Botswana is one of the last true wilderness areas in Africa with just over a third of the country dedicated to conservation through national parks and reserves. Despite 80% of the country being covered by the Kalahari Desert, there is an abundance of places where you can get up close and personal with the Big Five.
It’s not the cheapest wildlife destination, but the country’s policy is ‘high quality, low impact’. You’ll experience true exclusivity instead of joining a procession of hundreds of safari seekers. For comparison, consider the three private concessions in the Chobe Area – Linyanti, Selinda & Kwando – which together cover about the same size as the Kruger National Park. The maximum number of guests across all three at any one time is 250. In Kruger, it is 10 000! Here are five reasons to visit this very special place.
1. See the biggest concentration of African elephants in the world
Botswana is the true home of the African elephant, with Chobe National Park having the highest concentration of all. Chobe is situated in northern Botswana near the vast inland Okavango Delta on the banks of the Chobe River.
The elephant herds are currently estimated at around 120 000 and are concentrated around the Chobe and Linyanti rivers during the dry seasons. Chobe is divided up into three distinct regions – the Chobe Riverfront, where you will find the largest concentration of wildlife, the predator-rich Linyanti Marshes and the floodable grasslands of the Savuti Marshes, which attract numerous bird species as well as antelope and other plains game.
If you spend three to four days in Chobe, you’ll almost certainly see tick all the major animals off your list, including lion, spotted hyena, wildebeest, giraffe, zebra, eland and wild dog. The Big Five all roam Chobe, although the rhino population has been decimated by poachers and is being slowly re-introduced. In Chobe you’ll find a variety of safari options from traditional camping to an exclusive fly-in safari package in 5 star luxury lodges.
2. Cruise down the Okavango Delta in a mokoro
Botswana offers one of the most unique safari opportunities in the world – the chance to travel along the tributaries and rivers of the Okavango Delta in a traditional dugout canoe called a mokoro. You traverse the same waterways as all the animals and will come across elephants immersed in water up to their ears and hippos lounging in the mud.
The mokoro usually carries one or two passengers, while your experienced guide will stand at the stern of the canoe using a long pole called an “ngashi” to push the vessel forward. A mokoro safari is not only wildly exhilarating but also very peaceful. You’ll see a great variety of bird life and rare glimpses of Lechwe or Sitatunga, both swamp-dwelling antelope who enjoy feeding by the water.
3. Visit the best game reserve in Africa
In 2008, Moremi Game Reserve was voted best game reserve in Africa by the prestigious African Travel and Tourism Association. It’s the first reserve in Africa established by local residents, the Batawana people, who were concerned about the depletion of wildlife in their ancestral lands. It is also the only officially protected area of the Okavango Delta and holds considerable environmental and conservation significance.
Moremi covers most of the eastern side of the Okavango Delta and combines permanent water with arid areas, creating startling visual contrasts.
At Moremi, you will enjoy spectacular game viewing including all naturally occurring herbivore and carnivore species in the region and over 400 different species of birds. The black and white rhino have recently been re-introduced, making it a Big Five destination. You can choose from self-drive safaris and luxury, all-inclusive safaris.
4. Travel back in time on the Makgadikgadi salt pans
Thousands of years ago, north-eastern Botswana was home to Lake Makgadikgadi, which covered an area the size of Portugal. It has long since dried up, leaving behind a massive network of salt pans separated by sandy desert. For most of the year, there is no water here. The stark terrain is flat and featureless, except for the occasional baobab tree standing out against the dazzling white plains.
When the rains come the salt flats come to life, attracting zebra, wildebeest and hundreds of thousands flamingo. The transformation of this desolate wilderness into thriving natural habitat is quite captivating.
5. Cross multiple African borders
Botswana borders with three other countries in the North West – Zambia, Zimbabwe and Namibia, creating a quadri-point that is possibly the only place in the world where you can pick up mobile signal from four countries at once! The border between Botswana and Zambia is the Zambezi River, and at only 150m long, it’s the shortest border in the world. From this border you can see the Victoria Falls, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the world that is known in the local language as Mosi-oa-Tunya or “the smoke that thunders”.
Botswana will steal your heart with its beauty and dedication to our incredible natural heritage. To find out more about our Botswana itineraries, get in touch with our friendly and knowledgeable travel consultants at Portfolio Journeys who will tailor an exclusive tour to your preferences.