Botswana is an iconic safari destination, ranking easily as one of the best places on the planet to experience raw, untamed wilderness and see game in abundance. Its cinematic natural beauty and majestic landscapes set the stage for scenes that forever change visitors and the impact of its beauty stays with those who experience it long after they’ve left.
To appreciate the full depth and breadth of Botswana’s beauty, you have to experience its variety, as well as its epic scale. The array of animals that live in, or pass through the country is phenomenal. From the vast herds of elephant in Chobe National Park, to the majestic black-maned lions of the Kalahari, the main attraction in Botswana is its wildlife, and the spectacle of seeing these magnificent creatures is enhanced exponentially by the awe-inspiring settings you view them in. Make sure to weave these life-changing experiences and sights into your safari itinerary.
This magical region places the cycles of nature before your very eyes – the changing seasons bring rain and floods, which in turn transform the landscape into a maze of rivulets and waterways. Visible from space, this vast and vibrant network of rivers and channels proves a veritable wonderland to explore by mokoro (a traditional canoe), expertly navigated by local boatsmen, and serves as a unique way to engage with the surrounding landscape and peacefully view wildlife.
Chobe National Park
The second largest national park in Botswana, Chobe covers some 10 566 square kilometers. It is famed for the largest concentrations of elephant on the African continent, with its most prominent feature being the Chobe River, which attracts large herds of elephant and buffalo, along with pods of hippo and giant crocodiles. Offering land and water-based safari options, Chobe sees many tourists in comparison to other destinations, and we recommend visiting at the beginning of your journey, not after you have experienced the greater solitude of some other destinations in Botswana.
Although not always easy to get the timing right to catch it, the annual migration of over 20 000 Burchell’s zebra from the Chobe River in early December as they begin their journey southwards in search of grazing – triggered by rain in the Nxai Pan area – is a stunning spectacle, worth making the journey for. This relatively newly discovered route is thought to have surfaced again as a result of the removal of previously erected fences, allowing the animals to resume ancient migratory patterns. Their journey covers about 250 kilometres, and typically takes 14-20 days, but some animals take more than 30 days to cover up to about 400 kilometres, making the round-trip, straight-line distance the longest covered by any African land migration, testament not only to the resilience of nature despite human intervention, but also to the genetic imperative to migrate.
The Makgadikgadi Pans lie deep in the heart of northeastern Botswana, southeast of the Okavango Delta and surrounded by the Kalahari Desert – a remote and untouched region of extreme serenity. Makgadikgadi consists of two large saltpans and a number of smaller pans and is one of the world’s largest salt flats – all that remains of what once was Lake Makgadikgadi. It forms a striking shimmering scene of stark solitude in the dry months, while in the summer rains transform the pans into a grassy wetland, bringing to life dormant algae and drawing flocks of flamingoes, pelicans and wading birds. In addition to the birds, the summer season also brings the dramatic movement of thousands of zebra, and the predators that follow closely behind.
The Kalahari Desert
The spectacular Kalahari Desert comprises 82% of this landlocked country, and although classified as a desert, boasts a variety of wildlife. The best way to learn about the unique species and how they’ve adapted to the harsh climate is by spending time with the San people who have inhabited this region for thousands of years. Walking with the San on guided bush tours offers a glimpse into their ancient wisdom and knowledge of the land – how to forage for food, which plants you can and can’t eat, and how to track and spot game – and will leave a lasting impression.