Botswana & South Africa: A Splendid Safari Itinerary
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Botswana & South Africa are most definitely two of the most exciting destinations to travel to in Southern Africa.
Both are home to exciting wildlife viewing, incredible sceneries, and vibrant culture. They are also vast in size and are packed with things to do and places to see. That’s why planning a Botswana & South Africa safari itinerary may not be the easiest thing to do.
But, fret not. In this article, we’ve put together a flexible set of suggestions that allows you to see the best of Botswana & South Africa according to your preferences and budget.
But first, when is the best time to visit both Botswana & South Africa?
The best time to visit both Botswana & South Africa is during the dry season, from May to September. The dry season is the best time to watch wildlife as the animals tend to congregate around water holes and rivers.
The unique Okavango Delta floods from June to October, making it the best time to go on a mokoro safari.
The main difference between the two countries is that the dry season represents the high travel season in Botswana, whereas, in South Africa, it’s the low season. Thankfully, only Chobe National Park may get crowded; while Kruger National Park gets crowded only during the school holidays.
While the Botswana part of the itinerary may cost a bit more, you’ll be able to save money on the South Africa part.
Traveling outside of the travel season in Botswana may have its benefits in reducing the overall cost but do note that some lodges may close during part of the wet season (November to April).
How long should I stay in Botswana & South Africa?
Choosing how long you want to spend on a trip depends on many factors, including the days off you can take, the available budget, and what you plan to do during the trip.
It is recommended to spend at least a week (7 days) when visiting both Botswana & South Africa. In this case, you’d be flying between the destinations, as the distances are long and going by land would add quite a lot of additional travel time.
Most visitors would choose to spend 11-14 days exploring this part of Africa. This allows for ample time to see the highlights of both countries.
If you have enough time to spare and the budget is not a problem either, it is a delight to spend at least four weeks exploring Botswana & South Africa.
Botswana & South Africa itinerary: most popular safari destinations
This itinerary departs from Maun, but most visitors will likely fly into South Africa’s OR Tambo International Airport (JNB) in Johannesburg or Cape Town International Airport (CPT). From there, they take a connecting flight to Maun Airport (MUB) or Kasana Airport (BBK).
Maun is the “de facto” gateway into the Okavango Delta and Chobe National Park.
Do make sure to ask your safari operators where the pick-up/drop off is from and whether the transfer is included or not in the safari package.
Most safari operators will pick you up at the airport, without offering the chance to explore the city. But we definitely recommend that you spend an overnight here.
If you are passionate about history, visit the Nhabe Museum. You can also get to know the local culture by taking a traditional dance class or by learning the art of basket weaving.
If you are only planning a short safari in Botswana, it’s a great idea to set your base just outside of Maun. From here you can either take a mokoro trip into the Okavango Delta or opt for a flight above the delta.
Moremi Game Reserve & Okavango Delta
The most scenic way to get into the Okavango Delta is by charter plane. Other options include taking a mokoro or a jeep (4WD).
Located 154km/95mi from Maun, Moremi Game Reserve is the only protected area in the Okavango Delta. While it is very much possible to self-drive, some lodges can only be reached by charter plane. Do note that the journey by road can take up to 9 hours.
» Find out all the great reasons to visit the Okavango Delta.
Even if you are not a major fan of camping, we still recommend spending at least an overnight in a tent here. The experience is totally different than if you were to stay in a lodge.
Comprising both wetland and drier areas, Moremi Game Reserve is home to the rare African wild dog. All of the Big Five animals - the African lion, the black rhinoceros, the African elephant, the African leopard, and the Cape buffalo – call this reserve their home. This is one of the best reserves where you can spot a rhino.
Other animals you may get a glimpse of include cheetahs, hippos, impalas, giraffes, hyaenas, and jackals.
Without a doubt, the best way to explore the Okavango Delta & Moremi Game Reserve is on a mokoro safari. Nothing compares to gliding across the surface of the water while keeping an eye to spot the abundant wildlife.
We recommend spending 1-2 nights in the area so that you get do go both on a mokoro safari and on a game drive.
Chobe National Park & Savuti
Home to the greatest number of elephants in Botswana, Chobe National Park lies northeast of Moremi Game Reserve, bordering it.
You can get between Moremi and Chobe by land. But if your plan is to self-drive, make sure you are comfortable driving in some particular conditions: some areas are sandy while others may be flooded.
The fastest way is to catch a flight from Maun into Kasane or let the safari organizer set up the transfer for you.
While you’re here, it’s recommended to stay in the Savuti area. There are plenty of accommodation options – lodges & tents – and there’s one interesting feature: the Savuti channel which opens into a marsh. The area is otherwise dry, so the marsh attracts a lot of elephants – both resident and migrating.
Other animals to catch a glimpse of in Chobe include four of the Big Five (the rhino is absent), hippos, giraffes, zebras, hyenas, and cheetahs.
Plan to spend 1-2 nights in this area.
» Interested in exploring the country further? Here’s an enchanting Botswana itinerary where you’ll find plenty of other places to visit.
Combining the best safari destinations in Botswana
While it is very much possible to either book yourself flights and transfers or self-drive to visit the destinations, it is not recommended to do so unless you have experience planning a trip and driving in Africa.
Especially if you are going on a family vacation, both the young ones and the elderly will benefit from an organized tour. You won’t have to worry about the bumpy roads and the hours spent figuring out how to get from one place to another. All you need to do is enjoy the ride!
Booking a multi-destination safari in Botswana is an affordable and popular way to experience the best of several destinations in one trip.
Some of the most popular combinations include:
- Maun, Moremi Game Reserve (2 days)
- Moremi Game Reserve, Chobe National Park (9 days)
- Maun, Okavango Delta (4 days)
Go back to Maun and either hop on a flight (about 3 hours), take a bus (about 15.5 hours) or drive (about 14.5 hours) to Johannesburg.
There are a lot of things to do in Johannesburg so choosing how to spend your time here only depends on your preferences and how many days you want to linger.
Even if you decide to spend just a night here, you should visit the Apartheid Museum. The exhibit is huge and sheds light on the tumultuous past of South Africa. It may get overwhelming, but it is certainly a place that will allow you to have a better understanding of the history of this magnificent country.
You should also plan to visit Soweto and get more insights into its history. And why not stop for a traditional meal while you are here?
You can also learn about the history of humans by visiting the Cradle of Humankind. Maropeng, the official visitor center for the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site, explains the evolution from the first life on Earth up to modern humans.
Plan to spend 1-2 nights in Johannesburg.
Kruger National Park
The well-known Kruger National Park is served by several airports. From Johannesburg you can fly into Skukuza Airport (SZK), Hoedspruit Airport (HDS), Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport (MQP) or Hendrik Van Eck Airport (PHW).
The choice of airport mostly depends on what lodge/camp you’d be staying at or where your safari organizer has instructed you to book the flight into.
You may also take a bus to the park (about 9.5 hours) or drive (about 7 hours).
The immensity of the park offers a lot of things to do, making it suitable for any type of visitor. It is also a very popular park among those going on a family safari.
Kruger National Park is famous for being home to the Big Five. But there are also other interesting animals and plants to look out for while here:
- The little five: buffalo weaver, elephant shrew, leopard tortoise, ant lion, and rhino beetle;
- The birding big six: ground hornbill, kori bustard, lappet-faced vulture, martial eagle, Pel’s fishing owl, and saddle-bill stork;
- The five trees: baobab, fever tree, knob thorn, marula, and mopane.
» Here is our detailed guide to visiting Kruger National Park.
Choosing a jeep safari is a great way to explore the park. There are game drives taking place both in the morning and in the afternoon, allowing you to see a variety of wildlife.
If you stay in a private conservancy, they are allowed to run night drives and go off-road, whereas these activities are banned in the national park.
Also, private safaris – which take place in private conservancies, too – are a great way to make sure you get a very personalized experience. However, they are considerably pricier than other types of safaris.
However, Kruger National Park is also one of the best places to go on an affordable safari. There are a lot of campsites to choose from, as well as affordable lodges.
Plan to spend at least 2-3 nights exploring Kruger National Park.
» Want to check out other parts of the country? Here’s a South African itinerary that includes the Garden Route & Addo Elephant Park.
The flight back home
You’d have to retrace your steps back to one of the airports serving Kruger National Park. From there, fly either into Johannesburg or Cape Town before you connect to your flight back home.
Combining the best safari destinations in Botswana & South Africa
Whether you are going on your first safari or you plan on taking the kids along, it is highly recommended to book a multi-country safari.
Since you are allowing the safari operator to handle all the transfers to/from the airports as well as travel between the destinations and within the parks, you are able to enjoy a stress-free trip.
As mentioned above, allow for at least 7 days to visit when combining the two countries. If you’d like to have a more relaxed itinerary, we recommend to plan at least a 2 week long trip.
Some of the most popular combinations include:
- Johannesburg, Maun, Moremi Game Reserve, Makgadikgadi Game Reserve, Kubu Island, Tuli Block, Hoedspruit, Johannesburg (14 days)
- Cape Town, Cape of Good Hope, Johannesburg, Kruger National Park, Panorama Route, Victoria Falls, Johannesburg (10 days)
- Upington, Kgalagadi, Mabuasehube, Ghanzi, Central Kalahari Game Reserve (12 days).
Make sure to ask your safari operator where the pick-up/drop-off is from and whether the transfers are included in the package (or need to be paid separately).
Ready to embark on a splendid African adventure? Book one of the Botswana & South Africa safaris and experience the best of what Southern Africa has to offer!