Going on Safari is on most peoples ‘Bucket List’ and possibly the best place to do so is Botswana.
Having been to Kenya, South Africa, and Zambia as well as Botswana. I would agree whole heartedly with this. Botswana was definitely the place where I felt I was getting the best all round big game experience.
Why then did I feel Botswana was best?
I did not see all the ‘Big 5’. Once again the leopard eluded me though I did see her tracks and Rhinos are scarce. I did see Rhinos and a leopard in Kenya and I also saw Cheetahs taking down a Wildebeest.
So again Why Botswana? Well, in Kenya you feel in a crowd with so many other vehicles around all trying to get the closest.
Most of the reserves in South Africa are fenced and on occasion you feel as if you could be in a safari park (all be it very large).
In Botswana, you feel alone – rarely do you see other vehicles and even then never more than one or two. The reserves are completely unfenced – it is you that is caged the animals can go anywhere. In the Chobi there is the largest concentration of game anywhere in the world. Elephants are especialy numerous, around 50,000 of them. The Okavango Delta has over 450 different bird species and boasts some of the best fishing in the world.
Near the Savuti Channel in the Chobi reserve I saw wild dogs demolish a gazelle in around 10 minutes and 30 minutes’ latter saw a different pack combining, first in an attempt to take down a zebra – the whole zebra heard fought back and defeated them. The dogs then went on to grab a wildebeest who fought them off like a demon! And to see it – there was just me and a guide and no one else for miles. On the way back to the lodge we stopped to view rock paintings drawn by the Bushmen thousands of years ago. That was just morning one of my stay.
A little History
Botswana gained full independence and became a republic in 1966 (though it was never a true colony being a ‘protectorate’ of Great Britain.)
The first President was Seretse Khama, who had an Enslish Wife – Their story has recently been filmed under the title ‘A United Kingdom’.
The political situation in the country is one of incredible stability – even though a full democracy there have been only 4 presidents all of whom were elected by popular vote. The current President being the son of the first. The country is ranked highly in the list of most democratic nations being just 14 places below the UK 8 below the US and 1 place below France.
Botswana is one of the richest country in Africa with much of the wealth from the diamond deposits (discovered not long after independence) being reinvested in the country, especially in Education.
Tourism is Botswana’s second industry, below diamonds. The government has taken a conscious decision to encourage high end tourist development and actively encourages and rewards sustainable development with its Eco Tourism policy. Many of the lodges in the reserves are powered with solar energy.
Main Safari areas
Chobi and Linyanti
Chobe National Park (the oldest in Botswana) is famed for its elephant herds which come down to the Chobe River to drink. There are an estimated 50,000 elephants in the park, giving it the highest concentration in Africa. The park also has numerous predators, hippos and waterbirds.
The park can be divided up to 3 main areas:
The Chobe riverfront, situated in the extreme northeast of the park, has as its main geographical features lush floodplains and dense woodland. It is a major watering spot, especially in the dry season (May through October) for large breeding herds of elephants, as well as families of giraffe, sable and cape buffalo.
The Savuti Marsh is the relic of a large inland lake whose water supply was cut a long time ago by tectonic movements. Nowadays the marsh is fed by the erratic Savuti Channel, which dries up for long periods then curiously flows again.
The Linyanti Marsh, located at the Northwest corner of the park and to the North of Savuti, which is adjacent to Linyanti River.
There is easy access into Zambia and from Livingstone (Victoria Falls) you can then join a safari to Kafue and the Lower Zambezi.
The Okavango is produced by seasonal flooding. The Okavango River drains the summer rainfall from the Angola highlands and the surge flows 1,200 kilometres
in approximately one month. The waters then spread over the 250 km by 150 km area of the delta over the next four months. About a third of the Okavango Delta lies within the Moremi Game Reserve. This unique area of woodland, forests, floodplains and lagoons which are home to a wide variety of animals and birdlife.
When the Delta floods, normally around May/June, the land becomes a maze of waterways, lagoons, islands and lush plains.
The private reserves and lodges are usually reached by light aircraft and you can expect excellent game viewing by makoro (dugout canoe), boat, off road driving, night drives and walking trails dependent on location
To the south of Chobe and Okavango are 3 other parks which offer a distinctly different experience.
The Makgadikgadi National Park is a stunning, remote wilderness reserve with endless vistas of rolling grasslands, desert palms and salt pans. The pan is all that remains of the formerly enormous Lake Makgadikgadi, which once covered an area larger than Switzerland, but dried up several thousand years ago. The game viewing can be extraordinary with huge herds of zebra & wildebeest and amazing birdlife.
Part of the greater Makgadikgadi complex, Nxai Pan National Park covers an area of 2,100 sq kms, and comprises several large pans which were once ancient salt lakes. These larger pans are now grassed, and are scattered with islands of acacia trees, and smaller pans that fill with water during the rainy season – thus providing rich resources for wildlife.
The Central Kalahari Game Reserve is noted for its scenery and large migratory herds.
Botswana offers many variations and ways to see it’s attractions, from guided driving safaris, your camp moved and erected for you at each stop (glamping in true style with fully ensuite tents) to self drive either from lodge to lodge or utilising the plentiful official camp sites and on to the true 5 star lodges (many tented – but not tents as you know it) with full aircon, wifi and the rest of modern 5 star amenities including gyms and spas.
To top it off, why not take a 3 or 4 night cruise aboard the Zambezi Queen – Africa’s answer to luxury river cruising.
So yes, I would say Botswana was the best Safari experience I have ever been on. But don’t listen to me – get in touch and we will deliver you the experience of a lifetime.
TravelSolutions works with many UK tour operators covering all experiences and budgets. We are also privileged to be able to work with a chosen few local suppliers who we feel offer you the best there is available.
The main safari areas are reached via either the gateways of Maun or Kasane, both just a short flight from Johannesburg on South African or Air Botswana.
There are easy connections in Johannesburg from all the airlines operating the routesf rom the UK. (BA, Virgin, and South African fly direct overnight to ‘JNB’ and their are indirectf lights with airlines such as Emirates, Etihad, Lufthansa, Air France, Swiss and KLM).
Travelling between lodges is best done via the local small aircraft companies such as Mack Air (who I flew with) or Moremi Air. They operate mostly with pilots of European or Australian extraction and have excelent saftey records. Flying in small aircraft over the reserves enhances the experience and offers further game viewing opportunities.