Water-based safaris in Botswana

Water-based safaris in Botswana: wildlife from a different angle

There are various ways to embark on a safari. The most common, or traditional, is from a safari vehicle. For travellers looking for a different type of experience, there are alternative modes of transport to consider. From horse riding through the wilderness in pursuit of big game or drifting silently over the savannah in a hot-air balloon watching the wildlife from above, to traversing the plains on foot – the different ways of accessing the African wilderness will offer vastly different safari experiences!

When visiting Botswana, there are a number of safari experiences on offer. One of the most iconic and memorable ways to immerse yourself in the landscape in Botswana is on the water! Travel to the breathtaking Okavango Delta and iconic Chobe National Park to enjoy Botswana’s best water-based safari activities. 

Water-based safaris in the Okavango Delta:

Water-based safaris in the Okavango Delta are one of the country’s unique safari selling points. Water-based safaris highlight Botswana’s unique terrain and climate – its incredible unspoilt wetlands teem with life and form a labyrinthine of waterways created by seasonal floods. These form a vast network of life-giving channels – viewable even from space – that sustain animal and plant life and attract a variety of species, which gather at the life-giving waters. 

A water safari can be done in a few different ways. The most typical to the area is by mokoro. A mokoro is a Botswanan low-slung dugout canoe that is shaped by hollowing out a long straight tree trunk, such as ebony or Kigelia. This form of transport is traditionally used by local residents to travel around the shallower waters of the delta in a similar manner to punting (poling the boat along). Nowadays, mokoros are commonly used to transport tourists. The boats are also increasingly being made out of fibreglass as a way to preserve the larger endangered trees.

There are numerous benefits of safari by mokoro. The first is that this mode of transport allows for an intimate trip through the maze-like waterways from a different angle – allowing you a fresh vantage point and the opportunity to spot smaller creatures you might have missed driving by in a vehicle. 

Secondly, the stealth with which the mokoro moves through the water means animals are less likely to be startled, making up-close sightings much easier (the silently gliding vessels are relatively unobtrusive and the lack of engine noise makes them ideal for keeping game and birds at ease. This offers a serene experience, a closer connection to the landscape and a more authentic viewing experience). The smoothness of the vessels’ passage through the water and ability to view wildlife from up close also facilitates much more productive photography opportunities, ideal for amateurs and experts! Moreover, the nature of the vessels, and their ability to navigate water (and shallow water more importantly), means you can access many areas by boat that you can’t in a vehicle. 

Lastly, the expert ‘polers’ – local men with an intimate knowledge and love of the land – offer deft guidance through the water and insight into your surroundings.

When enquiring about water-based safaris in the Okavango Delta, please be aware that not all camps offer this as a year-round activity (as the seasonal waters are in peak flood between June and August, and recede at others periods of the year)  Certain camps are also in the unique position to offer both water-based and land-based activities (walking and game-drives) Okavango Delta camps are considered some of the most sought after in Africa and are very limited in lodge size (generally not larger that 10 rooms), and as a result they are booked far in advance.

Water-based safaris in Chobe National Park 

For something a little more luxurious, and longer-lasting than a mokoro cruise, head to Chobe National Park and let Safari365 book you a houseboat. The Chobe River is flanked by riverine forests, floodplains and open woodlands that set the scene for some of the best game viewing in Southern Africa! These settings also provide a haven for the continent’s greatest concentration of elephants. 

An idyllic way to watch the world go by and enjoy the serenity of the water, houseboats offer a good base from which to embark on various water activities. From here, you’ll be able to head off on more compact and mobile boats to view game, split off for tiger and bream fishing in season, and birdwatch from smaller vessels. After a day spent on the water, you’ll then head back to your aquatic HQ for drinks while you watch the sun dip below the water. 

Safari365 is well-versed in designing the ultimate safari experience and can customize a dream itinerary for your once-in-a-lifetime adventure around Botswana’s magical waterways, and beyond. And because not all Okavango lodges offer water-based safaris all year round, we can guide you to the ones that do during the time you plan to travel. We’ll take care of all the details, you enjoy the safari!

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