drives.

The diverse park is also famous for its boat safaris and is renowned as a top class birding destination with over 450 species recorded. Most of the bird species are seen during the summer migratory months of October through March, which is the best time for keen birders to plan their visit.

Chobe National park includes the Savuti Marsh. Savuti is 5-6 hours south of the Chobe River Front and is most famous for its buffalo herds, wild dog, and big cat sightings; particularly during the drier months when sources of water are limited.

A Guide to Botswana: Best time to visit Chobe National Park

An infographic showing the best time to visit Chobe National Park

Chobe National Park is an attractive safari destination with no ‘poor’ game viewing months noted throughout the year, however, during the dry season months the park can feel somewhat overcrowded. Game drives are conducted in open-sided 4×4 vehicles and led by professional guides.

A Guide to Botswana: Moremi Game Reserve

Moremi Game Reserve forms part of the east and central areas of the Okavango Delta and changes dramatically with the seasons. The constant changing colors, broad skies, majestic sunsets and Big Five game viewing are all part of the package when visiting the reserve.

Up-close encounters with elephants in the Moremi Game Reserve.

Combining 5000 square kilometers of permanent water and dry land, Moremi Game Reserve provides a diverse vegetation for an abundance of wildlife. The reserve offers the opportunity to explore in 4×4 safari vehicles, on foot and by mokoro – a traditional dugout canoe.

A safari experience in the northern parts of the Moremi Game Reserve is particularly good in the dry season months of April to October, however, game viewing is generally at its peak from July to October, when seasonal pans dry up and the wildlife concentrates on the permanent water.

The month of August is traditionally an exceptional month for wildlife sightings with the dry season in full swing, but be prepared for surprisingly chilly temperatures on the early morning game drives.

From October until the start of the rains in late November or early December, the weather can be extremely hot. The wet season months of November to March are not necessarily the best game viewing months but offer sensational birding watching and is the season where travelers have the opportunity to see newborn animals. Over 400 species of bird have been recorded in Moremi Game Reserve and the wet season is the best time to view the migrant species. It is during these months that many of the birds nest or rear their young.  

It is important to note that although travel during the months of January to March can be rewarding, there is a high chance of rainfall which can be continuous for days, impacting your game viewing experience.

A Guide to Botswana: Best time to visit Moremi Game Reserve

An infographic showwing the best time to visit Moremi Game Reserve

Moremi Game Reserve is the perfect place to tick off the Big Five and experience the thrill of a walking safari which is led by an armed guide.

A Guide to Botswana: Okavango Delta

The Okavango Delta is one of the world’s most celebrated safari destinations; a vast inland river delta in northern Botswana. Unique and ever-changing, it’s no surprise that the Okavango Delta is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Delta is made up of more than 150 000 islands across 16 000 square kilometers of nearly flat land. This untamed wilderness is fed by the Okavango River, forming several canals which are perfect for a mokoro trip. A mokoro is a traditional dugout canoe that is unique to Botswana and is a truly blissful experience.

Unique mokoro trips in the winding channels of the Okavango Delta.

The wildlife concentration is not as prolific as the likes of Chobe National Park and Moremi Game Reserve, but this remarkable destination is visited by travelers across the world for the experience of complete isolation and the serene nature. That said, June to August is when the floods arrive and the high waters do attract many animals and it is the best time to experience a boating and mokoro safari. The wildlife encounters in the Delta are usually up-close, providing the opportunity for some fantastic photography.

The location of each lodge/camp within the various private concessions determines which activities are possible. Some are land only camps, others are water only camps and a select few are combination camps; offering both land and water activities. We always recommended that you spend four nights in the Delta to experience both a land and water camp, or spend your time at one or multiple combination camps.

From October until the start of the rains in late November or early December, the weather can be extremely hot. It is important to note that although travel during the months of January to March can be rewarding, offering the opportunity to see newborn animals, there is a high chance of rainfall which can limit access to many lodges/camps. Some lodges/camps close during this period.

November to April sees the Okavango Delta transform into a sensational bird watching destination. There are 490 species of bird to be seen in the Okavango Delta.

A Guide to Botswana: Best time to visit Okavango Delta

This infographic guide to botswana shows the best time to visit Okavango Delta

A safari experience in the Okavango Delta is not complete if you have not ventured out on a game drive, a boating safari, a mokoro safari and a walking safari.

A Guide to Botswana: Central Kalahari Game Reserve

The Central Kalahari Game Reserve in Botswana is the second-largest game reserve in the world; 5 million hectares of pristine wilderness that stretches from the northern area of South Africa, through Namibia and Angola, and all the way up to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Walking with San bushmen is a captivating experience to be had in Botswana.

The Kalahari is often overlooked by many travelers and is best described as a remote wilderness with harsh terrain and an unforgiving climate. Although often perceived by many as just a desert, the Kalahari has a wide variety of habitats: sand dunes with many species of trees in the north, flat bushveld in the central area, mopane forests to the south and east, wide grasslands in vast open plains, acacia trees forests, saltpans and ancient riverbeds.

The attraction to the Kalahari is the San Bushmen and the phenomenal game viewing. Activities in Central Kalahari Game Reserve includes game drives, nature walking safaris, bird watching and cultural tours.

With only fourteen known San Bushmen groups left in Africa, the southern group living in the Kalahari is Khomani San and is the last remnant of the extensive indigenous San of South Africa.

The wildlife is generally found in the northern region of the Kalahari, and unlike any other reserve in Botswana, the best game viewing is during the rainy season months of December to April when animals migrate to the lush grasslands of the “green desert”. You can expect to see wild dog, leopard, lion, hyena, a wide variety of antelope and plenty of birds. Travelers will too be astounded by the masses of migrating herds of zebra and antelope that arrive to give birth. Predators abound with plentiful lions – especially the famous Kalahari black-maned lion, cheetah, leopard and black-backed jackals.

The dry season months of May to November are hot, dry and dusty so although game viewing is still good, fewer animals are seen in these harsh conditions with no permanent surface water. Temperatures are high during the day and very cold at night.

The dry season is the perfect time to interact with the San Bushmen people.

A Guide to Botswana: Best time to visit Central Kalahari

This infographic shows the best time to visit Central Kalahari

Escape to the Kalahari for a cultural safari experience with the Kalahari Bushmen who provide insights into the unique and extraordinary culture of these fascinating people.

 

A safari in Botswana is ideal for solo explorers, multi-generation family vacations and couples seeking a private romantic getaway. Having read our guide to Botswana, why not get in touch with one of our Safari Experts to tailor make your very own trip to Botswana. There are so many exciting places to consider, so let us help you find that perfect African vacation.