A wealth of natural treasure awaits visitors to Botswana, one of Southern Africa’s most prosperous countries. The glare of the Makgadikgadi Pans, the parched earth of The Kalahari Desert, teeming waterways of the Okavango Delta, and the renowned Chobe National Park all offer something to thrill travellers from all walks of life.
Although landlocked, Botswana boasts the lush Okavango Delta and panhandle where the surrounding riverine forest, mopane woodlands, and savannahs are a centre of incredible biodiversity. Reserves surrounding the Okavango Delta and other game-abundant areas such as Chobe National Park give visitors a chance to get up-close-and-personal with the country’s wildlife. The terrain is also rich in San rock art as well as remnants of these ancient cultures, bringing life to historical textbooks.
Further west, the expansive Kalahari Desert scrubland offers endless horizons and glittering night skies while the cracked, desolate splendour of the neighbouring Makgadikgadi Pans and Nxai Pan promise peaceful isolation.
Popular safari destinations in Botswana
Chobe National Park’s dynamic landscape lends itself to a variety of fauna and flora. Extensive floodplains along the Chobe River to the north - home to the elusive puku antelope - mirror the African sky and fold into mahogany and teak woodlands. An eerie graveyard of trees lies in the Savuti marshlands along the remnants of an inland lake which grow into riverine forests near the Linyanti River. Rocky outcrops across the park are embellished with artwork left behind by San bushmen who still roam parts of Botswana today.
From the verdant and lush marshlands of Savuti and Linyanti Wildlife Reserve to the extensive floodplains running along the Chobe River, Chobe National Park is one of Botswana’s crowning glories - thanks to its population of elephants and its status the most biologically diverse park in the country.
The two distinct dry and wet seasons see the park morph from river banks populated with wandering wildlife along the Chobe into a bird-watching paradise after the remaining wildlife has dispersed further south to more secluded regions of the park. Chobe is home to four of the Big 5 and its population of elephants is especially impressive, exceeding 50,000 in number.
A diverse and intriguing land, Botswana’s Okavango Region starts with four rocky slabs embellished with San artwork that makes up Tsodilo Hills and continues on to the marshy shores of the panhandle before fragmenting into the Delta.
Land and Delta meet on Chief’s Island where Moremi Game Reserve has its base. Home to the Big 5, this is the spot for the real adventurer. The eastern edge of the Delta hugs the shoreline of the Khwai Concession, abundant in mopane forest, floodplains, riverine forest and savannahs. Here, visitors will find game-viewing aplenty. Much of the game viewing in the Delta can be done on game drives, bush walks, by traditional mokoro trips, and on horse and elephant safaris.
Boasting two-thirds of the Savuti Channel within its 125,000-hectare boundaries and the unique terrains of the Linyanti River and extensive woodland, the Linyanti Wildlife Reserve offers a vastly different experience in comparison to its southern neighbour.
Renowned for its high concentration of herbivores and predators, visitors will be treated to large herds of elephants, giraffe, and buffalo traversing across the terrain while various antelope and zebra bound nervously away from the stalking big cats that are never far behind. The unpredictable Savuti Channel has been flowing since 2008, attracting the reserve’s inhabitants to its banks.
With a select few camps and its remote location (only accessible by light aircraft), Linyanti Reserve offers a truly intimate getaway that affords up-close and personal interactions with the animals. Off-roading, night-drives, safaris by land and water along with walking tours, fishing, and sleep-outs in hides – visitors are promised the African getaway of a lifetime.
The sprawling wetland and savannahs that make up the Savuti Marsh provide a diverse portion of wilderness for the inhabitants of Chobe National Park. The marsh - once sourced by an inland lake until tectonic movements cut off the water supply - has since been filled by the Savuti Channel, a water source prone to long dry spells.
The channel has been flowing since 2010 after an almost three-decade-long dry spell, transforming the area into a paradise for aquatic and terrestrial wildlife. The dead trees that line the banks of the marsh are slowly becoming obscured by the new fauna growing in its place. The dry season forces the wildlife to compete for the same water sources, ensuring excellent game-viewing. Visitors will find lions and cheetah to elephant, wildebeest, and more congregating near the water’s edge. The wet season shows off the areas superb birdlife, with over 450 species known to make their home in the park.
The remnants of an ancient lake, the Makgadikgadi Pans are considered the largest collection of salt flats on the globe. They spend a majority of the year dry or covered in a film of algae while the unpredictable rains of the wet season turn the flats into an oasis offering a welcome respite for migrating animals from the Kalahari Desert.
The Nxai Pan forms part of the Nxai Pan National Park. Although the pan stands alone in title, it actually forms part of the Makgadikgadi Pans and together they are the largest collection of salt pans on the globe. The alternating dry and wet seasons bring a stark contrast the landscape and wildlife at Nxai. The rainy months, between November and April, turn this bare, desolate expanse into a landscape brimming with life attracting hordes of kudu, giraffe, and elephant along with the lions and jackals that tail them.
The rainy season descends and water fills the pans, turning the marshy outer edges and surrounding shrubland into a feast for zebras and wildebeest passing through. The seemingly bloated baobab trunks and their halo of spindly tendrils mark the landscape while the arcane rocky outcrops of Kubu Island provide the only elevation. Visitors will find themselves spellbound by the dry season’s barren glaring white flats, the odd movement only being on account of small reptiles, ostriches, and plovers.
Visitors can stay on the fringes of the pan or in the Makgadikgadi itself in permanent camps or on Kubu Island. Explore on a 4-wheeler while searching for old fossil remains, game-watching, visiting flamingo nesting grounds, or getting better acquainted with the local meerkat population.