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Where to go in BotswanaScroll

Where to go in Botswana

Botswana Nxai Pan Zebras Brian Divelbiss

Where to go in Botswana

Botswana’s national parks are set in a uniquely different backdrop to most other African safari destinations. Whilst some African safari destinations have gone for more of a volume-based model, Botswana’s national parks are focused on low volume high yield. This means, yes, they are expensive, however, the quality of the experience is second to none. Limited numbers of clients, means limited numbers of lodges, means limited numbers of vehicles on the wildlife sighting; this proves for a wholly unique and high-quality safari experience.

1. Linyanti Wildlife Reserve

Linyanti Wildlife Reserve, occupying a total area of 275,000 acres, is located on the southern banks of the Linyanti River where the landscape changes from marshland to lagoons and meandering waterways, leading to open grassland and riverine forest. The reserve has a high population of animals, lion and spotted hyena as the principal predators, with leopard being sighted primarily on night drives. Game densities improve as the season progresses into the drier months and the wildlife migratory species move closer to the water source of the Linyanti River. Herds of elephants can be seen congregating at waterholes and rivers. Zebra also stay in the Linyanti region during winter before moving on to Savuti around October and November.

  • Linyanti Concession - A prime dry game viewing area between June and October, this remote concession incorporates the Linyanti River and its shady mopane forests, wetlands and open savannahs. Elephant viewing is particularly strong and at points offers the world’s highest density, although a myriad other wildlife congregates here, including red lechwe, kudu, sable, impala, zebra, wild dog, waterbuck and giraffe.
  • Selinda Concession - Including a significant section of the Selinda Spillway that links the Okavango with the abundant wildlife of the Linyanti Marshes, Selinda covers an area of 1,350 square kilometres in northern Botswana, sitting adjacent to Linyanti. Its topography is similar to that of Linyanti, but offers more floodplains in addition to its waterways and dry woodland areas. The spillway that winds through the area is a magnet for wildlife, as the waters from the Okavango pour in, and during the winter months elephant herds can be numerous, along with wildebeest, zebra and giraffe, as well as predators such as wild dog, cheetah, lion and leopard.
  • Where to Stay: Selinda Camp - Resting on the banks of Botswana's Selinda Spillway, Selinda Camp radiates the true spirit of Africa. This luxury camp offers some of the world's most thrilling game viewing, thanks to the private 130,000 acre Selinda Reserve, boasting huge herds of elephants, a large pack of African wild dogs and the famous Selinda lion pride.

2. Okavango Delta

Encapsulating the heart of wild Africa with its evocative scenes of wildlife and natural beauty, a journey into the untouched Okavango Delta is one of jaw-dropping big game viewing, peace and tranquillity. The delta itself is a beautiful fan-shaped wetland and labyrinth of islands and lagoons, all fed by the third largest river in Southern Africa – the Okavango. It has gradually developed and formed over the millennia by millions of tonnes of sand carried down the river from Angola, eventually forming the wildlife rich oasis it is today.

Often referred to as the ‘jewel of the Kalahari', it seems truly extraordinary that the Okavango exists at all, deep within the arid Kalahari Basin. Flowing from Angola, it enters Botswana at Mohembo, before spilling into the delta. The annual floods occur, ironically, just after the rains in Botswana begin to ease, around April or May, at which time the floodwaters of the Okavango gather pace and breathe new life into the delta’s unique ecosystem.

  • Read more about the Okavango Delta's Reserves & Concessions
  • Where to Stay: Abu Camp - This camp offers its guests the chance to truly immerse themselves in the world of the elephant. In addition to game drives and water-based safaris, you can also walk through the bush alongside these magnificent mammals, accompanied by Abu Camp's expert elephant handlers. Get to know every member of the herd - from wise old adults to playful calves - and learn about the habits, behaviours and social structures of these remarkably intelligent animals.

3. Chobe National Park

Chobe National Park is often frowned upon by African safari aficionados when compared alongside other wildlife viewing areas of Botswana. As a national park rather than a private concession, it is accessible via a variety of camps and lodges, rather than just the camps on the concession itself, hence it attracts larger crowns. In our opinion, however, Chobe along with Savute is definitely worthy of consideration when planning your Botswana safari.

Predators include wild dog and cheetah (although not seen regularly), healthy prides of lions and leopards. Rhino are unfortunately no longer present in the park. Night drives are not possible in Chobe due to its National Park status, and there are strict hours of opening when safari-goers are allowed to access it. Game drives are also restricted to the various tracks that access the different corners of the park.

  • Chobe River - With a permanent water source in the form of the Chobe River, Chobe is big game country. Located in the north-east of the park, from June to November, it is inundated with some of the largest buffalo and elephant herds on the African continent, with migratory herds coming from as far away as Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe. This is truly a wildlife experience not to be missed and it all takes place in the amazing setting of the Chobe Riverfront. During the wet season months the game disperses through the deeper regions of the National Park. Boat and sundowner cruises here add a different dimension to your experience, as you glide past gigantic crocodiles, fish eagles, monitor lizards and elephants drinking.
  • Savute - Located in the south-western stretch of Chobe, enchanting Savute covers 1,900 square miles and is known for its high concentration of predators, in particular its pride of lions that has adapted to hunting elephants. The intriguing Savute marsh was once fed by a section of the Linyanti River, but is nowadays generally dry, despite being known to mysteriously dry up or flood irrespective of local rains. Today, parts of the Savute are parched and almost desert-like in their appearance. However, there are grassland areas and pans which retain water for months after the rains, enticing animals and birds to stay well into the drier months from May to November.
  • Where to Stay: Chobe Game Lodge - Botswana’s premier venue for guests wanting to explore the park. All rooms are river facing and each has its own terrace and en-suite bathroom. There is a large swimming pool, riverside boma and a bar and restaurant with Chobe River views.

4. Central Kalahari Game Reserve

Brilliantly remote and exclusive, Central Kalahari Game Reserve is the second largest wildlife reserve in the world, covering over 50,000 square kilometres, of which most is inaccessible. It is the sheer sense of desolate, pristine landscape and untouched isolation that gives it such appeal, and the area is only seen by only a handful of visitors every year, making it ideal for those looking for a very private and peaceful African safari experience. Dominating the centre of Botswana, the area mostly consists of grass and bushland albeit with shallow river valleys and sand dunes, and is occasionally punctuated with larger trees, like Kalahari apple, acacia, silver terminalia sandveldt and mopane.

  • Community - The history of the reserve is an interesting one, as it was originally established in 1961 to provide a protected sanctuary for the indigenous San community, who would be able to preserve their traditional hunter-gatherer culture without any human interruption. For around 30 years the reserve was completely inaccessible for tourists, however in the 1990s this changed to allow very small numbers to have access, although these numbers are kept strictly low to this day.
  • Weather - The arrival of the summer rains is known as a highlight of this area, and indeed one of Africa’s best kept wildlife secrets, both during and immediately after the rains. The northernmost sections of the reserve teem with wildlife activity, particularly around the Northern Deception Valley where herbivores such as gemsbok and springbok gather to feed off the sweet grasses, which in turn attracts large numbers of predators. Infamous black-maned lions, hyena, leopard, ostrich, giraffe and wildebeest are all found here.
  • Where to Stay: Tau Pan Camp - Located inside the infamous Central Kalahari Game Reserve, renowned for its abundance of predators and thousands of migratory zebra and wildebeest. Built in an environmentally sensitive area, this solar powered camp has been designed to blend in with its environment.

5. Makgadikgadi Pans

Standing in the middle of the largest salt pans on earth, a featureless terrain of white sand and salt, it would appear as though you are viewing the curvature of the earth as it meets the milky blue sky. A seemingly endless horizon and dramatic lunar expanse that stretches as far as the eye can see, this is a part of the Kalahari ecosystem, yet it could not be more different to the game reserve.

  • Salt Pans - The salt pans, which occupy around 20% of the area of the national park, are the remains of a giant super-lake that covered a vast area of southern Africa thousands of years ago. As the lake evaporated it left shorelines and salt pans, which range in size enormously and do not allow any vegetation to grow on the surface, pushing it to the fringe. This captivating wilderness, surrounded by rolling grasslands, is one of the last remaining domains of the San Bushmen, extremely skilled hunter-gatherers that specialise in tracking. Some Bushmen work in the camps in the area and it is an authentic and rewarding experience to track alongside them. World renowned explorer David Livingstone crossed these pans in the 19th Century, guided by a huge baobab that is still there today, reminding us of the times when these areas were unchartered and unexplored.
  • Zebra Migration - Makgadikgadi Pans supports one of Botswana’s largest zebra populations and during the rains (January to March) the pans fill with water, attracting a huge migration of wildebeest and the aforementioned striped critters. Brown hyena and meerkats can be spotted all year round in the surrounding grass and are easily located. The comical meerkats are often seen on their hind legs gazing into the distance or even using us taller humans as lookout posts.
  • Where to Stay: Jack's Camp - Located in the heart of the Kalahari Desert, next to the largest saltpans in the world. Set amidst palm trees, this remote camp aims to teach about the archaeology and anthropology of the area. This stunning location was discovered by explorer Jack Bousfield in the 1960s - a legacy continued today by his son, Ralph. Built in traditional, 1940s East African safari style, Jack's Camp is appointed with rich, Persian rugs and crisp cotton sheets.

6. Nxai Pan National Park

Similar to Makgadikgadi Pans, Nxai Pan National Park is part of the Kalahari ecosystem, yet so different to the game reserve. Grassy plains are peppered with fossil beds and smaller pans, growing sweet grasses that attract a diverse range of hungry animals. The magnificent scenery here is complemented by fantastic game viewing and the area transforms into a true Garden of Eden in the rainy months. Nxai Pans was declared a game reserve in 1970, having previously been government land, but it wasn’t until 1992 that it expanded its borders to become the current size of 2,578 square kilometres, and also gained national park status. The landscape of grassy pans is interspersed with acacia ‘islands’ providing shade to numerous species. The Nxai Pan itself is approximately 40 square kilometres; a fossil lakebed that was once a part of the great Makgadikgadi super-lake, with rich clay-like soils and thick sand dunes at the rim.

  • Baines Baobabs - Around 30 kilometres from the entrance to the park you will find Baines Baobabs, where Thomas Baines, a famous 19th Century explorer, once stood and painted what he saw. Surrounded by and overlooking the crusty white Kudiakan Pan, the seven large, gnarled baobabs remain seemingly unchanged when you reference Baines’s painting.
  • Where to Stay: Nxai Pan Camp - Nxai Pan is an eco-camp with custom designed, solar powered rooms. Located in a protected area, the summer rains bring thousands of migratory animals into the area, attracting predators from lions and wild dogs to spotted and brown hyenas.