Botswana Safari Vacations
From the busy and sparkling floodlands of the Delta, to the barren and eerie flatness of the Makgadikgadi, Botswana is unashamedly our flavor of the month for Africa Safaris. It is thrillingly extreme and satisfyingly unpredictable. At times devastatingly wet and at times devastatingly dry, the experience spectrum is wide and Botswana makes full use of it.
Botswana is a country with its head screwed-on. 100% committed to conservation, and it shows.
It is the place where wildlife always comes first. You can see it in the confident swagger of the sable, the brazen poo-spreading of the hippo, the playfulness of a youthful pack of dogs.
They know this is their turf, always has been and always will be, as long as the fish eagle calls.
Top 4 Reasons To Visit Botswana
1. It’s just you and 100,000 elephants rumbling amiably to each other.It’s just you and overgrown hippo pods lazing about the waterways. It’s just you and intelligently adapted lion prides roaming the desert. This is not the road well travelled. This is the real deal. This is one of the last true wildernesses on the planet and you get to watch your kids experiencing it.
2. The place to see the ‘other’ migration that most of your kids’ teachers won’t know about.25,000 zebra following the rain from the north of Botswana down to the Nxai and Makgadikgadi pans to breed. Timing is key and, as the rains are unpredictable, you need to be flexible (tricky unless your headteacher is wonderfully pro-wild adventures). Alternatively factor-in a few tries to have the best chance of witnessing the herd on the move.
3. The ‘getting there’ in Botswana.Camp-to-camp journeys are usually by light aircraft flying low over 360° scenery, providing an exhilarating perspective of the surrounds. The charming pilots (both male and female) contribute to tipping these little flighted journeys into a distinct category of their own, and add to an itinerary much more than the sum of their parts.
4. Sustainable Wildlife Conservation.As mankind continues its charge headfirst into the desecration of our planet, conscious travelling is vital. Botswana’s low-volume tourism ensures that your trip is considered as part of a conscientious conservation plan. All accommodation and activities are operated with the utmost respect to the natural environment.
Why Avoid Botswana
There’s a compelling reason we advise looking at Botswana as your second or third safari vacation: it’s expensive.
Expect to pay around $1,300 / £1,000 per person per night as a comfortable average (for those looking to splash out, we offer accommodation up to $2,500 per person per night).
Although this is a turnoff for many, we support the pricing wholeheartedly: this is what it takes to conserve the land for the animals.
“Low impact, high value tourism”, the Hon Tourism Minister told us when we met him last year. “There aren’t any half measures when it comes to conservation”.
Warming to the subject (and to us) he told us “occasionally the wrong finger flies up when I get angry”, which we respect when it comes to protection of the planet.
A committed and honest minister of tourism, for a committed and honest country with a belief in protecting its voiceless inhabitants.
When to visit Botswana For Your Family Safari
If your trip to Africa is restricted by school holidays, you’re in luck – there is no ‘bad’ time to visit Botswana. Take a look at our calendar below to see what’s happening where.
As a general rule, the rains start in November (though can be as late as January) and continue until about April. The Okavango Delta flooding follows the rains (anything from 2-6 months later) and starts to recede around August.
This is the “Green Season” when the big Botswana skies open – often and with abandon.
It’s not generally considered a good wildlife-viewing time because the bush is dense and animals are hidden and skittish, as they protect their young. However there is fresh grazing in the Kalahari and Makgadikgadi which attracts large herds.
In the Delta and the north, this is a great time for birding, and a good time to spot young animals. This is also a good value season to visit Botswana.
The nights are cooler and the rains are showing signs of relenting.
In the north, the Okavango may start to flood. April is traditionally the unpredictable ‘Shoulder’ season as the rainy season turns to the dry.
The sun shines and the nights are cold. In the north, the water has arrived from the Angolan highlands, turning the dry sands of the Kalahari into a teeming floodplain. In the Makgadikgadi, the waterholes dwindle and the bush starts to shrivel, and the Pans start to fail those lives depending on them.
This is our recommendation for the best time to visit the Delta if you are looking for value: the landscapes and game-viewing are stunning, but it’s easier on the wallet if you head out before mid-June.
This is the dry season in earnest – and the high season. The north is flooded (the ‘dry’ season refers to the rains, not to the floods of the Delta), with abundant game, and the Makgadikgadi is dry and achingly barren – perfect for a quad bike safari.
We’d generally recommend avoiding the busier period of the UK school holidays (predominantly August), but in Botswana this will make little difference to their severely restricted traffic, and youngsters are not in fact invited to most accommodations. This is a great time to visit Botswana.
The rains arrive at some point, and accommodation rates drop in response. This is the beginning of the green season, the young are born and cycle starts once more.
December can be an incredibly rewarding time to visit Botswana, in the north particularly for birding, and the Makgadikgadi for big game as the land once more becomes green, but it is for safari ‘experts’ who are not looking to tick off a checklist of wildlife, and who understand that this is a remote experience, very much at the mercy of nature.
What to do in Botswana:
Our Top Experiences
Mokoro-game viewing – the DeltaThe dug-out ebony canoes are particular to the Delta and have been used as transport for a considerably long time. This is a good thing, because the Batswana have become as expert at punting around the odd hippo as we are at avoiding potholes when we’re driving.
It’s not that we think we’re ever in any real danger (the guides understand their local wildlife), but these mokoros sit so tantalisingly low in the water, we always feel like a hippo must surely pop his yawning head up any minute and we’d be face to face. It’s exhilarating for any age, and the sawn-off seats with back support make the journey comfortable even for those with the creakiest of backs.
Quad biking – Makgadikgadi PansA unique adventure out onto the vast pans on quad bikes, sleeping out under the unfathomably huge African night sky, dwarfed by the surrounding baobabs on Kubu Island.
This is a Botswana tour adventure of contrasts: the free-flowing adrenaline of quad biking with the meditative peace of the motionless pans; the individual life-affirmation of camping, huddled up with your family, with the humbling universality felt by a brush with the ancient bushmen.
River cruise – ChobeSafari specialists tend to gloss over Chobe because it’s pretty busy, being right by the border with Zimbabwe and Zambia, and much of the accommodation is not the style we like (many generic hotels and big lodges with over 20 rooms), However, Chobe is king when it comes to sheer numbers of elephants, and a cruise on the Chobe river is a definite highlight; there are even electric boats to ensure the environment is touched so lightly.
This is also the place for a great family introduction to Botswana as it’s still hooked up to civilisation (wifi and phone signals) and there are some fab family suites dotted about. Its proximity to the Vic falls make it a great add-on to a Zambia safari, or a fun last stop on the way out of Botswana to the Vic Falls.
Riding – Delta & MakgadikgadiWe are big horse lovers, and we understand why this is the ultimate dream for anyone who feels the same.
You may find yourself wading through flood-plains to palm islands, cantering for miles across vast grasslands, or fast riding over expanses of flat salt crust while on a mission to spot the shy brown hyaena.
These are serious, hours-in-the-saddle, riding adventures, not simply a trot out for an afternoon activity, so kids do have to be advanced riders, saddle-fit and mature enough to ride in the wild.