Top 10 Destinations in Botswana
Described as the ‘river which never finds the sea’ and ‘the jewel of the Kalahari’, the Okavango Delta is a huge expanse of water in northern Botswana, which has travelled from the Angolan highlands, spreading out to form the largest inland river delta in the world. Studded with exotic islands and reed banks, the Delta is renowned for its incredible variety of bird life and animals including elephant, lion, leopard, buffalo, zebra, giraffe, wildebeest, hippo and crocodile, amongst others. The best way to see the delta is by mokoro, traditionally a canoe dug out from a large tree, today a more environmentally friendly version. Relax and take in the beautiful scenery and wildlife, whilst your poler navigates the maze of waterways. The swamps and surrounding area can be navigated in a 4x4.
Chobe National Park
Chobe National Park is the second largest park in Botswana and covers an area of 10,566 km². With areas of marshland, flood plains, savannah, grasslands, woodland and the Chobe and Savuti Rivers, the park is wonderfully diverse. Chobe has one of the greatest concentrations of game found on the African continent and is known for its elephant population, with some 120,000 based in the park. The elephants tend to be very large but their ivory is brittle, so they only have short tusks. As well as elephant, an abundance of giraffe, zebra, impala, sable, wildebeest, kudu, waterbuck, warthogs, eland, lion and hyena can be seen, and if you are very lucky, cheetah and leopard. In the northern areas near Kasane, game viewing on a Chobe Sunset River Cruise is a particular highlight. The Savuti area is in the south west of Chobe National Park, just above the Okavango Delta and covers 5000 km². Referred to as ‘The Kingdom of the Lion’ due to the high density of lions in the area, Savuti is renowned for its prime game viewing with an abundance of wildlife, both predators and prey.
Moremi Game Reserve
Moremi Game Reserve covers some 4,871 km² (70% of which is part of the Okavango Delta) and is considered one of the most beautiful wildlife reserves in Africa as it combines mopane woodland and acacia forests, lily covered wetlands, flood plains and lagoons. Moremi consists of a network of waterways surrounding two large islands - Chiefs Island in the west and Mopane Tongue in the east. In this pristine wilderness area birdlife is prolific and varied, with over 500 species ranging from water birds to forest dwellers. There are many species of ducks, geese and heron as well. As Moremi is a fenced reserve, game viewing is impressive throughout the year. Elephants are numerous, particularly during the dry season, as well as buffalo, giraffe, lion, leopard, cheetah, wild dog, hyena, jackal and the full range of antelope.
Central Kalahari Game Reserve
The Central Kalahari Game Reserve is a staggering 52,800km² making it the second largest game reserve in the world. The striking landscape is characterized by shimmering salt pans, semi arid grassland, fossilized river valleys and bushveld. The reserve has a diverse range of wildlife including vast herds of antelope and its legendary black maned lions. In summer thousands of animals graze on the flourishing plains and the rains cause magnificent dust clouds. Four fossilized rivers run through the reserve, including the beautiful Deception Valley, which is one of the best areas for game viewing. As one of the world’s most uninhabited regions (with under a 1,000 residents, most of which are the hunter-gatherer Bushmen who have inhabited the Kalahari for 30,000 years), you can game drive all day and not bump into another soul.
Makgadikgadi & Nxai Pan National Park
The lesser-known Makgadikgadi and Nxai Pan National Park is a vast area that includes Ntwetwe Pan, Kudiakam Pan, Nxai Pan and Makgadikgadi Pan, which is the largest of them all. These salt pans are all that remain of an ancient great central Botswana lake that covered the Kalahari several million years ago. In the dry season the plains of the national park are barren. Animals gather to drink and resident hippos wallow in the deep pools of water, which are all that remain of the dried up Boteti River. At this time of year the never-ending ethereal lunar landscape of glistening salt pans is spectacular and quad biking is popular. When the rains come, a dramatic change is seen as the area springs to life - grasslands flourish and the pans fill up with water, attracting a fantastic array of waterbirds and triggering spectacular migrations of wildebeest and zebra.
Tuli BlockThe Tuli Block is located in the easternmost corner of Botswana, where the Limpopo and Shashe Rivers meet and integrates the Mashatu Game Reserve, Tuli Nature Reserve and other smaller game reserves. It is an area of diverse and compelling beauty, with rocky outcrops, riverine forests, giant baobab trees and open savannah plains, which are a haven for the largest single population of elephants on private land. This unspoiled wilderness is also home to giraffe, wildebeest, kudu and zebra, and predators such as cheetah, leopard and hyena but the main attraction is the rare black-maned lion. The history of the area dates back an amazing 80 million years, with several interesting Stone Age sites, wonderful African Rock Art on the Tswapong and Lepokole hills and curious geographical rock formations such as Solomon’s Wall.
Nicknamed the ‘Louvre of the Desert’, the Tsodilo Hills are covered in over 4,500 cave paintings created thousands of years ago. The hills have been declared a UNESCO site due to their fascinating history, and for the Sans people that have lived here for over 30,000 years with their drawings dating back as early as 500 AD. Botswana is a fairly flat country with the Tsodolio Hills rising dramatically out from the western Khalari Desert. It’s an incredible sight especially when the rock face turns a bright copper color with the setting sun. The area is of huge spiritual significance to the people who live here. As you spend the day here and follow the trails, coming across the rock paintings along the way, you’ll see the history of the Sans people and their interaction with animals n front of your own very eyes.
Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park
The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is an immense wilderness, a mesmerizing desert landscape of pans, towering red dunes, and fossil river valleys. Covering 38,000km across both South Africa and Botswana, it was created by the two countries in 1999, in the process becoming the world's first Transfrontier Park. The reserve is home to large numbers of prey animals, including springbok, gemsbok, and wildebeest. This in turn attracts the predators that travelers really want to see, including lions, hyenas, leopards, and a healthy population of cheetah. Another bonus of visiting the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is that you're quite likely to have the place to yourself! Given its remote location, it attracts only a fraction of the visitors of other parks, so if you're prepared to make the effort, you will be rewarded.
In the northeast of Chobe National Park, the Linyanti River forms a swamp area similar to that of the Okavango Delta but on a much smaller scale. For those who make the journey to this hard-to-reach corner of Botswana, they’ll be rewarded with a safari that feels almost exclusive due to the lack of people and 4x4 vehicles heading out each day to discover what wildlife the endless vistas holds. The wetlands are home to three private concessions with the swamps, open grasslands and riverine forests holding a diverse range of fauna. The area is perfect for canoe safaris. Huge herds of elephants and buffalo congregate along the river alongside large concentrations of lion, hippo and antelope and if you’re lucky even the odd wild dog and leopard.
Savuti National Park
Savuti is famous for its mysterious Savuti Channel which flows and subsides seemingly with no relation to rainfall. Stretching for 100km from the Chobe River, it was dry for over 70 years after 1880 before flooding again in 1957. The intriguing landscape and ecology supports what is known as one of Africa’s best game hotspots, with a high density of predators. Any safari here is wild, remote and full of exceptional wildlife spotting whilst being immersed in one of Botswana’s most beautiful areas. It’s here you can also see one of Africa’s incredible migrations as thousands of zebras make the journey to the Savuti for the lush grass during November and December. As with many other national parks, the dry season is a wonderful time to spot the huge prides of lions hunting their prey collecting around the shrinking waterholes.
For further help planning your trip to Botswana, check out our handy Travel Guide resources:
Best Time to Visit - Botswana's climate and seasons
Tourist Visas - what you need to know before travelling to Botswana
Top Travel Tips - Botswana's currency, time and info on health
About Overland Safaris - what to expect on a camping expedition in Africa
About Lodge Safaris - all you need to know about lodge accommodated safaris
Safari Wildlife Guide - where to find Africa's most iconic wildlife
Spotting Africa's Big 5 - our guide to the Big 5 and the best places to find them