6 of the very best locations to go to in Botswana, from the Okavango Delta to the Central Kalahari desert

Botswana combines mind-blowing wildlife-watching, cinematic landscapes, extraordinary experiences and top-notch guides. Whether or not you’re a first-timer or an previous safari hand who returns repeatedly, the nation at all times has one thing thrilling to find.

Huge expanses of this dazzlingly various nation are protected areas, permitting a staggering array of wildlife to roam freely. Dwelling to a few of Africa’s most gorgeous – and budget-busting – lodges and tented camps, Botswana leads the best way in low-volume, high-value safari tourism. However if you happen to be part of a cell safari or self-drive and keep at a state-owned campsite, you received’t should splash an excessive amount of money to stand up near wild nature.

Right here’s a rundown of the very best locations to go to on this standout safari vacation spot.

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Discover the waterways of the Okavango Delta to see birds, antelope and elephants © Martin Harvey / Getty Photos

Okavango Delta: the very best place for wildlife watching in a watery wilderness

Dubbed the “Jewel of the Kalahari,” the Okavango Delta – the world’s largest inland delta – is a spotlight of any journey to Africa. Heavy rains within the Angolan highlands swell the Okavango River, finally spilling into the desert and fanning out right into a shimmering maze of channels, lagoons and islands that cowl round 20,000 sq km (7700 sq miles) at its wettest.

Lodges right here comply with Botswana’s unique, high-end mannequin, however you’ll be nearly tripping over wildlife, together with the Large 5 (you would possibly even catch lions swimming between islands), endangered African wild canines and greater than 500 species of birds.

You’ll be able to discover by 4WD and on foot, however one of the simplest ways to stand up near the delta is by mokoro, a standard canoe that sits low on the shallow waterways. A Botswanan gondolier will steer you thru the rustling reeds to spy on dainty jacana birds hopping between lily pads, leaping pink lechwe (the delta’s aquatic antelope) and elephants taking a dip.

A lion yawns as it rests on the dirt. Behind it is a white safari truck with a couple of passengers
Safari goals are made at Moremi Recreation Reserve © Paul Souders / Getty Photos

Moremi Recreation Reserve: the very best place for ample wildlife and a spread of lodging

Overlaying round 4000 sq km (1500 sq miles), the Moremi Recreation Reserve – the oldest protected space of the Okavango Delta – is perhaps small (by Botswana’s requirements at the very least), however what it lacks in dimension, it makes up for with the density and variety of its wild inhabitants. It’s additionally probably the most accessible nook of the delta if you happen to’re self-driving.

Watch feasting lions, leopards lolling in bushes and wild canines searching in relay – it’s the stuff that safari goals are manufactured from – and that’s not forgetting the bounteous birdlife and staggeringly lovely landscapes, from mopane woodland to ilala palms, dry savannah to seasonal floodplains, and everlasting reed-fringed lagoons.

Chief’s Island is taken into account the crème de la crème of safari locations, residence to herds of pink lechwe, zebra, wildebeest, buffalo and large cats galore, in addition to troops of baboons and vervet monkeys, with rivers full of colossal crocodiles and harrumphing hippos.

Moremi Recreation Reserve has no scarcity of sensational luxurious lodges to select from, but it surely additionally has community-run campsites if you happen to’d reasonably be woken by an elephant snuffling round your tent than a butler.

Zebras group together and dash towards a water hole as the sun sets; an elephant is in the distance
Herds of zebra head for Makgadikgadi Pans Nationwide Park through the annual migration © Fotografie-Kuhlmann / Shutterstock

Makgadikgadi Pans Nationwide Park: the very best place for stargazing

The crusty white expanse of the Makgadikgadi Pans is all that is still of a long-vanished lake. The world’s largest community of salt pans seems devoid of vegetation, save for remoted clusters of majestic baobab bushes, however within the dry season (April to September) they possess a stark, surreal magnificence. You’ll be able to horseback journey and quad bike over the lunar-like panorama, and with zero gentle air pollution, a sleep-out on the pans to observe the celestial gentle present is a should.

Wildlife could seem scarce, however the Boteti River to the west affords extra conventional sport viewing. Throughout and after the rains, the pans appeal to dazzles of zebra and herds of wildebeest through the annual migration, swiftly adopted by lion, cheetah, and hyena. Sua Pan is residence to large numbers of flamingos, and it’s the very best park in Africa to hang around with a habituated gang of meerkats.

Chapman’s Baobab – the arboreal beacon of the pans, thought to have been round 5000 years previous with a circumference of 25m (82ft) – is not standing, however you’ll be able to marvel at Baines’ Baobabs in neighboring Nxai Pan Nationwide Park.

A campsite with safari vans parked under trees with campfire under a starry sky
You are unlikely to run into different safari teams in Central Kalahari Recreation Reserve © Westend61 / Getty Photos

Central Kalahari Recreation Reserve: the very best place for getting off the crushed observe

The place the delta ends, the desert takes over. The Central Kalahari Recreation Reserve is Africa’s second-largest reserve (after Selous in Tanzania), and as its title suggests, it’s smack bang within the heart of the Kalahari Desert.

Don’t anticipate Sossusvlei-style dunes – the hanging panorama is all glittering salt pans, fossilized river valleys and semi-arid grassland. It’s identified for its desert-adapted species, together with the legendary Kalahari black-maned lion, elephants and massive herds of antelope. As one of many world’s most sparsely populated areas, you’re unlikely to stumble upon anybody else on a sport drive.

It’s additionally the previous ancestral residence of the indigenous San folks, hunter-gatherers with a profound connection to their land and its wildlife, who nonetheless follow their historical traditions in neighboring personal reserves.

A lioness passes in front of a safari truck on a dirt path in a game reserve
There is a good likelihood of huge cat sightings at Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park © Michael Wick / Shutterstock

Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park: the very best place for desert adventurers

Break up between Botswana and South Africa, the distant Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is an enormous desert wilderness, a harsh however lovely panorama the place the dry riverbeds of the Nossob and Auob are flanked by rolling pink dunes, picture-perfect at golden hour.

You received’t discover water-dependent hippo, elephants, buffalo or zebra right here, however you’ll be rewarded with sightings of desert-adapted antelopes, such because the stately gemsbok, and you’ve got a superb likelihood of huge cat sightings, together with lions, leopard and cheetah. Look out for smaller carnivores, too: maybe a shy brown hyena, big-eared bat-eared foxes, or a wiry Cape fox. You’ll be able to drive for hours with out seeing a factor, which makes it all of the extra particular once you do.

For intrepid vacationers, the Botswana aspect has some rudimentary campsites the place there’ll be nothing however a skinny wall of canvas between you and the resident predators. The South African portion has extra lodging choices.

Chobe Nationwide Park: the very best place for budget-friendly safaris

Botswana’s first – and second largest – nationwide park, Chobe is considered one of Africa’s most spectacular wildlife-watching areas with a number of distinct ecosystems. Arguably, it’s residence to extra elephants than anyplace else on the continent, in addition to a number of easy-to-spot huge cats, buffalo, giraffe and zebra, making it excellent for first-time safari-goers.

Chobe’s northeastern nook and its namesake river are simply accessed by street from Kasane, making it extra wallet-friendly – and far busier – than a few of Botswana’s extra distant areas. A jumping-off level for Victoria Falls, Kasane has lodging to swimsuit all budgets, together with fuel stations and grocery shops if it is advisable to replenish.

It’s additionally the place to prepare a 4WD safari alongside the river and its floodplains, or an unmissable sundown cruise, when gruff-looking buffalo, loping giraffes and massive elephants flock to the river to drink.

To get off the crushed observe, head southwest, the place the long-dry Savuti Channel – the stomping floor of huge lion prides – is water-filled once more and attracting increasingly wildlife.