A Botswana safari is an excellent trip to undertake because the setting is as unique as you will find anywhere in Africa, the game viewing is exceptional and the accommodation is top notch.
By using travel journals submitted at the African Safari Journals website, my personal experience of over twenty years, forums, magazines and the general consensus in the travel industry this is the list of the five best national parks and game reserves to go on a Botswana safari in…
1. Okavango Delta and Moremi GR
The Okavango Delta must qualify as the most unique and varied safari area in Africa.
The delta lies in the North of Botswana and it consists of narrow water channels lined by papyrus, floodplains covered knee deep in water, hippo filled lagoons, forest glades and savannah grassland.
You can go on outstanding wildlife viewing expeditions here on foot, using a 4×4 vehicle, a mokoro (dug-out canoe) or a motorised boat.
Vast herds of buffalo, elephant, gazelle and zebra roam this rich ecosystem which is fed by the Okavango river which has its source in the Angolan highlands and floods the delta every year.
This treasure trove of available prey attracts the predators too and lion, leopard, cheetah and wild dog thrive here. The dry season is the best for game viewing because the animals are drawn to the permanent water sources.
The Moremi game reserve consists of strictly controlled, privately managed concessions and it falls within the Okavango delta area and has no fences which leaves the animals free to roam around as they please.
There are a number of upmarket Botswana safari lodges in Moremi such as the Vumbura concession which contains both wetland and savannah areas for the best of both worlds.
The Delta is at its most impressive in August when the water is at its deepest and most of the young are born between November and March when the vegetation is lush and dense so it might be a good idea to plan any botswana safari to coincide with these events.
2. Chobe NP
One of the defining activities of a Botswana safari in the Chobe National Park is to take a cruise on a river boat just before sunset on the stretch of the Chobe river from Kasane town to Serondela campsite and watch masses of hippo, crocodile and elephant along the banks as the fiery orb dips slowly beneath the horizon with a glass of champagne in your hand.
But you shouldn’t restrict yourself to only this area because a deeper exploration of the park will reveal a great variety of habitats, wildlife and birds.
The area is rich in plant life and contains floodplain, grassland, baobab, mopane woodland and sandveld habitats. This is elephant country and there are so many of them that they cause considerable damage to the vegetation in the park.
It also has big buffalo herds (which attract lion and hyena), zebra, lechwe, the chobe bushbuck and the rare puku antelope. Leopard and cheetah also avail themselves of the big gazelle herds and the Savuti channel which bisects the park is a good place to see the predators.
Over 440 species of bird have been recorded here including the rare Pels fishing owl which can be spotted at dusk and small flocks of African skimmers which visit in June and July. The distinctive call of the Fish Eagle is a common sound as they thrive in this water rich area.
There are over twenty species of edible fish that you can catch in the Chobe river.
3. Mashatu GR
This is the largest privately owned game reserve in Southern Africa and it is situated in the remote eastern part of Botswana at the confluence of the Limpopo and Shashe rivers.
A Botswana safari here will reveal no less than seven of Africa’s giants: the African elephant, the lion, giraffe, the baobab tree, the eland, the ostrich, and the kori bustard.
Night drives are available which will allow you to see leopard, genet, serval, caracal, aardwolf, aardvark and springhares and because this is a private reserve off-road riding is allowed which gets you much closer to the animals and helps in tracking them.
You are almost guaranteed of seeing the big five here and a large variety of birdlife too such as the martial and black eagles, kingfishers, rollers and the strange looking ground hornbill.
4. Linyanti GR
The Linyanti river forms a natural border between Botswana and Namibia and on its southern banks the Linyanti reserve contains marshland and lagoons similar to the Okavango farther south.
This is a private reserve so off road and night drives are the order of the day and some fantastic game viewing is on offer with a proliferation of birdlife too. The wildlife here lives in a world of floodplain grassland– dotted with islands of ivory palms and other trees– savannah, scrub and woodland.
Rare and beautiful antelope like the sable, roan, red lechwe and the aquatic sitatunga which submerges itself under the water when it feels threatened make their home here. The main predators are lion, hyena, leopard, cheetah, wild dog, serval and bat eared foxes.
If you are very lucky on your Botswana safari, you might catch a glimpse of the multi colored Narina Trogon bird which is quite rare in this area.
5. Makgadikgadi NP
For a Botswana safari with a difference, the Makgadikgadi National park is hard to beat.
Standing in this vast expanse which was once a superlake but has dried up to form a huge salt pan which is flat as far as the eye can see with an occasional rocky outcrop and sand dune dotting the landscape is an amazing experience.
And the contrast with the wet season when the park is transformed into a water wonderland is simply breathtaking. Wildebeest, zebra, springbok and gemsbok migrate here during the rainy season to take advantage of the temporary pans that form and then leave again once they start drying up in the searing heat of the dry season and if the rains are good thousands of migratory flamingos arrive to breed.
The primary objective in visiting this reserve is not to view game because the areas they frequent during the rainy season are virtually inaccessible, but to experience the magnificent solitude and true isolation of this location.
You will experience millions of stars in the night sky and absolute unremitting silence which is a rare thing in the modern world.