Botswana is a place of raw, unimaginable nature. Arguably one of the greatest safari destinations in Africa, it has startling wildlife spectacles around every turn and is guaranteed to leave you breathless.
Travel to Botswana with us and we’ll take care of you, day and night. Lodges here are cosy sanctuaries, hidden deep in the bush, where you’ll hear hippos grunt and lions roar as you drift to sleep. Taking you from one stop to another are small private aircraft with room for just five to 14 passengers, kicking off from the main hub of Maun, the gateway to the Okavango Delta. Flights are short, from just 15-90 minutes, and the beauty of cruising at just 500ft above sea level means you can gaze at the ground and your pilot can circle on high if a herd of elephant staggers into view. Flight times are given the day before and take off between your morning and evening safari. But these being small planes, take off is an always exhilarating experience, along dusty runways where animals can often be found wandering and grazing at pockets of vegetation. Don’t be surprised if your pilot steers the nose of the plane and the propeller towards a grove: this is life in the bush and the technique is used to usher lions into the shade and away from the runway. After you disembark at the other end, a 4x4 awaits to whisk you to your lodge.
Things tend to kick off here with an early morning safari – where wildlife sightings are at their best as life begins to stir and nocturnal animals return to slumber after a night of hunting. Take your warm coats, gloves and hats for the first hour, but as the sun rises, you’ll peel your layers off with the soaring temperatures. After your morning safari, you’ll be able to return to your lodge, for brunch, for a nap, to thumb through a book, stopping to glance at the wide-open landscapes. There are evening safaris, where sundowners are sipped overlooking waterholes with clusters of animals, or deep into the bush, and some lodges also host night drives or, during dry season only, thrilling after-dark walks.
Dress codes are very relaxed here, but, for comfort, safari shirts and trousers are recommended. Most lodges offer complimentary laundry services each day.
The exceptional thing about Botswana is the astonishing wildlife experiences that can unfold during a trip. You could be perched in your 4x4 and gaze at lions just a few feet away from your vehicle; stare into the eyes of elephants as they stroll past; or spot giraffes nibbling at towering trees. You’re in exceptionally capable and professional hands, too, with guides who know how to put on front-row wildlife spectacles that you’ll have all to yourself – it’s not the sort of safari that sees rows of cars crammed around one circling lion. As night falls, you’ll be able to return to your comfortable lodge. The important thing to remember is to always call reception when you leave your bungalow for a ranger to escort you to dinner: hippos can be incredibly dangerous and will charge if disturbed.
For an alternative mode of transport, there are motorboat trips into the delta or on the Chobe River. You’ll glide past floating hippos, crocs, elephants and thousands of birds stalking the shoreline or darting between the boughs. For something more sedate, there are the makoros – traditional wooden carved canoes (today fortified with aluminium) – that you can hop in for mellow morning jaunts, led by professional guides.
Botswana’s currency is the Pula, which you can use to trade with local people. That said, Dollars, the South African rand and Euros are all welcome in many shops outside of lodges (Maun Airport and Kasane town). Remember to take two credit cards to pay for any extras. Phone lines are sometimes weak and can easily cut out. Botswana is also one of the only African countries highly rated by Transparency International – the global civil society organisation regards it as the 34th least corrupt nation out of 175 countries.
Don’t forget to pack your mosquito repellent, sunscreen and long sleeves. But should medical emergencies arise, the price of overnight stays in lodges includes ‘flying doctors’. A plane (day) or helicopter (night) are always on hand to take off for rescue operations, but as yet, there have thankfully been no extreme tourist accidents in a lodge.
To ensure your luggage can squeeze into the hold of the small aircraft, avoid hard, rigid suitcases, and use flexible bags. Your luggage allowance is around 15kgs max (plus 5kg hand luggage) and you’ll have to pay extra if it goes over. Ditto if you have a lot of camera equipment.
Wondering about tipping etiquette? We advise around $10 per person, per day for the rangers, which can be raised to $15 if your ranger was excellent. Elsewhere, we’d suggest around $5 to $10 per person, per day for the staff, which can be left at a box at the reception. All tips are very gratefully received.
Final tips : Take a headlamp, a universal adapter for electrical outlets, a small waterproof bag to store credit cards, and a case to protect your phone from water and dust. There’s no phone signal out in the bush – and that’s a good thing. Do not forget your binoculars – they’ll be indispensable.
Above all, just go with the flow. The trip is not tiring with little or no jet lag, you’re in the very capable hands of professional guides, and the otherworldly landscapes will sweep you right in, from exhilarating flights and languid waterbound experiences, to game drives that put you cheek-by-jowl with wild Africa. Botswana is a traveller's dream and an eternal crowd-pleaser.
Travel Hack: Green Season in Botswana
Botswana is one of the greatest safari destinations on Earth, but it can be expensive. The travel hack? Visit in what is known as Green Season (from November until March) and prices can be almost half that in high season. For full disclosure, it’s called ‘green’ season for a reason - namely, higher rainfall - but that rain is usually in the form of short, sharp downpours, which are pretty spectacular in their own right. The dry, dusty landscape is then transformed into a verdant vista where umbrella-crowned acacia trees offer shade to the animals. And animals there are in their multitudes, because green season is also calving season, when myriad species of antelopes give birth. This in turn attracts the attention of predators galore, making for some intense game-viewing experiences. There are other animal encounters in Botswana that are only possible at this time of year: the longest (a 300-mile round trip) migration by any land mammals in Africa takes place as tens of thousands of zebras move from Namibia into the Nxai Pan National Park; then the salt pans themselves are flooded, attracting vast numbers of migratory birds. All this at a time of year when many northern hemisphere humans also like to migrate to warmer climes.