Botswana is a landlocked country located in southern Africa that offers a unique blend of natural beauty, cultural heritage, and adventure. It is home to some of Africa’s most iconic wildlife, including elephants, lions, and hippos, as well as vast, unspoiled wilderness areas and stunning landscapes. This ultimate travel guide will take you on a journey through Botswana, exploring its top destinations, must-see attractions, and essential travel tips.
Geography And Climate
Botswana is bordered by South Africa to the south and southeast, Namibia to the west and north, and Zimbabwe to the northeast. The country covers an area of approximately 582,000 square kilometers and is dominated by the Kalahari Desert, which covers more than 80% of the country. The landscape is characterized by vast savannahs, grasslands, and marshes, as well as salt pans and deltas.
The climate in Botswana is mostly dry and arid, with a rainy season that runs from November to March. Temperatures can be extreme, with hot summers and cool winters, and can vary widely depending on the time of year and location within the country. The best time to visit Botswana is during the dry season, from April to October, when the weather is pleasant, and the wildlife is most active.
The Okavango Delta is one of Botswana’s most iconic destinations and a must-visit for any traveler. It is the world’s largest inland delta, covering an area of approximately 15,000 square kilometers and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The delta is home to an incredible array of wildlife, including elephants, lions, hippos, and crocodiles, as well as more than 400 species of birds. Visitors can explore the delta by boat, mokoro (traditional dugout canoe), or on foot, and can stay in luxury lodges or more rustic bush camps.
Chobe National Park
Chobe National Park is one of Botswana’s most popular national parks and is known for its large herds of elephants. The park covers an area of approximately 11,700 square kilometers and is home to a diverse range of wildlife, including lions, leopards, giraffes, zebras, and more. Visitors can take game drives, river cruises, and walking safaris, and can stay in lodges, campsites, or houseboats.
Moremi Game Reserve
Moremi Game Reserve is a protected area located in the Okavango Delta and is known for its exceptional wildlife viewing opportunities. It covers an area of approximately 5,000 square kilometers and is home to a wide variety of wildlife, including elephants, lions, leopards, cheetahs, and hyenas. Visitors can take game drives or boat cruises and can stay in luxury lodges or more rustic campsites.
Makgadikgadi Pans National Park
Makgadikgadi Pans National Park is a unique destination that offers visitors a glimpse into Botswana’s prehistoric past. The park covers an area of approximately 3,900 square kilometers and is home to one of the world’s largest salt pans. Visitors can explore the pans on foot or by quad bike, and can also see the ancient baobab trees and wildlife such as meerkats, brown hyenas, and springbok.
Nxai Pan National Park
Nxai Pan National Park is another park located in the Makgadikgadi region and is known for its stunning landscapes and diverse wildlife. The park covers an area of approximately 2,100 square kilometers and is home to large herds of zebras and other antelopes, as well as predators such as lions and cheetahs. Visitors can take game drives or guided walks to explore the park and can stay in lodges or campsites.
Tsodilo Hills is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in the northwestern part of Botswana and is home to over 4,000 rock paintings dating back more than 20,000 years. The hills are considered sacred by the local San people and are an important cultural and historical site. Visitors can take guided tours to explore the rock paintings and learn about the local culture.
Central Kalahari Game Reserve
The Central Kalahari Game Reserve is the second-largest game reserve in the world and covers an area of approximately 52,800 square kilometers. The reserve is home to a wide variety of wildlife, including lions, cheetahs, leopards, hyenas, and giraffes. Visitors can take guided tours or self-drive through the reserve and can stay in campsites or lodges.
Gaborone is the capital and largest city in Botswana and offers visitors a glimpse into modern-day life in the country. The city is home to a variety of attractions, including the National Museum and Art Gallery, the Gaborone Game Reserve, and the Three Chiefs’ Statues. Visitors can also enjoy shopping, dining, and nightlife in the city’s many malls, restaurants, and bars.
Kasane is a town located near the border of Zimbabwe and is known for its proximity to Chobe National Park. Visitors can stay in lodges or campsites in the town and can take game drives or river cruises to explore the park. Kasane is also a popular destination for birdwatching and fishing.
The Tuli Block is a narrow strip of land located in the southeastern part of Botswana and is known for its unique landscapes and wildlife. The area is home to large herds of elephants, as well as predators such as lions and leopards. Visitors can take game drives or guided walks to explore the area and can stay in lodges or campsites.
Best Time to Visit
The best time to visit Botswana depends on the type of experience you are looking for. The country has two distinct seasons: the dry season and the wet season. The dry season, which runs from May to October, is generally the best time to visit as the weather is cooler and wildlife is easier to spot around water sources.
The wet season, which runs from November to April, is characterized by hot temperatures and frequent rain showers. While the wet season can be a good time to visit for birdwatching and for seeing newborn animals, it can also make wildlife harder to spot due to the abundant water sources throughout the country.
Botswana is known for being a relatively expensive travel destination, but there are ways to save money while still having a great experience. Here are some budget tips for traveling in Botswana:
Travel in the shoulder season:
Traveling during the shoulder season, which falls between the peak and low seasons, can help you save money on accommodations and activities.
Camping can be a more affordable option than staying in lodges or hotels. There are many campsites throughout the country that offer basic facilities for a lower cost.
Cook your own meals:
Many campsites offer communal kitchens where you can prepare your own meals instead of eating out at restaurants, which can be costly.
Book tours and activities in advance:
Booking tours and activities in advance can help you save money, as many companies offer discounts for early bookings.
Use public transportation:
Botswana has a reliable public transportation system, including buses and shared taxis, which can be a more affordable way to travel between destinations.
Avoid peak season:
If possible, avoid traveling during the peak season, which is from June to August, as prices for accommodations and activities tend to be higher during this time.
Look for package deals:
Some lodges and tour operators offer package deals that include accommodations and activities, which can be a more affordable option than booking everything separately.
Stay in local guesthouses:
Staying in local guesthouses or homestays can be a more affordable and authentic way to experience the local culture.
Bring your own supplies:
If you plan on camping or self-driving through the country, bring your own supplies, such as camping gear and food, to save money on rentals and restaurants.
Research and compare prices:
Before booking anything, research and compare prices from different companies to find the best deals.
Botswana is a truly unique travel destination that offers visitors the chance to experience its rich cultural heritage, stunning landscapes, and incredible wildlife. From the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Tsodilo Hills to the Okavango Delta and the Chobe National Park, there is no shortage of things to see and do in this African country.
While Botswana may be known for being a relatively expensive travel destination, there are ways to save money and travel on a budget. Whether you’re looking to stay in luxury lodges or camp under the stars, there is something for every type of traveler in Botswana.