From the waterways of the Okavango Delta to the Makgadikgadi pans, we share our favourite safari lodges in Botswana.
11 Apr 2023
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Botswana is one of the best places in the world to see wildlife, and punches way above its weight, having an amazing range of environments for one country, plus the world's most famous inland river delta. There is a very wide range of accommodation to suit all budgets, from wild camping to immense tented suites. What you will love is completely subjective, but here are some of my favourites.
Starting with Botswana’s biggest draw, the Okavango Delta, I have divided this up into looking at accommodation options in Chief’s Island and the Moremi Game Reserve, and then looking at the Khwai area.
The Okavango Delta – Chief’s Island and Moremi Game Reserve
1. Mombo Camp
Best for Ultra-Luxe
Renowned as the most luxurious camp in the Delta, Mombo delivers when it comes to glamour! Main Mombo has 8 super stylish tented suites (one is a Family Suite), and Little Mombo has just 3, each with its own huge wrap-around veranda with a plunge pool and day beds overlooking the waters of the Okavango. The interiors take safari chic to the limit, there are design details everywhere, such as pigmy beds from the Congo used as coffee tables. The beds are vast, the deep bathtubs are brass, the chandeliers sparkly, and there are indoor and outdoor showers. It is the perfect spot for a luxury Botswana safari.
Mombo’s location means that it is one of the first camps in the area to welcome the arrival of the annual flood and it enjoys exceptional game viewing year round. It’s also the best place in the Okavango to spot Black and White Rhino
Off the beaten track, even by Okavango Delta standards, Delta Camp is a pared-back and simple camp, perfect for the adventurous type. There are no engines here, and activities are firmly focused on walking and mokoro (canoe) trips. The camp is deeply rooted in the local community and almost all the staff are drawn from the nearby village, so the connection to the area is strong.
Delta Camp has only 8 simple chalets, nested amongst the trees. They are all slightly different and some have 2 bedrooms making them ideal for families. My favourite room has no front wall at all so you are completely immersed in the landscape. Elephants passing through the camp shake the palm trees sending palm nuts clattering onto your roof – quite a wake-up but you get used to it quickly.
Delta Camp also boasts Botswana’s best treehouse. Nestled high up in a Mukuchumo tree, the treehouse has just been refurbished and has the bedroom, bathroom and deck all on one level. It is possibly not the overnight stop for vertigo sufferers but if you’re adventurous, and romantic and want to enjoy incredible views of elephants wandering underneath you this is the bedroom of your dreams!
Oddballs is a perfect reflection of its name, a joyously offbeat oasis in the heart of Chief’s Island. It was started to offer those with a smaller budget access to the heart of one of the best wildlife areas in the world, and it continues to do just that.
It’s been slightly upgraded since its early days of shared loos, and now all the tents have en-suite loos and showers, but it still stays true to its roots. The staff, like that at its big sister camp Delta, are all drawn from the local village, there are no engines at all, and peace, nature and relaxation are the main events here.
‘Camp O’ as it’s affectionately known amongst old Botswana hands has an enviable location in the heart of the deep lagoons, large lakes and hidden, meandering channels of the Delta and therefore is one of the best places to explore by water all year round.
There are no game drives here, the focus is firmly aquatic! When and if you tire of boating, fishing and mokoro trips you can take game walks on nearby islands.
The camp is small enough to feel intimate and luxurious, but just big enough to have a buzz and the staff are likely to burst into song at any time, be prepared!
The Khwai area on the Northern edge of the Okavango Delta’s ‘outstretched hand’ comprises of a number of concessions, many of which are former hunting areas, which are now being successfully rehabilitated for the benefit of wildlife and wildlife lovers.
Stylish and playful
Tuludi is a small and elegant camp located in Khwai Private Reserve. It has only seven ‘treehouse style’ tents set beneath Leadwood trees and overlooking the game-rich floodplains. The main area is full of playful touches – the camp is connected by wooden walkways, and a slide takes you down from the elevated library to the main area. The details are beautiful and Tuludi has Botswana’s most beautiful bar – no contest!
What’s more, you’re doing good when you stay here, Natural Selection place conservation at the top of its agenda and proceeds from Tuludi are channelled straight back into the eco-tourism initiatives of the area and to the surrounding communities
North of the Delta lie the Savute (or Savuti) and Linyanti areas, which link the delta with the Chobe River and are magnet for migrating elephants. It’s difficult to get to by road as the ‘roads’ are just deep sand tracks but ideal as part of a fly-in safari.
Savute is named after a mysterious channel which flows in a completely unpredictable manner unrelated to rainfall.
6. Linyanti Bush Camp
Best for off-the-beaten-track
In a country where everywhere is off the beaten track, Linyanti Bush Camp still takes the cake. Overlooking the Linyanti Marsh and backed by a forest of huge leadwood trees Linyanti rewards the intrepid traveller with great sightings of elephant and buffalo which are attracted to feed in the marsh.
It has only 7 tents so you feel far from the busier areas of the neighbouring Chobe National Park and I’m including it because it has lovely staff who make you feel perfectly at home, herds of ellies wander past the front of the camp and because of its location, you feel very much the explorer of times gone by.
Tents are simple but spacious with decks overlooking the marsh, and the honeymoon tent features an old-fashioned claw-footed bath on the deck – perfect for sipping champagne in!
One of the best options in Savute, and perfect for luxury-loving explorers is andBeyond’s Savute under Canvas. No one does mobile luxury like andBeyond and this camp is no exception. It only has 5 expedition-style tents and is entirely off-grid.
The tents are spacious and simple but a personal butler is on hand throughout so you definately won’t feel like you’re roughing it. andBeyond are famed for the quality of their service and nothing is stinted on, you’ll experience restaurant quality food, fine wines and exceptional attention to detail.
Game viewing is great - the Savute Marsh area is famed for its elephant-hunting lions, but other wildlife thrives and there are other attractions, such as the rock paintings at nearby Gubatsa Hills and walking to see a nearby avenue of ancient baobabs.
Where Namibia meets Botswana meets Zimbabwe meets Zambia is where you’ll find the Chobe River and Chobe National Park, home to one of the largest elephant populations in Africa.
It’s not everyone’s favourite area as it does attract a high number of visitors due to its proximity to the transport hubs of Vic Falls, Kasane and Livingstone, however, the wide blue waters of the river are undeniably beautiful and a sunset boat cruise is a glorious way to end the day and to take beautiful photos of ellie’s playing in the water.
8. Chobe Game Lodge
Best for location
The only permanent structure in the National Park, Chobe Game Lodge has an unmatched glamourous back story. It was where Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton honeymooned back in the 60s. The honeymoon suite is still the room to have, with its own plunge pool overlooking the grounds and the river.
The interiors of the rooms are light and bright with barrel roofs and colourful textiles. All have views facing over the manicured lawns (featuring the occasional warthog) to the dazzling blue waters of the Chobe River beyond. Chobe Game Lodge is also committed to lightening its environmental footprint, introducing electric safari vehicles and boats, and has recently been remodelled to ensure that it is fully wheelchair accessible.
The Tuli Block is a wedge of land located in the far Eastern corner of Botswana, between South Africa and Zimbabwe at the confluence of the Limpopo and Shashe Rivers. It’s one of Botswana’s lesser-known destinations but is really easy to self-drive to from Johannesburg.
Mashatu is long established and the best-known lodge in the area, and rightly so, with an excellent reputation for game viewing and amazing elephant photography from its water-level hide.
But I’m also including a relatively new kid on the (Tuli) block, Koro Island Camp.
9. Koro Island Camp
Best new camp
I love Koro because it’s located on an island in the middle of the river and is only accessible by a suspension bridge so just getting to it makes you feel like Tarzan. It sleeps a maximum of 8 guests so is ideal for small groups or families with great outdoor space from which to enjoy a campfire and listen to the sounds of the night.
The tents are Meru style, under shade netting to keep them cooler, and feature en suite outdoor bathrooms, some with clawfoot bathtubs, perfect for stargazing, and the silk sheets add a touch of luxury. From Koro Island you can take walking safaris in the rugged Kopje strewn landscape, game drives and learn more about their pioneering research into the area’s wildlife.
The alien landscapes of Makgadikgadi Pans are reminders of a time when a prehistoric superlake covered most of Botswana. Now the pans are home to migrating herds of zebra and flocks of waterbirds including flamingos during the rainy season.
San Camp shimmers above the bright white pans like a mirage, its white tents redolent of India’s colonial past. The interiors of the guest tents are luxurious with huge raised beds, and wooden panelled en suites. The communal areas are filled with cabinets of curiosities, fossils, animal skulls and prehistoric tools. There is plenty in here to keep you distracted, but of course, the adventure is outside. You can quad bike across the pans, go visit the habituated colony of meerkats nearby or go searching for elusive big game such as brown hyena and aardvark.
San Camp - glamorous, remote and utterly romantic.
I’ve already touched upon the fact that it’s not the cheapest location for a safari but Botswana is so worth saving up for! It delivers wildlife viewing experiences like nowhere else, and there is a camp, or selection of camps that will work for all budgets, allowing the safari lover to enjoy the thrill of back-to-basics canvas expedition camps to the hedonistic heaven of private plunge pools and butler service for those that like their wildlife with 5 stars. It’s possible to mix it up and experience different styles of camp across the different ecosystems, the possibilities are almost endless!
Ready to book your Botswana safari? Get in touch with one of our experts today - 01768 603715.