Botswana is wild Africa at its most iconic. There are more elephants in Botswana than in any other country and big cats also roam free. Here’s the place to marvel at everything from aquatic antelopes to endangered wild dogs, as well as an abundance of rhinos and birdlife at every turn.
Land of the wondrous Kalahari Desert and the Okavango Delta, you won’t be short of magnificent stretches of African wilderness. This is untamed Africa at its best and with over half the country given over to national parks and reserves, it is excellent safari territory. Botswana now ranks among Africa’s most exclusive holiday destinations, but more alternative travellers can also find plenty of self-drive adventures to keep them entertained.
The Chobe River winds its way to the Zambezi River, flanked by forests and flood plains. It’s both exceedingly beautiful and bursting with wildlife. The Chobe is probably the best place in all of Africa to see elephants swimming and the critically-endangered African wild dog in the open. It’s also perfect for an evening boat cruise as you sip a sun-downer or two as hippos float all about you.
Access the riverfront on land in Chobe National Park is by 4×4 or boat, preferably between April and November when game is at its most prolific and you will spy hippos, crocodiles, antelope species, predators and birds in abundance.
Moremi Wildlife Reserve
Moremi Wildlife Reserve lies in the centre of the Okavango Delta. It was made into a game reserve in 1963 to protect the rapid depletion of wildlife being caused by uncontrolled hunting and cattle encroachment. This gem of a reserve contains a wide range of habitats, from wetlands and reed beds to forests and savannah woodlands, making it one of the most diverse ecosystems on the African continent. There’s an abundance of fauna and wildlife too. Expect to see a full range of exotic birds, giraffes, lions, wildebeest, zebras, hippos and buffalo.
This UNESCO World Heritage Site is held sacred by Botswana’s San Bushmen who believe that Tsodilo is a place of worship where their ancestral spirits preside. These isolated hills were inhabited for at least 100,000 years and contain the highest concentration of rock art in the world. Thousands of fascinating, ancient rock paintings adorn what has been dubbed the “Louvre of the Desert”.
Several hiking trails take you around Tsodilo’s 10 square kilometres of Kalahari Desert, perfect for taking in the natural beauty and rich cultural heritage of its ancient landscapes. The sign-posted Rhino Trail is probably the most popular route to follow as it climbs past several fascinating paintings along its way, each with its own superstition and mythical background.
Khama Rhino Sanctuary
The onsite chalets and camping facilities make Khama an excellent place to observe white and black rhinos living in the safe haven of the sanctuary. This community-based wildlife project established in 1992 is a shining example of the country’s conservation work at its best where the emphasis is sustainable tourism. The sanctuary is also home to over 260 other species including more than 230 species of birds.
Nata Bird Sanctuary
15 kilometres southeast of Nata, this 230 square kilometres of community-run wildlife sanctuary is home not only to birds, but antelopes, jackals, zebras, foxes, squirrels and monkeys too. The main attraction is its huge population of water birds. When the Nata River flows during the rainy season, the sanctuary’s population expands to include Cape and Hottentot teals, greater and lesser flamingos and white and pink-backed pelicans. Pick up a copy of the “bird list” from reception at the entrance to help you identify them as you go. If you’d like to drive around the sanctuary, visit between May and October (the dry season) but it’s best to enquire about the condition of the tracks before setting off.
Witness women’s weaving at Lentswe-la-Oodi
Just off the main road linking Gaborone and Francistown, the internationally acclaimed Lentswe-la-Oodi Weavers is a co-operative begun by Ulla and Peder Gowenius, two Swedes who dreamt of providing a base for women from the villages of Oodi, Modipane and Matebeleng. Wool is hand spun in the workshops, then dyed over an open fire and finally woven into individual patterns invented by the artists. Most patterns depict African wildlife and other aspects of country life in Botswana.
Visit Gaborone Game Reserve
This reserve gives the ideal opportunity to view Botswana’s wildlife in a completely natural location. Although it covers only 5 square kilometres, the reserve is the third-busiest in Botswana, being home to wildebeest, gemsboks, elands, ostriches, kudu and warthogs. Birdlife includes hornbills and kingfishers which are easy to spy from observation areas. The reserve also has picnic areas, a game hide and a modest visitor centre. You can drive in an ordinary car throughout much of the reserve – guided drives are not currently available.
Wonder at the wildlife on Chief’s Island
The 70 kilometres long and 15 kilometres wide Chief’s Island is the largest in the Okavango Delta. It is named after the fact that it was once the one and only hunting reserve of the local chief. Ancient tectonic activity raised the island above water level and it’s here that the delta’s wildlife retreats as the water level rises. Chief’s Island is home to a rich concentration of wildlife in Botswana that thrives in its reed-fringed waters, grasslands and light woodlands. If you’re looking for game reserves at their best, the island is home to some of the most exclusive tented camps and lodges in Africa.
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