On Safari in Botswana

Once a year deep in the central African highlands, heavy seasonal rains fall. Floodwaters gather momentum and head south into the Kalahari Desert forming the largest inland delta in the world – The Okavango Delta in northern Botswana. This unique wetland supports and sustains a huge diversity of wildlife and is considered by many to be one of Africa’s most prolific wildlife and wilderness sanctuaries.

This natural phenomenon contrasts with another flourishing ecosystem driven by different stimuli in the Chobe and Linyanti regions north of the delta. The many varied habitats within the Chobe and Linyanti wildlife areas – such as marshes, waterways, riverine forests, dry woodlands and the world-famous Savute Channel – have created an area renowned for its predators and large concentrations of game, particularly elephant that can sometime gather to some 400 strong.

Botswana government abandoned mass tourism and focused on high quality / low volume tourism as the best way to create a sustainable industry that would employ a large percentage of its people, while still preserving the environment. Today wildlife and tourism employs about 45% of the population in northern Botswana. The country has remained focused on delivering the finest possible authentic wildlife experience, which is accomplished through one of Africa’s most sensible land plans ever devised. While there are national parks open to the general public, much of the country’s most productive wildlife areas lie outside these parks in private reserves known as concessions. These concessions are leased out to safari companies that must manage them within strict guidelines to prevent overcrowding, must train and employ local people and are obliged to pay for the privilege of using these areas. In this way 40% of the country has been set aside for wildlife.

It is for this reason that a relatively high-end budget is required to experience a safari in Botswana. The all-inclusive luxury game lodges within the private concessions have exquisite remote settings, all naturally blending in to their surroundings. Access into the Okavango Delta and Linyanti Region is limited to light aircraft chartered flights adding to the magnificent wildlife and nature experience of your safari as you fly over the game rich areas and water wonderland.

The best time of the year to travel to Botswana:

The winter season is generally known as the best season to view game in Africa because it is the dry season. The bush is dry and largely leafless making it easier to spot the game and the game tends to gather at waterholes to quench their thirst and are therefore easy to find. However the green season in Botswana has incredible diversity and what’s more is it offers “out of season” rates.

The green season (summer) covers the months November to April and has long been considered low season by the travel trade. Because rain has fallen game has dispersed, vegetation is thicker and humidity is higher. As a result many would rather send their clients elsewhere. To do so is to miss out on an explosion of life and colour and some exceptional game and bird viewing in spectacular scenery. The birthing of multiple antelope species makes for interesting predator–prey interactions and the myriad migratory bird species and green luxuriance make for spectacular photographic backdrops. Of course some areas do become less productive, but the trick is picking an itinerary that takes in those areas that produce year round high quality game viewing, as well as those areas that come into their own in summer.

Although the rain received in the summer months has a minimal affect on the water levels of the Okavango Delta, this is not the main cause of high and low water levels. In fact the delta high-water level takes place in the dry winter – April to October or November. It takes many months for the summer floodwaters from the Central African Highlands to reach the Okavango Delta, once again changing its appearance and therefore the experiences available to you.

To enhance your wildlife and nature experience, many varied inclusive activities are available to you from these luxury game lodges. Safaris by boat and dugout canoe (mokoro) allow an amble stroll through the peaceful waterways and are particular brilliant for bird watching, while game drives and night drives by open 4×4 vehicles are best for tracking the animals. Guided walks are unsurpassed experiences for being in touch with nature. Elephant back safaris are available from specific camps as well. This is however an optional experience at an extra cost.

Mobile tented safaris are also available for walking safari experiences, concentrating on wildlife rich areas guests would not normally see. Walking on safari has always been regarded as one of the finest ways to get a feel for the African wilderness, allowing guests to get their feet on the ground and get away from vehicles, to really feel, smell and touch Africa.

Money matters:

While all the luxury game lodges are sold on an all-inclusive basis, some do not include all drinks and none include tips (tips are however not compulsory). These lodges do accept MasterCard and Visa credit cards as well as travellers cheques for little extras that you may need. They also accept US dollar, British pound, Euro and Rand cash. The local currency is the Pula.

Allow Botswana to show you her true colours, to creep in under your skin and leave you beaming with excitement as you return home to tell friends and family about your  African safari adventure.