Being an exclusive African safari destination,first time travelers to this undisturbed part of the region should venture to get a bit extra than the usual safari experience. So here are some ways in which you can get the most from a safari to this prestigious sanctuary.
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When to go
The winter season, just after the rains, when the delta is in full flow, is the best time to for your Botswana safari holidays. Not only is the grass low, abundance of wildlife can be seen along the waterways.
In summer, central Botswana is best as this is the region where the region’s salt pans and desert are transformed into lush grass, thereby attracting a myriad of animals.
Feburary through April are considering to be the most challenging times to go on a safari, especially because the vegetation is extremely dense and animals choose to hide in the shrubbery.
What to pack
Carry soft-sided bags as the local flights in Botswana have a strict 33lb limit and many destinations will require travel in these small aircraft which have even more luggage restrictions.
Light clothing in neutral colours with a light jacket for the evenings is a must. If traveling during the winter season, consider packing gloves and scarves for the early morning game drives.Avoid hiking boots and instead pack a pair of comfortable walking shoes
Since Botswana is known more for its remote and pristine wilderness and not the big city appeal,if you are doing a self-drive trip to the parks,you will need a fully equipped 4WD,with rooftop tents to navigate the seasonal road conditions and stay safe from the wild animals.
You can easily pick up a rugged vehicle from Maun International Airport at about $140/- per day. Travel with another vehicle as much as possible. Lastly,do a Botswana self drive road safari if you have ten or more days to spare.
Book in advance
The busiest months in Botswana are July and August and camping spots in the National Parks are limited and are run by private operators. Avoid email and call directly to book well in advance, especially during the peak season.
That said,November to February is significantly cheap and wildlife spotting is good even during these times. Many high end lodges waive of solo travel fees to attract guests.
Plan your stay
If you are traveling for a week or less,fly into the various parks to maximize time. In this way you will be able to spend at least three nights in one place.
Frankly speaking,two weeks is ideal to explore the beauty of this diverse country,soak in the wildlife of the Okavango Delta and round the trip off with a visit to the Victoria Falls.
To be on the safer side,plan six months in advance. The low number of beds tend to fill up very fast.
Pack a camera and binoculars
Unless you have eagle eyes,and even those may not be enough,or doing a safari in a private reserve where guides can go off-road to witness wildlfe from a good distance,you must carry the right equipment to enjoy your trip.
A good pair of binoculars of specifications 8×40 are perfect for bird and animal watching. A decent zoom camera too will come in handy to click photos to remind you of the experience once back home.
What is a safari day like?
While no two days on a safari can ever be the same,a typical itinerary will include two three hour game drives followed by spending downtime at the lodge or camp later in the day.
Usually a pre-dawn wake up call is followed by tea or coffee before heading into the bush. You return to your lodge for brunch/lunch and relaxation as this is the hottest time of the day.
A second safari,followed by a sundowner in the bush and return to camp for dinner to reminisce the events of the day with fellow travelers.
Mingle with the locals
Wildlife in Botswana is no doubt the major tourist attraction,but it is well worth spending some time to explore the rich culture of the people of the country.
Go on a walking safari with the Same,the local bushmen who still live in a traditional way. The Sans are descendants of Botswana’s first indegenious population and spending time with them will be a wonderful experience.
Mix accommodation options
After you have decided which areas to explore, choose places to stay on your safari that offer a diverse experience.For example,pair a traditional safari with something new and contemporary.
Look for camps that provide the timelines safari experience with something totally different and unexpected. Camps have recently sprung up on new stretches of the savannah, offering unparalleled views of elephants grazing,baboons frolicking in the distance.
Different ways to enjoy a safari
This depends totally on the region you intend to visit.Your first wildlfe experience can take place in an open 4×4 vehicle,a boat or a mokoro(a traditional dug out canoee), but each will provide a different experience to capture the diverse beauty of the country.
Go beyond the Okavango
To make the most of the outstanding diversity of Botswana,make sure you stay in at least two different regions.No doubt a couple of nights in the Okavango Delta is mandatory,but there are other places which attract different species,which you will miss out on if you only confine your visit to the Okavango.
North of Okavango are the forested woodlands of the Linyanti, known for large concentration of big game. Another suitable alternative is Chobe,home to the largest population of African elephants in the world.
The clay pans of Ngwe Zumba are also worth a visit or you can head to the Kalahari desert in the south to explore a region different to all others.
Does tipping work in Botswana?
To demonstrate your appreciation for the drivers and guides on your safari, tipping is an essential component of your Botswana trip. After all,these are the people who ensure you have a safe, comfortable and enjoyable experience.
As a guideline,keep aside $15 per person per day to tip the baggage handlers,hotel staff and those taking you through the wildlife reserves and parks. Remember to include this expenditure at the time of budgeting your safari.
Botswana for those with mobility issues?
Every person has a right to experience a unique safari in Botswana and as such ground handlers are well equipped for those with mobility issues.
Vehicles are adapted for maximum comfort of the guest, especially those who are wheelchair bound, and lodges and camps all have facilities to accommodate those with impaired mobility.