Botswana is of one of the best countries in Africa where you can do an authentic Botswana safari of a lifetime due to the unique nature and cultures. Across the vast stretches of endless sand of the Kalahari Desert, to the spectacular oasis that is the Okavango Delta, and animal encounters that have to be seen to be believed, there are few places on earth that will bring you as close to nature as Botswana does.
Whether you’re a tireless adventure seeker, a happy-go-lucky camper or simply just a curious traveller, Botswana holds some of the world’s most impressive natural spectacles that will quench everyone’s travel thirst.
The magnificent Makgadikgadi Pan, which is almost always arid and dry, transforms almost overnight into a veritable desert oasis that supports hundreds of different species from across the country, and the seemingly never-ending Kalahari Desert will enchant you with its ever-changing dancing dunes.
Botswana has elevated the humble safari to impossible heights, and turned into a fine art. Its incredible diversity of fauna and flora is only complemented and enhanced by the country’s superb game parks, lodges, and tourist activities that you can indulge in.
Botswana is the last stronghold for a number of endangered bird and mammal species, including Wild Dog, Cheetah, Brown Hyena, Cape Vulture, Wattled Crane, Kori Bustard, and Pel’s Fishing Owl. This makes your safari experience even more memorable, and at times you will feel simply surrounded by wild animals. The ﬁrst – and most lasting impressions – will be of vast expanses of uninhabited wilderness stretching from horizon to horizon, the sensation of limitless space, astoundingly rich wildlife and bird viewing, night skies littered with stars and heavenly bodies of an unimaginable brilliance, and stunning sunsets of unearthly beauty. As well, with more and more cultural tourism options on offer, you will be charmed by the people of Botswana, visiting their villages and experiencing ﬁrst-hand their rich cultural heritage.
But perhaps most of all, Botswana’s greatest gift is its ability to put us in touch with our natural selves. It offers that vital link so keenly felt by inhabitants of the developed world, a pervasive void we feel but often cannot name – our connectedness with Nature and the astonishing diversity of plants and animals to be explored.
LOCATION: Botswana is a land-locked country situated in southern Africa. It borders South Africa, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Approximately two-thirds of the country lies within the Tropics.
Botswana covers an area of 581 730 square kilometres – about the size of France or Kenya.
Most of the country is ﬂat, with some small hills in the eastern areas. Kalahari sands cover 84 percent of the surface area. With the exception of the northern areas, most of Botswana is without perennial surface water.
Francistown, Lobatse, Selebi-Phikwe
TOURISM CENTRES: Maun, Kasane
INDEPENDENCE DAY: 30 September 1966
GOVERNMENT: Multi-party democracy
NATIONAL LANGUAGE: Setswana
OFFICIAL LANGUAGE: English
MAIN EXPORTS: Diamonds, copper nickel, beef, soda ash, tourism
MAJOR CROPS: Maize, sorghum, millet
Most of Botswana is networked by automatic telephone exchanges, with public telephones in even the most remote places.
The International access code in Botswana is 00. When calling international to Botswana, dial +267.
Cellular phone coverage is provided by three mobile networks in Botswana: Mascom, Orange and be Mobile. Mobile Sim cards are available in most supermarkets and service stations. All major towns in Botswana are network covered, as well as portions of the national highway.
Mobile networks in Botswana offer various services to their subscribers, including Internet access, fax, and International Roaming. It is always important to seek advice about network services so as to choose one that will work for you.
Using a cellular phone whilst driving is against the law in Botswana, and liable to a P300 ﬁne. Earphones or hands-free devices are recommended.
Air Botswana, Botswana’s national and only airline, provides international ﬂights between Gaborone and Johannesburg, Gaborone and Harare, Maun and Johannesburg, Kasane and Johannesburg and Francistown and Johannesburg.
BOTSWANA /NAMIBIA ENTRY
BOTSWANA / SOUTH AFRICA
Pont Drift (Tuli) 08h00–16h00
Martin’s Drift 06h00–22h00
Tlokweng Gate 06h00–00h00
Ramotswa (Bridge) 07h00–19h00
Most major international airlines from Europe, the United States, Asia and Australia ﬂy to Johannesburg, South Africa, where connecting ﬂights can be booked to Sir Seretse Khama International Airport in Gaborone, or to Maun, Francistown or Kasane.
Botswana is accessible by tarred road from South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Namibia. Vehicles are driven on the left hand side of the road. A valid international driver’s license, along with vehicle registration documents, are required to drive in Botswana, and drivers should always carry them.
Most major roads in Botswana are tarred and driving conditions are generally good. The main roads to established
areas are regularly graded. Four-wheel drive is required when travelling in the national parks and reserves, as well as in remote areas.
There are scheduled bus services across borders between Botswana and South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Zambia, as well as good internal bus services linking major and minor towns and villages across the country.
There are no passenger train services in Botswana. Cargo services run on a daily basis.
It is advisable to adhere to the luggage restrictions for both scheduled international, domestic and charter ﬂights: 20kgs (44lbs)
on domestic ﬂights, 12kgs (26lbs) on light aircraft (including Okavango Delta charter
All goods acquired outside Botswana must be declared when you enter the country.
No boat, mokoro or aquatic apparatus may be imported into Botswana, unless the owner is in possession of an import permit issued by the Department of Water Affairs.
The importation of animals is closely regulated for public health reasons and also for the well being of the animals.
Domestic pets and livestock may be imported subject to animal health restrictions.
Drivers are required to carry their licenses at all times. Licenses from neighbouring countries are accepted in Botswana. If not written in English, a certiﬁed written translation is required. International drivers’ licenses are accepted in Botswana.
WHAT TO BRING
Binoculars, torch, insect repellent, lip salve, sunscreen, sunglasses. Cosmetics, medications, and cigarettes are all available in the major towns, but if speciﬁc brand names are needed, it is best to bring enough to last your stay.
However, care needs to be taken to comply with international aviation security regulations for items in carry on luggage. Contact your airline for details.
These are goods that can only be imported with a license or permit. Narcotic, habit forming drugs and related substances in any form; Firearms, ammunition and explosives; Indecent and obscene material such as pornographic books, magazines, ﬁlms, videos, DVDs and software.
Plants may be imported subject to plant health restrictions, and South African transit permits may also be required in respect of plants shipped through South Africa.
GMT plus 2 hours
All major towns in Botswana, including Maun and Kasane, have shopping centres and supermarkets, and all basic commodities can easily be purchased. Many regional chain stores operate in Botswana. In addition, there are 24-hour convenience shops at most fuel service stations.
There is an increasing range of local arts and crafts on sale in Gaborone, Maun and Kasane and other tourist areas; they include Botswana’s renowned world-class baskets, woodcarvings, jewellery, pottery, tapestries, fabrics and clothing, glassware, and San crafts.
All major towns and villages in the country have hotels, lodges, motels and guesthouses, catering to a range of budgets, and some have camping facilities. In and around parks and reserves, there are a variety of lodges, as well as camps in private concessions.
Camping facilities are widely available around the country, both at private lodges and/or hotels, and within the government parks and reserves.
NATIONAL PARKS & RESERVES
Botswana’s extensive system of national parks and game reserves comprises approximately 17% of national land area. A further 18% of national land is allocated as Wildlife Management Areas which act as buffer zones around the parks and reserves. The parks are primarily unfenced, allowing wildlife to freely roam, are situated in a variety of habitats and for the most parts are well managed.
Camping facilities are available in all national parks and reserves. Campsites typically have standpipes and ablution blocks, with toilets and showers. All camping in the national parks and reserves is in designated campsites, and campers are not allowed to camp elsewhere in the parks.
CHOBE NATIONAL PARK
A park abundant in wildlife, offering a safari experience of a lifetime.
MOREMI GAME RESERVE
Described as one of the most beautiful wildlife reserves in Africa.
NXAI PAN NATIONAL PARK
Once part of a prehistoric lake that covered central Botswana, this park is now transformed into fossil pans covered with grassland that attract an abundance of game.
MAKGADIKGADI PANS NATIONAL PARK
Part of one of the world’s largest saltpans and prehistoric lakes.
MAUN EDUCATIONAL PARK
Situated on the eastern banks of the Thamalakane River, the park is an education centre for schoolchildren; it has a variety of wildlife species that can be viewed from game hides.
CENTRAL KALAHARI GAME RESERVE
The world’s second largest reserve, holding vast open plains, scrub bush, salt pans, ancient riverbeds, and sand dunes.
KHUTSE GAME RESERVE
Characterised by undulating plains and dry Kalahari bush savannah, with an extensive mineral pan system in the reserve, which attracts animals.
KGALAGADI TRANSFRONTIER PARK
Famous for its large antelope herds, this is Africa’s ﬁrst peace park, where animals roam freely across the national borders of Botswana and South Africa.
GABORONE GAME RESERVE
Nestled in the city and a popular spot for city residents, the park offers game and bird viewing, picnic sites and an education centre.
MANNYELANONG GAME RESERVE
The name of the park derives from the Cape Vulture, an endangered bird that is protected; the area is fenced and the birds can only be viewed from afar.
SELF DRIVE CAMPING
Embarking on a camping trip in Botswana requires a good deal of planning and preparation. You will be going to remote areas, accessible only by four-wheel drive, where water, petrol or food may not be available. You may often be driving on rough terrain, and through heavy sand, in conditions very different from those you are used to.
As a general rule, take all food requirements to last your stay. Take at least 20 litres of water per person, preferably more; for desert destinations, carry between 50 and 100 litres. Carry at least 100 litres of petrol in long-range
tanks or in metal jerry tins. Take spare vehicle parts for breakdowns.
As campsites within game reserves and national parks are usually not fenced, it is important for campers to take necessary precautionary measures to ensure their safety, and to abide by the information provided by wildlife ofﬁcers.
The following basic camping rules should be strictly heeded:
- Only camp in designated campsites.
- Always sleep in your tent, roof tent or vehicle. Make sure your tent zips up well.
- Don’t sleep with legs or arms protruding from the tent.
- Use rubbish receptacles at the campsites; if there are none, carry away all rubbish until you get to the next town.
- Cigarette butts should be well extinguished and placed in a rubbish bag, not thrown on the ground.
- Make sure the campﬁre is well extinguished at the end of the evening, or after use, and cover it with sand.
- Don’t sleep on bridges or animal paths, particularly those of elephants and hippos.
- Bury all faecal matter and burn all toilet paper.
- Don’t bathe or drink from still bodies of water; there is the danger of bilharzia.
- In the Okavango, don’t swim in lagoons or streams; there is the danger of crocodiles and/or hippos.
- Children must be constantly supervised. Never leave them alone in the campsite. Never allow children to nap on the ground or in the open.
- Don’t stray far from the campsite, or walk in the bush, unless with a qualiﬁed guide.
In the Panhandle area of the Okavango, there are a number of camps and lodges that specialise in ﬁshing excursions. Fishing can also be done on the Chobe River, outside the park. Fishing is only allowed in designated areas of the national parks, and only with an ofﬁcial permit.
Ambulance 997 (toll free)
Police 999 (toll free)
Fire Brigade 998 (toll free)
Medical Rescue 911 (toll free)
Medical Air Rescue 390-1601
be mobile 1333
Botswana’s currency is Pula (which means ‘rain’ in Setswana). It is divided into 100 thebe (which means ‘shield’ in Setswana). Travellers’ cheques and foreign currency may be changed at banks, bureaux de change and authorised hotels.
The US dollar, Euros, British Pound and the South African Rand are the most easily convertible currencies (and accepted by some estabishments – but, generally, then an inflated rate of exchange will be applied).
Seven main commercial banks, as well as a number of foregin exchange bureaux, operate in Botswana. Operating hours are Monday to Friday 08h30 to 15h30 and Saturday 08h30 to 10h45.
Full banking services are available in major towns, although ATMs are sprouting up all over the country. Most credit cards are accepted at hotels and restaurants. Cultural sites and community art and craft outlets usually only accept cash. We however advise that you carry a minimal amount of cash with you while travelling as a precaution.
Public transport in Botswana is geared towards the needs of the local populace and is confined to main roads between major population centres. Although cheap and reliable, it is of little use to the traveller as most of Botswana’s tourist attractions lie off the beaten track. Driving off the main roads in Botswana is only recommended in 4×4 vehicles that are equipped correctly.
Most lodges offer transfers or they can be arranged. If, however, you will be driving in Botswana: your home driving licence will be accepted (with an official English translation if necessary; driving is on the left side of the road; and the national speed limit is on tarred roads is 120km/h and 60km/h in towns and villages.
Be sure to watch out for wild animals on the roads!
There are major airports in Maun, Kasane and Gaborone, while smaller charter flights are used to get to the other top attractions and camps.
Depending on where you will be staying while on your Botswana safari, some of the lodges and camps are situated in Malaria areas. We highly recommend that you consult your physician about malaria prophylactics at least six weeks before travelling to Botswana.
As the strains of malaria, and the drugs used to combat them, frequently change, and as certain strains can become drug resistant, it is best to seek medical advice before your departure and take any medication prescribed. Pregnant or very young children are not advised to travel to malarial areas.
Other precautions are: to wear long sleeves, socks, closed shoes, and generally keep the body covered, to sleep with a mosquito net and to use mosquito coils and repellent.
GENERAL PRECAUTION TIPS:
Sleep under the mosquito net provided in your room.
Lightly spray your room with bug repellent before you go for dinner.
At sunset, apply mosquito repellent and put on light-weight long trousers and jacket and closed shoes.
If you have visited or come from an affected area, you will have to produce a yellow fever inoculation certificate.
Please check with your nearest travel clinic for more advice on whether you will need a yellow fever certificate or not.
If you are travelling to Botswana from areas infected with Yellow Fever, you must have a valid Yellow Fever vaccination certiﬁcate. Otherwise, no other immunisations are required. However, it would be wise to have an updated TPD (tetanus, polio, diphtheria) vaccine, and a Hepatitis A vaccine.
It is essential for visitors to remote areas of Botswana to have a comprehensive medical insurance policy, to provide coverage for the treatment of serious illnesses/accidents, and if required, medical evacuation. Personal effects insurance is also advisable.
Check that your insurance policy will be accepted by service providers in Botswana. Ensure that you are treated by licensed medical personnel to enable you to provide your insurance company with appropriate documentation and receipts.
Reasonably priced medical services are available at government clinics and hospitals throughout the country. Private medical practitioners are available in the cities and major towns, such as Gaborone, Francistown and Maun.
Gaborone Private Hospital is the largest private hospital in Botswana. The hospital requires medical coverage, or cash payment in advance where medical coverage is not available.
SUN AND HEAT-RELATED PROBLEMS
Always take preventive measures that include wearing a wide-brimmed sunhat and sunglasses, liberally applying sunscreen every three or four hours, regularly taking rehydration mixes, drinking plenty of water and fruit juices (at least three litres of liquid daily), avoiding prolonged exposure to the sun, and avoiding excessive amounts of alcohol, which causes dehydration.
GENERAL HEALTH TIPS:
Wash your hands regularly with soap but especially after using the toilet and before eating. Carry anti-bacterial hand gel if soap and water are not easily available especially in public areas and budget accommodation facilities.
Do not underestimate the effects of the sun. Apply high SPF sunscreen regularly and wear a sun hat.
Drink plenty of water, avoid alcohol and seek medical assistance if you feel shaky, nauseous or clammy after a day in the sun as you may be suffering from sunstroke.
Ensure that your regular vaccinations – such as rabies, tetanus, influenza, MMR and hepatitis are up to date.
Although incidents of theft are extremely rare, for peace of mind make use of your in-room safe or the Hotel’s safe to store your extra cash, travel documents, jewellery, cameras and electronic gadgets when you do not require them. Make sure you have your local currency with you in case you need to make a local purchase.
Tap water is considered safe to drink, although outside main cities and towns, visitors are advised to check first and sterilise water if in any doubt. Bottled water is available in most tourist centres. Filtered water is available at most camps and shops offer bottled water – it is advised to be well stocked of bottled water if you are travelling off the beaten track. Milk is pasteurised, and dairy products, local meat, poultry, seafood, fruit and vegetables are generally safe.
Safari lodges and camps serve international-style cuisine, generally of an extremely high standard, along with local beer and imported wine and spirits. Good restaurants and bars can be found in main towns, often within hotels.
Beef and goat are very popular meats. Elsewhere, food is more basic: millet and sorghum porridge are the local staples.
A discretionary 5 to 10% tip is typical for restaurant bills. In many places, a service charge is automatically added. Though not mandatory, it is customary to tip the game guide and lodge staff while on safari.
Botswana’s climatic pattern is typical of southern Africa, although its rainfall is less than countries further east. The rains in Botswana come mostly between December and March, when average minimum temperatures are in the low 20°s. Some days will be bright and sunny, some will have afternoon thunderstorms, and some will just be grey.
As with Namibia, April and May in Botswana are generally lovely, with the sky clear and the landscape green. Night temperatures start to drop during these months, especially in the Kalahari.
Note that places in and around the Okavango tend to have less extreme, more moderate temperatures than the drier areas of the Kalahari.
From June to August the night-time temperatures in drier areas can be close to freezing, but it warms up rapidly during the day, when the sky is usually clear and blue. It’s now very much ‘peak season’ for most safari areas: the land is dry in most areas so the animals congregate around the few available water sources.
This continues into September and October, when temperatures climb again, drying the landscapes and concentrating the game even more. This is the best time for big game safaris – although October can feel very hot, with maximum temperatures sometimes approaching 40°C.
November is difficult to predict, as it can sometimes be a continuation of October’s heat, whilst sometimes it’s cooled by the first rains; it’s always an interesting month.
In summer, lightweight, lightcoloured cottons are preferable. Avoid synthetic materials and black clothing, as they increase perspiration and discomfort. In winter, wear trousers, longsleeved shirts / blouses and jerseys. From May –August, night temperatures can fall below zero degrees celsius, so warm jerseys and jackets are vital, especially on morning and evening game drives. Garments of neutral colours that blend with the bush and forest are advisable for safaris and game viewing. Bring a lightweight jacket and/or jersey for unexpected temperature changes or rain.
Closed, comfortable walking shoes or gym shoes are a must in all seasons. Special attention should be given to protection from the sun. Bring a sunhat, good quality sunscreen, sun lotion and polarised sunglasses. Wide brimmed sun hats are essential.
Electrical sockets (outlets) in Botswana are the “Type M ” South African SABS1661 (“Large” 15 amp BS-546) sockets.
This is actually an old British standard. The “Type M ” South African plug and socket is not to be confused with the “Type D ” Indian plug and socket. In pictures, they look very similar, but the South African type is much larger than the Indian type, and they are physically incompatible. If your appliance’s plug doesn’t match the shape of these sockets, you will need a travel plug adapter in order to plug in. Travel plug adapters simply change the shape of your appliance’s plug to match whatever type of socket you need to plug into.
Electrical sockets (outlets) in Botswana usually supply electricity at between 220 and 240 volts AC. If you’re plugging in an appliance that was built for 220-240 volt electrical input, or an appliance that is compatible with multiple voltages, then an adapter is all you need.
But travel plug adapters do not change the voltage, so the electricity coming through the adapter will still be the same 220-240 volts the socket is supplying. If you need to use appliances that are not compatible with 220-240 volt electrical input, you will need a voltage converter.
Refrain from giving money to beggars. If you do want to contribute, either buy food, toiletries or clothing and donate them to a local charity or shelter or set up an online financial contribution.
In markets, haggle for the fun of it, not to drive a ‘hard bargain’. Be fair to the seller and remember that a few extra pula to you maybe a substantial portion of the seller’s daily income, which has to cover transport, stock and food.
Always ask before taking photographs of people and respect their wishes if they decline, they may be happy to pose in return for cash, it is up to you whether you go ahead.
Respect local customs and traditions.
Be careful of ostentatious displays of wealth. Consider the surroundings before you wear every expensive jewellery, waste of food by throwing it away or show favouritisim to one member of staff with lavish tips that you don’t give to others. Rather reward exemplary service discreetly.
Do not photographs airports, borders, government buildings, security personnel, immigration officials or army or navy installations.
Drone cameras are subject to national security laws. Using one without the proper permist can lead to arrest, prosecution, confiscation of the drone and a substantial fine or imprisonment.
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