Botswana Tours and Travel Guide
Botswana Attractions & Landmarks Guide
Landlocked Botswana, wedged between South Africa, Namibia, and Zimbabwe, is the home of one of the latest UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the Okavango Delta. The Okavango Delta floods annually from June to October and attracts countless animals - a huge draw for safari goers.
Botswana is located in southern Africa and is home to a variety of protected wildlife. One of the fastest growing economies in the world, Botswana relies heavily on tourism and offers a range of travel experiences from luxury to budget options. Most travelers to Botswana embark on safaris in the country’s national parks and game reserves.
Perhaps taking a cue from the crowded game parks of East Africa, Botswana has made it a national policy to limit mass tourism and, in so doing, caters primarily to upscale travelers. This doesn’t mean that budget travelers are completely locked out, but it does mean that prices are generally higher in Botswana than in many other safari regions.
Politically, the sparsely populated country is stable and safe for travelers, and scenically, it remains mostly unspoiled wilderness; many of the game parks are unfenced, allowing animals to roam free. Conservation and the environment are taken seriously here, and eco-tourism is the watchword at Botswana’s excellent safari lodges.
Botswana is largely a desert country, and lacks a coastline, but it does harbor a remarkable water feature that’s one of Africa’s great natural wonders, the Okavango Delta. Each winter in northern Botswana, primarily in July and August, the Okavango River, swollen from the preceding rainy season, floods the delta, forming an unlikely oasis in the vast Kalahari Desert. The flood waters attract animals who gather in the hundreds of thousands to drink at this huge seasonal watering hole in the otherwise dry winter months.
Top Wildlife Sightings in Botswana
Botswana is famous for its “Big 5” wildlife-- lions, leopards, rhinoceros, African elephants, and cape buffalo. The term “Big 5” was initially assigned to these animals as they are the most difficult to hunt on foot, but is now used widely in African safaris and tours.
Botswana has the largest population of elephants of any country in the world, many of them within Chobe National Park. The best time to see elephants is May through July, when herds begin migrating towards more reliable sources of water.
Rhino populations have been on the rise recently due to local and national conservation efforts after being critically endangered for many years. The best place to see these majestic animals is at Khama Rhino Sanctuary, where you can learn about rhino conservation and see them up close.
Botswana is also one of the last remaining homes for the endangered African wild dog. The protected open spaces in Botswana makes it a perfect place for the species to hunt and thrive.
Finally, the annual zebra migration in Botswana is one of the largest mammal migrations in the world. The migration occurs around March to April every year as herds of zebra make their way from the Okavango Delta to the Boteti River, where water and fresh grazing can sustain them until the rainy season.
Delta wildlife includes the Big Five, as well as hippos, giraffes, wildebeest,cheetahs, zebras, crocodiles, hyenas, antelopes, warthogs, baboons and more. In all, the delta harbors more than 120 species of mammals. Prolific bird life is a bonus: the delta harbors as many as 500 species. See Botswana birding tours »
While 4X4 game drives, walking safaris and night safaris are offered here, the ultimate treat is to travel through the delta’s narrow channels by traditional dugout canoe, known as a mokoro.
Poled through the shallow water by experienced oarsmen, the mokoros glide slowly along, coming sometimes perilously close to hippos and crocodiles but providing otherwise unattainable photo ops. Motorized boats are also available for those nervous in a canoe, though you lose some of peace and tranquility.
National Parks in Botswana
Botswana boasts thirteen protected parks and game reserves; four of these are national parks.
1. Chobe National Park is particularly famous for its large concentrations of wild animals such as African elephants and zebras.
2. The Makgadikgadi Pan is a salt pan located in central Botswana and is a beautiful place to take photos and see herds of wildlife migrating across the inhospitable terrain.
3. Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is located on the border of Botswana and South Africa and was created to protect wildlife traveling across the border of the two countries. This park is home to many large mammals, including a large population of lions.
4. The scenic views and wildlife at Nxai Pan National Park makes this a great location for a safari, especially if you’re looking to avoid the crowds.
Top cultural activities in Botswana
1. Bushman Museum - The San people, also known as the Bushmen, are indiginous people of Botswana. They have been around for tens of thousands of years.
As tourism expands, tribes and advocacy groups have had to fight for the communities to be protected and allowed to stay on Botswana soil. The Bushman Museum in Ghanzi is a great place to learn about the history and culture of the San people.
2. Tsodilo Hills - Visit the Tsodilo Hills to see the ancient rock art created by the Bushmen. This is one of the most significant archeological sites in the world and gave experts insight into the lives of early humans.
3. Maun - The city of Maun is known as the “gateway to the Okavango Delta” and a popular destination for travelers to Botswana. This city is a great place to try traditional Botswana cuisine, shop at local shops and markets, and attend cultural events such as concerts and festivals.
Food in Botswana
Food in Botswana tends to center around the high-quality meat that is produced in the country, including beef, goat, and chicken. Botswana boats an especially strong cattle industry; steaks and beef stews are common.
Local dishes include soups, stews, meats, and sauces. Seswaa is a traditional meat stew common at important events and celebrations. And if you’re feeling brave, fried mopane worms are a popular delicacy.
Despite the prevalence of meat in local dishes, most restaurants and lodges will have a decent selection of vegetarian and vegan food. Markets also tend to carry an array of locally-grown vegetables.
Things to Know Before You Go
Where is Botswana?
Botswana is a land-locked country located in southern Africa. It is bordered by Namibia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa.
What languages are spoken in Botswana?
The official languages of Botswana are English and Tswana. Although most of the population speaks Tswana as a first language, many people speak English as a second language or at least understand it. In particular, those working in the tourism industry will likely know English.
Common phrases in Tswana
While most people in Botswana do speak English, it can be polite and helpful to memorize a few basic phrases in the native tongue.
- Hallo - Hello
- O Kae? - How are you?
- Ka kopo - Please
- Ke a leboga - Thank you
- O bua Sekhowa? - Do you speak English?
Is Botswana safe?
Botswana is known as the safest African country. Tourism is well-developed in this country, and violent crime rates are very low. Mugging and bag-snatching is somewhat common, so be aware of your surroundings and don’t carry large amounts of cash.
The Botswanan Pula is the official currency of Botswana. Pula means “rain” in Tswana, because rain is so scarce in Botswana and therefore valuable to locals.
The US dollar is also accepted at many restaurants and lodges, but it is helpful to carry pulas as well.
Do’s and dont’s for visiting Botswana
- Visit a travel health clinic or specialist before traveling and stay up to date on vaccines.
- Follow your safari guide’s instructions, especially when interacting with wildlife.
- Ask a guide or hotel staff about areas to avoid.
- Tip at restaurants and bars. 10-20% is customary.
- Drive at night. The roads are poorly lit, and wild animals and potholes are common.
- Approach any wild animals.
- Wear expensive jewelry or rent a luxury car, especially in the cities. Showing signs of wealth will make you a bigger target for pickpockets and thieves.
- Swim in any lakes or rivers unless allowed by a guide or park warden. Wild animals such as crocodiles lurk in these waters, and you are also at risk for waterborne diseases.
Best time to visit Botswana
The best time to visit Botswana is during the dry season (May through October), when temperatures are mild and floods are rare.
Best Big Game Viewing
The Moremi Game Reserve, a national park located on the eastern side of the Okavango Delta, offers the best big game viewing in the area, and most guided trips combine it with visits to other parts of the delta.
If it’s elephants in abundance that you seek, you’ll want to include nearby Chobe National Park on your Botswana itinerary. Chobe, which lies along the Zambezi, is elephant central in all of Africa, with great herds roaming the park. (Chobe’s Savuti channel is famous for its elephant-eating lions.)
To really get off the beaten track, head to arid southern Botswana, where the huge, uncrowded Central Kalahari Game Reserve offers a chance to view desert-adapted wildlife.
The Kalahari’s enormous Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, shimmering white as far as the eye can see, are another attraction of this region. And in the far south of the country, near the South African border, the Mashatu Game Reserve, the largest private reserve in southern Africa, showcases lions, leopards and cheetahs.
Ready to make Botswana your safari choice? Let Stride help you sort through all the possibilities, to choose the guided trip that will show you the best of Botswana.
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