Botswana is undoubtedly one of the most renowned safari destinations. We share a few incredible facts that you may not have known about this remarkable safari destination.
02 Aug 2022
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Botswana is undoubtedly one of the most renowned safari destinations. With phenomenal wildlife, incredible vistas, great weather for the majority of the year and incredibly welcoming people it’s effortless to see why.
I have been lucky enough to live and travel throughout Africa and have been putting safaris together for 7 years. Every country has its own draws with elements making special in their own right. However, I am going to share a few incredible facts that you may not have known about Botswana before, and they may you help in deciding where you want to go and what you want to experience on your own Botswana safari.
1. The largest population of elephants in Africa
Botswana is the go-to destination for elephants. With numbers thought to be in excess of 140,000, it is home to roughly a third of Africa’s overall elephant population. Since a hunting ban was put in place in 2014, elephant numbers in Botswana have been gradually increasing and with conservation efforts gaining praise from preservationists around the world.
Although hunting has recently been reintroduced, it is still finding its place and Botswana continues to be an elephant population stronghold and almost a talisman for the rest of Africa to follow suit. The largest populations can be seen in Northern Botswana with mega herds seen throughout the Okavango Delta, Chobe National Park and the Kwando Linyanti areas. When deciding between camps for your trip you will be very unlucky to see large numbers of elephants at any of the Okavango Delta, Chobe or Linyanti camps.
However, some of my best encounters have been sitting on the decking of my tent at Kwando Linyanti Camp. Located in the huge, private Kwando Reserve between the banks of the Chobe and Okavango Rivers this area is home to thousands of elephants. On a recent 2 night stay, we were treated to leopard sightings, lion, the elusive brown hyena and to top it off the daily visit of mega herds of 300+ elephants drinking from the lagoon in front of our rooms on a daily basis.
2. National Parks and reserves make up 40% of Botswana
One of the main reasons safari goers have such a big draw to Botswana is the experience of true wilderness it provides. Many people go on safari to get away from the crowds and experience nature in its truest form. Botswana provides this more than any other country in Africa. This does however result in many of the camps being unobtainable due to the cost of this exclusivity.
Botswana works on a high-cost, low-volume tourism model that allows exclusive wildlife experiences in extremely remote and game-rich areas. Unlike several other safari destinations, the remoteness of camps means many of them are only accessible by a small plane charter, although this increases the cost of the trip it certainly adds to the adventure.
Botswana understands the importance of conservation and the addition of travel and tourism brings to the economy, therefore much of the land mass is divided up into National Parks, game reserves, private concessions, and protected areas. The most famous are Moremi Game Reserve in the Okavango Delta, Chobe National Park and the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. Botswana has the ability to do this with relative ease and little conflict between humans and wildlife with the 7th lowest population density in the world.
3. Home to the world's largest salt pans
The Makgadikgadi Salt Pans are a place I hold very close to my heart. I spent nearly 3 years guiding here soaking up all the sights and sounds this incredible environment has and I had some of the best teachers possible, the Zu’hoasi bushmen who have made this area home for thousands of years. Covering an area of over 30,000 km2 the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans are the largest in the world surpassing the Bolivian Salar de Uyuni salt pan.
What makes the Makgadikgadi so special is its incredible species diversity. Unlike the Okavango Delta to the North, the Makgadikgadi doesn’t have the large numbers of plains game but it is home to the more elusive species such as aardwolf, brown hyena and meerkats. The open expanses of grassland blending into the flat saltpans provide little cover against a searching spotlight making night drives a must.
During the wetter months (December – March) the rains completely change the habitat. Lush grasses absorb the nutrients around the pans inviting Africa’s second largest Zebra migration to head west from the Boteti River and graze with predators such as cheetah and lion following. From a birder's point of view, these winter months are also a great time to see flamingos with both the greater and lesser flamingos migrate to the pans to feed, mate and lay their eggs.
There are 3 camps which are stand out choices for accommodation. Jacks Camp, San Camp and Camp Kalahari are run by the same operator and are perfectly located on the edge of the pans offering year-round access to the surrounding wildlife and most importantly offering the chance to access the salt pans when they are dry enough.
4. Home to the world's largest inland delta
At over 15,000 km2 the Okavango Delta is the largest inland delta in the world and combined with the pristine untouched wildlife it is often referred to as the cloest thing to Eden on this planet. It may be due to its size that it is one of the most wildlife-rich parts of Africa with one of the highest densities of elephants and large carnivores on the continent, making it one of the must-visit areas for any Botswana safari.
Completely landlocked with the Caprivi Strip to the North, Nxai Pan and Chobe to the East and the Central Kalahari to the South the Okavango Deltas waterways bring life through the Kalahari Sands. 40% of the Delta system is the designated Moremi Game Reserve with the rest made up of over 20 private concessions.
Mombo Camp is at the top of the list for any itinerary, although it does command a well-deserved high price tag. This is one of the initial areas where white and black rhinos were reintroduced and is now a real stronghold for both species. Its location on the northern edge of Chiefs Island surrounded by floodplains and permanent water provides the perfect habitat for a large diversity of species. In its remote location away from human interaction in the heart of the Okavango numbers have been able to thrive providing incredible game viewing throughout the year. With frequent sightings of lions, cheetah, leopards, wild dogs and hyenas it’s a real predator hotspot. The best time to visit the Okavango delta is between May and October.
The rains fall from November to March resulting in lush green bush, tall grasses and plenty of surface water causing the game to disperse meaning sighting can be tougher. However, don’t be deterred, the game is still there but it just takes a little longer to find and the scenery is spectacular. From May onwards the surface water retreats into the sands, the grasses soon die back and the bush opens up. During these winter months the game just gets better and better, although remember, this is a remote and wild pace so plenty of luck is still involved.
5. Easy access to other destinations
Few people know that Botswana is home to the world’s shortest border. The border between Botswana and Zambia is only 700m long making wonders such as the Victoria Falls accessible by a short drive through immigration from the gates of Chobe National Park.
Travellers with more time on their hands can make the most of Botswana’s numerous different wildlife hotspots as part of a larger overland self-drive trip to explore other bordering countries such as Namibia, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Zambia.
The beauty of Botswana is that every trip to this magical destination is incredible and unforgettable for each and every minute of each and every day. But knowing the right places to go at the right times can really help you make the most out of your time away. Call or make an online enquiry to speak to one of our experts about your travel plans.