Botswana safaris: more than the Okavango Delta
Ask anyone with a passing interest in Africa to name their top three safari destinations and they’ll more than likely include Botswana in their list. It has a density of wildlife almost without equal in Africa, with the Okavango Delta drawing in animals from miles around.
It’s also managed to avoid the mass-tourism which has plagued other areas of the continent. Private conservancies are leased to safari companies under a system that encourages low impact in terms of visitors, camp construction and vehicles, while high levels of income, community involvement and support, benefit the local population.
Combine all this with stable politics, income from mineral wealth, and strong wildlife conservation programmes – which include the outlawing of hunting in 2014 and a relocation of rhinos from South Africa – and it’s easy to see why this country tops many people’s ‘must visit’ safari lists.
Limited numbers of visitors and superb wildlife don’t make for easy bedfellows in one area however, and that’s cost. Many of Botswana’s luxury safari camps exceed £1,000 per person per night in high season between July and October, although prices in the low season from December to March are more competitive than many other safari areas including neighbouring South Africa.
While the Okavango Delta remains Botswana’s safari holiday trump card, there are a number of other wildlife areas worthy of note. You won’t find these touted in the windows of your local travel agent, but that’s just part of the reason we love suggesting them. They all have their own unique charms which make them well worth a stay on their own, or in combination with a few nights in a safari camp in the Okavango Delta.
1. Tuli Block
With rocky kopjes, baobabs and dry river beds, the scenery in the Tuli Reserve is dramatically different to that around the Okavango Delta. So is the access, which is generally across the Limpopo River from South Africa. When dry it’s a drive across the riverbed which can be done in a rental car, but when the river flows access is by one of the very few cable cars in Africa.
The area is home to large numbers of animals including predators such as lion, leopard, and cheetah, as well as big herds of very relaxed elephant. Safaris can be undertaken by vehicle – including specialist photographic vehicles – mountain bike, or foot, or as a riding safari. There are also excellent photographic hides, including one buried in the ground where you look out on a waterhole at the same height as the elephants’ feet.
2. Khwai Community Area
This area is really in the Okavango Delta, since the shallow channels reach into it before being swallowed by the sands of the Kalahari. However as it’s neither the public Moremi Game Reserve nor a fly-in concession area, it’s really only used by the mobile safari companies.
This means you can have the area almost to yourselves, with your own guide and camp team to look after you and show you the fantastic wildlife found here. Being on your own also means you can do what you want – be that drives or boating – exactly when you want.
3. Nxai Pan
Much less well known than the neighbouring Makgadikgadi Pans, Nxai comes into its own as a safari destination in Botswana’s summer months between December and March. The rains that fall over this period turn the pans green with vegetation attracting antelope and the predators such as cheetah, lion and hyena.
4. Linyanti Area
This Aardvark Safaris’ favourite sits in a wedge of land between the Okavango Delta and Chobe National Park. While it offers all the advantages of both in terms of scenery and wildlife, it’s free from some of the wildlife viewing restrictions placed on them. Night drives in Linyanti mean nocturnal species such as leopards, which may be hidden during the day, are out hunting.
5. Central Kalahari Game Reserve
The Central Kalahari is another reserve that comes into its own between December and March. The lush vegetation draws in large numbers of antelope including springbok and gemsbok. These in turn attract predators such as the iconic black-maned Kalahari lions, as well as hyena and cheetahs.
Nowhere in Botswana really gets busy. Even the famous Okavango Delta isn’t ever crowded, but if you’re keen to visit an ‘alternative’ area of Botswana, any of these will offer something different. In some it’ll be a distinct habitat, in others a chance to see wildlife during a different season. In all cases you’ll be rewarded for your curiosity.
If you’ve got this far and not found an answer to a question you have that we should have included, please ask in the comments section below, or pop us an email. We’ll be sure to reply and may amend the article to include our answer.
We would be delighted to help you plan a holiday, or answer any questions if you’re at an earlier stage. Our team of experts have travelled widely throughout Africa. They can offer expert advice on every type of safari from family and beach holidays to riding and primate safaris. If you would like to talk to someone who has been there and done it, please just send us an email or give us a call.